PART THREE – January 25, 2018
Matthew 16:1-3 – Some Pharisees and Sadducees were on him again, pressing him to prove himself to them. He told them, "You have a saying that goes, 'Red sky at night, sailor's delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning.' You find it easy enough to forecast the weather — why can't you read the signs of the times?" (MSG)
Previously, I wrote that for financial reasons, First Presbyterian Church in Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada, was closing and moving into an empty space downtown. We chose to make a daring and drastic change to try to continue our ministry to our Lord by serving the community at large and change how we did "church". We have started to move into The Gathering Place, a small, empty storefront space that we have attempted to change into our new church. The renovations are almost finished — just some small fixes needed here and there. The workers are tired and nervous. Is it good enough? Will people come?
Port Colborne is a lakeside community and very familiar with today's Scripture about forecasting the weather according to the colour of the sky. It is true; we can make our outdoor plans based on the colours of the sky. But could we forecast whether our new ministry would be successful?
We have prayerfully made huge decisions on this change. Our research shows that storefront churches are the only growing churches in North America. We have planned and argued and laughed, and had innumerable meetings. We have spent thousands of our left-over dollars, and we are almost broke. We are submitting applications for any and all grants that might be available to us.
Then, there is the downsizing. If you have ever downsized your home, you might be able to imagine what it was like for about 100 people to downsize a huge church that has been active for over 149 years. Deciding what we will move and what will stay was really hard. What do we do with the precious tea cups that ladies of the congregation have treasured for so long that will not fit into the kitchenette in The Gathering Place? It might sound silly to some, but tearful to those ladies. What do we do with three sets of hymn books that we all love different songs from? There is so much. Is your church full, too?
We are still on our knees asking God and asking and asking. What will happen? Are we reading the signs right? Our overseeing presbytery has been very encouraging to us. We are definitely an experiment. So many large denominational churches are closing down, and things don't look better in the future. If we are successful at continuing to worship God and serving others in this form, we will be a first in our area. Now, we have to stop "doing" and keep our eyes on what Paul writes:
Romans 10:8-10 – The word that saves is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth, as close as the heart in your chest. It's the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God — "Jesus is my Master" — embracing, body and soul, God's work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That's it. You're not "doing" anything; you're simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That's salvation. (MSG)
Is God calling you to stop "doing" and start trusting Him?
Prayer: Father God, help us to keep our eyes on You whenever we go through great changes and want to do it ourselves. May our changes lead us into serving those You have given us and lead us further into Your kingdom. Amen.
PART THREE – January 25, 2018