What Will Happen?

February 28, 2018
by Peggy White

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.

About the author:

Peggy White <bpwhite777@cogeco.ca>
Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Good luck and God Bless.

    Praying for God’s guidance on your church, Peggy.

    Praying for your church and future ministry. Blessings.

    If this is God’s will, it will happen. Put yourselves in his hands. He is able.
    I’m praying for you.

    Ah yes. The teacups. It’s always comes down to the teacups! Your journey story is so appropriate in this Lenten season. Thanks for sharing the next steps.

    Dear Peggy,
    What a powerful message of hope and change. May God bless your church with renewed life.

    This is a very big step for your congregation, I will pray sufficient numbers of people will attend. Our house of God where we worship is very special to us all. May God richly Bless you all.

    Thank you so much for the update on this wonderful project. Blessings to you all for moving forward with it.
    And yes, today I particularly need the message about trusting God as I face many deadlines.

    I am interested in what you have communicated here. I believe the Presbyterian Church in Woodville, Ontario, has done the same thing. It has for several years met in an empty store on a Saturday night. Blessings to all.

    I am amazed at the courage and determination of your congregation to strike out in such new ways to serve God. I am praying for continuing courage and stamina in facing all your new and unexpected challenges. May God bless you all.

    Hi Peggy
    Thanks for this. I am looking forward to hearing positive updates on your storefront ministry. Your ministry is part of my daily prayers.
    God bless you all.

    Peggy – my prayers will be with you as you make this move from “conventional” worship to storefront community worship. I pray that you will feel God leading you, walking with you and holding you up in your difficult moments. God bless you all and bring you all His peace.

    Dear Peggy,
    I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and the congregation all the best with the move. I am inspired by the positive attitude. I only wish I could make a donation to support your efforts but alas this is not possible at the moment.
    I am sure though the Lord will reward your efforts.

    Dear Peggy, when we downsized our church, we laid out all our teacups and allowed people to take as they would. They sometimes bring them back now for special occasions.
    Is it possible to create a hymn book of the special songs that you like from some of the older books? Praying you all find your way. It sounds very exciting to see what God will do.
    Keep us up to date!

    Enjoyed reading the latest news regarding your church’s newly acquired location. Yes, traditional sanctuaries can be costly when the congregation memberships decline. It is NOT easy to have to forego our familiar and comfortable surroundings – our congregation experienced this a few years ago. Please continue to keep us informed as to your progress. The Lord does supply all our needs when our endeavors are according to His will.

    Good morning Peggy!! Thanks for this morning’s devotion, for the update on First Presbyterian Church and The Gathering Place. God will sustain and strengthen the congregation through the process. Be reminded of 1 Corinthians 3: 7 “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow”. New beginnings, new sprouts. renovations, downsizing, changes in worship location and format need your prayers and the prayers of all those who read your devotional.
    Count your Blessings.

    Good morning, Peggy,
    Praying that the Holy Spirit will lead people to Jesus through your church.
    Our church is a small rural congregation trying something new rather than closing. For several months we met with another congregation in a nearby city and then we relaunched with the addition of several younger families. We will have very close ties with the city congregation. A wonderful missionary in Canada on Home Assignment helped us to prayerwalk in our village asking God to bless homes, families, and businesses and to lead people to Him.
    Praying for you.

    Having been a member of our congregation since before we had a building in 1957 and how attached and protective some of our members are I cannot even imagine what some of our people would do if we were in your shoes. They get so upset over nothing. I guess being Presbyterian we still have to do things decently and in order. How would our ladies deal with their kitchen that they are so protective off never mind the cups and saucers. What you people have gone through are going through our prayers are with you. We forget that we have the church to spread the gospel it seems we are putting on a good front.
    You leave us much to think about. Thank you.

    Dear Peggy,
    As children we never thought a church would be downsizing, how times have changed. Your congregation have made the difficult decisions and a new experience is before you.
    There is a church that received 100 teacups from an estate. At Mother’s Day the ladies had a tea, for $10. you got to select your teacup and have your tea and then take the teacup home. It would help with two issues – reducing the teacup issue and raising funds.
    Another church was sold and they moved into – it was a funeral home turned restaurant and now the church. The setting is table and chairs and they kept the bar area as a snack area. Service is Saturday night and the congregation (all religions) has grown as people who didn’t want to go to church on Sunday are coming. There are two other churches in a four corner village. Afterwards a social evening can be enjoyed.
    You have not walked this experience alone, God has been answering your prayers.

    Hello Peggy,
    It is so encouraging to read more about this walk with the Lord that your congregation is on! I do believe that your frank sharing of the fears, doubts, and decisions that you – individually and corporately – have made and will yet make, will be a blessing and encouragement to others who read and share your devotionals. You are right where you need to be: on your knees before the Lord, eyes fixed upon Jesus, “trusting him to do it for you”.
    I will keep you up-to-date with how the Lord uses our storefront ministry. There and in Port Colborne, I would expect that those He draws in might be small number for a while at least. And He loves every precious one, and we will have the blessed opportunity to be channels of Christ’s love to them. He will do the changing. Amen to your prayer.
    God bless you all!

    Thank you for openly sharing about your community and how you are willing to make changes. Praise the Lord you have been able to have so many years of ministry in your community. Yes, many older churches are dying and it is hard to determine the reasons that a church does not continue to grow. Some of the reasons are clear as you read about the 7 churches in Revelation. I appreciated your reference to Romans 10:8-10 and verse 17 has some of the answer—“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” NKJ.
    I am in my 80’s and have been a pastor and chaplain or over 60 years. I am reading the Word of God more than ever, and I am praying that the Holy Spirit will convict people to be born again and have a zeal for the Lord in these days. I am blessed by those who are empowered by the Spirit to know His will and do it. Praise the Lord you have been led to this new place to meet the needs of people and that people will be willing to live for Jesus and say for me to live is Christ and even to die is gain. We will pray for you and your church!!

    Hi Peggy,
    “Wow”… after reading your last posting about your ongoing changes at First Presbyterian to say I’m impressed would be understating my appreciation for what you’re doing. In Toronto where I’m a member and sit on the Management Committee and look after the property I sadly cannot imagine the cooperation, understanding and commitment your people must have for not only God but each other; it is truly inspiring to read your presentation.
    We are a strong congregation financially but have no cohesive bonding whatsoever as a congregation so to read of your changes and outreach taking the Church in a new direction I’m truly humbled. As I’m retired and just have a cat to care for I’ve decided to travel from Church to Church and any other place God may lead as a mobile handiman for God where I can offer my expertise for a day or two without charge as needed and move on to the next need; thus once I’m on the road the first Church I’m heading to is your new location on King Street to be further inspired by your vision.
    Keep up the wonderful work and may God continue to bless you and your Church.

    Onward Christian soldiers…. onward. Be not afraid, He goes before you.

    Hello Peggy – I am part of an Anglican Network church in Ottawa. When the Network was formed there were no churches available, and so several of us moved into a storefront location. We have grown in numbers but more importantly we have grown in faith and commitment to the Lord. The cost of the location is too high, but we are praying for guidance from the Lord and trusting Him to provide all that we need to stay where we are as it is in the midst of the community and has great potential. Prayer gatherings are so very important – God hears and responds. May He provide everything you need for this brave venture. Amen.

    Hi Peggy,
    We went through something similar at our church. We tried various options and ended up joining with another Presbyterian congregation.
    But there were the assets of the church. Hymn books, dishes, furniture, etc.
    We sold some items, others were donated to other churches or needy ministries.
    One of the members who is an artist and does a bit of woodworking took at least one pew. He cut it up and made crosses out of the wood. The crosses are all unique as they are different sizes and shapes.
    My husband and I are involved in Kairos Prison Ministry and we use these crosses on a Kairos weekend. We have been using these crosses for several years now, so in a way, our church lives on.
    I pray that your ministry is successful.
    Good luck, and God bless.

    Dear Peggy White,
    My heart is with you as you close a traditional Church that has so many memories. And memories of worshipping God are more than usual memories. They are a vital part of ourselves, the most live part.
    God bless you in your new outreach. Be friends, not hounds rounding up wild animals.
    I pray for you.

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