Many years ago, I was a candidate for the position of Pastor of another church. I met with the search team for an interview. They grilled me with a large assortment of questions and I can’t say I remember many of them. But one that has stayed with me for many years was this: “What is your thing? Every pastor has a thing. What is your thing?” I had to think about that a minute. But the questioner was right. I did have a “thing”. My thing then and now was encouraging every member to use their God-given gifts in ministry.
You have probably noticed that I currently have another “thing”, and that has to do with inviting others. Out of an authentic love for Jesus and for others, we take the initiative to invite, welcome, include, and support those who are new to our fellowship, and help them grow in faith as they become a part of our church. I remind us all, that at some stage in our lives, we too were strangers to the faith. We belong here most likely because someone invited us, encouraged us, or made us feel welcome. Jesus once said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Imagine what would happen if we lived and served as if we really believe that.
I notice, and I hope you will too, two upcoming events in October that members and friends can invite others to attend. Movie Night is on October 19, and we will be offering the highly acclaimed film “I Can Only Imagine.” Come and bring a friend! And, once again this year, we will be providing “Trunk or Treat”, our version of “Trick-Or-Treat” on October 28th. Decorate your trunk and come and help the boys and girls in our church and community to have a safe and fun evening. Invite the boys and girls you may know to attend!
I also invite us to encourage a friend, relative, acquaintance, or neighbor to worship with us in October. Some are just waiting to be invited. What a wonderful privilege it is to offer the hospitality of an invitation to someone we know. Maybe they will respond, maybe they won’t, but at least we have tried. At least we have been faithful. And one never knows. The invitation we make may be the beginning of a turn-around in someone’s life, just the movement toward blessing and fulfillment that some man or woman, boy or girl may have been longing for.
You have no doubt heard it before. Most new church members, when asked, reveal that they came to church for the first time because someone invited them. Herein is one of our most powerful possibilities for church growth. We are here to make disciples. Our purpose, as Bill Easum once put it, “is to invite people into the story of God’s love; we invite people to find new life by giving life away to others.”
Please pray for your church. Tell others about Montgomery Hills! Invite them to worship. Better yet, bring them to worship with you. Be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is contagious. As we continue on into the fall season, I encourage us all to put Jesus Christ first in our lives.
In Christ, Pastor Joel
I have spoken often to you in recent years about inviting people to come to church, and one tool we have used to do that in recent years is “Back to Church Sunday.” The BTCS movement started as a call to action and invitation for the Church in 2009, so it is marking its tenth year and continues to gain momentum.
More than 5 million Christ followers have participated through 30,000 churches! It is a day focused on uniting the church to equip and empower members to be inviters. Eight out of ten people say they are open to visiting church if invited—they are just waiting for an invitation.
I have always suspected as much. In reflecting on why people don’t come to church, there are many reasons that could be given. But the most likely reason many people don’t come is simply because no one ever asked them to. Why is that? Do we like our church and find a blessing here? Sure, or we would not be here ourselves. Do we have anything worth inviting folks to? Of course – there are always good things and important ministries going on. Do we love people? Absolutely! So we have good reason to ask people to come and join us.
Back to Church Sunday 2018 is coming up on September 16. We’re having a special service specifically designed to welcome people back to church, so now is a good time to start praying about who you will invite. And then follow up by inviting someone to come with you to church.
This year’s Back to Church Sunday theme is “You Belong Here,” based on Romans 15:7. The fact is that 75% of Americans admit to feeling deep loneliness. In addition, the number of Americans with no close friends has tripled since 1985. That’s certainly one reason we are here – for people to get plugged in, form friendships, and have the chance to serve together in the community. Following worship, we will have refreshments to help visitors and members get to know each other.
This is the perfect opportunity to invite your friends, family, neighbors and coworkers to join you and grow deeper in their faith, or perhaps encounter God for the first time. And I pray you will.
I hope you will join us in worship not only on the 16th of September, but on each and every Sunday in September. We will be unpacking, reflecting, and singing some of our most beloved hymns of faith and hope. I look forward to seeing one and all as we begin a new church year!
In Christ, Pastor Joel
I trust that you are all enjoying a renewing and refreshing summer season. Have you found time to travel to the beach or the mountains? Have you gone swimming in a neighborhood pool, or spent time with family and friends? I pray so. We need time to rest and relax. We need time to rest our body, mind and spirit. We also need time to fellowship with God. Yes, we need time to worship God, and I encourage you, at home or away, to find time to worship.
The “Hills” have been alive with the sound of ministry in July. We have been studying the Sermon on the Mount, and we have provided and celebrated Vacation Bible School “number one”. It was a fantastic week, I am grateful to Dee Wells and Cheryl Spell and the dozens of leaders and volunteers that worked so hard to make VBS week happen!
I used the term Vacation Bible School “number one” purposely, because we have VBS “number two” coming up this month as we invite the children from Overland Gardens to our church. We anticipate a good number, and I know that more people are needed to help out, so if you have a day or two or three that you can give, please see Peggy Kullberg.
Soon the summer season will be over, and it will be time to reconnect. Soon the schools will open and we will be opening the door to a brand new church year, days that are often filled with excitement and enthusiasm. Many who have been away for much of the summer will be returning. Core ministries will begin again.
Back to Church Sunday is one way we can reconnect with members, friends, and with the community at-large and is scheduled for September 16th. Our theme is “You Belong Here”. Please make it a point to be here for Sunday School and worship. Invite a friend, neighbor, co-worker, or family member to come with you. Let’s grow together in our understanding of what it means, not just to go to church, but to BE the church!
A sad note! Our former organist, Eleanor Allen Flottman passed away on Sunday, June 24th, in Camden, Maine where she has been living for many years. Eleanor began her ministry with MHBC on January 7, 1973 and served for over 28 years. She was an outstanding musician, a remarkably gifted person, but more, she was one who possessed a real sensitivity and understanding of the role of music in worship. She truly helped us to feel the presence of God. I reflect today on the countless worship services, weddings, and funerals that Eleanor provided such beautiful music for. She touched so many lives, young and old alike, and was an inspiration to so many of us. Our prayers and sympathy are extended to her son Billy, her sister Pat, and her nephew Corey.
So, we remember one whom we have loved and lost, but we also look forward to coming back home to the ones we love now. See you in church!
In Christ, Pastor Joel
Pastor Joel Hawthorne