Dear Members and Friends of Montgomery Hills,
Live Generously, based on 1 Timothy 6:18-19, is the theme for our stewardship emphasis in 2017. This theme is particularly appropriate as we focus on deepening our understanding of stewardship as a spiritual discipline, and as we consider where God is leading us as a generous community of faith.
During our emphasis, we will take time to talk about our faith, our passions, and our roles as God’s generous stewards. As we increase our understanding of God’s blessings and our church’s mission, we will see more clearly how our participation and support can make a difference in the congregation and beyond.
As we approach Thanksgiving Day once more, there is much to be thankful for. All we have and all we are is the result of God's gracious generosity. God created us. God provides for us, and sustains us. God is by nature, loving, gracious, and generous. God’s greatest gift to us was Jesus who exchanged his riches for poverty, so that we might know eternal riches. God gives us the Holy Spirit who in turn gives us gifts for ministry.
Remembering and reflecting on God’s extraordinary gifts to us, how can we help but express our own generosity as a response to the unconditional love and grace we've experienced? Soon and very soon, we will have the opportunity to be generous as we humbly and lovingly, say "Thank You" to God with the generosity of our Commitment Cards.
November 19 is our Celebration of Generosity Sunday, and each household will be asked to consider heir blessings and voluntarily make a response. This is a symbol of our individual and collective witness to Christ’s presence in our lives and support of our ministry. We look forward to your participation as we explore together our calling to be a generous and servant church.
With a Thankful Heart,
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. They fished till darkness fell, after which they built a campfire, grilled the fish they had caught, ate their fill, and drank their coffee. Then they turned in. During the middle of the night, Holmes awoke Watson and said: “Dr. Watson, look above you. What do you see?” Watson peered into the night sky and answered: “Well, Holmes, I see millions and millions of stars.” Holmes continued: “And, Watson, what does that tell you?”
Watson replied: “Well, astronomically it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically it tells me that Saturn is aligned with Leo. Theologically I can see that God is all powerful and that we are God’s creation. And meteorologically I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What do the night sky and all the stars tell you, Holmes?” Holmes answered: “It tells me that while we were sleeping, somebody came and stole our tent!”
How often we miss the obvious! Such is the case with sharing our faith. We know that we need to ... that is obvious ... but we struggle to witness to those outside the walls, probably because we also struggle to share our stories inside the church.
And then there is the fear factor. Many are convinced that in order to share their faith, “they have to do things they don’t like, in places they don’t like, saying things they don’t like with people they don’t know.” They fear that sharing their faith story will turn out badly for them. Yet, Jesus expects us to do this. If we don’t, the very stones in the ground will cry out.
One key for dealing with that anxiety may lie in looking for affinities and commonalities with those unconnected with church, hanging out where they hang out, finding out how their interests and ours intersect, and starting a conversation from that point. Build relationships, and trust that eventually that moment will come, when we have a chance to share our faith story.
We don’t share our stories in a vacuum, but in the context of a world where people are hurting, broken, and lonely. Most people don’t need advice from us, they get plenty of that. They don’t need us to preach to them, or to argue with them, or try to convince them of some theological truth; they need love, and isn’t that the Gospel?
John Killinger once wrote, “We and our church need to be sharing our faith in order to stay alive in Christ. The minute we receive the good news of Christ and fail to pass it on in the course of daily living, we become like the Dead Sea, that remarkable body of water that is dead precisely because it receives lifegiving water and doesn’t pass it on.” The church is the same way. Its only life comes through sharing what it has received. If we don’t do it, who will? If not now, when?
Peace, Pastor Joel
As you have probably heard by now, Montgomery Hills is participating in “National Back to Church Sunday” on September 17th at 11:00 a.m. Thousands of churches from over 120 denominations are expected to participate this year, inviting people to come back to church all across the globe.
Since its inception as a call to action and invitation for the Church in 2009, the NBTC movement continues to gain momentum! More than 4 million Christ followers have participated through 30,000 churches! It is a day focused on uniting churches to equip and empower members to be inviters. Eight out of ten people say they are open to visiting a church if invited; they are just waiting for an invitation!
“Back to Church Sunday” has a new theme this year, “A Place to Belong,” that is relevant to that oft stated felt need in today’s culture to be a part of an authentic community. The message is that people’s stories matter, and they can find a place to fit in and make a difference right in their own local church. Interestingly enough, the theme dovetails nicely with our church’s mission statement of “Making MHBC a place where all people can belong, grow, and serve!”
I will be sharing a special message on this theme in worship on the 17th. Everyone needs a place to belong; that’s the way we’re made. Not to be isolated. Not to be alone. But to be together – experiencing life with others, and my message will explore the blessings of belonging to a church family.
“And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:41-47 NLT)
There has never been a better time than now for people to come back and get plugged into a church that offers a special place to belong, opportunities to grow spiritually through a journey of personal faith, and opportunities to serve the community. Prayerfully we will grow in our understanding of what it means not just to go to church, but to BE the church. Make it a point to come and worship on the 17th, and bring a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, or family member with you.
Peace, Pastor Joel
Pastor Joel Hawthorne