Our MHBC mission statement says that we are a church where everyone can “belong, grow, and serve.” I want to share with you a few thoughts about service in this space. First, I take note that our Lay Mobilization Team recently offered a one-hour training session for those who are interested in knowing what our MHBC ministry teams do. The LMT is constantly looking for ways that gifted people can plug into the ministries of our church.
And I further note that one of the components of the Women’s Retreat at Skycroft in May also has to do with discovering and using our God-given spiritual gifts in ministry. Also, (commercial time!) the Journey 101 course that I am currently leading on Wednesday evenings includes a unit on service this month.
Mark 10 tells us that our most important motivation for service comes from Jesus himself. He came not to be served but to serve. That is our calling as well; the expectation is not that others will serve us, but that we will serve others. If we are willing to give our time, energy, and gifts, there is always a place for us to serve. Indeed, the way of Jesus includes loving and serving others the way that Jesus loved and served them.
We don’t have to look very far to find people in need, and prayerfully, we should be moved and motivated to serve as our Lord did. We have spoken many times here of “heart-bursts.” Who does our heart burst for? What does our heart burst for? As Frederick Buechner once famously said, “The place God calls us to, is the place where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
I believe in a church with no “unemployment.” I have spoken to you about the “Pareto Principal,” which says that about 20% of church members do about 80% of the ministry in a church. I don’t know about that. I suspect that the percentage is a good bit higher here at MHBC. One of the values we hold dear is working to change spectators into participants; getting people out of the bleachers and onto the playing field.
We can do this by spending time with passages of scripture that have to do with spiritual gifts, or by taking a Spiritual gift analysis. We can do this by praying for guidance. We can do this by asking others to tell us what they think our gifts are. One thing is sure. If you are willing to stretch, grow and commit your heart and life to ministry for Christ, I pledge that you will receive nothing but encouragement and help from our LMT team, and from the church staff. We will be there to help you or we will find someone who can.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us. Thank you for the gifts you have given. May we discover them and use them in service to others and for the building of your Kingdom, to the glory of your name. Amen.
In Christ, Pastor Joel
I am an admirer of Winston Churchill, and I have a number of quotes from him that I pull out on occasion. One evening after dinner, he was offered dessert, but he rejected it, saying as he pushed it away, “This pudding has no theme.” Reflecting on this, another writer remarked, “I don’t want my life to be like Winston’s pudding.” Amen!
As we approach the beginning of the summer months, one very clear theme is emerging in the life of our congregation. The theme that is percolating all around our church life is the desire to discover and put our God-given gifts into action. Examples of this abound. I am thinking on the growth of the Men’s Ministry and their recent efforts to work in and around the church.
I am remembering “An Evening of Music” as Clayton Nunes and Fred Lieder shared their musical gifts with us. Who could forget the efforts surrounding our celebration of Black History Month, or the viewing of the “War Room” that explored the power of prayer on marriages, parenting, and careers? Interestingly, more people came to view the film from outside our church than from inside.
Through Stop Hunger Now, we fed another 10,000 people as 50 plus people came together to provide meals overseas for those less fortunate than we. Wait, there’s more! Our Children's Ministry Team threw a party for our children on Palm Sunday, using their gifts to teach, play games, sing, and tell the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Some have used their gifts to provide a new website. Our Senior’s team, led by Loretta Reid has provided one, and is planning several other luncheons in recognition of our MHBC seniors. And, our Coffee Fellowship Team continues to provide creative and delicious fellowship opportunities every Sunday following worship. I could go on, but I think I have made my point.
Just consider the rich variety of spiritual gifts I have just listed. There are those who know how to work with their hands, caring for the building; those who prepare food; those who know how to be hospitable; those who teach; and those who bring love and cheer to people not often thought of; those with administrative skills. Again, we could go on and on. We are gifted in this way, not to glorify US, but rather for the health and “building up” of the Body of Christ. Are you a leader or a speaker? Are you filled with compassion? Can you teach? Can you sing or play an instrument? Fitness people tell us that “if we don’t use it, we lose it.” The same is true in the realm of spiritual gifts. We must flex our gifts to keep the Body fit and strong. I’m wondering: what gift do you have for us?
I suspect old Winston would not send any of our ministries and missions back to the kitchen for lack of a theme, do you?
Allow me to begin this epistle by extending to all of you my prayer for a blessed and happy New Year. A New Year, someone said, is like a vast uncharted sea. We have the opportunity to make a new start as individuals and as a church. The theme I am suggesting as we open this year is “All In!” I pray that we will be all in for Jesus in 2016; all in with our time, with our energy, with our love, with our money, with our ministry, and with our mission. I will be speaking on this theme on the very first Sunday of 2016. My message will be based on Matthew 2:1-12 and we will reflect on making Jesus the Lord of our lives.
I know that most of us use calendars on our phones or I-pads now, but I can’t help but remember the old image of two calendars side by side; the old and the new. The old calendar is tattered and torn. It is covered by coffee spills, and notes, and ink smeared appointments. The old calendar is a symbol for old appointments met and kept. It is a symbol of times and places we thought important, and our priorities for the past 12 months.
But next to the old calendar is the new calendar. It is clean and white and bright. We won’t find any notes, or coffee spills, or smeared ink on this calendar. This new calendar represents that which is new. It represents the opportunities and possibilities that await us as we move into that strange land that is our future. Perhaps it also affords us the opportunity to use our time more wisely in the pursuit of matters that are truly important, to live as God calls us to live.
As one year ends and a new one begins, I am often reminded of Howard Thurman’s free-verse poem, "The Work of Christmas,” which is about the challenge of taking Christmas beyond December 25:
When the song of the angel is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes
are home. When the shepherds are back with their flocks; The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost, To heal the broken, To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner, To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people, To make music in the heart . . . .
If we can do these things, then we can keep the Christ in Christmas, and the future will be bright.
Let’s be “All In” in 2016!
With gratitude for the past year, and hope for the future,
Pastor Joel Hawthorne