I learned Jane Marshall’s great hymn of gratitude in seminary: What gift can we bring, what present, what token? What words can convey it, the joy of this day? When grateful we come, remembering, rejoicing, what song can we offer in honor and praise?
These are good questions, and we will attempt to answer them on the Sundays leading to November 18th, our Commitment Sunday. This is the date we have set aside to consider our financial commitments to the Lord for 2019. Our theme is, “What Gift Shall We Bring?” Yes, what gift shall we bring to God who has blessed us so richly as individuals and as a Church? Will we be willing to allow our stewardship to reflect our discipleship?
We live in an extraordinarily material and consumer oriented society. We always want more, and new, bigger, and better. Many believe that happiness lies in material wealth and surrounding ourselves with a lot of stuff. It has been said that 40% of the American people spend 110 percent of their annual income each year. Yet all of this spending and possessing leaves us dissatisfied and empty. At root, these are spiritual issues, not financial issues.
When we become followers, or disciples of Jesus Christ, we are invited to share all that we have and all we are. How then will we respond and allow God to use us and our resources for the good of others? During my November messages, I will be leading us to consider what it means to be generous. Generosity is a personal act of worship where we express our gratitude to God and experience God’s blessings and joy.
Look for an estimate of giving card enclosed with your newsletter, and I encourage you to prayerfully consider how you will respond to the invitation to share what God has provided for you for the ongoing mission of Montgomery Hills. There will be a designated time in our worship on November 18th when we bring our commitment cards forward to have our intentions consecrated.
God has done, and continues to do, remarkable things through us and with us, things that I believe really matter in the lives of others. Your prayers, participation, and gifts are keys to helping us advance further on the pathway of discipleship. Through your gifts, you will be a part of changing the lives of children and youth, ministering to those in need, and welcoming others into the embrace of Christ. Thank you for all that you do to make possible the ministry of Montgomery Hills! You are making a difference here!
In Christ, Pastor Joel
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
Pastor Joel Hawthorne