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
About four years ago, to celebrate my 60th birthday, I traveled to the Adirondack Mountains to climb Blue Mountain. I had ascended that mountain 23 years earlier with my youngest son, Nathan. For me, it was a long, steep, and arduous climb. Not so for the young man who RAN past me up the mountain. Still, the effort was well worth it. When I reached the top, I walked up a rickety old fire tower and the view was simply stunning. Happy birthday to me!
There is something about the mountains, isn’t there. Oh, I love to go to the ocean, and to various lakes, but the mountains hold a special place in my life too. I remember thinking on the top of Blue Mountain, “I lift my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121) We see a mountain on the horizon and we can’t help but think of the majesty and power of nature, or of God. Mountains can be a symbol for strength and stability, but they can also be a symbol for challenge and perseverance and the best effort we can make.
In the scriptures, a lot of very significant things took place on the mountains. We may recall Isaiah writing of a day when the peoples of the earth would say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.” Or we remember that Moses received the law on Mount Sinai. It was on Mount Carmel that Elijah called down fire from heaven. And Peter, James, and John were on the mountain with Jesus to see him transfigured. Jesus did some of his best preaching from a mountaintop pulpit.
All of which leads me to report that my emphasis in preaching this summer will be on the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7. Do we have a faith that is integrated into our lives? Does Jesus have something to say about that? Indeed he does. So in the next roughly eight weeks, we will be studying what Jesus said about what a faith that is fully integrated into our lives is supposed to look like. We will be looking at his most influential sermon during Sunday School and worship. We will reflect on his words to see what he actually expects of us. Hymn-writer Johnson Oatman said it best:
Lord, lift me up, and let me stand
By faith, on heaven’s tableland;
A higher plane than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
So mark your calendars and plan to be here as we climb to higher ground. I assure you, the view from the top will be magnificent! May God bless us, our summer, our study, worship, and service of Jesus Christ.
In Christ, Pastor Joel
Pastor Joel Hawthorne