I’ve been at First Lancaster for about 9 months now. My first Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent last December. When I got here I realized that in following the previous pastor’s 16 year ministry, the church was receiving a new pastor and leadership with no interim ministry in between. “Interim” ministry is important for churches because it allows them to reacquaint themselves with their strengths, their understanding of faith and with a perspective on their direction in ministry.
So, the preaching staff started the new year with a series of “worship studies,” where the congregation could sort of walk through worship that focused on the basics of faith and kind of emotionally regroup as it considered what comes next. The elders, the other pastors and I set out an extended time frame in which to study and to re-envision ministry in this great church and city. We’re not looking for anything to really be in place until the fall of 2014.
Meanwhile, the series of studies or preaching themes moved in this manner:
• I can’t/I can – a study of moving from the perspective that I can’t be spiritual to I can be spiritual (How do I grow in faith?)
• Weakness – focused on Jesus’ example of relying on God and not his own power (What does a faithful life look like?)
• Holy Spirit – realizing that the strength we need to grow in faith comes from God’s Spirit taking up residence within us, rebuilding us from the inside out and learning (What’s God’s Spirit all about?)
• Living in Abundance – how do we tap into the resources God provides?
• New Society – what does it look like for a crowd of people to be in community and growing in faith under God’s leadership (What’s Church?)
• How do Human Beings Work? – The message we bring to the world from this new community and the practical nature of the work God does in the lives of human beings (What’s the outcome of the Gospel?)
At the same time we’ve shifted our intentions in our children’s ministry to give them more of a tangible expression of faith than just book knowledge. So our children are studying praying, listening to each other and to God, playing and fellowshipping with each other, caring for each other as a community, singing and praising God in artistic expression and learning the heritage of faith that supports all this… like what does the Bible say about how these things have been done in the history of God’s people. So instead of learning just the Bible stories, we’re learning the practice and life that is revealed in Bible stories.
One outcome of all this is people coming to me to share a particular personal struggle.
They come revealing something they haven’t been able to say before… they don’t believe. People who have been in the church or coming to church for a while are confessing that what we’re talking about here, knowing Jesus, obeying Jesus, hearing the voice of God… they just haven’t believed that was possible for them. So, although they like being here, they don’t believe in it. They don’t know God. But then, and this is really the thing, they’re coming now because they want to believe in it. They want what they’re hearing about.
It’s pretty cool and it is what we’re all about… giving people room, letting them tell the truth, giving them the chance to grow. Lots of big conversations happening now and it is great to be part of them. If you can be in prayer for those who are coming and for me and others who receive them, that would be very cool.