I have decided to post the pastoral articles I write on my weblog. All of the forthcoming articles will be posted here and can be found in the category "Saturate," which is the name of my pastoral writing ministry. The first article below was read aloud to begin gathered worship on 1.23.2005 at my church. Itinitiated a two week vision emphasis at Calvary. Copies of the article were given to all attenders. I prefaced the article with a note to visitors that they are hearing an conversation between pastor and people, and that I value honesty and transparency enough that I welcomed them listening in.
When you changed your calendar from 2004 to 2005, did it feel like a fresh start? There's something about changing that last digit from 2004 to 2005 that makes us feel like we get a second chance. We might say, "Maybe this year will be better than the last." "Maybe my relationships will get better this year." "Maybe in 2005 I will finally get out of debt," or "into a new house," or "a new job." We all have regrets, or struggles, or sins that we want to bury in the past and make a fresh start. As the year begins, it’s a good time for Calvary to contemplate a fresh start too.
This isn't easy for me to say as your pastor, but we are not where we need to be as a church. I would love to stroke everyone's ego (including my own) by saying that we are better now than last year and we are headed toward exciting things. But I can't say that. I can't lie to you and put on my happy face and act like everything is okay. It isn't. We are not living as we need to live. We do not love as we need to love. We are not changing our world as the Church has been called out to do. We aren't bringing our friends to hear the truth. We aren't seeing people follow Christ for the first time. We aren't baptizing new believers.
Probably worse than any of the above, there is a lack of excitement to know and worship Jesus. It's easy to get stuck in the week-to-week rut of mouthing the words of songs without passion. It's easy to distance ourselves in our hearts and put on the Christian act. Why don't we expect God to move among us, change us, bring us to tears over sin, bring us to laugh with joy over His blessings, and move us to be awestruck with a new view of the grace of salvation in Christ? I don’t sense anticipation as we gather, believing that God will be with us and fill us with His Spirit and empower us to reach the most hardened sinner with the compassion of Jesus. These are not good signs for us. We desperately need to change. We must have a fresh start. We need a revival brought by God.
I want to be clear. I believe that we are at a crossroads. We have to decide to either be content as a very small, impotent church or passionately pursue the Savior and expect that God will visit Calvary again with mercy, grace, and power.
Friends, 2005 is the year of the Fresh Start at Calvary. We are going to go through a number of changes, from very minor details to huge visionary ideas. We are going to do some things Calvary has never done. We are going to step out in faith in a way that we never have before. We are going to plan to do things that only God can do and then we are going to pray like never before, trusting in God like never before to do them. We are going to take risks, and we will surely make some mistakes. But life is too short to be satisfied with a façade of faithfulness. I want the real thing. I want a loud and risky faith that believes mountains can be moved. And I want you to want that too.
For some of you this sounds scary. I understand. Change is never easy. And even though it's necessary, it's still painful. But the only road out of struggling with complacency is The Calvary Road. It takes us to the Cross where our desires and schedules and church ideas have to die so that the Body of Christ can thrive again at Calvary Baptist Church of Woodstock, Illinois.
Friends, I believe that the best days of Calvary are still to come. I mean that. I believe we are not a church of the past, but a church of the future. For all our problems, the remedy is very close. It's Jesus. Not the Jesus of Baptists or Evangelicals or of your childhood church. But the Jesus of Scripture who loved the unlovable, chose to serve and not to be served, and rejected the way of manmade rules for the freedom that grace provides. Let's put weights and sins aside and run the race together with endurance, believing all along with an astonishing confidence that God not only can, but will do amazing things.
In Pursuit of Christ.
"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21
© 2005 Steve McCoy