“The church that I go to might just as well be my home. The people I go to church with are more like family. Where else can I get this show of love? A. J. Chilson
This past week I’ve been reflecting on how blessed I am to be your Pastor and how much God has blessed me with our church!
This may surprise you, but there are weeks when I do not enjoy (and even dread) what I believe I must preach from God’s Word. Because our church is committed to systematic and expository preaching, I don’t pick and choose a text. For example, currently we’re working our way through Luke’s Gospel. If I had my way, there are sections of Luke that I’d simply skip over. The Bible has some very tough passages, even hard passages. They make us uncomfortable. They step on our toes. They do soul surgery.
Then, as a preacher my calling requires that I bridge two worlds – the world of the Bible and today’s contemporary world. God’s Word was never meant to be a textbook or to merely fill us with head knowledge. It’s to reveal God to us and show us how to live rightly, in a way that pleases God. It’s easy for us to imbibe the worldview and attitude of our culture.
Scripture teaches us that the Bible is a mirror that continually corrects us (James 1:22-25), redirects us and by the power of the Spirit, radically transforms our thinking and lives. There are many Sundays when I share what I believe God’s Word teaches much as a doctor shares bad news with a patient he dearly loves. It’s hard, but he knows that he must. The Apostle Paul refers to this as “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). I must be faithful in sharing God’s truth. It’s my duty and God-given responsibility. And my passion and heart’s desire is for you to love Jesus and to grow in His grace. It’s hard to communicate how much I appreciate how you respond when I have to say the tough things from Scripture.
Very, very few times in nearly thirty years of being your Pastor has someone been angry or irritated with me for sharing what Scripture says. Though some pastors receive a constant barrage of snarky letters and e-mails for a sermon or their ministry, that very rarely (like nearly never) happens to me. It’s so unusual, that I can hardly remember the last time I received correspondence from someone who was ticked off. Let’s be honest, we all know tact is unfortunately not my greatest strength, though I’ve grown light years in that area by His grace. And I’m so thankful that in nearly thirty years, I’ve received only one or two anonymous notes.
Our church is at a critical juncture. One, where in many churches, Satan can cause division and wreak havoc – we are building a new building. As with any major building project, nearly everyone has an opinion on the various aspects of that building. And there’s nothing wrong with that. God gave each of us an individual mind and unique personality. We bring all of that through the front door of the church. Yet, I am so thankful that even with the diversity and strong personalities, there has been continual unity. We are committed to the same cause! We are committed to a common goal – building a building that glorifies God and helps us reach our community for Christ! Because it’s truly not about us, it’s about Him!
And we are so blessed, that though some churches have cliques and coalitions where there’s “politicking” behind the scenes, we just don’t have that at Grace. Some churches are all too similar to the New Testament Church of Corinth: “For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided?” (1 Corinthians 1:11-13). While we may disagree, there’s a commitment to disagreeing in a gracious, Christlike way. I’m so thankful that I am a pastor, not a referee.
While we need to grow in prayer and our commitment to prayer, I’m thankful that when a special prayer request goes out, folk in our church pray. They want to support that person or family before the Throne of Grace! It’s like a spark that sends our church family to its knees.
And your compassion never ceases to astound me. For example, last Thanksgiving when we challenged the church family to help out families who were financially struggling, we were overwhelmed with the response. I thought we’d do well to fill a box for each of the families. We didn’t just fill a box, we filled a couple of boxes. Then, the boxes were so full, it took two people to carry them. What a blessing!
As with any church family, unplanned situations, emergencies and needs continually arise. What a joy that we have folk who time after time will make a meal, give a ride, make a phone call, sub in the nursery, shovel a walk and a thousand other little ministries. At Grace, we truly have one pastor but well over a hundred ministers. You willingly and graciously serve, and do it over and over again!
And thank you so much for not taking yourselves too seriously. Scripture says “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine…” (Proverbs 17:22, KJV). This world is so stressed and anxious, often about the miniscule. If today’s world was a heart patient, the doctor would put them in ICU for off the chart hypertension. Yet, what a blessing to come to Grace and find rest and relief. Our church has a consistent pattern of keeping things in perspective. There just aren’t that many things worth getting all worked up over, particularly in light of eternity. I so appreciate that you know when to really care and when there is a true crisis. You also know how to keep things in perspective and not to “freak” out over the trivial or mundane.
I am about to complete three decades at Grace Church. If the Lord gave me the opportunity to start all over again, I’d ask for the privilege of being your Pastor once more! I am very, very blessed!! Thank you!
Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.