Local State of the Church

Three years and one week ago, our family took Spring Break to Martinsville, VA.  It was Friday evening when we left for Martinsville, staying over at in-laws home.  Saturday, we made the second half of the trip to Martinsville.  What I remember the most, was that after calling Tommy and Patti as we drove out of Roanoke and under the Blue Ridge Parkway, (with a warning not to drive over the speed limit in Boones Mills) was the deafening quiet in our van.  It is a very rare day when it is quiet in our van and for the next 45 minutes to an hour, nobody said a word.  We were wondering, “Is this where God is leading us?” We spent the next 48 hours with all of you and by the time we left Martinsville, we felt that this is where God was calling us.

Fast forward to this past week – As most of you know, I have spent the last week at the Indiana Central Conference Center.  This is also the location of the former Frankfort Pilgrim College.  Many of the buildings from that day still stand.  What I think is cool is that one of our former college campuses are still being used to educate women and men as they pursue ordination.  During the course of the events this week, God confirmed my call to Preston Wesleyan Church.  There is a great work to be done.  Martinsville and Henry County needs every one of us to minister to it.  I’ve said it in the past and I say it again, “Instead of cursing the darkness, we need to light a candle.”  Our community needs us.  We need to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

These two thoughts are what have stuck in my mind during this past week.  What is our purpose as a church?  Do we exist for ourselves?  Or do we exist to bring others into the Kingdom?  I would hope that your answer is that we exist to bring others into the Kingdom.

In just two weeks, we will be celebrating the birthday of the church, followed the next week by the celebration of the founding of this church.  We want to take a look at the state of Preston Wesleyan Church, but before we do that, let’s go to Acts 2.

1 On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day-about 3,000 in all.

42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity-47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

As we look at this passage of scripture, we find that there are five purposes (or five things) that drive us as a church.  They are Worship, Evangelism, Discipleship (or Spiritual Formation), Fellowship, and Ministry Service.  The church in Jerusalem had a serious dose of the Holy Spirit and they were empowered (as Jesus had promised) to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the rest of the earth.  How did they do that?  First of all, it was surrounded and soaked in prayer.  One of my goals as your pastor this year is to surround everything we do with prayer.  If we want to be effective in our ministry, we must bathe everything we do in prayer.  One of the things that we lack is an effective corporate prayer ministry.  I would really love to see us re-establish a corporate prayer meeting somewhere during the week.  It doesn’t have to be on Wednesday night, but we absolutely need to establish this crucial ministry of the church. I seriously feel that the reason we have so much spiritual oppression at Preston Wesleyan Church is a lack of corporate prayer time together.  I know that this is a radical concept, but we need to do it.  Our Ministry Leadership Team will be looking establish this prayer time at our next meeting.  One of the reasons, I declare this from the pulpit is I want you to hold me accountable to this.  Prayer for our church and our community is critical and we need to spend time doing it.

Let me say that this has been a challenging year for us.  It has been challenging financial, numerically, and even spiritually.  This past year, we put a new roof on our building.  Let me thank Blaine for all of the legwork he put into that project.  It is a project that has drained our church of its cash reserve.  Not only did we replace a roof, but we just finished replacing the water line from the road to the church.  When you have a fifty year old building, things are going to break – things are going to need to be upgraded.  With the exception of a about three lean month, our finances held their own, but it takes finances in order to minister.  Our budget is barebones – unlike the government, there is no pork barrel spending. If our economy stays where it is right now, this could be another difficult year.  Would you make our finances a matter of prayer?

Numerically, we are down in all services except for Wednesday evening.  Mosaic has continued to go against the numerical trend downward.  I really believe that this is a key ministry at Preston Wesleyan Church.  We are reaching young men and women for Christ and we are making a difference in their lives.  I have referred to Mosaic Student Ministries as our second worship service.  Each Wednesday evening, a group of dedicated volunteers picks up students, lead them in worship, teach, feed them and then take them home.  Mosaic has made some great strides this year.  We are seeing lives changed for the Kingdom.  Mosaic is an area that needs your prayers.  One way you can pray for Mosaic is in the area of finances.  Mosaic is an absolutely critical part of the mission of Preston Wesleyan Church.  Mosaic is probably the greatest drain our the church budget – food, gas, and curriculum and yet this ministry does not bring in any funds – and that is ok with me – As I will say in my pastoral report after lunch – Mosaic is ministry – Preston Wesleyan Church is ministry – Mosaic is an investment in the Kingdom – In my mind, it is very difficult to put a price on investment in the Kingdom.  Somehow, we need to find a way to make it work!

I was pleased as we had over 50 in worship for Easter Sunday.  This fell well short of our goal of 90.  As I looked around the congregation that morning, it struck me that we should easily have that attendance every Sunday.  This is one of the reasons that I said we have struggled spiritually.  We need to make our times of corporate worship a priority.  Nothing (and I’m saying this in love) nothing should come before our times of corporate worship together.  There are six other days and if you want there’s even Sunday afternoon and evening, to do everything else you need to do.  I pray that you would make our times together a priority and bring a friend while you are at it.

So where does this bring us?  I believe that we really need to focus on the purpose God has set before the church – We need to be deep in worship.  This week was incredible to watch God work as I took all my hands off worship.  Our worship was deep, celebrative, joyful, even exuberant.  What would happen if we would let go and let God have his way during our times of worship?  We need to be a church that preaches the gospel – this is evangelism – sometimes we need to bring them in, sometimes we just need to go out – sometimes, we need to bring those outside the church a cold cup of water in Jesus’ name.  We need to continue to be strong in discipleship.  That’s what Sunday School is for – That’s what Sunday night is for – Who is forming you?  Is it God and his Word or is it something else.  Let me say this – when it comes to these first three – worship, evangelism, and discipleship or spiritual formation – I will continue to preach God’s Word.  Make no mistake about it.  One of the things that I realized this week is that God and his Word are awesome – God and only God is awesome.  One of the things that we will continue to do is make God’s Word relevant to the culture around us.  I want to speak to something that was said last week while I was gone.  This again is said in love and I know that some of you will be mad after I say this.  The King James Version of the Bible is just one of several correct or orthodox versions of the Bible.  I believe that it is important that God’s Word is understandable to everyone.  The New International Version and The New Living Translation are versions that we will continue to use in our corporate worship, teaching and discipleship times.  Yes, I cut my teeth on the King James Version – I grew up until I was a teen on the King James Version, but it is not the only Authorized Version.  Did you know that there were several other King James Versions before the 1611 version?  Did you also know that the King James Version is not the original English Bible – it is a translation just like any other version (in any language besides Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic)  Those are the only original languages – those are the original inspired words of God – everything else – no matter what is a translation of those original languages.  Enough said.

In the area of fellowship, we continue to see good progress.  I would love to see our congregation gather at least once a month for the purpose of getting together.  I realize that we are a family church and we are very connectional and relational.  We need to gather more than just on Sunday mornings for the purpose of encouraging one another in Christian fellowship.

The last area has received much attention this year.  Pam has done a great job as our Compassionate Ministries Director.  One of the things that is important in the life of the church is to reach out to others in need.  We evangelicals typically have left that either to the Salvation Army or to “mainline social gospel” churches.  In my mind, taking care of others needs is part of the gospel.  James 1:27 reads, “27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” Taking care of others is part of the churches job.  This year we have supported World Hope International, Hephzibah Children’s Home, The Salvation Army, and Grace Network  The first three are either directly related to The Wesleyan Church in general or a part of the Wesleyan family tree.

In all of these areas, I believe that we are doing well.  Can we do better?  Sure we can.  There is always room for growth.  That is part and parcel of the Wesleyan train of thought.  We should never stop growing as believers and we should never stop growing as a church.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I really believe that Preston Wesleyan Church’s greatest days are ahead of us, if we will just let go and let God work in our lives – if we let the Holy Spirit in and take complete control.

Earlier in the message, I said that I believe prayer is a critical component of our mission.  Prayer is great, but there is also a doing – a preparing element to prayer.  Coach Grant is discouraged because his football team isn’t doing very well.  They are facing hardship.  What happens when the school’s prayer warrior comes in and gives Grant some words of wisdom?  The answer is our challenge this morning.

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