My first pastorate was in a small rural village in southeastern Ohio. The church had 85 people, the parking lot was gravel and the spirit was somewhat defeatist. Most of the members had lived their entire life in that rural community and all they knew of “church” was what they had encountered there. Because of the experiences God had allowed me to have, I knew there was much more that could bless them and help them grow in their relationship with Christ. At the time however, they were not very open to having “new” things introduced to their worship experience. How could I broaden their horizons without bringing conflict to the church? God gave me an idea. Instead of bring “new” things into their territory where the unfamiliar would be threatening, invite them to go to other venues where they could experience a world of ministry they had never even dreamed of.
The first year I took one couple to the Super-Conference in Lynchburg, Virginia. We came back excited and full of ideas. The next year 6 people went, the next 12, and then one year I escorted 35 of our members to the Real Evangelism Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. At these conferences, my friends encountered music, preaching, and ministries of every kind. These were things they would have rejected if I tried them back home, but in a distant town, they found them exciting and life changing. On the drive back home, my friends delighted in all they had experienced and then one of them asked the million dollar question, “Why can’t we have that back home?” They had gotten a taste of God’s bigger world of spiritual experience and wanted to incorporate it into their regular church life.
I’ve noticed that when people go on short-term mission trips, the experience is much the same. At home, the thought of sharing their faith, walking across the street to be an encouragement or to do a good deed is feared and avoided. But, send them to another country and they come back beaming with stories of how God used them to do things they would never have dreamed of doing at home. My question is, “Why can’t we have those same experiences at home?” The answer is… We Can! While God may use a special experience away from home to open our hearts and minds to new worlds of ministry and spiritual experience, He longs to empower us in our families, neighborhoods, and local churches to represent and experience Him in ever increasing ways.
I ask, why can’t First Federated Church be a dynamic lighthouse for the gospel in the Des Moines Metro area? Why can’t we experience worship that draws us to God’s heart, prayer that builds faith and see’s God move in mind blowing ways? Why can’t we see friends, neighbors, relatives and associates coming to church with us and encountering the life changing love of Christ? The answer is… We can! The same God who empowers and blesses us when we go to a conference or mission trip is the same God that meets with us each day, here in Des Moines. I invite you to join me in asking God to revive in us a passion for Jesus, the gospel and the community He’s planted us in. Then, we won’t be asking why we can’t have what we’ve experienced else where… we’ll be living it out to His glory and the benefit of all we connect with.