More EXCITED Than Ever About Our Church!

I know this may sound exaggerated, but I have never been as excited about the future of our church as I am right now.  Don’t get me wrong.  I loathe COVID-19 and all that it has managed to disrupt in our lives.  I literally grieve at times when I see what it has done to our wonderful church.  Hundreds gathered every weekend in dynamic worship and fellowship in a building that is too small.  We were squeezed into every available space.  Now we’ve been squeezed out by one public health order after the other.  Slowly we are beginning to re-gather and re-focus.
But I know that the church of Jesus Christ is the most resilient entity the world has ever seen!  Jesus said so.  “I will build my church, and hell itself can’t hold me back,” let alone a virus.  This exile has been hard on everyone, but Christians have felt the isolation on a different level.  Corporate worship and fellowship define us.  So, it’s fair to say that COVID has shaken things up.
So why am I excited?  Because now is the time to re-think and re-engage our identity as Christians, as members at City.  Now is a GREAT time to re-envision our church as God planned it.   Here are three ideas that gives rise to my renewed excitement:
1. I’m experiencing a vision renewal.  We have carefully developed our mission, vision and purpose statements over the years but now is the time to revisit and recommit to them.  Do you know what they are?  As a Spirit-filled church family, we are passionate about making fully devoted followers of Jesus (disciples) who are reaching out to the world around us and building up believers on the foundation of God’s Word.  Our signature “people path” is our strategic map that keeps us focused.  Why don’t you jump in with both feet to help us reach our potential.   
2. I’m excited about relationship.  We all feel the need to re-engage with other believers in authentic fellowship.  If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that we need each other more than we often realize.  We are built to belong and to share each other’s friendship.  Going forward means that you must strategically make time for others in Christian fellowship.  But our passion for relational renewal must include strategic outward focus.  Now is the time to re-commit ourselves to reaching out to the world around us with the hope of Jesus. 
3. I’m excited about leading a structure renewal.  Yes, leaders get excited about “structures” because they express the philosophy of ministry by which we operate.  I’m excited about the concept of leading from the top down BUT empowering from the bottom up.  The staff are “your servants for Jesus’ sake” who are here to “equip you to do the work of the ministry.”  Our goal is “every member is a ministry partner.”  If a person is a Christian, they need to use their gifts to serve the body of Christ.  It’s very exciting. 
Dismal predictions flourish about what may still lie ahead for the pandemic.  Who knows?  They may be right or wrong.  But it doesn’t really matter to us as a church because we are focused on the message of the Gospel, the family of God and the mission of the church.
May I just say one last word?  As your pastors, we are always excited about YOU.  People matter to God and we care about your well-being.  Remember our love and prayers for each of our church family.
Your servant for Jesus’ sake,
Pastor Deric

A Safe Place

Life soon teaches us the reality that we often feel unsafe in this world.  That’s why we have to learn the important skill of developing safe places where we can find rest from the stresses and strains of life.  Developing a safe place for your soul is a vital skill in “keeping your heart with all diligence” to borrow the wisdom of Solomon in Proverbs 4:23
As a young child I loved being out in nature where it was serene. (I still do!)  The gentleness and quietness of nature is appealing to most everyone.  We learned as children that even though it felt safe, because in most ways it was, there were dangerous places to avoid.  One such danger was getting lost by not paying attention to one’s location.  Another danger was the creatures that we encountered on a regular basis.  From the big ones, like black bears, to the smaller ones, like skunks and even beavers, we knew to keep our distance.  The serenity of nature, I later learned, mimics the serenity of God’s presence.
As a young pastor I learned the importance of having a “hiding place” where I could go to rest, recharge, and renew my strength.  During the hard seasons of life, when we feel vulnerable and exposed, Christians know that we have a safe place to which we can retreat for rest and refreshment.  And of course, the safest place I know is in the presence of the Lord.  His presence is the best place for a Christian to renew, recharge and refocus. 
Two of the most loved Psalms in the Hebrew Bible is in Psalm 90 and 91.  Listen to its promise: 

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.”  (Psalm 90:1)

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2)

A “dwelling place” is a HOME.  Your home is the one place to which you can go to shut the world out and rest, without fear of unwelcomed visitors invading your comfort and security.  For the Christian, God’s presence is our HOME where we know we are loved with an everlasting love.  We are in our safest place in the presence of the Lord. (And He is “everywhere present”)
A shelter is a SECRET HIDING PLACE where we can escape from the threats that weary us. Notice that the psalmist promised that if we take our place in the presence of God, His shadow will be cast over us.  Nearness to God creates a blanket of protection for the believer.  Talk about a safe place!
A refuge and fortress are PROTECTED STRONGHOLDS where the enemy cannot touch you. The name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe.”  (Proverbs 18:10)
You might be tempted to think of this “safe place” analogy as a form of Christian “escapism.”    But Christians know better.  We fully acknowledge the harsh realities of life.  We aren’t running away from anything or anybody.  We are running into the presence of the ONE who alone can calm our fears, give us a peace that passes understanding and grant us renewed strength to keep moving on the upward way.  
Be safe church family!  Shalom,
Pastor Deric