eNews – October 20, 2017
Dear friends and family,
Since I last wrote we have had hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, mass shootings, and other events which have left us a bit stunned and dizzied. It has been a tragic and emotional beginning of the fall for those around us and for the world. While we are daily reminded of the truths found in Ecclesiastes 3 (read it if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ll love it), it does not help us as we face those seasons which leave us asking questions which simply cannot be answered. We find ourselves having to live within what I call the gray of life while all the while wanting things to be black and white. But isn’t it interesting that Jesus spent his entire life explaining how things are not as clear cut as we would like them to be. God works with us so that we can adapt and change as the seasons of life come and go.
Jesus lived in the gray when he said that he came to fulfill the law as his disciples picked grain on the Sabbath. I know what the law says, but we live in the gray, was Jesus response. Look at Mark 2:23-28 and see how Jesus took people from a literal interpretation to one that is much more figurative in regards to life. If we try to live our lives in a legalistic fashion we will paint ourselves into a corner where we simply cannot get out. I know that church would be much easier if the pastor could tell you what to think and what to do because then you wouldn’t have to think through things and we could all do and say as I would have you do and say. Pause for a minute and imagine what that would look like. Now pick yourself from off the floor and give thanks that you are in a Presbyterian Church where we have men and women who are elected by the congregation who make decisions for the church so that it would follow the will of the Holy Spirit and not just the will of the pastor.
That is how things get gray, and that is why we need to try to find a way to be comfortable in the gray. Let me tell you about our church and the direction we are taking which is super exciting. Our leadership has seemed to have gotten a second wind and we are looking toward next year with optimistic eyes. We have seen the Lord at work over these years as our children’s ministry has increased dramatically. We have seen the Lord work over the years as we now have a Sunday School class geared to young couples with 10 couples attending (yes, Stacy and I are in that number, we are still young right?). We have seen past growth with our youth and are now in a phase of trying to recoup a consistent number which we had at one time. Our attendance is more than holding steady and our financial giving has steadily increased over these last handful of years. We have much for which to be thankful. But we want to do so much more! There is so much potential still out there.
This Sunday is Stewardship Sunday. If you have ever been in church on Stewardship Sunday then you will know that I believe that tithing is a Scriptural command. We are called to give ten percent of our income to the work of the church. The Bible says so, our family has followed this commandment, and I can’t help but encourage anything less for your family. But here is why I believe it is so important. I have over 20 years of experience as a pastor and in each of the churches where I have served I have spoken about the Biblical mandate of tithing in Scripture. In each of the churches where I have served I have had families come to me and relay how before they tithed their finances were a mess. Once they began tithing God took a hold of their lives, all of their lives including their finances, and things became less gray for them in that area.
So in order to steer away from a prosperity Gospel we do know that God promises to care for our needs. I am telling you that God will take care of your needs and that tithing is not for the sake of the church, but for each individual and for each family to be able to recognize that God has control over their lives, even that area of our lives that we get somewhat defensive about, our finances. I have tried so hard in my time here to steer away from being a church that anyone could ever say: All they talk about is money, So, I have gone to the other extreme and in the last four years I have not preached on finances. That is not fair to you. We worry a lot about our finances and if we can’t talk about it in church, at least once a year, then the relevancy of church should be questioned.
So, in conclusion, if you are a member or attend First Presbyterian Church of Strasburg you need to know that you are among a group of believers who love Jesus and who put their money where their concern is. We were able to raise over $16,000 for hurricane relief over this past month which is an incredible testimony to our generosity. We are currently working on a budget for 2018 that is very engaging with our community. It reflects our increase in staffing and our increase in outreach events which have drawn in hundreds for concerts, events, and activities. It reflects an optimism for stewardship that is based on tithing as well as stewardship of our time as we volunteer in these activities.
I pray that as you look forward to this church year you will celebrate the life and the activity which is reflected in this church as an opportunity to taste the kingdom of God which allows us to live in a gray world with our Savior.
Your servant in Christ,