For most people, change can be quite difficult, to say the least. Major changes often occur at various stages along our journey of life, including graduating, getting married, having a baby, the death of a loved one, and major illnesses, to name just a few of these “junctures of change.” The spiritual life of a Christian is no different. We are born sinners, God works on us to soften our hearts through prevenient grace, and God continues to lead us and guide us into the sanctified life of a mature believer. Believe it or not, the longer you are a Christian, the more difficult it becomes to serve God, because the longer you serve Him, the more He asks of you. If you serve God long enough and faithfully enough, you will eventually be asked to give up your whole self to God. Now that is a real change.
Churches go through the same stages of change, and Clarks Mills UMC is in a “growth spurt” right now. This growth has little to do with attendance numbers, but a lot to do with the presence of the Holy Spirit. We are growing in our faith, growing in Grace, and seeing a real revival of the Holy Spirit. People are taking their relationship with God seriously, and seeking God with their whole heart, and the Spirit is being poured out on us in abundance. We have seen every spiritual gift manifested in our church, and we are living in a state of blessing where people are seeking us out because of what the Lord is doing here with our people.
That activity alone produces change: change in our worship style, change in our ministries, change in our ministry focus (to whom we minister), and sometimes changes in membership and leadership. One of the changes that you will notice is this very newsletter, which is now being printed quarterly, in response to the growing need of resources for other ministries. You will begin to see us start other ministries focused on outreach and discipleship, including a “pastoral care team” that is an extension of myself and an attempt to keep us more connected. You will probably also be invited to attend a small group, which is an intentional group of people gathered for fellowship and discipleship meeting outside of the church.
Some of these changes you will be comfortable with and will be a welcome change. Others will seem awkward, frustrating, or even “wrong” to you. However, your church leadership team has been praying and fasting and seeking God’s face in the past few months and we are trying to reach out to those who desperately need God, and to faithfully disciple those who have already begun their relationship with God.
The spirit of God is always moving, and desiring to take us to new places and experience God in new ways. There is no doubt that God is blessing us right now, but we cannot get caught up in staying where we are in this blessing, or we will miss when the Spirit moves in another direction. We must be obedient to the call of God in our collective heart as the church and look for the new thing that God is doing. Isaiah 43 reminds us to forget the past things and do not live in the past. God is doing a new thing, making streams in the desert and watering a thirsty people.
Will you journey into this new thing with me? Will you go into uncharted territory? If you’re scared or nervous, that’s ok, because change and the threat of the unknown can be stressful, but Isaiah 43 also assures us that when we pass through the waters, God will be with us and we will not be overwhelmed! For my part, I am ecstatic that I am on this journey with such a faithful, prayerful people, and I have never been more excited for what God is doing than I am right now. I hope that you are, too. And remember: not only do we journey through change together, but God will be with us every step of the way!