June 9, 2019
All We Need is the ‘Right’ Pastor
Matthew 9.35-38 and 18.20
Why do people want to be an active part of a church?
Most people to be nurtured or challenged in faith—even if that spiritual hunger is deeply buried. Some want moral guidance. Some people want to help to make the world a better place by joining church people in mission, social advocacy or helping with tasks in the church. Some want to actively pass on Christian faith to young people and non-Christians. Some want to build friendships. Some like the music. Some like the free food. Some are church members because their mother forced them to go to church or because going to church is what they’ve always done. Some like to go to attend worship to take a quiet snooze.
What makes you want to be an active participant in this church?
Is Union Church currently fulfilling your needs and hopes? If Union is falling short of what you think is important, what needs to change? What do you want the church to be? The Interim transition is a golden opportunity to identify priorities and make intentional plans for the church. Should the church focus on serving its own members? Should the church’s purpose be to help current members find hope and fellowship? Should the church champion God’s vision for the world? Should the church focus on reaching new Christians, whether youth or adults?
What did Jesus do to promote his message? Our scripture texts today offer powerful glimpses of the way Jesus disseminated the Good News that he wanted people to discover. What approach did Jesus use to inspire a 1000 generations to join the Jesus movement? Jesus did not build a fancy building or overturn the traditional order of the synagogues. He went out to meet people where they were. He mingled with and helped marginalized people. And Jesus noticed and responded tangibly to what they needed. Sometimes, his response was a tough love “No.” Jesus demonstrated how he wanted people to live. Jesus preached only when he knew what people wanted or NEEDED to hear. Interest and new followers of Jesus surged by Word of mouth. Unlike some media evangelists and lone ranger pastors today, Jesus did not want to be the center of attention. He focused on the people he met. His goal was to empower his followers.
From the outset, Jesus mobilized his followers to embrace and spread his message [see Luke 10]. According to the Gospel of John, Andrew started following Jesus, and “the 1st thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah." [Jn 1.35-51] If you discover a great restaurant or an exciting book, you tell family and friends about it.
What things are meaningful or valuable at Union Church that inspire you to tell other people and invite them to come here? What is needed at Union Church to make you excited about urging family and friends to discover what’s going on here?
I can tell you what has made me want to belong to a church. As a young person, I appreciated the sincere love and attention that I received from some of the church members. They convinced me that I mattered to them (and by association, that I matter to God). I loved the children’s music (which I can still sing). Sunday school Bible stories often ignited my imagination and my desire to learn more about faith. My Sunday school teachers took my class on field trips to a medium security prison and to the Goodwill Center where people with various disabilities were hard at work repairing donated items. Those trips helped shape my faith development and my strong commitment to social justice. Members of my church also inspired my commitment to earth care by their intentional recycling and intentional simple living practices.
The old-fashioned worship music usually bored me; but he tenor soloist sang with such pathos and devotion that I could FEEL the power of his faith. The members’ complaining, whining and gossip made me wonder if something was missing in the Christian faith.
When I was in college, I attended a nearby church. Many members went out of their way to learn my name and to get to know me. Being away from my close-knit extended family, the congregation purposefully became my temporary multi-generational family. I loved the energetic discussion classes about faith, ethics and the Bible. I especially enjoyed a young adults faith & current issues discussion class. Topics came from the group and discussion was enthusiastic and sometimes heated. We developed deep personal friendships and expanded our knowledge and broadened our personal viewpoints.
In sermons, I look for new insights that deepen my faith or inspire me to rethink my assumptions. I love meaningful, inspiring stories, whether from the pulpit or told during Coffee Hour. There is something truly sacred in being part of a prayer group. And since I was 22 years old, I have visited homebound and assisted care residents and church members in the hospital, after the death of a loved one, in times of crisis, and for weddings, births and baptisms. I am grateful for those precious opportunities for intimate mutual sharing in the context of God’s love. Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
Lord, help each person here to find active ways to make this promise true at Union Church and throughout the world.