Posts Tagged ‘community’

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August Letter from the Pastor

Monday, August 1st, 2011

What do we think we are doing?

It’s simple really. When it comes down to it, what we do (and don’t do) is the only real signifier of what we believe (and don’t believe).

Obviously we can lie to ourselves if we want, and most of us do at least some of the time, but the truth of the matter is that I will act on whatever I really believe. The converse is also true, if I’m not living out what I say I believe, then I’m not really believing it. Let’s take a minute to explore this truth with a little hypothetical situation.

If I say that I care for the safety of my children, then I will actually do things to ensure their safety. I will secure the house and make it child-proof. I will buy safety equipment for them to travel in during car rides such as car seats and then buckle them in making sure they are secure. If I truly want them to be safe, I will take the time to explain the dangers of their choices and reason with them why they should do or not do certain things as they grow up.

Basically, if I really believe there are potential safety issues for my children, then I will do everything I can within my power to ensure their safety and teach them how to be safe when I am not around. If I don’t do anything to protect them and teach them, then I must not really care about their safety as much as I say I do, right?

I’m sure all of you can understand and relate to this example. I have no doubt that you understand these truths and even agree with the premise that we act upon what we truly believe.

So why is it that we say we believe certain truths about God, yet we don’t act on what we say believe? I’m not even talking about the small stuff. I’m talking about the essentials of our faith like worship, discipleship, evangelism, prayer, fellowship, etc.

If we say we believe our entire lives should be about worshiping God, then why aren’t they? If we say we believe Matthew 28:18-20 and that we should be making disciples, then why aren’t we? If we say we believe God wants us to share our faith, then why aren’t we telling others about Him? If we say we believe in the power of prayer, then why aren’t we committing more of our time and energy to praying? Why aren’t we confessing our sins to one another and praying for one another…about more than just health issues? If we say we believe the church is to be a faith family who truly fellowships, then why do we only gather on Sundays or once a quarter over lunch? If we say we believe in forgiveness, then why do we choose to hold on to the past and not forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ?

We like to say we are followers of Jesus and we like to say we love God, but we don’t usually live out what we say we believe. And, if we don’t act on what we say we believe, then maybe we don’t really believe it after all.

Look, I’m not saying we have to do “this and that” to make sure we are really Christians. I’m saying that if we truly are followers of Christ, then we’ll look like it. Our actions and words don’t earn us God’s favor. Jesus’ work on the cross already did that for us. But if we truly believe what we say we believe, then we’ll start living it out.

What would it look like if we actually starting living out what we say we believe? How would that change our families? How would that change our workplaces? How would that change our faith family? How would that change our community? Think of all the possibilities and think of all the joy we would have in knowing we are doing everything we can to make much of God and to enjoy Him completely.

You brother and fellow sojourner in Christ,
Pastor Thomas

June Newsletter Article from the Pastor

Monday, May 30th, 2011

the MISSION

June Letter from the Pastor

For the last 22 months, our faith family has been endeavoring to restructure and realign ourselves with the mission of Jesus. Our orders are to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (The Great Commission).

Now that we have restructured our leadership team and reorganized our church to more closely resemble the New Testament church of the Bible, it is finally time for each of us to begin carrying out the mission of Jesus here in Frostburg, the surrounding areas, and throughout the world.

Some of you have already been doing this, working as forward scouts who go out and gather information and do short-term work in the field while the rest of the church prepares to launch the larger campaign. Well, the time has come for us to suit up and begin the incursion. As we line up in formation and begin to move forward into the community, here are a few brief reminders of the only way the mission will be successful:

1. Everyone must participate. Jesus has commanded ALL of us to go and make disciples. Notice, the authoritative word in the above sentence is “commanded.” He has ordered all of us to go and make disciples and this is what we must do. In fact, whether or not we follow this order is actually a sign of whether or not we are a part of his army, the church. If we do not follow his orders, then we are not obeying our commander and we are evidently not a part of His army, the church. We might go to a church and do churchy things, but if we are not doing as our commander has ordered, then we are not his followers. It’s that simple.

2. Everyone must make disciples. I know we like to think that this is why we pay the pastor, but the truth of the matter is that Jesus has commanded ALL of us to go and make disciples. For many of us, making disciples can be as scary as getting into the water for the first time when we are learning to swim. In fact, it can be downright terrifying. The great thing is…Jesus isn’t just pushing us out of the boat into water that is over our head. He has actually given us a life-preserver and an instructor who is the Holy Spirit, and he is ALWAYS with us. We never have to worry about drowning or messing up. If we simply obey his command to make disciples, all we have to do is reach out to those around us and tell them about what Jesus has done for us. Then each week, we can simply share with them what we are learning from the Bible and what we learned on Sunday with our faith family. It really is that simple, but we ALL have to do it.

3. We must make disciples who make disciples. We’ve seen first hand what happens when people stop making disciples. The church stagnates and begins to shrink and become inwardly focused. We’ve seen it in our own church and we see it happening in the churches in our community (at least 4 churches have closed their doors for good in Allegany County this year). Someone in your life helped you come to know and trust Jesus. Then they helped you further by teaching you how to obey the commands of Jesus, especially the Great Commission (see above), and now it is your turn to do the same. The great commission starts with us going and making disciples and it ends with us teaching the new disciples to obey Jesus’ commands of going and making disciples. It is a continual, reproducible action that we must begin doing now.

We say we love God and we want to see God glorified. If this is true, then this is how we do it, and it starts right here where we live, work, and play. It starts here and it starts now. Will you join us?

Your fellow disciple-maker,
Thomas

Letter from the Pastor – April 2011

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Dear Faith Family,

As I sit in my office, preparing to leave for a leadership meeting in Port au Prince, Haiti, I cannot escape the haunting reminder that even while I am planning a long-term strategy to reach people with the gospel in Haiti, there are thousands of people in our own community of Frostburg who are hopeless apart from faith in Jesus. This is the truth we walk in and live in every day. As we go about our lives, day in and day out, we are surrounded with people who are unaware of the imminent danger which is upon them because they do not believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

As I walk the halls and pass by conversations each Sunday morning, time and time again I hear people talking about how we need to reach our own community. I hear people talking about how we need to do something to see our church grow and our attendance numbers increase.

All of these conversations are good ones, but sometimes we get to a point where talk is just cheap. The truth of the matter is, we don’t need any new ideas for how to reach our community with the gospel. We don’t need to come up with some elaborate scheme or event in order to finally draw people into our church. We’ve already been given a plan and it’s a simple one.

Colossians 3:1-4, 12-17 (ESV)
[1] If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. [3] For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [4] When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

[12] Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, [13] bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. [14] And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. [15] And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. [16] Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. [17] And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

If we would simply realize that we have been purchased by God with Jesus’ blood…for our redemption and for His glory, I believe everything would begin to make sense. We can no longer allow the temporary things of this earth to distract us from seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, the eternal things. Just as Jesus’ life was only about doing the Father’s work, so are our lives to be like His.

If we would begin to live like Jesus, in His compassion and humility, caring for one another, allowing His Word to dwell in us richly, worshiping in song and thankfulness, we would begin to see people being drawn to our faith family. We don’t have to come up with big event ideas or new marketing schemes. We just need to start living like the Christ followers we say we are, always worshiping in Spirit and in Truth.

Let’s stop selfishly living for ourselves, wasting our lives on things that will not last; and let’s start pouring out our lives for the things that will last forever – God’s glory, Jesus’ fame, and the salvation of the lost and hopeless people that surround us every day. Will we begin to truly love the people around us, not just with lip-service, but with gospel deeds and gospel words of deliverance? I hope we will. Their lives depend on it.

Your fellow sower of the seed,
Thomas

September Newsletter Article from the Pastor

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Dear Welsh Faith Family,

Is it just me or does it seem to you like time is continually speeding up? When I was younger, days seemed like they never ended. Weeks felt like months and months felt like years. At this point in my life, days feel way to short. Weeks fly by at mach one and months seem to disappear before I realize they were even here. Is it just me, or do you feel the same way?

I know you feel the same. Everyone I talk to expresses their surprise at how fast the days go by…how there are never enough hours in the day. And you know what I’ve come to realize? There are NOT enough hours in the day. We all have a limited amount of time to accomplish a limited number of goals. This realization necessitates that we carefully and intentionally prioritize our lives so that we accomplish the most important goals to make sure we don’t one day look back and realize we wasted our lives on things that do not really matter.

Let’s put things in perspective. Let’s say we will all live to the ripe old age of 100. In comparison to one million years, 100 years is only about as long as the blinking of an eye. When we look at how long 100 years is in relation to eternity, we begin to realize 100 years is really no time at all.

This begs the question: What goals are worthy of my time and resources while I am alive for such a short period of time? It seems that the goals that would have to take priority are the goals that will last for much longer than my short life on this earth. Don’t you think we should try our hardest to accomplish the most important and the most impacting goals possible in order to make our lives as meaningful as possible? If you call yourself a Christian (i.e. a Christ-follower), then you can’t ignore the fact that Jesus said our lives are to be about God’s glory, not about us. We were created to love God back in a way that makes Him as famous and well-known as possible. After all, it’s about God, not us.

When we begin to put things into perspective, it’s easy to see that most of us spend a great deal of time focusing on things that don’t mean very much in the long run. Does it really matter if we drive the biggest and best cars, when we could settle for less and give more money to those in need? Does it really matter if I please everyone around me when the only person I’m created to please is God? If we began to reassess everything we do and don’t do in this life according to Scripture and according to what God has called us to do in this short life, would we still put so much time and effort into the things that seem to take up all our time now? I don’t think we would.

Once we realize that the only things that really matter are the souls of those around us and God being glorified, it seems that our priorities shift to reflect this truth. What do you fill your days with during this short life you have on this earth? Are you allowing yourself to be consumed with things that really aren’t going to matter in the long run? Or are you constantly seeking to re-prioritize your life to make sure that everything you spend your life doing is going to have an eternal impact? This is what Jesus commands us to do. In Philippians 3:17-21, Paul says it better than I ever could:

“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

Don’t set your minds on earthly things for the short time we are here on this earth. It doesn’t matter the style of music we play. It doesn’t matter what color the walls are where we worship together. It doesn’t matter if the order of service isn’t exactly like I want it to be. It doesn’t matter who leads the singing or who gives the announcements. It doesn’t matter what stuff we use or don’t use for decorations.

There are only two things that really matter when it comes to our faith family: 1.) Are we doing everything we can to make much of God and to make Jesus’ name great in our community? 2.) Are we doing everything we can to take the saving gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost in our community and around the world so that they can join us in worshipping the one, true God of the Bible?

Once John the Baptist realized the overwhelming task at hand, to glorify God and win the lost for Jesus’ sake, he put things into perspective for us. He says it plainly and concisely in John 3:30, “Jesus must increase, but I must decrease.” What would happen if we started to see things so clearly, if we realized we need to decrease in importance and Jesus needs to increase in importance in our lives?

I’ll tell you what would happen. We would quit bickering over things that don’t matter. We’d stop complaining about all the things that are exactly the way we’d like them to be. We’d re-prioritize and we’d start impacting the world by sharing the gospel of Jesus with the lost in our town and around the world. We’d start seeing lives changed through the power of the Spirit of God, by the grace of God, because of the Son of God. It would change our lives, our community, and our world, all for God’s glory. I pray this is what we become as a faith family here at Welsh. Let’s make this our utmost goal.

Your brother in Christ,
Thomas

June Newsletter Article from the Pastor

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Long before Carol and I moved to Frostburg, we began praying to our Father on behalf of this faith family. It has continually been our prayer that God would glorify Himself through the lives of everyone involved in the ministry of our faith family as we seek to make Him known from Frostburg to the ends of the earth. We knew from the beginning that there would be difficult times as we, our faith family, began to seek reformation and revitalization to ensure that everything we do as the body of Christ would line up with the Scriptures. Even though there would be tough times and tough decisions, we knew that above all else, all of us would have to one day stand before our God and Father to account for everything we have done with our time, talents, and treasure; and more than anything else, we wanted to be able to stand before Him and with everything within us say that we have done everything possible to make much of Him and to spread the gospel of His Son, Jesus, to every nation of the world.

Although we have already endured some trying times, we have also seen some great workings of God in our midst, even at this early time in our revitalization. Here are a few things we can celebrate together as we continually reaffirm our desire to do whatever it takes to glorify God by reaching our community and the world for the sake of Jesus.

For the last six months, we’ve been blessed with children in our nursery every Sunday.

This Easter we had our highest attendance in a long time of approximately 90 people.

We began our partnership with Compassion International on May 23rd by committing to support over 10 children as a faith family.

We’ve had an increase in the number of individuals participating in our Sunday morning worship team. The team now consists of the following people: Angela Radcliffe (vocals), Vicky Warnick (piano/vocals), Derek McCauley (guitar), Lauren Stair (piano), Barb Stahl (bass guitar), Tyler Pensyl (drums), and Elizabeth Radcliffe (vocals).

Since we began this revitalization, we have seen a substantial increase in the number of college students attending our Sunday morning worship gathering. Beginning with 2 to 3 students and ending the school year with an average of 15 college students each week.

We’ve also had significant growth in the area of spiritual maturity among many in our faith family. This is a difficult thing to quantify, but there is no doubt that many in our faith family are growing in their knowledge of the Scriptures and in their daily walk with God. Although this is a difficult thing to quantify, it is one of the most important things we are called to do as the body of Christ…make disciples!

I am looking forward to being a part of what God is going to do with us over this summer as we prepare to become the people on mission that God commands us to be. After all, we exist to glorify God through lives changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ and that is precisely what we are beginning to do right here in Frostburg and beyond! May God receive all the glory, honor, and praise!

For Jesus’ fame,
Thomas