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Wit and Wisdom of Gateway Church Athens GA

As we begin our new church life … so too a new blog!

As I’ve been working through Randy Alcorn’s book, I continually remind myself of the target: what is our mission?  What has God called us to be in our community? 

At out last council meeting, pastor Tom gave us a document from the district office, “Vital Congregations Planning Guide” for 2012.  It is a series of detailed questions and guidelines that is required by all UMC congregations in the district.  I bring this document to your attention for a couple of reasons.

The first and most important reason is it points us in the right direction.  The questions we are being asked to answer for the district are the questions we have been trying to answer as church body.  Here is a sample:

1.    What are the current needs of your surrounding community?
2.    What are the strengths of your church?
3.    What are your challenges and threats to your congregation?
4.    Why does your church exist?
5.    If your church were to cease to exist, what impact would it have on the local community?

These are incredibly important questions.  They are tough questions, but we need to prayerfully answer them.  If this sounds suspiciously like work, it’s because it is.  This is tough work.  It will require lots of prayer, time, thought and patience.  In order to effectively answer them, we will have to ask God for his guidance and then listen for His answers.

The second reason I bring it to your attention is because it contains the same set of questions we need to answer as individuals.  By prayerfully considering these questions and talking with each other and the Lord, we can identify who we are as individual members of the body.
       
I want to quote an August 6th blog posting outlining why we are studying suffering and evil:
   
    I think it would benefit us as a body to study this very important subject together. Lets study what God says about suffering. Lets talk to Him, argue with Him and question Him. Lets ask Him for His perspective on this most important subject that affects everyone in the human race. I believe if we take the time to work through this subject together, being guided by the Lord, we will gain some fresh perspective about who we are at Gateway.

This is also applied to us individually.  Who are we as individuals and where do we fit in the body of Christ are questions we each need to answer.

I’m recovering from surgery on my shoulder.  Recovery and rehab will take a couple of weeks and then I should be good to go for a while.  I’ve needed surgery for quite a while.  I put it off as long as I could.  I didn’t want to mess with it.  I put up with the discomfort and pain as long as I could and finally, I couldn’t take it any more so I said ok, lets do it.  Shoulder surgery is like jumping off the high dive.  You either do or you don’t, but there is no middle ground of well maybe I will and then again on the other hand ….

Last night as I was getting ready for bed, I had an ice pack on my shoulder, and was waiting for the pain to ease so I could sleep.  I began reading in 2nd Corinthians.  As I followed Paul’s writings I saw something important.

2 Cor 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of sympathy (pity and mercy) and the God [Who is the Source] of every comfort (consolation and encouragement), Who comforts (consoles and encourages) us in every trouble (calamity and affliction), so that we may also be able to comfort (console and encourage) those who are in any kind of trouble {or} distress, with the comfort (consolation and encouragement) with which we ourselves are comforted (consoled and encouraged) by God.

This is one of the characteristics I see of Gateway as a whole.  We have a vast array of experiences that we can testify the Lord has brought us through.  It is clear we are to be able to comfort those who are in any kind of trouble as we have been.

The other thing I read is directed as a challenge directly to me.  The apostle Paul was fully committed to the gospel.

1 Cor 2:2 For I resolved to know nothing (to be acquainted with nothing, to make a display of the knowledge of nothing, and to be conscious of nothing) among you except Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and Him crucified.

Paul was fully committed to the gospel.  Every ounce of his being was committed to the gospel.  I believe that level of commitment was one of his greatest attributes and the biggest source of trouble for him.  Paul did what God asked him to do.  The result of that obedience was miracles, healing and deliverance and extensive spiritual combat with satan and his henchmen.  I will have much more to write about this in a later blog, but this presents me with a personal question:

“Am I committed to the gospel of the Jesus Christ with the same level of determination and dedication as the Apostle Paul was?”

No I am not.  I actually want all the good things Paul had in his ministry without having to deal with the bad things such as 40 lashes less one and beatings with rods.  (I’ve been beaten before with leather straps and wooden paddles and shovels.  As you can well imagine, I’m a bit adverse to that type of activity).  The point isn’t the beatings, it’s my attitude.  I want to sail away from harbour but I have one foot in the boat and one on land.  This type of approach to the gospel doesn’t foster an image of “risking it all” for Christ.  On the contrary, it shows a person who is halting, scared and double minded, none of which are positive spiritual characteristics.

I am sending Nancy a copy of the planning guide to be forwarded to all church members.  If you don’t get one, please let either myself or Nancy know and we will see you get a copy.

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