Devotion for Saturday, April 18, 2020
From: Wendy Beard

 

I get to close out this week of the staff celebrating groups and individuals within our church, and to do that, I’m actually going to go back to when my family and I first decided to come to Community.

It was about 10 years ago, and the church we were attending was an older, very traditional church.  One of the things I noticed fairly early on was that there was very little outreach that the church was doing into the community.  In the four or five years we attended there, I had seen that lack of outreach gradually impact their programming.  For instance, when we first started going there, they had a well-attended children’s Sunday School program and a children’s choir that met for practice and what was essentially a children’s small group for two hours in the morning every other Saturday during the school year.  But, by the time our oldest would was looking to be part of their youth group, most of the events the youth were doing were denomination‑wide events because they did not have enough youth still involved in the church to have events just for our congregation.

One Saturday, I stumbled upon an article in the Reading Eagle that was about this church that was doing an outreach into the community called Lifetree Café.  That church, of course, was Community Evangelical Church.  I was familiar with Community.  I drove past it on my way to work, and some of the kids I had grown up with had attended one of the three churches that had merged to form Community.  But this outreach, this stepping out into the community to invite people who had no interest in entering a church building to watch topical videos and take part in spiritual discussions… it intrigued me.

Jesus said to his disciples, as recorded in Matthew 28:18-20: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore 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 observe all that I have commanded you.”  This command was not only to His disciples at that time, but it was meant for all of us, His future disciples, to follow.  Even as an introvert who finds it especially difficult to speak to anyone about anything, I understand that if we as individuals are not seeking to win souls for Christ by sharing the Good News with them, then we are failing to do the work He instructed us to do in this, the Great Commission.  And if collectively as a church body we are not doing that, then we run the risk of becoming ineffectual in our community and that can often lead to becoming a dying church.

We came to Community to see what it was all about, and one of the reasons we stayed is because we have watched Community continually work to stay in touch with the culture we are living in.  Lifetree Café was around for quite some time, but even before that drew to a close, there were other pieces moving and working.  At one point we had three groups working independently to hopefully come to some conjoined conclusions.  They were known as the “Three-Mile Island,” “New Thing” and Millenial Task Forces and were developed to look at what the needs of the community were and how and where to do church to help meet those needs.  Out of that grew the Church Planting Task Force, and through that we were introduced to Fresh Expressions which helped some of our members to be part of the launch of such things as a local Biker Church, a Gun Club Launch and a Dinner Church at the Hahn’s house in Laureldale.  We also at one point were holding a Saturday night church at the YMCA in Sinking Spring which was somewhat similar in construct to Lifetree Café.

So today I want to celebrate those who have been behind so many of those innovations, from those who were part of that first Lifetree Café to the task forces that were intentionally created to better understand the needs of our community so that we could better engage and serve those who live around us and to those who have actively participated in reaching out to the community through new ways of doing church.  These people have so strongly embraced the heart of the Great Commission that they have helped to carry our church through the seemingly ever-evolving cultures of the time in which we are living.

But, I also wanted to celebrate this group of people, these innovative thinkers, because they are the example we need to follow as we have a chance to hit a bit of a re-set button as both individuals and as a church.  As I’ve been talking to my younger two boys especially about this unique time we are living in, we have been having two conversations which are really meant to bring us out to a single unified plan: the first is a bucket list of things we want to do once the social-distancing and stay at home restrictions are lifted, and the second is what is it that has become part of our lives in these weeks of all being home together that we want to see carried over into our lives once we can start to do more things outside of our home.  As we combine these two lists, we realize that some things in our “old normal” are no longer necessary, and we need to make some of our “new normal” a continuing reality.  That same type of thing is true for our church.  When we are able to meet together again as a congregation, there are inevitably going to be some changes as we look at the ways our new normal has impacted the way we do life overall; we will need to follow in the footsteps of our innovators and become careful observers, truly cognizant of the new world that we are living in, so that we can continue to be relevant in our sharing of the Good News to the community around us.

Please join me in praying:  Father God, I want to thank you for the innovative thinkers of our church that refuse to stagnate but instead have willingly stepped into change in order that we might be able to continue to bring a relevant Christ to a contemporary world.  May we follow the example of these minds and hearts who have so willingly stepped up to the plate to serve you in fulfilling the Great Commission.  We do not know what our world may look like in a week, a month, even a year, but we know that You do.  May we find our confidence in the fact that You, Our Lord, have gone before us, and You are preparing us for what we will need to do and be to serve your people and Your Church, not just our congregation.  I know that this experience and moving out of these restrictions may not be easy; there may be things that are near and dear to us that will see need to change.  But Lord, let us not hold too tightly to our own wants and desires.  Instead give us eyes to see and ears to hear where you are leading us as we move through this time.  It is in the name of your precious Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen.