07/28/19

 

As you read this, I am leading my scouts up Baldy Mountain which is one of the higher peaks at 12,400 feet in the Philmont Scout Ranch.  To give you some perspective of how challenging this climb is for us, Charlotte is about 761 feet above sea level (according to Google).  While at Philmont we will be hiking and camping at about 5000 to 6000 feet above sea level.  On day 8 of our 10 day hike, we will then climb an additional 6000 feet or so to reach the summit of Baldy!  It will be one heck of a day... and one I am, quite frankly, very worried about.  Because the truth of the matter is... the last time I climbed Baldy Mountain was when I was 14 and it was a struggle then.  Today, I am... well a lot older and I wonder... will I be able to make it... will I be able to breathe the thin air... .will I be able to be there for my boys... or will I disappoint them and prevent them from reaching the summit.  Because the truth is... at Philmont... we are a team and we hike as a team and we survive as a team and we will make it together... as one team... or we won’t.  And a lot of that has to do with how we plan and prepare and be there for one another.  But most importantly it has to do with us all keeping our eye on the prize... making it home in one piece... really, having a good time and a fun adventure... together.

 

We, at Commonwealth, are facing similar challenges.  No, I am not going to lead you all up a huge mountain!  However, we as a church have been charged and challenged with being the hands and feet of Christ Jesus.  That is, our driving force should and must always be... how do we effectively make for Christ disciples (followers) of the Gospel?  Or, to put it another way... how do we get one more for Christ... just one more.  You all have been hearing that from me a lot these days.  And the reason is... well, that is all that really matters.  Yes, having luncheons and music Sundays and visiting with each other and having moving worship services are important... they build up and reinvigorate the body.  However, if that is all we ever do, then we are simply creating an “Us” centric church.  That has never been the case at Commonwealth.  From the first day of Commonwealth back in the 1940’s when the founding members had the audacity to meet together in a tent with winter coming, the purpose of this church has been to be there for the community... to reach out... to create new believers... to be a beacon for the Gospel.   Reaching out and being a neighborhood church is in our Spiritual DNA.  Finding just one more for Christ has been what Commonwealth has and will always be about... and that goal of finding one more must and will be the driving force for any vision for the future of Commonwealth... any ministry we engage in... .any plans that we make.

 

And so, the challenge is... how do we continue to get one more for Christ when the world is so very different than when Commonwealth first began... Really, so different from just ten years ago.  And the answer is statistics... well not really but they will help us to plan and formulate and figure out our next step we are to take in the Spirit.

 

The UMC has great statistical information out there for us pastors and one of those tools they provide are statistical surveys for your exact community.  So, in a two mile radius of our church, the folks at the UMC have asked a number of people this question:  “What are you looking for in a local church?”  It is a good question and one that has created and interesting statistical list.  This is what they have found and I have them listed here ranked from most important to least important:

 

1.     1. Warm and Friendly Encounters

2.     2. Quality Sermons

3.     3. Community Volunteer Opportunities

4.     4. Adult Social Activities

5.     5. Holiday Programs and Activities

6.     6. Involvement in Social Causes

7.     7. Traditional Worship

8.     8. Family Oriented Activities

9.     9. Cultural Programs (Music, Drama, Arts)

10.  10. Social Justice and Advocacy Work

These are just the top ten... it is actually a list of 25 or so but I think the top ten are very enlightening.  Especially if you overlay this list with the fact that the majority of the people within two miles of our church are between the ages of 25 and 40 and a good majority of those folks are either single or just newly married. 

 

And this is our mission field church... these are the folks God is calling us to reach... these are the folks whom God is asking us to create a place for in our churches and in our lives.  Most importantly (and this is our biggest challenge), these are the folks who are wanting from our churches things that we are not accustom to providing... at least not in a consistent manor.  Because the fact of the matter is... yes, we raise money for UMCOR or Imagine No Malaria with a night out at Rita’s Italian Ice but that is for the purpose of simply raising funds and then we move on to the next thing.  The folks in our neighborhood want to also raise money for these projects but they also want to get involved in these projects... get to know the people... and then have this involvement move on into social activity which might lead to petitioning the city to make more space for housing for those with disabilities to help UMCOR house more folks or work with agencies in our Federal Government that will better fund and aid those working to end the poverty in Africa.  The truth is... folks around us want to go deeper and be more for the world than just a checkbook.  And they want to do all of this while being surrounded by friends and maybe having a beer or two with them at the Common Market and then going to church and having a meaningful worship service on a Thursday night which uses some ancient text or prayer and then the next weekend gathering to travel up to the mountains to site see and help out someone in need or check out the work they are doing with the homeless in Asheville. 

 

What these statistics are telling us is something we have always known here at Commonwealth... church is more than a place to go on Sunday... Church is a community... a community of love and understanding and of faith.  Our challenge... our 12,000 foot mountain is helping the community realize we are just that kind of place... we can be that kind of  place... we welcome and relish the challenge to be the “church” for everyone in our community... we are disciple makers and we are here for them in the power and spirit of Christ Jesus!  We just need their help and faith to make us into the church of the future... Commonwealth for the next generation.

 

Grace,

Pastor Steve