Monday, June 26, 2006

June: From the Pastor's Desk (by Rev.Nathan Mattox)

The following article written by the Rev. Nathan Mattox was posted at Pastor Lynn McClure's request since she refers to it in part in the July newslettter article "From the Pastor's Desk" and gives it a firm but enthusiastic AMEN.

This is the last newsletter article I'll write for the church, and I want to begin bysaying how thankful I am that I was brought here to Waldron to begin my ordained ministry. I'll always remember you all as my first parish -- I was honored to join the ministry of this congregation. I believe the Spirit is moving in this congregation. You have a demeanor of openness, enthusiasm, and dedication. New people are taking leadership roles, and the church continues to grow. I have often thought to myself how lucky I was to serve a congregation that is so willing to allow for new things and fresh ideas. It is sometimes difficult to get beyond "the way we've always done it" and it seems to me that this congregation knows which traditions to foster and of which to let go. I'll leave you with some things to consider that I believe would enhance the spiritual life of this congregation. These are instead ideas for YOU to take more ownership over your participation in this body of Christ.

1. Don't make us ask you--If you have any willingness to participate in the worship life of the congregation, either as a liturgist or as an usher or acolyte or a greeter--don't just sit there and wait to be called on. Sign your name on the sign-up sheet at the back of the congregation. We have many more women that are willing to read the liturgies and sing in the choir tha we have men it seems, so you men need to take the bull by the horns and sign up for liturgist or join the choir. Our congregation is fairly open to the ordaining of women -- and that's good because it's enlightened, it's Biblical, and it's a great witness to the community. But many people in the church are concerned with the shortfall of men going into the ministry. Most seminaries at this point have more women than men enrolled in MDIV programs. It is truly a blessing to have women ordained to serve in priestly roles in the church -- but you can bet that the shortage of men is probably due to the widespread failure of men to take an active role in the worship life of local congregation. Do something about it! It starts with the men in our pews.

2. Regarding the role of the greeter -- We have a system in place that would ensure that we have someone at the front door making people feel welcome -- the system just needs people to actually make it work. Too many Sundays we simply have someone to decide on the spot to be the greeter that morning. What if no-one decides to be the greeter, then the role is overlooked for that Sunday? The role of the greeter is important -- it is an integral to helping new-comers feel welcome and in tune with the congregation that they visit. This church MUST make new disciples in order for this church to remain a vibrant ministry to this community. In order to do that, the greeter helps a person take the "first step" into the life of this congregation. This goes for everyone -- when you see a new person, engage them in conversation. Without this "human touch", the church seems cold and unwelcoming. Fortunately, this church is learning this way of discipleship -- it hasn't always been the case. I've spoken with people in our community and even people in our church who've said that when they first came to visit, no-one said anything to them, and they sensed it was a cold, lifeless place. Don't let this ghost haunt you -- it takes a continual presence and effort to be a welcoming place. I've been proud of the evangelism through hospitality that I've seen in this congregation -- keep it up!

3. Participate in a Bible Study. We only have church once a week at this church. That is an anomaly in this community. To supplement our worship together, I've tried to maintain some other Bible study or class to provide opportunities for fellowship and faith building. It is up to you to take advantage of these opportunities. Faith is not a destination -- it is a journey. Communion is the gas station, worship is the beautiful views out the window, and Bible study is the roadmap. If you don't study the Bible, or participate in some small group activity within the life of the church, you are just driving around for a joy-ride. That's okay -- but we're called to go somewhere! Christ says "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Bible study and small group activities help us find that way.

4. Plan a mission experience. Without an outward focus, the church can become stale and lifeless. Mission not only helps other people -- it helps this local congregation grow and become more vital. There are many opportunities close by for mission projects -- Camp Aldersgate in Little Rock, Arkansas Children's Home, Oklahoma Indian Mission Conference, Sager-Brown Depot for UMCOR in Louisana, Habitat for Humanity. We have people in our congregation who have the skills to lead a work group. We seem to have the way -- do we have the will? This church needs to get on the road. The road is where one oftentimes meets the Risen Christ, you know. Mission isn't about having all the answers and then going out to tell people what to think and what to believe. Some people approach mission this way, but I believe it ends up being unhealthy and counter to the Gospel. Mission is about helping those who need help. You don't have to say a thing about Jesus on a mission trip -- do you believe that? Through your work, friendship, effort, and willingness you preach the Gospel without even saying a word about it. Of course, sharing with others about your belief is a wonderful thing that if that is what suits you -- but my point is that you don't have to have it "all figured out" to be a missionary.


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