2009-10-1 Crisis and Opportunity

October 1, 2009

Dear Members and Friends of Grace,

One definition of crisis is danger plus opportunity.  After three years of solid growth in membership and mission, I believe that Grace is at a crisis point, a crossroads – which direction we go is up to all of us together.  The danger is that we will once again fracture as a congregation, turn inward, and decline, as Grace did in the 1980s, the 1990s, and in 2004-5.  The opportunity we have is to go deeper together into the word of God the Bible, unite around our mission of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, and seek God’s presence and guidance for us through regular prayer and worship. 

Here are three marks of a thriving Christian congregation:

  1. The Bible Matters
  2. A Clear Sense of Mission
  3. God’s Presence is Real[1]

I believe that if we earnestly seek to embody those marks of a thriving congregation, we will move in the right direction.  What will that look like?  Well, the first thing to do is to get more people involved in regular Bible study.  Here is a statistic: 6-9% of ELCA adults are in regular Bible study.  What do you think the percentage is here at Grace?  We need to increase that percentage, and I as your pastor cannot do it alone.  I will do a Tuesday evening Bible study, and I am willing to do another one some other time of the week (any ideas?).  But we need to get more Bible study happening.  It should not be the case that the only time people come to study the Bible together is when we have a crisis-fueled adult forum.  Then, it’s too late.  Will you prayerfully consider hosting a Bible study in your home or at church?  We can provide materials and training.  No experience or biblical knowledge required!  The Bible is our book of faith.  We want to open the Bible and find our life stories as part of God’s great story in the Bible.  How can we expect to be equipped with a deep biblical worldview without regular Bible study and reading?

Second, we need to be united around our mission of grace by grace, seeking to be God’s faithful people.  Keep the focus on Jesus Christ and our mission of sharing Christ.  Don’t let our mission get hijacked by division and discord.  This is a wonderful congregation of faithful people of God.  The decisions made at the Churchwide Assembly did not change that – in fact, they did not change anything about Grace.  Don’t let those decisions keep you from your church family.  If you disagree with them – and many do – then by all means feel free to disagree, and take the time to discern together what are the proper responses for you personally and for Grace as a congregation.  Even the Lutheran CORE organization, which strongly opposes the decisions made, is taking a whole year to pray and discern what to do.  Please, do not just walk away from your church family – even if you disagree with me specifically!  I am your brother in Christ, and your pastor, but I am neither perfect nor all-wise.  I have stuff to learn from you too!  We need you.

Third, we need to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  We need to continue to pray and grow in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.  If you were in worship on Sunday, I hope you felt the presence of God in our healing service; I know I did.  You can find my prayer sermon from Sunday on my website: www.lemonholm.com

I truly believe that we are just beginning to seek God’s will for our congregation and for our lives.  If you remember a year ago, one of growing edges was passionate spirituality.  We still have room for growth in the area of prayer and spiritual growth, experiencing God’s presence and seeking God’s guidance.  Let’s bathe everything we do in prayer; let’s continually ask for God to be present with us as we live out our mission: grace by grace, seeking to be God’s faithful people.

Finally, I have just started a new website for our congregation, www.gracebygrace.ning.com

This is an interactive website, where you can register and write your thoughts, or interact with one another.  You can even start new groups – for a Bible study, or an event, or a specific interest – and chat online with church members and friends.  I hope and pray that this will become a good place for people to communicate with one another.  As in one-on-one conversation, of course, we want to be respectful and loving in all we write or say.

God bless you and yours this fall, and God bless our church!

God’s work.  Our Hands.

            Pastor Eric


[1] Source: Dr. Rolf Jacobson, lecture, 9/22/2009.

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