(1 Thessalonians 3:12, NIV)
Last night we held our Annual Church Conference and spent a lot of time celebrating the mission and ministry of our church. We also talked about our Strategic Plan and how we want to implement it as we prepare to enter a new year. As I write this article, we are still planning for Thanksgiving and the Advent Season; we are finalizing details for many special services that lead us to Christmas. The thought of all this activity reminds me of how busy we tend to be at this time of year and how we are often torn between our Christianity and our humanity as we face the holiday season and all of its conflicting messages. I am also looking to the future to see ways that Paul’s words to the Thessalonians challenge us to be God’s people. I came across an article this morning written by Enuma Okoro who works as a spiritual formation director at Duke Divinity School. She writes: “Regardless of where we live, we share this one reality as Christians: the coming of Christ doesn’t bring immediate peace. It brings conflict between two ways of life.”
When Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica he was writing to a group of Christians who were faced with trying to live the gospel in the midst of a culture that was hostile to their message and their way of life. His words echo across the centuries to us…living in the midst of a culture of consumerism, selfishness, and greed. We once again come to the season of love, the season of giving, with long wish lists from our children and grandchildren, a blitzkrieg of television ads, and messages from your pastor urging materialistic restraint and charitable generosity. What’s a Christian to do?
First of all, listen to Paul’s words to the Thessalonians. In fact, take a few minutes to read both of Paul’s letters to this church; they only fill about eight pages and offer a lot of encouragement to struggling Christians. Paul tries very hard to help these people live their lives to please God, not to please this world. Much of his message centers on their need to keep doing God’s work in the face of temptation, persecution, and their longing for Christ’s return. Paul’s message is the same for us today; no matter what, we have work to do for God’s kingdom on earth.
This Christmas season seems like the perfect time to finalize the implantation of our Strategic Plan: “We will give Wednesdays back to God, for the sake of better homes, better families, a better Mangum, and a better world.”
Each Wednesday evening we will offer a meal, free of charge, to anyone who comes to the church. Following the meal, there will be a variety of activities from which to choose. These will include: free childcare to enable adults to participate in other activities; children and youth games, music, and teaching; Bible study groups; life-skills training opportunities; choir practice; work on mission projects; and others, as needs and resources develop. In other words, we will allow “the Lord to make our love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else.”
Now is the time to step up and be the person God created you to be; to accept God’s call and the challenge to do the work that needs to be done. We need people to cook, to clean, to drive, to teach, and to share. We need you to commit your time, your talent, and your prayers to make this vision a reality that shines the Light of Christ all over this community. We simply cannot sit around and wait for Christ to come again; Christ is waiting for us to prepare a way in this wilderness that is our 21st Century culture. There is nothing more important in our lives than doing this work; everything else will wait.
Sunday evening we gathered for dinner and a movie in Fellowship Hall. The meal was simple and delicious; it was prepared by several people so nobody was over-burdened. People sat at tables with people they didn’t normally “hang-out” with; the conversation was interesting and the fellowship was a blessing. This event proves to me that our church is ready to spend more time together and willing to do whatever it takes to connect to one another and to our community. Let’s keep this momentum going! Please volunteer to help; sign up at church; call the office; do whatever it takes to let us know how you want to be involved. I promise that we will be there with you as we all give Wednesdays back to God.