STEADFAST FAITH IN CHALLENGING TIMES
Dear Easter Brothers and Sisters at 1st UMC, greetings in the Holy Name of our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus, The Christ. Trusting in God’s undeserved favor, I prayerfully hope your Easter Season is going well as we journey together in these challenging times. Let me haste to share these encouraging words from the Apostle Paul, “May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, so that you may have all endurance and patience, joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:11-15 NRSV).
My friends, it is no secret that we are living in a time that poses real challenges to our faith and Christian Service. As you may recall, our Risen Lord calls, Equips and Sends each of us, Believers, with the “Great Mission- Go and make disciples of all peoples…..!” (Matthew 28: 16-20). For centuries, spreading the Good News of the Risen Christ’s Redemptive work accomplished on the cross for the reconciliation of sinful humanity has been the core task of the Christian Ministry and Mission. This Good News that Jesus’ death already paid for all ours and the sins of the world, and that salvation is now available to all without further cost does breaths an air of relief to all of humanity! As the hymn writer once wrote in affirmation: “Jesus
Paid It All!” Yes! What a joy to know the debt I couldn’t afford to pay; someone has paid it all! Thank you, Lord!
Unfortunately, over the last three to four years the joyful enthusiasm with which most people responded to the Church’s Good News Message seems to be slowly diminishing, if not dying. This is evidenced by the low attendance at Sunday morning worship services, less commitment and participation in the Church’s programs /activities, and the worst of all, many congregations are dying and shutting their doors nowadays than ever!
It is in the midst of all of these above that Christian symbolism becomes very meaningful. We see three empty crosses that represent one of the most challenging times in the lives and on the Faith journey of Jesus’ first century disciples, yet signaling hope. It’s dawn, and the tomb is empty, creating more uncertainties! Finally, the Resurrected Savior and Lord appears, not once, but many times, to his anxious, fear gripped and utterly distressed disciples with renewed life and hope! He breathed peace on them and restored their courage to move forward with their given ministry and missional tasks. Today’s Christian disciples, you and I, are products of the first century disciples’ “Steadfast Faith!!”
Finally, hear what the Apostle Paul says about temptations and trails in relationship to our Christian journey: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it!” (1Corinthians 10: 13 ESV).
These are indeed challenging times on our Faith Journey. We are Easter people! Let’s not drop the ball, no matter what! Let’s continue to persevere even in the midst of those grave challenges by keeping our faith alive and vibrant! Do Not Sit There, Do Something!!
Have a Blessed Spring,
Dear Easter Family,
Pre-Easter greetings and best wishes to you and your loved ones in the name of our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Obviously, one might think it’s early to talk about Easter, but let’s not forget that every day is Easter for all believers! The Risen Christ has never been, and never will he be absent in the life of anyone who truly believes and proclaims him Lord and Savior. According to St. Luke’s account of Jesus’ Resurrection, he appeared to two of the disciples (Cleopas and another), along the seven miles road from Jerusalem to a town known as Emmaus. These disciples were walking and discussing the mystery of the resurrection event of the Risen Christ when Christ himself joined them. They didn’t recognize him until later on. (Luke 24: 13-35). St. John also mentioned in his account the Risen Christ’s appearance to his frightened disciples the very evening of the resurrection while they were meeting behind locked doors and offered them his “PEACE!”. (John 20: 19-23). Finally, before his departure from this earth into heaven, Jesus commissioned his disciples, then and now, to continue the ministry and mission to which he had called and equipped them with this trustworthy assurance: “…surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b). Yes Indeed! The Resurrection is a continuing event for today, tomorrow and daily living. It is God’s decisive assurance of the believers’ victory over all challenges, trials and tribulations in life and death!! The Truth is, we have made it this far because the Risen Lord and Savior has been and continues to walk with us and provide us and our families with every need for this tumultuous life’s journey.
Again, let’s not forget, “Christ is Risen” is not just a proclamation of an event that we celebrate on Easter Sunday morning and be done with, but a Christian mantra and battle cry for Christ’s soldiers of the cross. The Easter Season reminds us of “Christ’s life, Christ’s death and Christ’s victory over death for our redemption and eternal joy! The question then arises: What have I to do for and on behalf of Christ? It further invites us to both celebrate God’s Greatest Gift and challenges us to respond in similar way!
Like his first disciples, the Risen Lord, entrusts and commissions all of us, believers, to preach the Good-News of salvation in words and deeds throughout the world, beginning at our respective Jerusalem; wherever the opportunity avails itself. Thank you for supporting the Ministries and Mission of your congregation with your prayers, presence, witness and finances. It is our collective giving that makes God’s work possible through our congregation. In the words of Apostle Paul, “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up!” (Galatians 6: 9)
Finally, I prayerfully wish you and your family “Easter Joy” in the name of our Risen Lord!
Easter Blessings, Rev. Jakes
LIVING A LIFE OF FAITH IN THE WILDERNESS
“At the Lord’s command, the whole community of Israel left the wilderness of Sin[a] and moved from place to place. Eventually they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water there for the people to drink. 2 So once more the people complained against Moses. “Give us water to drink!” they demanded. Quiet!” Moses replied. “Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the Lord?”
3 But tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?” 4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with these people? They are ready to stone me!”
5 The Lord said to Moses, “Walk out in front of the people. Take your staff, the one you used when you struck the water of the Nile, and call some of the elders of Israel to join you. 6 I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai.[b] Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink.” So Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on. 7 Moses named the place Massah (which means “test”) and Meribah (which means “arguing”) because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord here with us or not? (Exodus17: 1-7-NLT).
Dear Brothers and Sisters of Racine 1st UMC,
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As we begin the Lenten Season, I prayerfully hope this message meets you and your family in the best of health, gives you the courage to persevere and remain strong on your faith’s journey.
Remember, though we might be physically distant, but remain spiritually connected in our hearts and prayers.
The above Scripture reading: Exodus 17:1-7, is one of the series of the wilderness narratives around Israel’s departure from Captivity in Egypt to its arrival at Sinai. As you might be aware, the details of this journey contain very interesting miraculous events including God turning Moses’ staff into a powerful miracle working weapon with which he overpowered Pharaoh and the Egyptians before they could grant God’s request to let his people go. Thereafter, Moses used the staff to lead his people from the Red Sea, into the wilderness of Shur. When they arrived in Marah, God instructed Moses to use the same staff to sweeten the bitter water (Exod. 15:22-26), just to name a few. The wilderness narratives in Exodus share a number of characteristics in common with today’s Christian faith and journey.
The issue in Exodus 17:1-7 is Water! The entire displaced Israelite Community set out from the “Desert of Sin,” wandering from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for them to drink. Remember, these trips were commanded and led by God, possibly under the pillars of cloud and fire which guided them all along! God’s presence was constantly with them not only in the form of verbal covenant promises, but visually and tangibly! In addition to God’s visual presence, the Israelites were reminded of God’s presence as they enjoyed God’s provision of manna six days per week. The signs of God’s care, divine presence and interventions were always around, and accompanied them throughout their wilderness journeys.
Yet, due to a single unfavorable condition, with parched mouths, the Israelites lashed out against Moses saying: “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us, our children and livestock die of thirst!” The Israelites decision to blame Moses, God’s chosen Servant-Leader, is the most troublesome and central problem in this episode of the Wilderness Story! It points to the fact that Israel had not learned some crucial lessons: Firstly, they had not come to the full realization that their redemption and subsequent departure from slavery in Egypt were planned and executed by the God of their ancestors. God saw their suffering and heard their cries for freedom and acted. Secondly, Moses and his associates including Aaron, Joshua, etc. were simply instruments through whom God’s redemptive power and mission were being manifested and accomplished. The third and most crucial problem was their ignorance of the fact that whenever and wherever God leads, God provides! God had just secured victory over the Egyptians and brutal leaders! God will never call and send anyone or group on a mission without making available the necessary provisions. Lest we forget, Moses was called to lead a people whose generation had been in slavery for about four hundred years. I don’t think any of the original captives were alive during that time.
My friends, the Wilderness Stories kind of provide lenses for viewing today’s Christian Faith Ministry and Missional Journeys. The stories contain so many valuable insights, especially for denominations, conferences and congregations experiencing disruptions, transitions and other forms of adversities. The stories also mirror back our community dynamics, showing how most believers and unbelievers struggle to understand who God is, let alone to feel a sense of humble obedience and commitment to his will. Today, people comfortably and easily gravitate toward non-church related events than spending an hour in a Sunday Worship Service! No doubt, this is the Church’s moment in the wilderness.
Therefore, like Moses and the faithful few, I would encourage us to persevere in prayers, thanksgiving and supplication knowing that the God who calls, will lead, surely provide and see us through to the glory of his own name. Let “Living a Life of Faith in the Wilderness” be our focus throughout this Lenten Season!
A Blessed Lent!
STARTING AFRESH, DWELL NOT ON THE PAST….
Dear Family and Friend of 1st UMC,
Greetings in the name of the Christ-Child, the Only Savior whom the world awaits as his presence brings unspeakable peace and great joy. No matter how your celebration of our Savior’s Birth and soon return went, there remains one undeniable fact, that is, no amount of life circumstances can ever prevent his love and presence with each of us as long as we are willing to surrender all to him!
The Advent Season is almost to an end, and the Epiphany Season will soon be upon us in a matter of days. By definition, the word “Epiphany” means –revelation, appearance, and manifestation. It originated from the Eastern Christian Tradition mostly observed by the Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican Christians on January 6 each year with great feasts. This is in recognition of the visit to Bethlehem of Judah, of the “Magi or three Wise men to whom the Christ-child was first revealed.(Matt. 2: 1-12). Protestant Christians also observe Epiphany Season as “Ordinary Times” with no central theme as it often falls between the two great Christian circles of Advent-Christmas and Lent-Easter-Pentecost yet upholds its significance to our Christian Faith and journey. It is not only a season that recognizes the manifestation of God in Jesus, and of the risen Christ in our world, but also a time for believers to consider how Jesus fulfilled his destiny and task, and how all of us can equally fulfil ours too.
My friend, I pray that this Epiphany Season would serve as a reminder to us that the Almighty God in whom we believe and serve has always been and continues to be in the business of doing new as well as renewing things. Let’s listen to God’s
message of hope in the midst of life’s challenges through the Prophet: “Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19 -CSB)
No doubt, the past three or more years have not been easy and rosy as we might have expected! Our lives have been profoundly touched and challenged either for good or bad throughout 2022 either as a congregation, a family or even as an individual. It is in the midst of such uncertainties that God speaks those words of hope! LET’S FOCUS ON “STARTING AFRESH, NOT DWELLING ON THE PAST!” Prepare to be a participant, not a spectator, with God in the new things he has begun doing as we enter the New Year -2023! Let’s look forward with renewed faith for new possibilities, inspiration and new courage, all of which are made possible for you and me through the power and presence of the Christ Child, God’s self-manifestation in our world and in every walk of life.
Finally, let me conclude by thankfully acknowledging your generous gifts of prayers, time, talents, services and money all of which continue to contribute to the success of the ministries and missional efforts of our congregation over the years, especially over last three very challenging years. Deeply appreciated! We prayerfully look forward to your continual commitment and faithfulness to Jesus Christ’s Ministry and Mission at Racine First United Methodist Congregation throughout 2023 and beyond for the transformation of lives in His name. Thank you ever so much for all you are and do because of your faith in Jesus Christ through our congregation!
HAVE A HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR IN HIS NAME!
Blessings, Rev. Jakes
Dear Members and Friends of Racine 1St UMC.
I prayerfully hope all is well, if not perfect, with you and your loved ones in this semi-post COVID-19 Season in Jesus’ name. Remember, life has meaning and is worth living only with a sense of hope in sight at all times and in all circumstances. Thus, the Apostle Paul warns all believers: “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life!” (Philippians 4:6-7 MSG).
Let me invite you to think of the recent Thanksgiving Day celebration. My questions are: Were you honestly thankful? If so, for what and to whom? It’s intended to be a blessed day, filled with gratitude, not only for the delicious turkey and pumpkin pie, but also for being surrounded by family, relatives and friends, near and far. Most importantly, it’s a day to be grateful to God Almighty whose love and grace make life and all things possible!
What a joyful way to begin the Advent Season! Advent Season’s celebration eventually leads us into the Greatest Joy of participating in the global “Mas”, (commonly known as
“Christmas”) which marks the Miraculous Birth of our Lord and Savior of the world, “Jesus, The Christ”.
By the way, let me quickly remind you about our congregation’s Christmas Eve Service on Saturday 24th December 2022@6:p.m. It will include scripture lessons, carols and concludes with our traditional ‘Candle Lighting’ ritual as we sing ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Joy to the World.’ Yes indeed! The season of joyful celebration of Christ, our Savior’s Birth, is nearer than we may have imagined!
In view of all of the above, one of my prayers is that each of us would be constantly reminded to strive to find a way to remember what this season is truly about! If I could put it in a single sentence, it would be: Advent-Christmas season calls us to both put on repentant spirit as we gratefully celebrate God’s unconditional love, hope and salvation made available to us and the world through his begotten Son “Jesus, The Christ!” The truth is, a life and world without Jesus Christ are hopeless and empty. I further pray that each of us would find ways to pass on the message of Hope to those people, some of whom could be either members of our family, relatives, friends or neighbors, living lives without any sense of hope in this life and world. I’m also praying that our hearts will be filled with Peace, as we live into this sacred season of festivities!
Again, let’s not forget the Apostle Paul’s warning that faithful prayer must be our mantra in all circumstances and at all times including this Christmas Season and beyond. Indeed, prayer is something we all need to keep at heart and use for both our spiritual and physical wellbeing including security, health, love, hope, peace and joy, all of which are possible only through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Finally, as usual this is the season we hustle and bustle through our shopping lists, buying Christmas gifts, addressing and mailing Christmas cards not forgetting our annual traditions of attending a party or two here and there. In the midst of all, I pray that we won’t forget to make time on our busy schedule to at least visit our local church on Christmas Eve- Saturday 24th December 2022@6:P.M and attend the Worship Service on Christmas Day Sunday 25th December 2022 @10:A.M to celebrate with others as all of these services point the ‘Light of God that comes and shines through “The Christ Child, Jesus!”
May God richly bless’ us all as we wait expectantly for the exceeding Joy, Peace and Love that come with the dawn of Christmas morning signifying “God’s with us!”
Family and friend in the faith….
Greetings in the name of our Savior and Friend Jesus Christ.
It’s just three Sundays from today when the Advent Season will be upon us. Advent is the first of the eight seasons in our church year including Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, and Ordinary Time. Like all other seasons of our Church year, Advent Season consists of four weeks before Christmas and has specific lectionary-based message around which our Ministry and Mission must be focused. The primary challenge of Advent Season is a call upon all of us, believers and today’s disciples of Jesus Christ, to fulfill the prophet John the Baptist’s exhortation: “Prepare the way for the Lord!” (Matt. 3: 5). Clearly, this Season is about preparation, hope, anticipation and fulfilment. Let’s not forget that the liturgical readings bounce back and forth between the prophets’ and Jews’ anticipation of a coming Messiah and Christians’ of Jesus Christ’s return. In either case of the promised coming Messiah, the Prophet John the Baptist emphasized our need for intentional confession and realistic penitence as we await the arrival of the Messiah, The Christ! “PREPARE THE WAY” IS THE MARCHING ORDER!!
The questions are 1st. Are you prepared? If Christ were to appear to you today, will he find you ready to receive him? And 2nd. How are you prepared?
My friend, hear these faithful promises and passionate command of our Lord to each person in every generation of believers: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (Isaiah 43: 1-2).
Has God been faithful in keeping any of those promises to either you in particular or someone very dear and close to you or not at all? Well, have you ever thought of the people who could not make it through those three or more years of the deadly pandemic? How about a little thought on how you’ve made it to this point in the midst of all that? I don’t know about you, but I give God all the glory for the opportunity to live and see each day!!
Now, here is a reminder of resurrected Christ’s passionate request to the then disciples as well as you and me too: “Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” The Great Commission: …“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, …and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. ( John 20: 21; Matt. 28: 18b-19).
My friend, Jesus does not call anyone to live an idle life! Whenever he calls, he also sends!
Jesus called and equipped each of us with gifts of talents, abilities and directed us to use them through Racine 1st United Methodist Church as its members for the transformation of lives to his glory. By the grace of God, the faithful few have kept the doors of Racine first United Methodist Church opened to the public for regular worship services and minimum outreach activities into our community throughout the pandemic years without any incident!
Now that the deadly pandemic years seem to be behind us, we have begun a new normal ministry and missional life. We have decided to continue all of our existing ministry missional programs and events such as the Chancel Choir (already started), Praise Team, FRANC Sunday, Sack lunch, Grief Group, 5th Sunday Pot-lock, and the famous First United and Neighbor’s Fest (FUN FEST), but presently are able to do so little due to limited number of people. So, your brothers, sisters and the entire congregation prayerfully look forward to your returning with your specific gifts of prayers, presence, talents, finance, time and service so as to help make Racine First U.M Congregation that congregation you’ve always envisioned it to become.
Remember, without you, Racine First cannot be the vibrant and thriving congregation no matter how long we may imagine, as it would only take the collaboration of our collective gifts and efforts.
You and your family have a very blessed Advent Season in the name of Christ, our expected, yet present Lord and Savior.
UNITED HEARTS, TALENTS AND HANDS FOR CHRIST’S MISSION
“The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. You’re familiar with some of the parts that God has formed in his church, which is his “Body”: apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, healers, helpers, organizers, those who pray in tongues. But it’s obvious by now, isn’t it, that Christ’s church is a complete Body and not a gigantic, unidimensional Part? It’s not all Apostle, not all Prophet, not all Miracle Worker, not all Healer, not all Prayer in Tongues, not all Interpreter of Tongues. And yet some of you keep competing for so-called “important” parts. (1Corinthians 12: 25-31 – The Message)
Dear Members and Friends of Racine 1st UM Congregation,
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let me reassure you and your families of my constant prayer for each of you. Remember, we’ve come this far both as individuals as well as a congregation, by faith in our God’s unlimited and undeserved grace-filled supplies.
Lest we forget, over the last several weeks we’ve been prayerfully discerning and having Vital Conversations around our congregation’s Post COVID-19 current and future ministry/mission endeavors. The final session of the Vital Conversations was held Tuesday 13th September 2022 and that brought together about twenty members. During that meeting we discussed and agreed to focus on reviving four areas of our congregation’s Ministry /Mission. The four Ministry and Missional areas are: I. Mission- We agreed to intentionally reach-out and connect with our community by restarting the following out-Reach programs: Saturday Sack Lunch, to begin when we have a schedule of participants in place; FUN Fest, Grief Support Group as well as continue to make our building available to groups that are currently using it and other outside potential users.
II. Music: Restart the Choir, increase the number of Soloists/Section Leaders, Praise Team, invite more Guest Musicians, etc.
III. Building: Develop building use contract and Safe Sanctuary Policies / Guidelines. (already done). Continue to make our building available to groups currently using it and other outside potential users.
IV. Finance: Encourage members to up their giving through regular offerings, tithes, Electronic giving via VANCO, and most importantly recommit to church attending and participating in worship services in person.
We whole heartily thank and appreciate the efforts of all those who brainstormed the topics and facilitated the various sessions as well as all the participants whose thoughts and views led to crafting those wonderful Church –Growth ideas for our congregation! Deeply appreciated, and to God be the glory!
Now, let’s reflect back on the Apostle Paul’s analogy of the Church (Congregation) being a “Body!” You and I will agree with the Apostle that the Church / Congregation, like any living human body does not function properly unless all parts that make up said body including the various organs, muscles, veins, tissues, bones and others are healthy and working collaboratively with one another! He goes on to remind us that God has generously given and equipped all members of His “Church” (congregation) with the needed gifts and talents, each with its unique capacity and ability to contribute to overall life, work, growth and vibrancy of the Church’s Ministry and Mission.
So, you see, this illustration clearly describes the problems with which our congregation is struggling. I have no doubts that our congregation is very blessed with members that are gifted with varieties of talents and great resources. If these assertions are true, what is holding us back from becoming the “Church / congregation” we envisioned God has called us to be? My guests would be twofold: First, most of us have not yet discover our God-giving gifts and talents. So, we think we have nothing to offer our congregation apart from our regular Sunday attendance and plate offering. I would encourage you to pray for God to reveal that indispensable gift he given you and how best you can it to his glory!
And secondly, some of us may have discovered what our gifts are, but not sure of how to fully align the use of said gifts to our Christian life and service. Therefore, we use our God-giving gifts and talents to simply make a living for ourselves and our families. Unfortunately, we tend to forget that WE ARE BECAUSE GOD IS!
My friends, I’m again passionately reminding you, you and you, especially members of Racine 1st United Methodist Church, the “Ideal Church” you envision and are probably going after did not come into being and does not happen magically! It takes the collective commitment and practical Faith - prayerful hearts, available Talents and willing hands, of every member to make a congregation we long for and envision a reality. If Racine First U.M Congregation ever needed to be actively involved in Ministry and Mission within its surrounding communities now is the time! There are wonderful plans, but the plans can’t be implemented themselves to accomplish the intended outcomes! It would take our prayers, talents and active participation to make all the difference we so much wish to see in the life of our congregation.
SO, Don’t SIT IDLY! DO SOMETHING FOR CHRIST THROUGH YOUR CONGREGATION!! BE THE CHANGE!
“BE THE CHANGE” YOU WISH TO SEE IN YOUR CHURCH! (Mahatma Ghandi-adapted/ paraphrased)
”But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you... (1Peter 2:9-10- The MSG)
Dear God’s Chosen ones at Racine 1st UMC,
My prayerful and heartfelt greetings to you and your family in the name of Jesus Christ, the One who calls, empowers and sends us to be witnesses to his love and saving grace to all who have not yet come to know and accept him as their Savior and Lord. I also hope and pray that your summer is going well in His Mighty Name!
Please permit me to draw our attention to the following reflection question and statements as they relate to our “Church.” Have you ever thought and said to yourself:
- What my church needs is…
- I wish somebody would do something about…….
- I would love to see Racine 1st UMC start……
- Our church/ congregation just doesn’t have enough….
- Why hasn’t anyone in our church ever..…..
I hope you are able to honestly complete those statements. Alongside those statements is a very interesting sinking ship and the passenger analogy question:
“Are you more of a passenger than a captain at church?” by Sierra Wendt.
Apparently, a friend of Sierra from a different church that was faced with decline in membership approached and told her: “I just don’t want to stay on a ship that’s sinking!” Sierra responded, “Maybe it’s time for you to step up and take actions!”
My friends in the faith and members of Racine 1st UMC, does Sierra’s analogy and comment to her friend ring a bell? I believe they do! I’ve heard the “sinking ship” analogy in reference to a congregation experiencing decline in membership!
We are constantly reminded of the true definition and meaning of what the word “Church” is from the Holy Bible, the Hymns and Spiritual choruses we often sing. The Apostle Peter’s letter, (1 Peter 2:9) tells us that the “Church is God’s Chosen people, set apart as His instruments to do His work and speak on his behalf, telling others about His love, mercy, grace and salvation, all of which are freely available to all who may come to believe and accept his Son Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior.
Similarly, in their hymn “We Are the Church,” Richard K. Avery and Donald S. Marsh clearly tell us the meaning and nature of the Church. They remind us that “Church” is not the buildings, steeples or any material thing, but God’s created and chosen people! Reflecting on the tasks and challenges involved with being “The Church,” Avery and Marsh further remind us that at times the Church blossoms, is vibrant, thrives and marches on, but other times the “Church” becomes, weary, overwhelmed and even burns out, thus leading to declines in spiritual vibrancy and growth in membership! Lest we forget, those ups and down seasons are as old as the Church’s existence.
While it is easy to envision and visualize an “Ideal Church /Congregation” one cannot afford to ignore the fact that throughout the ages the Church has gone through times of bliss and challenges just like in our generation! However, just as the courageous passengers on the “sinking ship” joined the lone captain to rescue their ship, so has the Church always prevailed in troubled times. The faithful, available and willing members allowed the Holy Spirit to use them as instruments for the revival of the struggling Church/Congregations. Our God is always in the business of seeking out and using believers with unshakable faith to make a difference, especially so when His Church is going through the waves and storms that seem to hinder the free flow of His Ministry and Mission. You could possibly be that person! As God’s chosen people, the Church is us, and our identity!
Therefore, it is our individual and collective responsibility to bring into real life the Church we continue to envision and visualize. Each of us must take the courage to “Be the Change we want see in Racine First United Methodist Church.” If you are wondering how to do that, here’s an opportunity for you to share your wonderful thoughts and vision of the “Ideal Church/Congregation” you would love to see our Local Church become. Plan to join us in the Sanctuary on Tuesday 6th September 2022 @ 6:p.m-8:p.m for “Vital Conversations” concerning the future of our congregation. Pray and allow God’s Spirit to use your time, talent, gift and grace so that you would become one of His Agents of Church Changers for the transformation of lives in the name and to the glory of His Son Jesus Christ.
Until then, you and your family have a very pleasant summer, staying cool and safe.
“The locusts came upon all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before….” (Exodus10:14NRSV).
RECLAIMING THE YEARS THE LOCUSTS HAVE STOLEN. ( Joel 2: 25-)
Dear Members and Friends of Racine 1st Um Congregation,
Greetings in the name of our Redeemer, Lord and Friend, Jesus Christ. As usual, in these very busy seasons, yet, troubled and uncertain times in our lives, nation and world, rest assured of my constant prayers for your spiritual and physical health as well as your safety. Lest we forget, tough times may come and seem insurmountable, but only for a while (Psalm 30:5). God has always proven to be greater and victorious at all times in all circumstances of life. He’s always made a way where there seems to be no way!
In view of the above premise, I write to prayerfully CALL UPON you, your family and other acquaintances to rise up and join our efforts at “RECLAIMING THE YEARS THE LOCUSTS HAVE STOLEN” from our personal, ministry and missional lives!
We’ve all read and heard stories of swarm of locusts invading and destroying crops and other livelihood of people either in the Bible, other writings or verbally told in today’s
world. In all those stories of locusts’ infestations, God has always intervened by revealing possible solutions that, when heeded, have rescued and saved some, if not all, of the affected people and their communities. The people have always been the willing and available instruments that God used to overcome their own adversities.
I need not tell you, like destructive locust plagues, over the last three or more years, Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its numerous variants, have held our lives captives, infested our communities, nations and the world. It has taken away our loved ones and even deprived us of attending any form of gathering including funerals for our deceased, our social and religious events. For examples, attendance at our “In-person” Ministry/Mission activities including, but not limited to our Sunday worship services, Sunday School classes for all ages, FFRANC Sunday have drastically declined! In the past, this is the time of year when our congregation would be involved with planning for our Mission/ Outreach events such as the famous July 4th, FUN-FEST, Vacation Bible School, Young Adults Discipleship Farm Events, Saturday Lunches and Hot Meals for the Homeless. Unfortunately, all those mission-oriented programs are still on hold!
The worst of all, while our pews are practically empty each Sunday morning, we continue to pay huge monthly utilities and facility/building maintenance bills!
My fellow Believers and members of Racine 1st UM Congregation, we cannot afford to continue with such depressing trends in our personal and congregational lives as Christian Disciples! If we and our congregation ever needed each other, this is the most opportune time! The need for our collective prayers for each of us to take the courage to put our faith in to action is NOW!
We must rise above our fears and any sort of skepticism in order to RECLAIM THE MINISTRY/MISSIONAL YEARS THAT THE COVID-19 LOCUST PLAGUES HAVE STOLEN from us. The harvest is plentiful, ripe and ready, but requires all willing and available hearts and hands to reap! If you are wondering how you can participate, the following are the four suggested areas of focus to help us in the process:
1. Mission of Church – revisit the existing mission and vision of our congregation and make suggestion.
2. Building Use – Giving the current of legal issues facing the Annual conferences and some local congregations, we need to be proactive in protecting our congregation.
3. Finances – Effective financial policies are very key to the life of any organization, including our Congregation.
4. Music Ministry – Live and vibrant music has been an essential part public worship.
Again, we are appealing to all members and friends of our congregation to prayerfully consider joining any of the above listed Teams/Committees to help Reclaim the years the COVID-19 Locust has Stolen from our congregation.
DON’T SIT THERE! DO SOMETHING FOR CHRIST!
Until then, you all have a blessed Summer- stay cool and safe in Jesus’ name.