Signs of Hope, Help, and Home ©

It was Herb Miller, an executive in Evangelism for the Disciples of Christ and prolific author on the subject of faith sharing, who wrote that virtually everyone comes to church for one of three reasons (if not actually a combination of all three) – hope, help, and home. As I find myself grieving the most recent gun violence in Florida, preparing for a potentially contentious Council of Bishops meeting, and musing over the national news of division and contention, I count myself among those who need hope, help and home. As Christians we live out of the conviction of hope. “You have this faith and love because of the hope reserved for you in heaven. You previously heard about this hope through the true message, the good news, which has come to you” (Colossians 1:5-6a). As Christians we live in help that comes from God in Christ through the Holy Spirit. “Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8). We are invited to return home to the Lord God. “We know that if the tent that we live in on earth is torn down, we have a building from God. It’s a house that isn’t handmade, which is eternal and located in heaven. …Now the one who prepared us for this very thing is God, and God gave us the Spirit as a down payment for our home” (2 Corinthians 5:1, 5). “I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, ‘Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God’” (Revelation 21:2-3). I have seen signs of hope, help, and home as I move around the Central Texas Conference. Recently three examples the church at its best – engaged in God honoring, Christ leading and Holy Spirit inspiring faith sharing outreach – have touched my life. A little over a week ago West District Superintendent Lisa Neslony shared with the Cabinet the following note: “25 showed up for the first-ever bikers service at Fisherman’s Chapel on a rainy Sunday! That’s twice as many people than attend on an average Sunday morning. We are celebrating!” For those of you who don’t know, Fisherman’s Chapel is one of the smallest churches in the Central Texas Conference. The church building itself is a mobile home. It is part of a two-point charge with May UMC. Pastor David Medley along with Associate Pastor Billy Murphey along with the saints of Fisherman’s Chapel are engaged in a work of the Lord! Celebration is called for. A place called home was encountered in worship. My second example comes from the opposite end of the size spectrum. White’s Chapel is one of the largest of some 32,000+ United Methodist Churches (its either in 2nd or 3rd place in worship attendance for the denomination). Last Sunday afternoon I went to El Buen Samaritano United Methodist Church where White’s Chapel has constructed a Dental Clinic. In bold risk-taking missional outreach, leadership from White’s Chapel in conversation with leadership from El Buen Samaritano and significant neighborhood feedback had discovered a significant hole in the health delivery system. Most basic dental work for adults on the margins was either not covered or too expensive to get. Fantastic lay leadership and commitment coupled with great pastoral leadership determined to do something about this vast need through sacrificial service. In a praise God moment, we blessed the opening of this clinic entitle the Mission Health Center. Rev. Sam Macias, the pastor of El Buen Samaritano, was present along with others including the professionally-trained dental technician who will help run the clinic and a number of the volunteer dentists. Help was shared under the Lordship of Christ! The third example is really a long list of hope sharing Christ offering witness. It comes from Rev. Mike Ramsdell and the staff at the Smith Center for Evangelism and Church Growth. In his own recent blog, Mike wrote:
“At the first of this year, the Central Texas Conference began a new initiative - creating 100 New Faith Communities (NFC) in 3 Years! This was presented at our 2017 Annual Conference and includes a grant of up to $10,000 for each approved proposal. At this point we have approved 10 grants with one that just arrived on my desk. [Note: I signed number 11 while writing this blog and Mike tells me number 12 is on his desk.] We are way ahead of any of our projections. Below are the churches currently creating NFC’s. Half of these churches have already begun their NFC and the other churches are in the process and will begin soon:
  • First Burleson
  • Wesley Foundation with First Corsicana
  • First Waxahachie
  • First Saginaw
  • First Mart
  • Bethesda
  • TCU Wesley Foundation
  • Trinity Arlington
  • First Comanche
  • First Eastland
"There will be obvious fruits from these faith communities; professions of faith, discipleship opportunities, more people worshiping God together, more missions, more ministry, more everything that matters to the Church of Jesus Christ. But there will also be additional fruit when an effective NFC is added in the life of an existing church, and that is, creating a NFC doesn’t just add something, it can transform a church. It helps us become more outward focused and less inward focused. It creates a focus on reaching people the church had not already reached, rather than just serving those we have already reached. It can help a static, stagnate, or even declining church become a growing, changing, dynamic group, and one that is more focused on making disciples and loving people who have yet to join the Kingdom. A NFC can help a church move from a culture of maintenance or even decline into one of growth. Few things can change a church more quickly and in healthier ways than a NFC done right. NFC’s can help create a new future for a church and a new exciting narrative of what the church is becoming, much like the Acts church."
Hope is being shared through offering of Christ to all people!  It is truly a beautiful thing. I have the privilege of giving a final sign off on every New Faith Community grant. It is a joy I cherish!  Hope, help and home are offered through the sharing of the love of the Lord in Central Texas!