The Church Being the Church ©

Moderators Note: As the temperatures finally begin to climb above freezing in Texas and frozen pipes begin to thaw, pipes that burst during the deep freeze will begin to leak and could cause damage quickly. Authorities suggest that you locate the main water shut off valve to your building(s) and be prepared to shut off the water as quickly as possible if a leak is discovered in order to reduce the amount of damage caused by a leak.
 
The District Area Offices are working to assess the damage to local church facilities across the CTC. If you have suffered damage related to the recent severe winter weather, please contact your District Superintendent. Go to ctcumc.org/districts and click on your district for contact information. Bishop Lowry will sign a letter which authorizes the releases of $10,000 in emergency relief funds from UMCOR to the conference. Please contact your DS for more information on the UMCOR disaster relief fund. Local Churches are requested to contact their insurance provider before requesting the emergency assistance.
We woke up Tuesday morning with the temperature in our bedroom at a balmy 40° F. At that point, we had been without power for about 27 hours. Piled with virtually every blanket we owned, the bed felt deliciously warm and we were reluctant to get up. Jolynn picked up her cell phone and answered a text from a friend in her Sunday School class at Arborlawn UMC. Our friends live in Hudson Oaks (about 10 miles from where we live). They had electricity and urged us to come stay with them. Soon we were up, hurriedly dressed, packed and on our way over the frozen tundra. With a gracious hospitality reflecting their deep Christian faith, Jim and Dana welcomed us into their home.
 
Our story was repeated in a variety of ways all across the state of Texas. Conference staff had their own email string going with those having power inviting those who didn’t to come stay with them. Churches across the Central Texas Conference were reaching out to their communities to help those in need. For instance, I received word that Winters UMC is offering its buildings as a “warming center” for folks in the area. Dr. Leah Hidde-Gregory DS of the Central/South District Area wrote: “Our churches are being the church! Here is what I have seen on Facebook this morning…
  • Church with firewood offering it to their neighbors in need,
  • One church took a five-day supply of firewood out to 20 families,
  • Churches delivering hot food to the elderly,
  • Opening the church up for warming centers,
  • Methodist Men cooking up a storm for their guests,
  • Pastors opening their homes,
  • Care teams delivering bottled water,
  • Call chains checking on congregants making sure they are not in dire need of anything.”

Darlene Alfred, our Conference Lay Leader, and Mike Ramsdell, Executive Director of the Smith Center for Evangelism, Mission, and Church Growth, both reported that they had family moving in with them to stay warm. The list of actions both individually and collectively of the church being the church grows. I’ve no doubt you and your church can add to the biographies of love, mercy, and caring in action.
 
More than half a century ago, the great missionary evangelist E. Stanley Jones wrote:
Giving in the Christian faith was to be ‘according to one’s means’ the greater the means, the greater the responsibility, not merely as a principle but as a practice. And as a practice not indefinitely postponed, but immediately carried out. So, the disciple agreed to make a contribution, each according to his means...this they did. They did not pass a resolution and then ‘pass the buck,’ but their agreement became an action immediately carried out. They did not appoint a committee to get the facts and report back to a future meeting, a subtle way of avoiding responsibility by postponement. It was not a debating society, it was a deciding society. It was ‘a society of caring’ and a society of caring to the point of sharing. The caring became a sharing, not an emotion, but a deed.”  (E. Stanley Jones, The Reconstruction of the Church - On What Pattern, pp. 52 & 53)
 
I think this is what we are seeing in this frozen pandemic time. The church is being the church in all her nascent glory. Or, to borrow again from C. S. Lewis, “Aslan (the great Lion & Christ figure of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) is on the move!” Our actions individually and through our churches are reflections of Christ’s glory!
 
A story is told of John Wimber, the late pastor, missionary, seminary professor and founder of the Vineyard Church movement. One day a parishioner at his church called him and asked for helping putting someone in need up for the night. Somehow, the church as a institution wasn’t able to help, so Wimber suggested that man shelter the family himself. To his credit, the church member did just that. The next day he called Pastor Wimber back and harangued him because the church did not have a formal system or shelter in place to take care of people. Angrily, the man said to his pastor, “well let me tell you, the church ought to do something.”  To which Wimber is said to have replied, “I think the church did do something. You are the church and you helped put them up.”
 
I believe we should create organizations and structure that help those in need. In many cases, we have done so. United Community Centers here in Fort Worth comes to mind. (It was launched years ago by the Women’s Society for Christian Services – the predecessor of United Methodist Women – UMW.) This is important godly work. At the same time, Christians reaching out in love, mercy and service are the church being the church. As of this posting, we are still without power and living with our friends in Hudson Oaks. Jolynn and I thank God for the graciousness of Jim and Dana. In straightforward practical ways, they are sharing the love of Christ. 
 
It is a wonderous joy to see the church being the church!  The words of James vibrate across Texas.  “But someone will say, ;You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith…faith apart from works is barren.” (James 2:18,20b) 
 
I thank God for your faithfulness!