Psalm 100 peeled its beauty in my heart and mind on Sunday.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;[a]
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100 NRSV)
I had the privilege of consecrating the new sanctuary at Mooreville United Methodist Church last weekend (Aug. 29). Many will recall that the historic sanctuary burned to the ground in a tragic fire back in February of 2019. The 2019 Annual Conference took a special offering (raising more than $200,00) to help in the rebuild. This great day of celebration is just one of many happening in the Central Texas Conference in full, active support of our mission to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” By the grace of God under the Lordship of Christ through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit our WIG (Wildly Important Goal) is advancing across the Conference!
First UMC Springtown has started a new faith community called the Current. In the past month, they have had 28 reaffirmations of faith through the faithful work of Pastor Jake Wade. The building has been renovated to be seeker- and family-friendly. In the back, they have created a great children’s area called the “Pray Ground.” Parents and children fluidly traverse between the playground and the worship area during the service. They have built a beautiful baptismal font, able to accommodate all forms of baptism (sprinkle, pour, and immersion.)
A new ministry partnership between FUMC Belton and Mt. Zion UMC for a back-to-school event entitled, “Back to School with God” has taken place. At the event they gave away more than 600 backpacks filled with school supplies, had various screenings, offered vaccinations, etc. It was a great community event demonstrating faithful cooperation through the presence of the Holy Spirit. (Click here to view a video from the event)
At St. Stephen UMC in Arlington new pastor Pistol Robinson reports multitude new outreach in the community. Upward Sports soccer will bring between 120-140 families to the church campus weekly. They are planning to open a new, modern worship service in October. With this influx of energy, the church has seen five people come back that they haven’t seen in almost two years. They have had one person join the church, the first person to do so in two years! Disciples are being made!
The River Oaks branch of Arborlawn UMC is living an outwardly focused discipleship ministry by dramatically expanding their Food Pantry and serving their neighbors during COVID. From a thriving Food Bank to the amazing Thrift Shop, to Family Story Nights at the local school River Oaks UMC “loves their neighbors as themselves” (Mark 12:31). The WIG is being lived out with new disciples being made as two families from the community began worshiping and joined the congregation. Their congregations’ demographics are starting to reflect the demographics of the community.
Salado UMC with David Mosser as Pastor and great laity engagement is enacting our deepening emphasis on small group discipleship activity as a crucial component of the WIG. They share a narrative of four different new discipleship groups with names such as: Voyagers and Crazy Love. They also have several youth and children’s groups.
These are but a small sampling of the WIG celebrations taking place around the Central Texas Conference. Despite the struggle to “re-open” safely, there is growing evidence of deep faithfulness and great commitment to the Wildly Important Goal of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
As we continue to share the Christian faith in this chaotic environment, especially with the rise of the Delta variant of COVID-19, I give thanks to God for the faithfulness of so many congregations, pastors and laity leaders. Reflecting on the situation in a contentious political environment, a recent comment by the noted theologian Roger E. Olson (recently retired from Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor) caught my eye and bears repeating. He writes:
“Christians of all traditions and denominations ought to be urging Christians and others to make use of the best of modern science to defeat this virus and the pandemic it is causing. And that includes getting vaccinated and wearing masks in public places [along with] Christian practices – together with prayer, worship, the sacraments/ordinances, peacemaking, and caring for the environment. Pastors and other Christian leaders need to step up and tell their congregants to get vaccinated and wear masks in public places – to protect others if not themselves.”
(Roger E. Olson, Let’s Talk About COVID-19 Theologically)
I truly believe that, just like those on the Exodus so long ago, the Lord God is leading us to a new future in faithfulness.