June 17, 2020
If I were pastoring a church in this season, I have wondered what I would be doing. I have written Wednesday morning eNotes for more than two months expressing that.
In times of crisis, leadership is elevated to the highest level. Churches, people, communities look to leadership more than ever. I see that being lived out in so many clergy and churches in the CTC. but I also know it's easy to feel helpless. We have little control over COVID-19 other than social distancing, washing our hands and wearing a mask (how did a mask get political). Each day of the week is a new and unknown adventure. Much of what I have learned in ministry through the years is not applicable to today. I am learning, as we all are. So, what would I be doing if I were pastoring a church today?
I would be praying for a miracle! It wouldn’t be the first time.
One of the few past-learnings that apply to this new season is the many times I asked God to give me the miracle of wisdom, of success in reaching new people, of a discipleship transformation change in my church and community, even of the will and purpose of God being done when it felt like stuff was going in the other direction.
God knows the Church needs money, that growth is the natural state of an effective church, that there is little chance of anything happening that is good and right without the Holy Spirit. After all, Jesus is the real head of the Church, the Church that was God’s idea, God birthed and in what God is invested. This is what we have been called to lead and serve.
The church I served was more than $300,000 behind budget heading into summer - panic time. How do you catch up in the summer? We had some projects coming in the fall that I felt were the right thing to do, including a multimillion-dollar expansion project. t looked like all was going to be derailed. I had done all I knew to catch up. I went on a retreat in the Texas Hill Country in a monastery type location and did a lot of praying. I prayed for a miracle. My limitations had caught up with me and I knew it. I have long believed we meet God most clearly at the point of our limitations.
When I returned home, I stopped by the church to check the mail. On my desk was a note with a number to call. I thought about waiting to return the call, because I was tired, but called anyway. It was a recently new member of the church. He told me he had some stock he wanted to give (it wasn’t even the end of the year). I said thanks and took the information down. When I got home, I checked more closely the number of shares he was giving and the value of each one, it was right at $300,000. It was a miracle, something far beyond my ability or even scope of hope.
I might say it was the great initiatives we began on a regular basis that was responsible for the church becoming one of the top 25 attended Methodist churches in the country - or it was the miracles that God so often gave us? I think it was the miracles (it wasn’t Moses that made the Promised Land become more than a promise; it was the water from a rock, the manna from heaven, Aaron’s staff raised to the sky – it was God)!
In 1 Corinthians 12:28 there is a list of gifts God gives the Church, it mentions apostles, teachers, prophets, and “Miracles”.
I would have quit working in the church long ago if I thought I was on my own in leading God’s idea, that I had to do it all myself, that I had to find every solution, that it was all up to me.
If I were leading a church in this season, I would be doing everything I could to do it well. Make the best decisions, prepare for the new that is coming, serve, love, give and lead. But I would also be praying for a miracle and I would invite my leaders, the influencers and the church to join me in praying for that miracle.
God help us with our finances, God help us reach new people, God help us transform lives, God help us transform our community, even our world. God help us be your church as you designed it to be that in a new season, we can truly be light unto the world, a city set on a hill. My vision for a church might be big, but it is nothing compared to the vision God had for the church when Jesus commanded, “Go make disciples of all the world!” and it was birthed at Pentecost.
Rev. Mike Ramsdell, Executive Director
Center for Evangelism, Mission & Church Growth