I am very humbled to step into the role of Executive Director for the Lamar Smith Center for Evangelism, Mission and Church Growth.  The work Rev. Mike Ramsdell has done over the past five years has been Christ honoring and clearly blessed by God.  Through his active pursuit of our Wildly Important Goal, “To make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” we witnessed the growth of churches across our conference from the very smallest to our largest.  Congregations moved beyond their walls into their communities in ways they had not before. This was accomplished through generous grants for New Faith Communities, Micro Grants, and Technology Grants.  Mike drew from his vast experiences in growing local congregations and offered exceptional training and resources, including the Grow weekend.  He also expertly established a team of people in the Lamar Smith Center that have hearts for God and seek to equip and energize local churches for their ministry.
 
Reboot 2021
 
After 23 months of growth in our conference, we face the mammoth challenge of a worldwide pandemic.  Our Central Texas congregations are just starting to gain traction and now a new wave of infections threaten those efforts.  This is frustrating for pastors and laity alike and leaves us wondering, what our next faithful step will be.
 
Whenever I have an issue with my computer, I know without a doubt it is PEBCAC (Problem Exist between Chair and Computer.)  My computer begins running slow and I wonder what is wrong with it.  Then I remember my computer has to be “rebooted” from time to time.  There is all this busyness that my computer is doing as I leave programs running in the background.  Things that have nothing to do with the goals of what I am trying to do that particular day.  The same can be said for the church.  We have been doing A LOT of good things, but we are given the gift of this season to reflect on whether they are the right things.  Are they creating deeper disciples within our congregation and are they reaching the mission field in our care?
 
I believe this time in the life of the church is a perfect opportunity to “reboot.”  To remember who we are, what we are called to do, what it means to be discipled, what it means to be a follower of Christ, what it means to be called God’s people.
 
In the next few weeks in my E-Note, we are going to be looking at what it means to reboot our churches; how we renew our souls as Christian leaders; and we will look at what it means to be a vital congregation in the corner of the Kingdom entrusted to us by God.  Here is my first entry on this journey…
 

Reboot 2021.1:  Are you sold out for Christ?

 
I have a dual degree in Sociology and Psychology. Whether it is an innate interest in people and groups or training from my undergraduate education, I am fascinated by what makes people “tick” and how groups function. I love to people watch… airports, mall, festivals, churches… wherever people are gathered. What are the motivating factors within their lives? What is the common chord that holds a group together?
 
Five years as a District Superintendent has taught me that our most vital congregations are not just followers of Christ, but they are “Sold Out Disciples of Jesus Christ.” Their common chord is a fiery commitment to the goodness and love of God presented to us through Jesus Christ.
 
In Matthew 16:13-18, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They have followed Jesus for approximately three years. The disciples have heard his teachings, seen his healings, and watched his ministry… Christ wanted to know, who did they believe he was? Peter eagerly answers, you are the Messiah… the Christ!
 
When Pastors and congregations can answer this question as eagerly as Peter did, there is no stopping their mission, outreach, and ministry. Vitality, fruitfulness and discipleship occur in congregations where people are sold out disciples for Jesus Christ.
 
This does not mean there are not those in the mix without doubts or seasons of doubt, but that they are surrounded by others who stand in a gap during those seasons. There is deep discipleship, a longing for bible study and prayer groups, and there is the recognition of the need for loving Christian accountability. These congregations bear with one another in Christian love (Ephesians 4:2), they love God and neighbor with their whole being (Matthew 22:36-40), and day by day, in their faithfulness the Lord adds to their numbers (Acts 2:42).
 
If your congregation needs renewal, I believe the very first question you must ask as a Christian leader is: Am I sold out for Jesus Christ? Quickly followed by: Is our church sold out for Jesus Christ?
 
Start here… everything else will follow.
 
Most of all lead filled with God’s love and grace…
 
Blessings!
Leah