Church family, when I say, “I’ve been here for four and a half years now,” it doesn’t sound right. Time is so relentless, and getting faster every year. Or I’m getting slower. Probably both. I feel like I’m just beginning to really feel some Ozarks getting into my blood. I’ve been fish gigging, I’ve been on a coon hunt (no license so I only rode along), I’m sporting a beard now; the only things left are for me to get some camouflage clothing, a few more guns, and I’ll be indistinguishable from the natives.
Oh, and a pickup.
I speak for Radene and my girls when I say that we love it here. But let me be frank, I’m probably not going to own any camouflage. I’m not a hunter. I’m a gatherer. I’m okay with that and I hope you are as well.
In a few short hours 2014 will give way to 2015, and the sense of my calling to this place at this time is stronger than ever. I look forward to the future here at New Harmony as one of your pastors. Let me spell out a few things on my heart that I’m hoping for this year.
First and foremost, I’m hoping that our worship gatherings will be more Holy Spirit led than ever. One of the big battles within my soul for the past while has been learning to relate to the Holy Spirit as a person. That may sound really simplistic, but I began to realize earlier this year that I was relating to the Spirit more like a computer than a person. Did I believe in him? Yes. Did I know he was always present? Yes. Did I ask him for help? Yes. However, it had become very robotic and utilitarian. Relating to a person is much more complex and nuanced. It means trying to remain in tune with his emotions and thoughts rather than simply using him as a tool. The Holy Spirit is a person, and his temperament and feelings are important to my relationship with him. So, when we gather to worship, one thing I hope for all of us is a greater reverence and deference to the Holy Spirit as a person in the room with us when we assemble. He is the one who binds us. He, the Holy Spirit, is the person by which we can worship God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son. Being tuned into His desires will put us in tune with the Son and with the Father. What will that look like? I guess we’ll have to wait and see! We’ll journey through it together.
Next, I have great hope for my family, and for the rest of us, that we will put action into our faith within our neighborhoods. New Harmony has literally sent people all over the globe on missions. We’ve also been reaching out into our community with ministries like His Place Soup Kitchen. What would happen, though, if we brought it even closer to home. What would our community look like if all of us simply reached out to the people who physically live around us in our neighborhoods? Ministry has traditionally had a come-and-see way of doing things. We set up an event, we establish a venue, and we invite people to come and see what God is doing. There’s nothing wrong with that. But what if we did a go-and-be style of ministry? What if we simply went to the people who need Jesus instead of asking them to come? What if we all just started loving our neighbors as we love ourselves? Loving your neighbor, even if they want nothing to do with Jesus, will sow seeds into their lives that may bear fruit in the future. Plus, what’s wrong with simply creating some good will between you and the people who live around you? Blessed are the peacemakers.
Finally, I have hope that the Holy Spirit will begin a movement among us. I’m not saying that to be sensational or to be catchy. I have a sense in my spirit that if we truly begin listening and carefully following the Holy Spirit in our worship gatherings, and if we truly begin loving our neighbors and meeting their needs as the Holy Spirit leads us, God will be honored, Jesus Christ will be lifted high, and all men will be drawn to him. It’s kind of catchy to say that you’re not concerned about numbers, but that can also be an easy way to shoot for nothing. Numbers mean that the Gospel is increasing. I would never set a number, but I’m hoping to see our numbers increase this year, not because we get out and try our hardest, but because the Holy Spirit begins a movement.
I’m sure that I’ve set goals here that I will read in a month and say, “What was I thinking?” My commitment to myself to God and to you is that when that moment comes, I keep moving, even if I’ve messed things up, even if it seems futile. I don’t want to be satisfied with saying I gave it my best shot. I want to be satisfied in heeding the Holy Spirit’s call to get up when I fall. Jesus is better than giving up. Jesus is better than plans B-Z. From the beginning, God only had a plan A, and that’s all there ever will be. My plan A is to listen to the Holy Spirit, and keep moving because He is better and He knows better and I am, in the end, an idiot without Him.