State of the Church at Crossroads - Faithing Forward

Yes - yes, I know it is a week late but certain things took precedent, needed actions, reflecting moments and time away in a duck blind with some other pastors sharing our futility and our faith journeys. There has been a great deal of that in my life lately...the working of God in prodding deeper into my soul, into places I mostly do not want to see. Since God has been patient with me, I hope you will humor my slowness of late. But enough of that, I wrote to share the journey of a people today and quite a journey it has been.

The Bible verses for this Sunday begins in the story of the Exodus of Egypt...

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that My wonders will be multiplied in the land of Egypt." (Exo 11:9 NASB) Now the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, "This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you. "Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, 'On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers' households, a lamb for each household. 'Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. 'Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 'You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. 'Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 'They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 'Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. 'And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. 'Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste--it is the LORD'S Passover. 'For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments--I am the LORD. (Exo 12:1-12 NASB)

It only seems appropriate during my first ever, “state of the church” address to hear a word from someone with more experience than me. In this case, it comes from, Former President Ronald Reagan. When he was younger, an aunt had taken him to a cobbler to have a pair of shoes made for him. (This was before NIKE and New Balance) The shoemaker asked young Ronald Reagan, "Do you want a square toe or a round toe?"
Reagan hemmed and hawed. So the cobbler said, "Come back in a day or two and let me know what you want."
A few days later the shoemaker saw Reagan on the street and asked what he had decided about the shoes. "I still haven't made up my mind," the boy answered. "Very well," said the cobbler.
When Reagan received the shoes, he was shocked to see that one shoe had a square toe and the other a round toe.
"Looking at those shoes every day taught me a lesson," said Reagan years later. "If you don't make your own decisions, somebody else will make them for you!"

My work is words. Whether it is studying the Word, writing with words, or discerning the right words to speak, the use of the right words is central to all I do. I've picked up words the last few weeks and turned them over, looked at them, spoken them, thrown them down and beat them up. The word that rises back to the surface when I think about the state of Crossroads is this – we are 'Faith-ing' it.

Yes, I am using a made up word but it certainly seems to fit us. A noun in action – faith as it should be. You see, picking it up and looking at it is silly – too many have done. As pastors, I confess, I've done it too, we claim faith as a shelf-badge and it collects cob webs and the dust bunnies of our souls try to carry it away.

One of my shelf-badges [self-badge?] is this, “A Purpose Driven Youth Ministry.” It is a book that guided me along with other books and lessons to build a successful, purposeful youth ministry. It also fed my soul, for a time. It is worn out, the dust jacket stolen by dust bunnies. It shaped part of me, to help me see how to live out my purpose and help others do the same.

But in time, as is the case in life, God permits challenges – tragedies – crossroads. Before such challenges came before Pharoah, they came before Moses. They had come to Joseph, to Abraham, to Noah and to others. Always different but all providing the opportunity to follow.

If Pharoah would have listened, nothing more would have been permitted. His voice tends to grow stronger. I like the way Mother Angelica, next door in Alabama, says it, “ He is a gentle God, a loving God. He will follow you until you die. He will continue to reach out to you and hover over you and wait...(pg 29).”

Pharoah had the same opportunity to be remembered as one who “faith-ed” it like Moses.

And how have we “faith-ed it” in our first year?

Celebrated 2 Baptisms
Average attendance has held steady and helped many connect to God (a year after launch w/o scheduled help).
Started a youth ministry here at Crossroads
Started Men's and Women's Ministries
Launched the newest Boy Scout troop in Pickett's Mill District in Troop 2009
Pumped over $800 worth of gas for our gas buy down in September
Provided almost 100 backpacks with school supplies for North Paulding Elementary Schools
Collected over a ton of food with Scouting for Food last March for Helping Hands of Paulding
Sponsored 4 movie nights and work day at Murphy-Harpst Children's Home
Donated computer to Helping Hands of Paulding
Helped collect over 100 Cleaning Buckets to assist with Flood Relief.
Helped the Teems family move out and installed a new door following the floods along with assisting with Samaritan's Purse relief efforts following the floods.
Took on role as Charter Organization for Pack 1916 (80+ scouts).

Each of these are steps of faith we've taken. They represent the prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness we've each taken this year. But what faith-ing steps lie before us?

These are the four areas that I want to address as Crossroads enters 2010 - FAITHING FORWARD

1.Stewardship.
- Calendar year: July-June (our estimated budget is $160,000.00)
- Originally given $25,000 for start-up / raised over $75,000 in addition
- First year – N.Ga Conference/Due West UMC paid my salary & benefits package
- This year – N.Ga.Conf: 2/3 Crossroads: 1/3
- Come July – N.Ga.Conf: 1/3 Crossroads: 2/3
- Giving to the mission of people Connecting, Following and Becoming Disciples on loving act at a time.

2.Facilities
- Praying for land & facilities to fulfill mission.
- Seeking for the location

3.Faithful Following
- Series focusing on growing in faith (sermons)
- Serving opportunities
-Growing opportunities (Men's and Womens' – Connection Groups (shorterm))

4.Witness
-Telling others
-Inviting others
-Going to others

We are called now to faith forward. Not looking so much backwards as it is looking directly to Jesus. The sovereign God has made us people, not puppets. We have His Word to guide us, His love to redeem us, and His assurance that we are capable of faithing forward!

For the MP3 of this sermon, visit www.crossroadsum.org

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