It was a trip I will not soon forget. The decisions of that day are having implications to this day as God is at work!
I was a new Regional Minister who was visiting the leaders of a church who were wondering what the life of their church would be like in the future? Their town and church had declined in size and it felt like there was little possibility of growth again in this community. I was early for our Sunday afternoon meeting so I drove through the entire town … it did not take long. I parked at the church and thought I would walk around town. I enjoyed meeting a few community members and relished in the quietness of this country village.
As people arrived to the meeting I leaned over to one of the church’s leaders and asked, “What is the population of this town?” He leaned back and gave a surprising deliberate answer, “Well there are Charles and Shirley who live on the edge of town and their grandchildren come to visit on the weekends … and they have two dogs. Then there is Sue who lives … “The stories of people continued to roll out and no, I never did get the answer to what the population “numbers” were … it really didn’t matter.
As we began the meeting we reviewed the church’s present circumstances and reality of this congregation’s situation. I then asked the question that received an answer that I believe was prompted by God, not just for that afternoon but for this new regional minister, that has framed every neighborhood, town, and city I enter, “So what do you think we should do?!?” One of the men with a scruffy voice slowly asserted, “If we close this church I can find another church in another town. But who is going to care for the people of this town? Who is going to help them clean up trees after a storm? Who is going to share the Gospel with them? Who is going to love them with the love at God? If it’s about me being taken care of then I guess we can close but it’s not about me … it’s about the people of this town getting to know Jesus!”
Heads nodded as he seemed to share the heart of the people and in simple ways the heart of Almighty God that desires that none would perish but all would truly “know” Him. This remnant of disciples stepped out by faith and God led them to a pastor who would pastor this church and community. Pastor Jake and Jan became their pastor traveling from a nearby town to serve them. Then God prompted Jake and Jan to make a decision that many still don’t totally understand—they incarnated to this church and town. Here is a town where people for years had been moving out and then word spread throughout the town that someone was moving into town to pastor this community. No way?!? YES WAY!! Jake and Jan’s home has been moved into town—with the citizens of this community wondering why. Because God is a missionary God who moved into the neighborhood too. His children are on mission for Him.
The story continues … breakfasts are being served and enjoyed by many men in the community to get to know each other. Out of curiosity some have come to the home of Jake and Jan and the church to ask the question “Why they have moved into this community?!?” and the Good News is shared—because God so loved that He gave His only Son and the Son came, incarnating into the world, to love the residents, so that whoever believed in Him would not perish but enjoy the life God made them to live … God loves you and so do we!