A lot has happened in the last few weeks with the Pinelands PSC. Mark is stepping down as chairman due to his move. The committee voted to have Leslie move up to chairman and yours truly has become vice chairman. Leslie is fully capable of the chairman position and I am honored to sit as vice chairman under her leadership. Please keep us in your prayers as we move forward interviewing and pursuing applicants.
It was a blessing for the committee to be able to meet With Pastor Harry Reeder a few weeks ago. He has been a wealth of knowledge for this committee.
When Harry talked to us about church vitality it really got me thinking. What makes a church strong and what strengthens a weak church? This is relevant to us because undoubtedly the pastor plays a key role in it. I pulled some passages from the NT that use the word strengthen. Then there are a few other passages that helped me to collect my thoughts.
(Luke 22:32 NIV) But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."
(Acts 15:32 NIV) Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers.
(1 Th 3:2 NIV) We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith,
(1 Th 3:13 NIV) May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
(2 Th 2:15 NIV) So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
Most of these passages and others as well, refer to people’s faith being strengthened, which in turn helped them to overcome evil. In the book of Revelation, speaking to the church in Sardis our Lord says through the pen of John…
(Rev 3:1 NIV) "To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.
Apparently this church had a reputation for being healthy (v1) but it was really dead. How do you strengthen what is about to die? Perhaps it’s explained in the letter to another church…
(Rev 2:1 NIV) "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands:2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
Obviously their “first love” was pretty important.
Acts Chapter 2 speaks of the beginning church. In the beginning of the chapter, through the work of the Holy Spirit, people were moved by the message of the Gospel and they were saved. Next in Acts 2:42 it reads … They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Finally in Acts 2:46 It’s written… Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
It seems pretty simple, the Gospel was preached and people were saved. Everything else was the result of that “first love”. Now how does this relate to Pinelands?
Our next pastor can be a great administrator, he can be great at rallying people behind a ministry, he can hold our attention with skilled preaching, but if he does not constantly strengthen our faith with the message of the Gospel and help us to deepen our relationship personally with Christ, no matter what ministries come out of pinelands we will be putting the cart before the horse. I’m beginning to realize just how important it is for the pastor who comes here to be all about the message of the gospel of Christ. If our church is strong there, it cannot help but grow.