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The Bible is filled with references to change. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Colossians 3:10 tells us, Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

Ephesians 4:24 echoes this thought, saying, “And to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

These are just three of many biblical quotes about change and transformation that I found in a quick internet search. Although all these refer to individuals, the church is often referred to as the bride of Christ, and in this personification, can be expected to change and become a new creation as well, renewed and refreshed, created in righteousness and holiness. Unfortunately, true change is often only achieved as a result of crisis.

Our church is at a critical point. Attendance has dropped significantly. Our finances have improved but are still insufficient to support current expenses. We are being called to examine our current practices and change, not just to survive, but to thrive. What does this mean? We all want to have a vibrant church, worshipful and alive in the Spirit.

One source tells me that the characteristics of a vibrant community are threefold:

  • having visions of a future that engage the imagination and creativity of the members;
  • having action plans for exciting projects; and,
  • continually asking, “What excellent things can we accomplish?”

Interestingly enough, there is no mention here of finances, the concept being that the commitment of the community members will stimulate generosity. This reiterates the statement of one of our council members who called us to re-examine our mission in response to our financial situation.

We are meeting as a congregation on June 5 to determine the best way for our church to move forward, adapt and change to our current situation. I am hoping that each of you are planning to attend and have been praying and seeking to discern the will and plan of God for Southwood United.

Personally, I have faith and believe that God DOES have a plan for us. The words of the prophets are just as significant today as when they were written down. Jeremiah tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (29:11).

Isaiah says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (43:19)

Yes, this is a difficult time, and some difficult decisions may have to be made. Recognize that this is nothing new. People have had to deal with troubles and difficulties since the beginning of time – and God is always there to turn bad into good, and remains with us no matter what. Listen to Psalm 66:10-12: “For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.”

It is up to us – not so much to decide what we are to do – but to discern what God wants us to do. What future is God calling us to envision that engages the imagination and creativity of the members? What exciting projects does God have in mind that require action plans? What excellent things does God want us to accomplish?

I am confident that our church will become that vibrant community, alive in the Spirit, when we do that. Luke tells us so in Acts 1:8: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

What a wonderful day that will be!

In closing, I repeat the words of 2 Thessalonians 3:5 ... “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”

Amen.