Dear Emmanuel friends and family,
I’m looking forward to a good time together this coming Sunday with opportunities to worship and fellowship together, and to celebrate God’s faithfulness to us as a church family. I look forward to God speaking to us (and us speaking to God) during worship at 10:15. The adult Romans class will meet at 9:00, and if you’ve been part of my 301 class for adults this spring we will get together also at 9:00 to review our SHAPE profiles together. (If you need a reminder on where to find that information in your 301 coursework, let me know.)
God has blessed my family and me with a call to serve Him as the new pastor at Crossroads Community Church in Nevada, Missouri – a church setting that will be very similar to our beginnings here at Emmanuel fifteen years ago. I’m excited about ministering to, and with, this church family with the experiences and gifts you have given me over the course of these past years at Emmanuel. Lord willing, the kids and I will take time to pack during the month of June, and we will be moving to Nevada around the first of July.
Pastor J.J. Miller, with Interim Pastor Ministry, will be serving as Interim Senior Pastor at Emmanuel starting Monday, June 1. J.J. will be preaching and leading the flock while God continues to prepare a permanent replacement for the Senior Pastor position. Some of you have already started to get to know J.J. and his wife Laura, and I’m very happy for that. I’ve had opportunities to visit and correspond with J.J., and I feel confident God is going to use him as a blessing in Emmanuel’s ongoing ministry. God has already given him a heart for you, and I know that in addition to his own personal preparations for coming to Hermann, he is already praying for you !
In addition, Pastor Jeff will be around, of course, as the guide and friend and shepherd you’ve come to know him to be.
Our Pastor Search Committee — Rich Brune, Becky Aldrich, Laura Maddox, Allison Roth, and Lucas Schneider – is doing a great job using your recently completed surveys to prepare a profile for candidates interested in the Senior Pastor position at Emmanuel. In fact, they met with the Elder Board just last night to review that profile. It’s a good one and should attract a godly, competent pastor. Your prayers are needed, though ! The PSC will be communicating more with you, as they have been doing all through the process so far.
Finally, let’s be sure to remember our missions team serving this week and next in Jamaica. The team departed today and will return June 5. Please be in prayer for Catherine Mahoney, Valerie Uthlaut, Adam Uthlaut, and Grant Broeker ! They are going to need strength, stamina, and the Spirit’s filling as God brings them into contact with many young people and educators on the island of Jamaica. Thanks for praying and loving this team !
In closing, …
I feel certain it will take some time to be able to fully grasp all of what God has done during these past years. We will have much to share together on Sunday, but just now my mind goes to the following five lessons I think God has taught during this first leg in the life of Emmanuel Evangelical Free Church :
1. He is faithful. And not only is He faithful, but He will do big things for those who believe Him and ask Him. “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” He said to His people in Psalm 81. It did seem somewhat foolhardy to try to make something of the little wandering band of people we were here in Hermann, didn’t it ? As you prayed and served and took each “next step,” however (and sacrifice was a part of it, wasn’t it ?), God led and provided. I believe it was Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, who said, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s resources.” Are we doing God’s work ? Are we doing it God’s way (i.e., with humility, prayer, submission to one another, “kingdom” work) ? Those are the conditions. Those are the people God uses. You have been those people.
2. The local church is still the primary workshop of the Holy Spirit. Thanks for being in the workshop all these years ! Some of us have been “worked on”; some of us have been workers (used by God) ; for most of us, both have been the case. God works on us through other godly people in the nitty-gritty of life. That’s why Sticky Groups and personal discipleship have been so key to exciting, transformative work here at Emmanuel. Not everyone wants to go through the workshop. I’m glad we did ! Beyond all these things, though, unity in the church is a necessary requirement for the work to be effective. What God wills to take place in a church, He will not just communicate to one person ; He will say it to many people. In fact, He will be intent on communicating the same message to the entire Body (1 Corinthians 14:36). Sometimes we must wait on each other until we have all become aware of God’s message concerning His plans for ministry in the church.
3. Everyone’s commitment is needed. Everyone wants a strong church, don’t they ? The challenge is that a strong church for everyone requires everyone’s commitment. Everyone’s presence. Everyone’s giving. Everyone’s support. We say at Emmanuel that if we are part of the Emmanuel body we make these commitments :
— I am committed to a relationship with Jesus Christ and with the local church.
— I am committed to the disciplines required for spiritual growth.
— I am committed to using my God-given gifts and abilities to serve God and people.
— I am committed to sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with other people.
Some things to ask yourself as we enter a new period in the life of the church :
— Would Emmanuel be better off or worse off if everyone was as regular in attendance as I am ?
— Would Emmanuel be better off or worse off if everyone volunteered as much time as I do ?
— Would Emmanuel be better off or worse off if everyone gave the same percentage of their income as I give ?
— Would Emmanuel be better off or worse off if everyone was growing spiritually at the same rate I am ?
4. Christians need to re-learn the concept of Sabbath. We live with very little margin in our lives. We live busy and distracted lives. It affects our spiritual growth ; it affects the church. Wayne Muller in Sabbath : Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest, writes :
I have visited the large offices of wealthy donors, the crowded rooms of social service agencies, and the small houses of the poorest families. Remarkably, within this mosaic there is a universal refrain : “I am so busy.” It does not seem to matter if the people I speak with are doctors or day-care workers, shopkeepers or social workers, parents or teachers, nurses or lawyers, students or therapists, community activists or cooks. … It becomes the standard greeting everywhere : “I am so busy.”
I wonder how much we can really be in tune with God’s Spirit when we are so busy. We are likely fooling ourselves. I’ve often heard someone say (after surviving an accident or getting through a tough illness), “God must have wanted to get my attention. He must have something for me to do.” Maybe, as Mark Buchanan writes in his book The Rest of God, it’s more simple than that — maybe God simply wants your attention.
5. Don’t lose your first love. One of my greatest fears for Emmanuel as we have had the joy of growing numerically and spiritually, moving into a building, and becoming a “real” church, is the fear of complacency. Will we lose what actually empowers us – a love for Jesus. The Lord warned the Christians in the church at Ephesus of this very thing in Revelation 2:4. Now that we’ve reached a certain size, now that we are organized into various ministries, now that we seem to have a place in the community, are we still hungry ? Hungry to walk every day with the Lord ? Hungry to give Him all … right up to our dying day ? Hungry to be sanctified ? Hungry to reach a world steeped in sin and facing eternity without hope ? I was reminded recently that God’s instruction to the prophet Jonah was “ARISE and go to Nineveh, the great city” (Jonah 1:2). Jonah wasn’t to wait around for spiritually needy people to come to him ; he was to get up off his chair and go to them. Do we have the same urgency we once had ? We have the same call as Jonah ; ours is to GO and make disciples.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you as one of your pastors. Thank you for serving me and my family so well for so long. You have blessed us beyond what we deserve or can fully comprehend. We will continue to serve each other over the course of the years, I’m sure. We’re the family of God — imperfect, but growing, and enjoying life’s journey together with the Lord.
See you this Sunday !