By Pastor Gary Peterson
June, July and August are great months for pastors to slow down and take some extra Sabbath time. A couple of years ago I read a book written by a close friend and pastor that I admire greatly for her leadership, discipline and knowledge. I will be taking some retreat time in October and this book was one of the books recommended to read prior to attending the retreat, so I quickly reviewed the book during a lull in my fun reading time. The book is “Recess: Rediscovering Play and Purpose” by Lori Haller. Lori is one of the people who always gets me to think beyond the words and pages in so many different areas, even beyond what she is writing about. One of the things that she has gotten me to ponder on several occasions, both when she was district superintendent of Grand Rapids, and also when she writes a weekly blog, is how I can become a better disciple for Jesus Christ. As I ponder this and other things I come to a basic question that pastors and Disciples of Jesus Christ ask of themselves, “how can we help people get to know Jesus Christ and grow in their faith?” The gift of new life and love that Jesus Christ offers us is amazing and unlike anything else we have ever known, and I want everyone to experience God’s miraculous, saving and transforming power. When the time is right and the Holy Spirit is moving, I want to make myself available to helping all people; adults, children and anyone within my reach. I want to help them choose to receive the blessed treasure, “The gift of salvation for themselves.”
Many years ago, when I was doing my exploration to become a pastor, I saw this as a possibility of one of the callings that I might have as a pastor. I’m also convinced that this is our responsibility as individuals and as a church. We have a biblical mandate and a missional responsibility to, “Go into the world and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” You see, as United Methodist and as Christians, we are called to make this a core part of our existence, it should be woven into our DNA.
I know we ask ourselves “how do we do this over and over again?” It is one of the toughest questions we probably ask ourselves, even to the point where we would say it is a million-dollar question, but I think we already know the answer.
All things we are to do revolves around loving God, growing together in God’s love, and serving others. This is our pathway to discipleship and we will be talking about it during this fall and into the winter on a number of Sundays, as I plan my messages for worship on Sundays to include this topic frequently.
*When we come together to worship and intentionally welcome first-time guests, longtime friends and members into the community of faith, we are loving God.
*When we give our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness day in and day out we are loving God.
*When we host a Strawberry Social, encourage the use of our church for a wedding or host a rest stop for a race we grow together with our community.
*When we participate in small study groups such as Bible study during the year or during Advent or Lent we are growing together.
*When our young people have an overnight at the church or we participate by actively encouraging and sending our youth to camp we come together in the mission of growing our children as they walk with Christ.
Disciples are being made at Claybanks United Methodist Church because you and I are taking ownership and working hard to reach people and places with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Let us keep up the good work and learn how to take the next step. Thanks be to God for the ways in which the Holy Spirit is moving in the ministries, programs, and individuals of this church which is alive and well.
I end this pondering by thanking all who were part of this year’s Strawberry Social. Those who were a part of the leadership team, those who served biscuits, strawberries and ice cream, those who manned the bakery table and those who greeted our community as they entered our church. Those who just wandered the Fellowship Hall and did a wonderful job of engaging themselves with those who came to our church looking to meet friends, neighbors and others from our community. Thank you, Claybanks Congregation, for making the Strawberry Social a high priority in the life of the church, the mission of our church, and yes, outreach to our community.
Sabbath time and recess are renewal times. I have found over the many years now that we get much renewal, energy and excitement that will take us into the fall from being part of a “Strawberry Social”. It is when we engage others and see the light in their faces and the joy that is in their voices that the renewal process starts. It is my prayer that we will enjoy the fall season as much as we have enjoyed our summer.
P.S. Last August I wrote a Pondering “So Who Are Reba and Gary” and ended it “To be continued”. It has been a year now and we have gotten to know each other more. For our next newsletter, I continue from where I left off. Should you want to reread the pondering of August 2016, copies will be available on the information table in Fellowship Hall.