“We must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” – Ephesians 4:15-1
I am proud of the great work here at First Presbyterian Church in the past year. We have gone from beginning to get to know each other to making dramatic improvements financially. We have incorporated the spiritual leadership of Elders in weekly services. We had a fruitful Session retreat in July. We throw a great party for our neighbors in September. It has been a full year!
As I look forward to where we need to continue growing and maturing I keep coming back to the theme of community. Through my time spent in Scripture, the Spirit has been whispering to me of its importance. The Spirit increased the volume as I spoke with others inside and outside our congregation. It is being impressed upon me that our church body must focus on what it looks like for us to be a community. How are we caring and nurturing each other? How are we intimately involved in each others lives in a way that we can offer Christ’s love and grace? How are we creating an environment which seeks to provide human connection for those who so often lack it in our society?
Recently, I was speaking with a friend who is an Elder in a new church. This congregation began as a bible study of a few friends. They created space to pray for each other and to encourage each other in their faith. It was so much fun that they invited a few other friends. From beginning last fall as small group, they had grown into a house church stretching the seams with around 40 people by March. They continued to grow and now are renting a church building for Sunday evening gatherings of over 150 people including 30 children. As a curious person and always trying to keep my ear to the ground for new Christian movements, I asked this Elder how they had grown so quickly. She responded, without hesitation, that the community was the draw. It wasn’t the preaching, music, stained glass or children’s programming. It was the fact that the leadership had a laser focus on creating community.I shouldn’t have been surprised by that response. It mirrors my own experiences earlier in life. When I was involved with Fellowship of Christian Athletes in college we experienced similar growth. After bouncing along with about 15-20 people at our weekly Tuesday night gatherings for my first couple years of college, something changed my junior year. Every Tuesday we had more and more people joining us to the point where the room we met in was standing room only with 150 attendees. Looking back through the insight I’ve gained with maturity, community was the key.
Ironically, that community was centered around prayer. We had a leadership team of six students who prayed with another member of the team every day of the week. We actually prayed together and it created intense community among the leaders. That community was infectious and others wanted to experience it. Secondly, we ended every Tuesday evening gathering with prayer requests from the college students. Some nights we had 30-40 minutes of prayer requests and time spent in prayer. Again, a tremendous community-building experience.
This congregation is a loving community but there is room for growth. As we come to love and care about each other, especially through prayer, we too will experience the joy Christian community provides!
Respectfully Submitted in Christ’s Service,
Pastor Jeremiah Knabe