Are you ready for what is coming next?
In the Old Testament in the story of Joshua, we find the Jewish people preparing the enter the Promised Land. It had been a time of wandering and refinement up to this point. They had spent generations Geoff Mitchell, M.Div.under the oppressive boot of slavery. Finally God sent Moses to deliver them from Pharaoh. With a power not of this world, God parted the Red Sea and protected the Jewish people. Yet this protection led to 40 years of wondering in the wilderness, the discouragement of the people, and ultimately the death of Moses. So when Joshua takes over the reigns of leadership from Moses on the threshold of entering the Promised Land, he pauses to make sure they were up for the task.
Joshua 24:14-15: "Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
You would think a nomadic people with a tattered faith would not need to be rallied once more as they finally enter the Promised Land. Yet Joshua makes the people pause and ask if they are truly invested in what God is about to accomplish. Fitting words for our church, I believe.
Sunday, September 11th, is the Grand Opening at our new location, 197 East Washington in Oswego. It will be a day of celebration, faith, and excitement. So much effort, prayer, sacrificial giving, and good old fashioned sweat has gone into making this day a reality. Yet even as we approach this much anticipated transition, I am asking our entire church to pause before God and renew ourselves to the mission in accountable ways. We much choose God together as a congregation for this building to become the Church.
Here's what God needs to choose to serve Him:
1- Choose to pray - Pray for our new space to be scared space. We are a culture that has lost the language of the sacred. Yet as believers we know that when the church gathers we encounter the Holy. Let us reaffirm our trust in a Holy, Sacred, and Almighty God who is seeking to change the lives of ordinary people. In this commitment, we pray for life change for ourselves and others, and we rise above the cliche of "we are finally getting our own building" and instead aim to pursue the God who is always pursuing us and others.
2- Choose to serve God. Unless you are out of town, be at worship September 11th. This is a great opportunity to share Jesus through serving as the Church, and an unparalleled opportunity to invite people to come and see. An invitation to the grand opening is something to which people will be receptive. God started Big Life to share Jesus with people who need faith. Recommit to that mission through sharing an invitation and serving as the Church.
3- Choose to renignite your spiritual growth. The natural tendency in us all will be to believe we "have arrived". That had to be what Joshua felt when he shared this message from God. Yet we believe God deserves better from our daily lives. If we only ever bring the same intensity to our faith that we have now, or have had in the past, we will soon fall flat and stagnate. Renew your commitment to growth - growth in your relationship with God - growth in your consistency in worship, growth in your generosity, and growth in your invitational and welcoming efforts. Choose this day to grow.
4- Choose to be a person of welcome. Anticipate a wave of visitors the first few months. Some people show up because of intentional invitations from people of our church. Others came to the garage sale and were interested in what we are doing. Some will appear for the pure novelty of the new location. Others will be dragged there by God to hear what they need to hear. I want you losing sleep over these folks' spiritual welcome at Big Life. Intentionally welcome all people- step away from your familiar conversations each week to say hello to someone you do not know. Embrace your responsibility and know we are all spiritually accountable for how we receive people that God sends to our church. Preaching and worship are important, but most people move from visiting to belonging because of the welcome they received from people NOT employed by the church. God is raising the bar for us in these next few months. Let's make the most of it. Choose to be God's person of welcome.