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Archive for September, 2010

Sunday, October 3rd will be a banner day for our church!  Our fifth Faith in Action Sunday will take place, where we have the opportunity to personally thank those individuals who work with various community agencies that our church is proud to sponsor.  They will also participate in worship as well.

Because it is the first Sunday of the month, we will also collect our Hunger & Hope Offering.  There is perhaps no more appropriate Sunday to collect our Pennies for Hunger and our food donations for Yokefellow Ministries (dried milk and oatmeal) than on Faith in Action Sunday.  So please give and donate generously!

Following worship we will gather in the Fellowship Hall for a church-wide lunch prepared by our Beacons and have the opportunity to hear from the Mills Family about the ongoing mission efforts in Mexico.  Lunch will be $5 for adults and $3 for kids, with all proceeds going to youth mission efforts.

And on top of all of that, we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper with Christians all over the world as part of Worldwide Communion Sunday – truly a great day of worship!

We look forward to having you worship with us on Sunday!

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As you may know, for my Fall Discipleship sermon series the past few weeks I’ve invited folks to ponder and write down their thoughts based on a number of questions designed to get to the heart of our walk with Christ.  For the Dedication Sunday sermon yesterday (which you can read here or listen to the audio here), I asked the congregation this question: WHERE DO YOU SEE GOD IN ACTION IN OUR CHURCH?  In addition to giving folks time to jot down their thoughts, I also had invited three people to come forward and share their thoughts from the pulpit. They were so power and profound, and I wanted to share them with you.  Please take a few minutes to read them below:

There are so many places in our church where we see God in action.  Here are some special ones to me.  I see God in action in the hundreds of cans of soup we collect for the Souper Bowl of Caring, to help feed the hungry in our community.  I see God in action in the faces of the people who work at Friends Feeding Friends at First Baptist Church to help provide people a meal.  I see God in action in the Backpack program that allows the schools to pack food for kids to have on the weekends to eat.  I see God in action in the Pennies for Hunger and Yokefellow Ministry.  But one that’s especially dear to my heart is in the financial support we provide for Surry Medical Ministries, which is a free clinic with a pharmacy to serve the uninsured and poor in our community.  This is where I see God in action in our church. (Millie Beal)

I see God in action in all of you – but I definitely see God in action in the little ones in our church.  I’ve taught Sunday school and I’ve been on mission trips.  And the kids really change your lives – they know exactly what to say.  I want you to pay attention to them. (Alex Mayes)

You may not know me; my name is Bruce Arnold.  I retired here to Mount Airy in August, and I’ve been attending the church since mid-August.  I see God in action in your church in that you have a great mix.  I came from a church in Texas where the average age of the congregation is 73!  But here you have babies, toddlers, young couples, teenagers, young adults, middle-aged adults and retired people like myself – all working together.  You converse with one another; you’re not a group of people who don’t really do anything together.  And I’ve seen this in Friends Feeding Friends and Habitat for Humanity, where there were young and old all working together.  This is really a great revelation for me – I’ve been a member of a lot of Presbyterian churches, but the best ones are where everyone is a big family working together. I really appreciate this church. (Bruce Arnold)

Following their wonderful remarks, I encouraged folks to have an “on-going conversation” with each other about where they see God in action at First Presbyterian Church.  Doing this will help us remain vibrant and energetic as the body of Christ in the world.

A wonderful way to celebrate Dedication Sunday!  Blessings to you for the many ways you see God in action in our church, and become part of that action!

Steve

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Two years ago, the decision was made to change the name of our Fall Stewardship season to Fall Discipleship.  I will confess that part of the reason was a desire to get away from a word that, frankly, had some folks running to the hills when they heard it!

But another reason for the change – a much bigger reason – was a theological and biblical one.  Just as Jesus called the twelve to follow him and be his disciples, he desires us to do the same.  And this means giving more to God than simply our Sunday mornings.  It means changing the very course of our life so it becomes oriented around him and him alone. It means being faithful no matter what comes our way.

I really like the image of discipleship here – a plant, some earth, and hands.  I see the plant as the presence of God’s kingdom here on earth – always growing, always active, providing oxygen to a suffocating world.  I see the dirt as the community of faith – the church – doing its best to nurture and care for God’s kingdom.  And I see the hands as God – holding both the church and us in God’s care always, making sure that we are doing what we need to do to keep the plant growing.

This is a wonderful vision for the church, and a wonderful image to keep in mind as we conclude our season of Fall Discipleship this week with our Dedication Sunday.  My prayer is that you will continually consider how you are nurturing the church and the growth of God’s kingdom on earth.  My prayer is that you never forget how God holds you and the church “in the palm of His hand.”  And my prayer is that you know how grateful I am to each of you for your support of the ministry of First Presbyterian.

Let’s grow in discipleship together!

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(The following is an excerpt from the Minute for Discipleship message given by Felton Godwin in church on Sunday, Sept. 19th)

I have been in this church for 40 years.  And when I came here 40 years ago, there were two things that were here then that are still here today.  Do you know what those two things were?  One was a warm and friendly congregation.  And you know, that’s still the case today.  After people visit here, they know that this is the church for them, as I knew it was for me.  The other thing that was here 40 years ago was Sandy Beam, our Music Director!  We certainly have a lot of be thankful for as a congregation to have been touched by the gifts of Sandy every Sunday, and we look forward to celebrating his 44 years of service as he retires this December.

Do you know who was not here when I came to this church?  Our preacher, Steve Lindsley, was not here.  In fact, he wasn’t even born!  He’s been with us for almost eight years, and he has become one of the most cherished Presbyterian ministers not only in our presbytery but in our state.  Our church is growing, not only because it is warm and friendly, not only because of Sandy, but because of the leadership and preaching Steve provides.

Shasta Bode-Brown, our Director of Christian Education, wasn’t here then but is here now.  When you look at what’s going on in this church with the Beacons, you recognize all the things that Shasta has done.  Some folks told me just the other day that one of the main reasons they are in this church is because of our youth ministry.  Every Sunday we get “two for the price of one” – because her childrens’ messages touch us as much as Steve’s sermons do.

40 years ago there were some other things that were not here today.  We had two high-quality adult womens class and one mens Bible class that averaged 45-60 men every Sunday morning.  What’s happened since then?  The mens class has disbanded, as has one of the womens classes.  Why?  Well, a lot of them had the audacity to die!  And when you look at the demographics of our church, we’ve had a blessing and a curse.  We’ve had the benefit of older members – a solid base – whose financial giving was so strong that we didn’t have to worry about the church budget all that much.   In essence, we got spoiled – we got used to solving our financial problems by “passing the hat” to meet our needs.  And we don’t have that luxury anymore.

So now, it’s up to us – each one of us – to keep all the wonderful things going on in this church.  We are dealing now with the nuts and bolts of a Fall Discipleship campaign.  What happens with this church – what it does in the future – will be not up to a lot of older “patriarch” members carrying the load for the rest of us.  It will be up to you and me.  Last year, under the leadership of Lee Daniels, our church rose to the occasion and met our budgeted goals.  It is our time to do that once again.

We could sit back and say, “you know, it’s tough economic times, we can’t meet the budget.”  Times are hard for sure, but I believe God is calling us to respond.  We have so much to be thankful for in this church, and we have the opportunity to reach out and help our community through this church.  Years ago I was working on Fall Discipleship and we decided to start listing all that this church does to help people in our community and around the world.  You know, we lost count!  We learned that when we give to the church, we can do so much more than what we are able to do by ourselves.

My final thought to you is this – as you and your family make your regarding the Fall Discipleship season, let your prayer initially be to thank God for all the things you have been blessed with.  Do as we did and list all the things you’ve been blessed with, and you will be amazed!  And then give to God’s church out of that feeling of abundance, doing what’s best not only for this church but for this community.  God is and has been at work in our congregation, and we have many, many reasons to feel thankful and blessed.  Thank you.

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Have you ever had a conversation like this before?  Kids are amazing at how perceptive they can be, and we are often surprised by what they pick up on without us realizing it.  And by the look on the father’s face it appears that’s exactly what has happened!

This cartoon, funny as it is, does bring up a special point: how do we determine what belongs to God?  It is an appropriate question to ask ourselves during this season of Fall Discipleship at our church.  Truth be told, it means different things to different people.  Some have been raised to believe that tithing is the only appropriate way to give to God’s church.  Others, particularly my generation, think that the important thing is that you give something – and an actual amount or percentage is not important.  Others feel that they must be led or inspired to give from a particular occasion or event – a moving worship service, perhaps – so the idea of a pledge card is not appealing.

In a sense, all are valid reasons to give to the church.  Because what it boils down to, ultimately, is a decision between you, your family and God.  As Mike Branch highlighted in his Fall Discipleship letter, the only person at the church who knows what anyone gives is Lynn Rigney, our Financial Secretary – and she takes great care to keep this information confidential.

But you know the amount.  You know when and how much you give.  Which means it is up to you somehow put a dollar figure on what the church means to you – and that’s not easy!  And that is why we all are challenged to think differently when it comes to our financial giving to the church.  My prayer is that you will give not out of your limits, but out of your abundance! Not because of what you have previously done for the church, but what the church and God are continuing to do for you.  Not because God is good in your life, but because life with God – and your church family – is good!

Let us faithfully continue in this journey of discipleship together!

Steve

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If you were in worship this past Sunday, or if you read this month’s issue of The Grapevine, you are aware of the fact that we are now into our Fall Discipleship season in the church.  Mike Branch and Mike Beal, otherwise known as the “Mike B’s,” have sent all church members a packet of information to help you understand the financial needs of the church for the coming year.

No one likes to talk about money in the church.  And yet, our finances define some very core things about our lives, don’t they?  A budget is more than a bunch of numbers and dollar signs; it is a list of priorities.  It lets us know what matters to us, and in the case of the church it helps us define our mission in the world.

Like each of you, my family will spend some time over the next few weeks in prayerful thought about what our church giving will be for 2011 – and, ultimately, what to write down on the pledge card that we’ve been asked to turn in by September 26th.  With that in mind, let me offer these thoughts for your contemplation:

ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS:

  • Will my gift to the church fully express my thankfulness for how God and First Presbyterian have blessed my life and the life of my family?
  • Will I give what I think I can afford, or what I feel God is leading me to give in faith?  Will this gift serve to stretch my faith and trust in God?

THINK OF CREATIVE WAYS TO GIVE:  Not all gifts to God’s church have to come from one’s monthly budget.  Many members have found other ways to fulfill their pledge.  Stock options are one possibility that is becoming more popular.  Prayerfully consider other ways you can give to the church, including your time and talents.

MAKE YOUR GIVING DECISION AS A FAMILY: If you have more than one person living in your house, talk with them about what the church means to all of you and how the family as a whole can respond appropriately.

VIEW YOUR GIFT NOT AS AN “OBLIGATION” OR “PAYING DUES,” BUT AN EXPRESSION OF THANKFULNESS AND CELEBRATION!  More than simply “meeting a budget,” your pledge to the church should be about expressing your thankfulness to God for all God has done for you in your walk of faith.  Because God has so richly blessed our lives, and the lives of this congregation, we have a wonderful opportunity to give back to God with our time, our talents and our financial pledge!

Most of all, please feel free to direct any questions about the church’s financial needs to Mike Branch, Mike Beal or myself. We’ll be more than happy to speak with you about them.

Blessings to you and your family in this Discipleship season!

Steve

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