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Showing posts with label State of the Communion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label State of the Communion. Show all posts

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The State of the Communion Address


Introduction
Taking a que from the tradition in our country for the President to make an annual State of the Union address, I have started making an annual State of the Communion address to my congregation.  I want to share a few highlights from our ministry together in 2018 and share our vision for 2019.  But first, let’s hear the Word of God and remember our purpose as Christ’s followers. 

Matthew 28:18-20
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

We Have  A Mission
In this passage, Jesus reminds his followers of three essential ideas.  First of all, Jesus is Lord.  He says he’s been given all authority in heaven and on earth.  In other words, everywhere.  He has the right to command everyone and everyone ought to obey.  This is even more true for anyone who claims to follow Jesus (to be a Christian).  Obedience is not optional.  It’s essential.

Second, Jesus gives his followers an important command—go and make disciples of all nations.  We are to tell people about Jesus Christ and urge them to follow Jesus as Lord.  New disciples (followers) are to be baptized—a sign that they have made a complete new start as a new person committed to following Jesus.

Third, we are to teach new disciples Jesus’ commands, his way of life, and encourage them to obey Christ as we ourselves obey him. So there is growth as disciples.  We don’t stay as baby Christians—we grow in our faith and our obedience and communion with God through Jesus Christ.

The Church is not a social club.  It’s not a place we come to be entertained by beautiful art or good music or an engaging message.  The Church is the body of Christ on a mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ and teach them to obey the Lord of heaven and earth.  It’s an important mission.

At Pleasant Grove, Our Mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  We have three over-arching goals as we do that.  They are 1) Give hope to the hopeless, 2) Build new relationships, and 3) Help Our Community.  These are the goals we focus on as we make disciples of Jesus Christ. 

4 Reasons Why I love Pleasant Grove
I’ve been the pastor of Pleasant Grove for more than eight years now.  Eight years is the longest I’ve lived anywhere in my life.  My family and I have loved it here so far.  Everyone has been so kind to us.  I want to share briefly about four reasons I love Peasant Grove.

First of all, Pleasant Grove is big enough to do a lot of good ministry.  I have served smaller churches where we struggled to have the people, facility space, and resources to serve God the way we needed to.  Pleasant Grove has lots of capable, willing people, an abundance of facility space, and the resources to do great ministry.

But another reason I love Pleasant Grove is we are still small enough to have a sense of intimacy.  I have been to larger churches and they have their own kids of strengths, but you can lose the sense of intimacy our church members have with one another.  We know each other’s names.  We have time to talk to each other, care for each other, get to know each other.

And because of that, there’s another thing I find really meaningful at Pleasant Grove—the way people love one another here.  We are all different.  We come from different backgrounds.  Some have lived in this areas their whole lives; others are new comers to the area.  Some are older; some are younger. However, I’ve witness a deep caring and unconditional kind of love here.  You accept people who are different.  You love them despite their struggles.  You accept people as they are, but also help them grow in Christ to become who God wants them to be.  I see this Christ-like love in the people of Pleasant Grove all the time, and it makes my heart smile!

But there’s another thing I love about Pleasant Grove.  The people here are always willing to learn, change, and grow.  As long as I’ve been with you, you’ve always been willing to try new ideas, new music, and new ways of doing things.  You’ve embrace new people, new leaders, and new technology.  I know change hasn’t always been easy, but you’ve had the courage to try and and open hearts to embrace whatever works to further the Kingdom of God.  And that blesses my heart.

Highlights from Last Year
Let me share some highlights from our ministry last year.  Last year, we started using a new model for planning events.  Susan Cooksey and Sherry Dickson teamed up to co-lead a planning team of volunteers worked so well to plan many excellent activities to help us make disciples as we give hope to the hopeless, build new relationships, and help our community.
  • We had an excellent Super Bowl Sunday with the barefoot kicker from Tennessee, Ricky Townsend, as our guest speaker.
  • The youth served an excellent steak dinner for Valentine’s Day so that everyone could enjoy a special meal with their special someone. 
  • Near the end of 2017, we hired a new children’s minister, Ashten Webb. In 2018, she did a great job getting to know Pleasant Grove and leading our children’s program. We had several very successful children’s activities. 
  • We hosted a community Easter egg hunt, with over 200 people attending. 
  • VBS was one of the best organized I can remember, with as many as 50 kids attending. Our volunteers had a fun working it and we got great feedback from those who came. 
  • Trunk or Treat is always a huge hit in our community and we had about 800 people attended this year. Plus, we did some things to help minister to those who came—more than just give them candy and a hotdog. We invited them to church, gave them a pamphlet about community resources in our area, and also a newsletter with a Gospel lesson and information about our church.

One of the things I was very pleased with last year, was how many of our events built on previous events. For example, our movie nights over the summer and our summer bouncy blowout lead into VBS. People from VBS were invited to our Wednesday nights kids program. Each event led into the next one and helped build momentum.

New People
Since our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ, one of the most exciting things for me has been to see so many new people coming to Pleasant Grove.  Since last summer, we’ve had at least 27 new people start attending PGUMC regularly.  And they’re also getting involved.  Many of these have started attending Bible study, Sunday school, Wednesday dinner and youth & children’s programs.  Many of our newest people have even gotten involved to help plan some of our events like trunk or treat.  Here are some of the statistics:
  • 12 new people joined our church last year
  • 3 people were baptized – Finley Rebecca Ward, Amaya Childers, & Brooks Blalock
  • 3 people gave their life to Christ through a public profession of faith – Abigail Mullis, Amaya Childers, & Walker England
  • Six members of our church died last year and went on to glory.  It’s never easy to say goodbye to people we love at Pleasant. However, we can find comfort in knowing they are at Home with Jesus in heaven now.  And we can celebrate the way they helped shape our church.  So, we are thankful for the six of our saints who passed away in 2018:  Patricia Pellom, Dot Kuhne, Arnold Locklear, Jerry Albertson, Ann Brooker, & Don Douglas. 

Looking Forward to 2019
We have a lot to be thankful for from the past year.  And we also have a lot to look forward to in the coming one.  We’ve already made a great start for 2019.  Susan Cooksey and Sherry Dickson and the planning team did some great work in November planning the activities we want to do this year.  We already have event coordinators and a list of volunteers for each program.  And Sunday, we bathed each event in prayer.  Now, we need to continue to pray for the teams who are planning them.  Hanging on the walls, you see what we are working toward and who is helping with each event.  Pray for them and support them.  It’s gonna be a great year!

And invite people to come!  Our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  All these events are opportunities to invite people through the door of our church, to feel the love we all feel here, and to meet the Lord Jesus Christ who fills our hearts with love.  My hope for our church in 2019 is that we will see even more new people coming and getting involved and growing in Christ.  I want us all to look for ways to invite more new people to come.
  
Another hope I have for the people of Pleasant Grove in 2019, is more spiritual growth.  Everyone needs to grow in Christ—whether you’re new to Pleasant Grove or you’ve been here a while.  Many people want to grow in Christ.  Many people resolve to grow in Christ.  But growth doesn’t just happen because you make a resolution.  Growth comes through practicing. Practicing the spiritual disciplines of worship, prayer, study, fasting, and service help nurture the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control become more abundant as we practice and grow in Christ.  So, I plan to teach a series on spiritual disciplines and encourage you to practice them more.  The series will start on Wednesday night, January 23rd.  I hope you will come and invite a friend.

One of the spiritual disciplines is service.  We grow in Christ as we serve.  Pleasant Grove is a very outreach oriented church.  We like to serve and help people.  We are going to continue our focus on that through outreach projects like building wheel chair ramps.  We will also help our community by offering meals for high school groups like football teams and bands and bereavement meals for people who’ve lost a loved one.  Further more, we will continue to serve snack packs to hungry kids at Pleasant Grove Elementary, using funds we’ve received from grants.

In the past, Family Promise was one of the great opportunities we had to serve.  The biggest blessing of working with Family Promise was the opportunity for hands-on service to the needy who struggle financially.  However, for several years Family Promise had shifted their focus away from housing homeless families in church buildings.  This was better for families, but also eliminated hands-on service opportunities for churches.  At the end of last year, the directors of Family Promise decided to disband and let other charitable organizations like the City of Refuge and Greater Works take over. 

We will miss partnering with Family Promise in our community.  However, we are still committed to serve the needy and we’ve increased our outreach budget so we’ll have the funds to do it.  Since Family Promise has disbanded, we were able to shift the funds we were using to support them directly to our outreach fund.  We can use these funds to do more to help the needy directly instead of passing the buck to outside organizations.  Furthermore, we’ve committed to send a feeding team to the City of Refuge four times this year – Feb 7, May 2, Aug 1, Nov 7.  Kay Denson will be coordinating the effort, but it will take everyone’s help to prepare and serve food.  Our job will be to feed needy families as they come to the City of Refuge to learn about Jesus.  So, we will regain the hands-on service opportunities we lost when Family Promise changed their focus from housing homeless families in our church and we will be doing a great service to help the needy and help our community.

One final thing I need to report is we need to pray for our United Methodist Church.  Our denomination has a special General Conference coming up February 23-26 in St. Louis, Missouri.  This may be the most significant General Conference our denomination has ever had since its inception in 1968.  Representatives from all over the world have been studying issues about human sexuality and will meet at the General Conference to debate and vote on the issue.  One proposal is to maintain the UMC's traditional teaching that God designed sex to be enjoyed only within the bounds of marriage between one man and one woman.  Another proposal seeks to redefine marriage within the United Methodist Church to include same-sex unions as well open ordination as pastors or deacons to "self-avowed, practicing" homosexuals.  This is a serious issue and the United Methodist Church is not of one mind on the subject.  Many within the United States want to see the church change and be more inclusive of gay people.  Others wish to offer grace to those who struggle with sexual sin, but hold to a biblical view of marriage and human sexuality.  Either way, there is a serious threat that as many may leave the United Methodist Church based on what is decided.  This is not just something that affects other churches in other places.  This is something that could affect Pleasant Grove UMC directly.  We need to be in prayer for our United Methodist Church.

Answer the Call in 2019
If you are a member of Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church, I encourage you to pray for our church and our denomination.  Furthermore, I would ask you to pray that God would show you:
  • How you can invite others to join with us at Pleasant Grove
  • How you can grow in your own faith through spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, worship, study, and service
  • And pray for those who will be coordinating events and leading ministry at PGUMC
If you are not a member of Pleasant Grove but are attending regularly, I invite you to consider going deeper in your relationship with God by becoming an official member of the church.

If you live nearby, but are not active in a church, let me invite you now to come see what Jesus is doing in our lives at Pleasant Grove.  I invite you to come grow closer to God here as we grow with you.

If you live too far away to come to Pleasant Grove regularly, I invite you to find a good Christian church where you live where you can partner with other believers to grow in Christ and servce the Kingdom of God.  

May God bless you and lead you in the 2019.

Pastor Chris Mullis
Senior Pastor, Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church



Monday, January 4, 2016

The State of the Communion Address

Introduction
    One of my favorite scriptures is Philippians 2:5-11 because it summarizes who Christ is and encourages us to imitate him.  Listen to these powerful words as you consider how you will live in 2016.
 
Philippians 2:5-11
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
 

What is this Address?
            Near the beginning of each year, the President of the United States gives a “state of the union address”.  This televised speech is made to a joint session of the congress reporting the condition of the country and outlining his legislative agenda and national priorities.
            My message this morning is a blatant rip-off of this presidential tradition.  However, I hope it will be a useful one.  I wish to report on the condition of our church (our “Communion”) and outline our agenda and priorities for the coming year.  Above all else, I pray that everything we do this year will be done with a Christ-like attitude as laid out in Philippians 2:5-11--with humility, with self-sacrificial love, giving glory to God alone, and looking forward to the ultimate triumph of God’s Kingdom. 

Children’s Ministry
            Our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  In 2015, we baptized 5 people and we had 9 people saved to become disciples of Jesus Christ by profession of faith.  Of the 69 United Methodist churches reporting in our district, Pleasant Grove had the 8th highest number of professions of faith.  
The majority of our professions of faith come when children go through confirmation classes and choose to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior.  Children are vital to the success of our church.  We have a duty to bring them to church, make sure they attend Sunday school, children’s church, and our Wednesday night children’s program so they can grow in their faith.  As children mature, they are soon able to choose Christ for themselves.  This is the primary way we initiate people into the Christian faith.  Without children, we will fail at our primary mission.  We must not fail!
            In 2016, I want Pleasant Grove to focus on strengthening our children’s ministries.  I want to see excellent communication about all children’s programing, more children participating, parents that are thrilled to bring their kids here, and children that are growing in faith.  This is the only way Pleasant Grove can be successful.  I am committed to do whatever it takes to make sure kids get everything they deserve at our church.  I ask you to join me in praying for our children’s ministries, volunteering to do your part, and let’s make our children’s ministry the best in the district.  This will be our number one focus in 2016.   
 

Spiritual Growth
            Discipleship begins with a profession of faith, but it continues as a person grows closer to Christ and more committed to their faith.  People experienced spiritual growth in a number of ways at Pleasant Grove in 2015.  One measurable way I can report is that we had 11 people attended Chrysalis or Walk to Emmaus spiritual revitalization retreat in 2015.  Chrysalis and Emmaus retreats are a powerful way to experience the amazing love of God, learn the basics of our faith, and be inspired to serve Christ in our church and community.  I would like to see more people attend Chrysalis (for youth) or Walk to Emmaus (for adults).  Regardless of your level of spiritual development, Emmaus is a tangible way you can grow spiritually.  I would like you to attend. 

Worship Attendance
            Declining church attendance is a concern all over our nation.  Every denomination has seen decline. Pleasant Grove has struggled with attendance as well.  Since 2004, our attendance has declined steadily.  Our average attendance in 2015 was 129.  This was an increase from the previous year, but we can still do better.  There is no reason Pleasant Grove shouldn’t be filled with people every Sunday.  I know it is possible and we have seen what a full church looks like. 
            Our highest attended Sunday last year was on December 20th when we had our children’s play--207 people packed our pews. 
Our second highest Sunday was Easter with 200 people.  Our third highest Sunday was the Christmas cantata on December 13th with 185 people.  And of course you all saw how many were here for the Christmas Eve service.  People came to these services because you invited them and because these were special services.  We have to continue to invite people because every Sunday at PGUMC is a special Sunday.  It is a day Jesus Christ is here waiting to change people’s lives.  Don’t you miss out on that or let someone else miss the opportunity for Jesus to change their life and maybe their eternal destination.
            In 2016, will you join with me in renewing your commitment to be present at church every Sunday?  Let’s commit to miss no more than 5 Sundays this year.  Can you do that?  That still leaves room for several absences for vacation or for sickness or for unexpected situations.  Missing no more than 5 Sundays is very reasonable for the typical person.  
Now, maybe you’re not a typical person.  Maybe your situation is such that you need to miss more than 5 Sundays because of your job or something else really important.  Then I ask you:  what is reasonable for you?  Make weekly church attendance a top priority and decide today what your attendance goal is going to be this year and then stick to it. 

Study Groups
In 2015, it was a pleasure to work with such a creative and talented worship team to plan excellent worship.  David, Sarah, Dale, and I collaborated to bring you services covering relevant topics such as:  reconciliation, the meaning of love, purifying your life, making a new start, the 10 Commandments, the Great Commission, and arguing with Jesus about tough issues.  We finished the year with the sermon series I’ll Be Home for Christmas.  We listen for God’s direction and work very hard to bring you the best.  So you can be sure if you come (and if you invite someone to come with you), you will be blessed because we will offer you the very best that months of praying, planning, and preparation can offer.  
            Study is also vital to spiritual growth.  There are a number of ways you can plug into a small study group at Pleasant Grove.  Last year, Gary and Jean Carter took charge of our young adult program teaching a weekly Sunday school class.  This is a unique offering for young adults that not many churches have.  If you are a young adult, I urge you to take advantage of our young adult Sunday school.  Talk to Gary and Jean and let them know what you would like to see happen with young adults.  And tell your young adult children, grandchildren, or friends to come get involved with the young adults of our church.  Let’s not take our young adult program for granted.  Everyone should be active in a Sunday school class or one of our other study groups like Wednesday night study, youth, children’s ministry, or Thursday morning Bible study.
            On Wednesday nights, we completed 6 studies:  Taking Care of Business (about the Christian work ethic), Soul Detox (about purification), Before Amen (prayer), The Committee (church revitalization), Earn, Save, Give (Christian finances), and Ask: Faith Questions in a Skeptical Age.  On Thursday mornings, we completed a 6 year, in-depth, book by book journey through the whole Bible.  We are about to beginning a new, one-year study of the whole Bible in chronological order.  I invite you to join us in the fellowship hall starting this Thursday at 10:30 AM.  Or come on Wednesday night for dinner and stay for a study; this month, we are doing The Committee part 2, a series on church revitalization.  Or perhaps you would like to make it your goal to be active in a Sunday school class.  Everyone needs to be active in a small group study to grow spiritually in 2016.  Everyone means you.   

Serving Others
            C.S. Lewis said, “A church is the only organization that exists primarily for the benefit of non-members.”  Just as Jesus gave up his divine privileges in Heaven to come save and serve a lost humanity, the church is here to serve others sacrificially.  On average, our church served 74 people outside of our congregation each week in 2015.  We did this primarily through:
  • Family Promise - Four times a year, we house homeless families in our church for a week at a time in conjunction with 15 other churches in our community through Family Promise of Whitfield County.
  • Be the Church - In September, we called off our regular worship service to go into our community and do service projects for people in need.
  • Sack Lunches - On Wednesday nights, we packed sack lunches to deliver to needy kids at Pleasant Grove Elementary and North Star School so kids have at least on healthy meal to take home to eat over the weekend.
  • DOCUP - We contributed money in cooperation with other area churches to DOCUP to help needy families with rent, utility bills, food, and clothing.
  • The Layette ministry - We provided clothing, blankets, and other necessities for newborn infants in need at Hamilton Medical Center.
  • We also offered boxes of non-perishable food and various other forms of assistance directly from our church to people in need in our community.
Of course, these are only the service projects for which we have a record.  The real service of the church happens through you--the people of our church who spread throughout the community and serve people everyday in a million different ways by the way you live out your Christian faith in the world.  Thank you for being the church everyday, wherever you are.  There is no way for us to quantify all the people you serve and the tremendous impact you have on our world, but I know you make a significant difference.  Let me encourage you to keep doing good. 

Build New Relationships with Hispanics
            Pleasant Grove has 3 long range goals that guide everything we do.  They are:  1) give hope to the hopeless, 2) build new relationships, and 3) help our community.  One of the greatest opportunities God has given us to build new relationships at PGUMC is with the Hispanic community.  Every Sunday, a Hispanic church meets in our chapel for worship.  We have already begun building relationships with them in several ways.  For instance, their pastor--Isabel Ochoa--preached at one of our services last year and I preached at her service.  Also, I helped with a Quinceanera for one of their families and they helped with our Operation Christmas Child packing party.  I would like to see us growing even closer in the coming year.  We have come to a place where it is time for you (the members of this congregation) to build friendships directly with the people of Isabel’s congregation.  I hope you are ready to build these new relationships and will look for ways to build these new friendships in 2016.  I will work to lead you in that direction. 

General Conference
            2016 is a General Conference year in the United Methodist denomination.  That means United Methodist representatives from all over the world will gather for the first time since 2012 to discuss important issues about the direction of our worldwide communion.  One of the most important issues they will discuss this year in Portland, Oregon is how United Methodists will respond to homosexuality.  As you know, public opinion about homosexuality in our nation has shifted greatly and our supreme court has ruled same-sex marriages are legal in all 50 states.  How will the United Methodist Church respond?  I invite you to join with me in prayer about this important issue facing our nation and our church.  And pray for our General Conference as it seeks to provide leadership for the United Methodist Church.  Next Sunday I will begin a four week message series examining what the Bible says about homosexuality and how we can respond.  Please come with an opened mind and a humble heart. 

Summary
            In summary, I want to highlight again the issues I want Pleasant Grove to focus on in 2016:
  • Provide exceptional ministry to children
  • Spiritual Growth through worship, study, and service
  • Be present at church every Sunday (missing no more than 5 Sundays in a year) and invite more people to come with us.
  • Focus on building relationships with the Hispanics of our community
  • Pray for General Conference (May 10th - 20th)
 
New Van
I would be remiss not to point out one more great accomplishment of 2015.  Through your generosity, we raised over $40,000 to purchase a brand new church van!  This Ford Transit has already been ordered and will be ready for service very soon.  Our van will stand out everywhere it goes.  People will see it and say, “That’s the Pleasant Grove church van.  That is a great church!”  And they’re right!  We are a great church and we’re going to be even better because our van will give us the ability to take more trips safely and conveniently, go out into our community more often, and pick up people to bring them to church (I would love to see us picking up van loads of children to bring them to Sunday worship and Wednesday night activities).  
Thank you so much for your generosity that made our new van possible.  The purchase of this van just goes to show you how Pleasant Grove can take on a very big challenge and accomplish it. When we believe in ourselves, trust God, and are faithful and persistent, we can accomplish great things.  I believe this church can do anything God wants us to do if we put our minds to it.  Let’s all commit to meet the challenges facing Pleasant Grove this year--all for the glory of God!   

Reflection
What is God calling you to do in 2016?
  • Give your life to Christ?
  • Attend Church more often?
  • Get active in a study group?
  • Befriend a Hispanic person?
  • Help with our children’s ministry?
  • Make a significant change while trusting God?
God empowers and strengthens you to meet whatever challenges lie ahead. 
Trust in God, believe in yourself, be faithful and persistent, and 2016 will be a great year!