Last Sunday marked the end of my 13th year as your Shepherd, and this Sunday begins our 14th year together. It seems right, therefore, to take a quick look back at what the Lord has done and a quick look forward at what we believe is about to happen!
Biblically, a Pastor’s job is to lead the flock—not to pet, placate, or be flock-phobic. While that may seem undemocratic or even arrogant to state, it is God’s way of leading all of us to safety. I came here—and remain here—because I am not afraid to be led by my Good Shepherd and not afraid to follow Him in leading you. (I am also not perfect in it, and so I deeply appreciate the grace you have cut me over the years!) Jesus has led us in the most exciting ways, and in fact it has been and is Jesus—not Craig or the Council or the “big wigs”—who is leading us to a new place as a congregation!
A huge part of His leading has been in the call He placed on my life over twenty-two years ago—to be an instrument of renewal within the United Methodist Church whose job is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” It brings me immense joy to see you and so many others in this congregation doing real, supernatural, Holy Spirit-led ministry day-by-day and week-by week. More importantly, you bring the Lord immense joy in doing His work by His power!
Over the past 13 years—rooted in what He was already doing through Tom and others—Jesus Has led us to:
- Reclaim unity as a non-negotiable aspect of our Community, even at the expense of sheep-easy church services.
- Discover the power of verbal, vocal prayer in small groups. He has helped us discover AUTHORITY!
- Move far deeper into the realms of genuine musical worship, discovering the power of psalms, hymns, and Spiritual songs as led by the Holy Spirit rather than by human traditions or choir directors.
- Rediscover the power and simplicity of Wesleyan small groups. (Already a major part of our life together, God is calling for Life Groups to be absolutely at the heart of what it means to be part of First Church in the years to come.)
- Commit to Him and each other to read the Word together using the Life Journal template, LISTENING to the Lord as He speaks to us individually and corporately 365 days a year.
- Welcome and expect His presence weekly in worship services that He (and not a worship committee) coordinates and orchestrates—knowing that His presence is what we need most—even though His presence offends our flesh most of all…
- Rediscover spiritual disciplines such as hearing the Word, fasting, prayer, intercession, deliverance, the Lord’s Supper, and true worship as the normal “means of grace” we need in daily life.
Over the next year expect:
- Increasing displays of God’s glory. (Pray with me that there will not be a corresponding increase in fleshly resistance!)
- The Spirit to bring more and more people from all over the nation to experience what He is doing here.
- More indigenous Worship songs and community experiences, as God differentiates what He is doing here from what He is doing in other places…
- An increase in both new believers and in dramatic miracles, as the Lord lifts up His Church above powers and principalities of religianity, poverty/materialism and addiction. Expect true Christianity, real financial freedom, and deliverance from all those addictive things that exalt themselves against God’s glory to manifest here with increasing clarity…
- God to increase our desire to submit, obey, and grow—especially through our life together in Life Groups.
It has been the most amazing thirteen years, and I am greatly excited as we move forward! God is doing something so unique, special, and unusual in our midst. Don’t miss it or resist Him! I am deeply honored to lead an ever-growing number of people who want to nothing less than God’s best! Hold on, fight the spirit of offense at every level, and watch the Lord prepare us to be truly awake and ready for His return!
– Pastor Craig