Next month, my Church will celebrate 100 years of ministry. To some of you – those who don’t attend Pinedale Christian Church – that may not sound like a big deal – just an excuse to plan a special service and eat birthday cake – but the more I think about it, the more humbled and moved I am by that number.
One century in ministry is significant . . . especially if that century is right now.
This blog entry is not written to sing the praises of Pinedale, or to sing Happy Birthday, or even to reminisce on the changes the Church has seen over the past ten decades.
Instead, I just want to take a moment and ponder the calling that God has given His Church around the world . . . and especially (right now) in America.
When our Church opened its doors in 1913, America was much different than it is today. I am not talking about technology or leadership or opportunity – I’m talking about the view that people had of the Church. While America has never completely been a “Christian nation”, at one time the country had a tender place in its heart for the Church. Even those who didn’t embrace the Gospel seemed to respect the mission and passion of Christians; and in those circumstances, our Church (and others) thrived.
Obviously, through the years, that favorable climate has changed. Today, it seems that Churches come and go in the blink of an eye. New Churches spring up overnight, populating strip-mall storefronts and closed-down auto dealerships and local movie theaters. They burst onto the scene with trendy-sounding names and an emphasis on polished Worship services and small group fellowship . . . and then many of them disappear as quickly as they came.
At the same time, nationwide polling every year reveals that old, mainline denominations continue to lose ground with young families, and that more and more people embrace the distorted view prime-time television paints of Believers. Social issues increasinly dominate religious conversations, which opens the door for skeptics to view Churches through the polarizing lens of politics – a lens that marginalizes Christians who trust the Bible as God’s Absolute Truth, labeling them as “intolerant” or “ignorant” or “bigoted” or whatever can be made to stick.
And through it all, this Church, and thousands of others, continue to toil, sowing the same seeds of faith that our ancestors planted into us. The ground does not seem as fertile, nor the climate as favorable as it once did, but we continue to scatter seeds, and to water them, and God continues to give an increase.
Recently, I stood in the water of our baptismal on a Friday afternoon with a young man whose story is familiar. He grew up with Christian parents, but turned away from Christ, following the winds of culture and living for himself. But over the past few months, through a convergence of circumstances in his life and the patient ministry of Christian friends, he has turned his eyes back to God. Standing in the water, he pledged that from now on, Jesus is both his Savior and His Lord.
People like that are the reason the Church still exists. Peter said it this way: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
We are here, fellow Believers, for that purpose – to lead people to repentance and introduce them to our gracious Savior. The world is changing, but God has put us in this place at this time for this season . . . and our work is not finished. Until it is, may the Lord continue to find us faithful, whether He returns this week, or whether He chooses to give us another hundred years.