Reaching Our Changing World

 (Matthew 14: 22-33)

I spent some time this past week as I was working on my dissertation thinking about the past six years and what God has been doing in and through this congregation. I was reminded of:

  • Healing miracles taking place. Including mine this past fall.
  • Lives being changed.
  • Spiritual growth occurring.
  • The Holy Spirit taking up residence in our hearts and leading us on new adventures.
  • The congregation growing and getting younger.
  • And how God has taken center-stage in our ministry and life together.

So as I look at the past I do so with joy, thanksgiving, and with a profound sense of celebration at what God has done in our midst.

I've also spent some time thinking about the present, considering the opportunities we have to continue to make a difference in Emmitsburg, Fairfield, and around the world. What a blessing and honor it is to be used by God to grow his kingdom in the name of Jesus Christ.

And I look forward to the future with excitement over all the possibilities God will place before us. We are positioned well as a congregation to respond faithfully to the call of God because of our awareness of God's presence and love for us. Something new and special is going to happen; I feel it in my bones. God is up to something and is calling forth this congregation to lead the way in Emmitsburg and Fairfield.

As we heard this morning, scripture tell us that When Jesus said, "Come" "Peter got down out of the boat, and walked on the water toward Jesus."

My hope is when we receive our assignment from God we will respond as Peter did, by faith, getting out of our boat of security and comfort, to take on any challenge God sets before us.

Our scripture reading this morning is a story of faith to be sure, but it's also a story of creativity as Jesus came up with a new way to teach the disciples. Jesus demonstrated with Peter that all things are possible if we are faithful and are focused on the right things.

Notice Peter did very well until he took his focus off Jesus. It was only when Peter's focus changed did he begin to realize what he was doing and he got scared. Fear got the best of him, and as a result he sunk to the bottom of the lake.

We can learn a valuable lesson from Peter. We too can do what might seem overly challenging or impossible if our focus is on Jesus. No challenge will be too great. And fear will no longer shape our response to our changing world, obedience and faith in Jesus will.

You know I think Jesus was really proud of Peter, who was able, albeit for only a short period of time, to do an amazing thing when he remained focused on what Jesus had asked him to do.

Well in order for us to reach our changing world with the gospel, we need to be very focused on Jesus as well. And if we remain persistent in our efforts we too will be able to overcome what might seem to be the impossible, because "through Christ all things are indeed possible."

So what is it God is calling us as a congregation to do this year? What contribution to growing the kingdom of God are we being asked to participate in?

I personally don't know. All I do know is that maintaining the status quo and not adapting to our changing world is never the answer. And we the church learn this lesson time and time again, as one generation passes to another.

The fact is, what's worked in the past to share the Gospel will not work today, and what works today may not work tomorrow. So as the world changes the church needs to be open to change as well.

Our task is to determine what it is we the Church need to do to reach the generations that will follow us. What do we need to do to make and equip disciples, so that our Christian faith will not pass with time, but will remain vital and vibrant in the years to come.

Our world is in a constant state of change, and some of the change is welcomed and some of it's unfortunate. And although we might not always like change, change is inevitable, and change is what we must be open to if the love of Christ is to be realized by the emerging generations of this new century.

One thing I'm absolutely convinced of is that to reach our changing world with the good news of Jesus Christ, the church must be open to creativity and innovation in its approach to ministry.

Now I'm not suggesting that our faith change or that the gospel be watered down or made more politically correct. I'm suggesting we evaluate how we share the gospel, and look for ways that we can be more effective in communicating God's love and grace, and rethinking how we might serve others in the name of Christ. So how do we go about reaching our changing world?

Well it begins by not fearing change, but rather embracing change as an opportunity. We also need to be open to new ministry opportunities. Jesus was being creative when he told Peter to get out of the boat and walk toward him. We must demonstrate the same creativity as we share God's love.

Unfortunately the church all too often views change as a distraction, like Peter did the wind, rather than an opportunity, so the church gets bogged down by fear, and in turn either sinks or is slow to respond to change. In some ways the church just gets stuck in the mud of sameness with how it worships, ministers, and serves. After all we want to remain in our boat of comfort, predictability and stability.

But if the Word of God is going to be effectively proclaimed and lived in the 21st century, we must react to change in a positive and forward looking way. Our mission is not serving our own spiritual needs; our mission is serving the spiritual needs of others through meaningful and productive ministry.

To accomplish our mission in this century the church needs creative and innovative thinking if it has any hope of reaching the emerging generations with the good news of Jesus Christ. God is the creator of creativity and innovation, so if we are less than creative or innovative in our approach to life and ministry, we are ignoring God's hope for our continued growth as children of God.

If we're to leave a legacy of faith for our children, their children and their children's children, we must be willing to get out of the boat when Jesus tells us to "come," and take the necessary risks that come with following God's call.

Think about it. Here at Trinity we're in a different place today than we were six years ago. We're doing ministry differently, we're reaching out to people we didn't reach out to in the past. We've been open to change as we were led by the Holy Spirit.

I dare say if we continued as we were six years ago and didn't change a thing we wouldn't be talking enthusiastically about our ministry today, instead we perhaps would be considering how we could die gracefully.

Now one change that has taken place over the past couple of years is the make up of our congregation. Not only do we have more children as part of our church family, almost half of our congregation comes from the Fairfield area. So as we consider the future we must now consider how we can expand our local ministry focus to meet the emerging needs in Fairfield.

So how do we begin to consider how we might need to change to meet the needs of our changing communities, because the way we respond to change will determine in part whether we walk on water or sink.

Well discernment begins by engaging in the spiritual disciples of our faith so that we can be more sharply focused on Christ, allowing him to shape and inform his vision for us. And spiritual disciplines include:

  • Worship
  • Prayer
  • Studying the scriptures
  • Participating in Holy Communion
  • Journaling
  • Fasting
  • Serving others
  • And by Living in the Word

We also need to be in conversation with one another, and with those people we hope to reach down the street and around the world. We need to be creative, think big, think outside the box and inside the Holy Spirit's leading. We must be Spirit-led in our approach to ministry and not become program-driven, being fully committed to doing what's required to reach our world with Jesus.

Now I currently have no clear vision of the path God will lead us down. God has not revealed a clear direction to me yet, although based on conversations with some of you I am beginning to see a direction take shape.

But what I do know with certainty is this, " To reach our changing world God will prepare the way for us. " To reach our changing world we need to reach outside the walls of this building. The world is out there not in here. " To reach our changing world we must embrace and use the tools God has created for us to use, for example technology. " To reach our changing world we need to be intentional and genuine with our efforts. " To reach our changing world we need to include in our ministry people of all ages races, and nationalities. Our Christian worldview must take on a global perspective. After all "the world is our parish." " And to reach our changing world we need to welcome change as a companion, and not fear it.

So as we look toward the future I encourage you to embrace creativity and innovation in seeking God's vision for our congregation. Be in conversation with one another about your ideas and thoughts, let no idea remain silent. Share with me your thoughts; they might be a piece of a larger puzzle that God is formulating.

I firmly believe God will use the collective wisdom of this congregation, as he's done in the past, to reveal to us what it is he wants us to do. And whenever God calls upon us to get out of the boat, I'm confident we will face the opportunity courageously and with our eyes on Jesus.

I'm also certain that the result of our labor will be a new and exciting creation that will reflect the handiwork of God, as we join our hearts and hands in a spirit of love and unity to complete whatever task God lays before us.

To be sure, God will be blessed by our efforts of spreading the good news of Christ, and many more people will turn to Jesus and proclaim "Truly you are the Son of God."


Read other messages by Pastor Wade