Have you noticed that we live in a culture of instant gratification? I am pretty sure that all of us have been impacted. We complain when drive thru service is not fast enough, or if the line is too long at the store, or if someone does not respond to our text message quick enough. We often forget the famous saying that goes something like this, “A weed grows in a day but an oak tree takes a lifetime!” The best things in life cannot be rushed, they take time.
It has been a great season at our church. This past Sunday we help our third baptismal service in three months. Each service has impacted me in a different way. This past service reminded me of the truth of God’s Word in Galatian 6:9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) This last year we have seen this verse come to life when previous ministry seeds planted and nurtured through faithfulness have begun to bear fruit.
Last week prior to the service I was contacted by a Pastor working on his Doctor of Ministry degree thesis. I agreed to be interviewed about the preparation for our church plant. The three page pre-interview survey contained a bunch of questions about the church, like attendance, budget, the number of people that have accepted Christ, our model of ministry and other information that would be used to provide a picture of Living Hope. While I was able to answer most of the questions from memory, there were some data questions that required me to go through old attendance spreadsheets and other sources of data. The facts of ministry are not always encouraging. Our church experienced steady growth from our launch in 2001 through about 2011. It was in 2011 that things began to slide, the Excel graph actually looks like a child’s slide. And from late 2012 through 2015 our attendance and giving dropped. If you were a part of Living Hope, those were tough times. Yet, there were those that remained faithful. There were those that stepped up to fill in the gaps. It was through this dark time that the Lord lead us to renew our emphasis in reaching our community and thing began to turn around in 2015.
I share this story for a couple reasons. First, I want to give glory to the Lord for His faithfulness to our church. The testimonies this past Sunday reminded me that we were bearing fruit for faithful ministry during and prior to those tough times. If we had quit, which would have been easy to do, we would have missed the blessing of seeing God’s working in these lives. Second, I want to say Thank You to those that remained faithful during this time, you know who you are and so does the Lord. It is because of your sacrifice and faithfulness that we could enjoy the blessing of the baptisms this past Sunday. Thank you also for your willingness to step out in faith as we renewed our commitment to preach the message of Jesus and sacrificially give to make it a reality. Third, I want to encourage all of us to be excited for what the future holds. Walking through our past I have been reminded of how much the Lord has done at Living Hope during those dark times and since then. It is exciting to think about what the future holds and specifically when we get to glory and are able to see all that the Lord was doing! “Do not give up!”
-Pastor Joe Parkinson