"In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." Ephesians 2:21-22
Sometimes things happen that remind me of the importance and scope of the mission God has called us to embrace. One of those things happened recently.
My friend, Karl Eastlack, who has spent the last 22 years pastoring Eastern Hills Wesleyan Church in Clarence, NY, has sensed that God is leading him to take the role of CEO of World Hope International (www.worldhope.org). I am confident with his skill set in leading one the nation's largest Wesleyan churches, that he will be a great fit for this wonderful ministry that is engaged in many countries all over the world sharing the love and hope of Jesus Christ.
But that's what brings me to the reminder of mission in our region. There is now a big hole to fill at this key church in our immediate area, and that matters to me greatly. The reason it matters is because we need this church to continue to be a great lighthouse of hope and ministry in our community because the mission depends on it. You see, here at the church where I am one of the pastors, we believe it is our church's mission (and the mission of the Church as a whole all over the world) to see that every man, woman, and child have repeated opportunities to both hear and see the gospel of Jesus Christ within our sphere of influence. To do that requires way more than our local congregation, it will require every Bible honoring, Christ following congregation in our region to get that job accomplished. Just within a 5 mile radius of our church, there are over 100,000 people - the vast majority of which have yet to embrace faith in Jesus Christ. So, we need Eastern Hills Wesleyan Church, and every other church in our area, to be vibrant, healthy, and on mission.
That said, it has resulted in some specific praying on my part (and I have led our church to pray this as well). For Eastern Hills Wesleyan, I am praying a two-fold prayer:
1. That God brings in just the right leader, in His timing, that will have a heart and vision for every man, woman, and child in this region. We want to stand shoulder to shoulder with this new leader in making a kingdom impact in our region, and we look forward to whomever that might be. They will have big shoes to fill for sure, but God will use their unique leadership and ministry to build upon the already great legacy of Eastern Hills.
2. That the present congregation of Eastern Hills stays firmly committed to their local congregation. In times like this, when beloved pastors who have spent decades leading a church depart, sometimes people look at that as their cue to exit as well. I think just the opposite (though God reserves the right to do what He wants with people without ever consulting me of course). If you ask me, I think these are the times to stay where you are and help the church continue the path of transition and health. For the mission to be successful in this region, we need a healthy Eastern Hills. For Eastern Hills to be healthy, the people need to recommit themselves to God, one another, and the vision of living missionally in this region for the sake of the kingdom. I'm praying they will do just that so that the testimony of God's faithfulness will be apparent to all of them.
So, why do I take up space on my personal blogsite to talk about stuff like this? Because it matters. Deeply. What is happening at Eastern Hills is key to the ongoing mission of The Church in this region.
That's why I mentioned Ephesians 2 above. We are one building, being built together. The Chapel, Eastern Hills, etc. are really just different expressions of the same body. And we need each other desperately if we ever hope to accomplish the mission God has for us. Pray with me to that end if you are in our region, and if you aren't, ask yourself this question to stir some thought: "Do I think of the churches in my area as competition or family?"