Pastor’s BLOG

Building Community

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ!
In my sermons in the last two weeks, I have been focusing on how we build and strengthen community. The Greek word in the New Testament that refers to community or fellowship is “Koinonia,” and it carries with it the connotation of a partnership where each other’s burdens and joys are shared. As we seek to strengthen our community, I have given two practical challenges for each of us to undertake.
The first is the “With-me” Challenge. This is based on the practice of Jesus who often invited people to be with him in his day to day life. Jesus did not attempt to live his life or do his ministry alone. He involved people in everything he did. When he traveled, when he went to temple, when he healed the sick, there were people in his life. On his preaching Journey, Jesus took the twelve with him as well as some women who had been cured of illnesses. He took Peter James and John with him to the mountain of Transfiguration. When he withdrew privately to Bethsaida, he took the twelve to be with him. When he was facing the his death and praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus took Peter, James, and John to be with him.
My challenge is for each person in our congregation to invite someone else in the congregation to be with them in some activity each month. If you are going to a movie, invite someone to be with you. If you are going shopping in Winston, invite someone to go with you. If you are going to visit someone who is ill, invite someone to go with you. As each of us does this each month with someone different, we will find our connections strengthened and our community built.
The second challenge I gave is what I call the “1-1-1 Prayer Challenge.” This challenge is based on the truth that when we pray for someone, the Spirit intercedes and silently builds the relationship. The Apostle Paul frequently prayed for the people in the churches that he founded and asked for prayers from them. Through those prayers for them and from them, their relationships deepened.
So my challenge is for each person to choose 1 person in our congregation to pray for one minute once a day for one month. At the end of the month, write a note saying that you have been praying for that person. And then choose a new person for the next month.
I am convinced that if our whole congregation takes up both these challenges, our “Koinonia” will be strengthened in ways that will astound us!
May the Lord bless each of you!
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee

Welcome Home!

I sure do love traveling and going to new places and experiencing new things. Yet, no matter where I have gone, there comes a time when the longing for home begins to grow. Sometimes it takes a few weeks of being away other times it can be just a couple of days, but soon the desire to be back in my own bed and in my comfortable surroundings draws me home. After my first semester of my freshman year in college, I looked so forward to coming home. As it is said, “there is no place like home.”
The church was designed to be like that – a place of home and welcome where people want to be – where they can share their lives, support one another, and worship God together. The Greek word often used for this concept is “koinonia” and it means fellowship. It carries with it the connotation of a partnership where each other’s burdens and joys are shared. We are most familiar with the word as it comes to us in Acts 2:42: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
In the best of cases, the church is a place of welcome, home and fellowship. In fact, I believe, that it is this “koinonia” that many people are looking for when considering a church in which to participate. The fellowship of the church is an integral aspect of the body of Christ.
This “koinonia” is not meant just for those who are part of the fold; it is also for “the stranger.” The Bible has the concept of hospitality. This English word comes either from the Greek “xenodocheo” which literally means “to be receptive to strangers” or “philoxenia” which means “love of strangers.” The church is called to be a place of welcome to all who are seeking its fellowship. This means that the church creates an environment where new people are warmly embraced by those already at “home” in the church.
With the blessing of the Session, we have adopted these two ideas – “koinonia” and “philoxenia” as our themes for this coming year. More specifically we are calling it: “Welcome Home: A Year long experience in Christian Community and Hospitality.” In sermons, in Sunday school, and in our work as a church, we are going to keep these ideas in front of us as we seek to grow in the grace of Christ. So, be on the lookout for some exciting opportunities and challenges that will be coming your way in the months ahead!
May the Lord bless each of you!
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee

Reader’s Choice

On Monday, my first day back in the church office following the mission trip, I went through the week’s worth of mail that had piled up in my box. I was surprised when I opened an envelope from The Dispatch, our local paper. It seems that they had been running a “reader’s choice” poll for various categories of establishments here in Lexington, and First Presbyterian had received the most votes in the “Best Place to Worship” category.
Now I certainly know that such a poll is unscientific, completely subjective, and linked directly to the motivation of the readers of The Dispatch to participate, but it was a nice surprise and an encouragement as we continue to navigate the many different expectations of our congregation concerning worship. Our culture is changing, and it is a challenge to engage new generations in worship while at the same time continuing to bless the worship traditions that are so valued.
For thousands of years the shape of worship has taken on many different forms, yet at its core worship ultimately is about God, what lifts God’s name up, and what pleases God. Truly this is the guiding principle for any worship of God: does it glorify God and build up the body of Christ? If it does, it is a faithful expression. Whether in the Crossroads service, the classic service, or our combined service in the summer, this principle has been the focus of our worship life, and it is nice to know that people in the Lexington community have recognized this.
The Lewis Center for Church Leadership has noted that since 2001, worship attendance has been trending downward throughout the country in many denominations including evangelical and Catholic churches. Let’s do our best to buck this trend, and make worship attendance a priority in our lives no matter which service we attend.
May the Lord bless you and keep you!
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee

Word for the Graduates

On the Sunday when we recognized our graduating high school seniors, I shared with them eight values that I recommended they cultivate as they grow into adulthood. I used the word G-R-A-D-U-A-T-E as an acrostic for those values. A number of people asked me to share these words in the newsletter, so here we go!
The apostle Paul said that the person who “sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6). What this means is that generosity breeds generosity. When you are generous with others, you will find that you will also be the recipient of generosity. Generosity is a primary quality because it expresses the very nature of God and His Love for us.
As a follower of Jesus, you can stand out and live out your faith by granting respect to all people as children of God – even if you strongly disagree with that person. If you need to argue about issues, do so; but don’t assume evil intent in the person with whom you disagree. Give them respect, and you will distinguish yourself as a follower of Jesus.
Simply this means practice what you preach, walk the talk, or be real. There will be so much pressure in this world to make you be something you are not in order to get ahead. However, a follower of Jesus lives what he or she says and is true to God and self. Be who God created you to be; and don’t allow anyone to make you conform to any image other than that of Christ.
To be diligent is to work hard, be persistent, and characterize all you do as a calling from the Lord, and then use all your energies to accomplish it. In the letter to the Colossians we read: “Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ” (Col 3:23–24.)
To be unwavering is to be steadfast in the face of the effort to make you give up. It is the inward strength to withstand stress to accomplish God’s best even when it is hard and even when it costs you something. Paul writes: “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith” (Ga 6:9–10). In the face of the fallen world, when it seems like evil and wrong are winning, do not waver or weary in doing what is right.
Scripture calls us to be alert in two general areas: First we are to always be alert for the movement of God in our lives. If we are not looking for God’s work, we will miss it. God’s movements in this world and in our lives are often subtle. We have to develop the discipline to be watching for Spirit’s prodding. And we do this by becoming alert. Secondly we need to be aware of those things that are taking place around us so that we can respond well to it. As a follower of Jesus, cultivate the ability to look at the world with the eyes of Jesus and work to bring the love of God to people who are in desperate need of it.
A follower of Jesus is thankful to God for all the many things God brings to his or her life. He or she cultivates a thankful attitude and strives to express that thankfulness to those around him. When you develop a thankful response to the things that come your way and not worry about the things that don’t, you will be blessed with happiness.
Enthusiasm is a feeling of energetic interest in a particular subject or activity and a desire to be involved in it. This is about finding joy in the things of life. It is expressing in your soul the joy of the Spirit of God. Peter wrote: “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Pe 1:7–9). Approach everything with enthusiasm knowing that you only get one life to live, so live life to its fullest as you seek to glorify God in all you do.
These eight words are good for all of us to cultivate as we seek to live out our faith in Jesus and become more like Him. May the Lord so enable and empower us to do so.
Grace and peace to you!
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee