Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Looking forward to the new sanctuary

The Pastor’s Perspective
“Looking forward to the new sanctuary”
First Published, July 5, 2005

This Lord’s Day, Sunday, July 10, 2005 will be the last Sunday on which we will worship in our sanctuary in its present form. That same Lord’s Day, we will be (very appropriately) celebrating the Lord’s Supper in our morning services. These imminent realities bring a number of thoughts to mind. First, we need to give praise to God for his faithfulness to us and the manifold blessings he has heaped on us over the years we have gathered in this beautiful place. Betty Edwards tells me that the last Sunday service in the “old church” down on the Corner of North State and Yazoo (near today’s First Baptist Church) was on August 26, 1951. The last prayer meeting in the old church was August 29, 1951. So the first Sunday service in the “new church” was September 2, 1951. Almost 54 years of preaching, Sunday morning and evening worship services, Wednesday night prayer meetings, weddings, funerals, Missions Conferences, Men’s Rallies, and even a General Assembly were hosted in this venerable old meeting house. Think of how many came to know God here – the conversions, the Christian growth, the encouragements and the challenges. And thank God.

Second, let us think of the blessing of the communion of the saints, even as we celebrate the communion of the Lord’s Supper this Sunday – and let us recommit ourselves to it. These two coming years are going to present many challenges to our convenience and patience, but they will also afford opportunities for us to love one another selflessly. Be doubly thoughtful, patient, and helpful to one another as we begin the renovation/expansion project. Determine right now that this time away from our beloved old sanctuary is going to be a time for growth in grace, congregational and harmony, self-denial for the sake of our fellow members, and extra effort to come to the aid of our visitors.

Third, we need to re-commit ourselves to our collective vow “to support the church in its worship and work” to the best of our abilities, in at least two ways. First, in church attendance. We all need to determine now to continue (or improve or begin) the habit of every Lord’s Day morning and evening worship attendance, and to avail ourselves of the prayer meeting and Wednesday evening’s fellowship times. Healthy Christian life is fostered in a congregation when all the members of the body faithfully commit to the public means of grace – to joining together under the reading and preaching of the word of God, the taking of the sacraments and corporate prayer. Second, in church giving. The next three years are going to challenge us and stretch us as to our church’s ministry budget, missions giving and support of capital expansion. Unless we are faithful, generous, regular, and sacrificial, the ministry of the church could face serious interruption.

For instance, already this year we find ourselves deeper in the red in cash flow for the regular budget than any time in recent memory. Our church ministry budget expenses in the year-to-date have already outpaced our giving by around $650,000. That is, we are well into the negative in giving versus expenditures, though we are only halfway through the year. Primarily, this is because we are behind our pace in regular giving. I will give the staff orders this week to stop all non-essential spending. If we do not see a dramatic change in the giving patterns over the next couple of months severe measures will need to be taken by the elders and deacons.

So if you are behind in your regular giving: catch up! If you are a member who is not giving, now is the time to begin. If you have been focusing on charitable giving outside of the church, now is the time to focus on supporting the work of this body. If you are able to give above and beyond your pledge, do so. If the Lord has granted you a windfall – give it to the church. Let’s not allow the Lord’s work to be hampered by a lack of material support, now or anytime over the course of the next three or four crucial years. I’m still dreaming of a year when we never go into the red!

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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