State of the Church 22

What a difference a year makes.  It was almost a year ago that Cynthia Weems, our DS, informed me that Pastor Alexis would be moving and that I would become the interim pastor.  It’s been 8 months since the transition, and believe it or not, it’s been 3 months since I was appointed as Senior Pastor.  It seems like forever and yesterday all at the same time.

There are many things I’m still learning about being Senior Pastor, but of one thing I am sure - it is a true privilege to join the list of amazing men and women who have been called to walk alongside this great church. I am grateful for the extraordinary gifts of our community of faith: in resources, talents, leadership, and so much more.  Cason is blessed with amazing staff and congregational leaders, and a congregation filled with people who are sold out for Jesus, and truly want to be part of a church that makes disciples for the transformation of the world.  I am deeply grateful for all you who have made this first nine months productive and, dare I say, challenging.

It might sound odd to thank people for making things “challenging”, but hear me out.  Over the past 5 years, Cason has been undergoing a transformation.  Shortly after I started here, Cason experienced a traumatic moment, the decision to close the church.  While ultimately, the Church was given a reprieve, it set into motion a decade of internal focus.  Our real purpose was to stay alive and open so that we could worship here with our friends and family. Don’t get me wrong, we were still doing good things for people, but we, like the sheep in Jesus’ parable about the least of these, we had lost focus on “why” we did these things.
However, in 2017, Cason found its core message: inSPIRE.  Focusing on service, worship, discipleship, hospitality and generosity might seem simplistic, but the truth is these 5 “pillars” as we call them are the 5 tenants of Christianity.  These areas are touchstones that remind us of what Jesus taught us.  And what Jesus taught us is to focus on others, not ourselves.  It made us realize that the church needed to leave the building and again serve those outside of our four walls.

Now, I know you are saying to yourself “thanks for the history lesson pastor”, but I do have a point.  Going from an internally focused church to a mission focused church is not easy.  It requires replacing our preferences with God’s purpose. It requires that we replace “how we’ve always done it” with “how God wants it done.”  In short, it requires change.  And people don’t like change.  Change requires that we step into the unknown, into the uncomfortable.  And being uncomfortable is challenging.
So when I thank you for making the past 9 months challenging, I’m really saying thank you for being willing to be uncomfortable.  Thank you for being willing to step into the unknown with me and continue the hard work of transforming the church.  I see my role as not only continuing the good work that the church has undertaken, but guiding it even further in our quest to be servants of God’s people.  This includes things like strengthening our relationship with Caring Kitchen long term – including them in any plans to renovate our campus.  It includes opening our arms to ministries looking for a home – like The Seekers, the group that provides food for the body and food for the soul for 60- 70 young adults who are actively seeking the love of God.  It includes continuing to strengthen our family ministries such as Bible Buddies, Cason Kids Care, Cason Kids Club, and Cason Chorus while also expanding programming for our active adults and senior citizens such as the return of Daytripper’s and our Creative Writing Workshop. And it includes focusing on our interaction with those outside our walls through Cason Cares ministries like helping mow a lawn, doing grocery shopping, driving people to appointments and just sitting and praying with those in need.

I’m sure the thought in your head is “that’s nice, but there aren’t enough people in worship for all of that.”  True, attendance took a hit because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re still far short of our weekly attendance before 2020.  However, the truth is that the entire paradigm of church attendance has been flipped on its head.  Instead of people coming to worship and then finding their way into ministries, people now come out to serve in ministries and find their way into worship.
Statistics clearly show that 18-35 year-olds are looking for ways to make a difference in the world and are attracted to the ministries of the church because they do that.  And we know this is true because our ministries are growing faster than our worship attendance.  Because of the growth of our ministries, we find ourselves facing space issues because there is so much going on.  But in my opinion, this is a GOOD problem to have.  We spent many years with not much going on in our facility but now, we’re bumping into each other.

And, being honest, it’s going to be tricky.  We’re going to have to be flexible and roll with the waves as we figure out how to make all these things work.  We’re going to have to commit to remaining uncomfortable.  We have not yet finished the work of transformation, and the truth is, we probably never will. We have made progress, but there is much more to do, and we must continue to ask ourselves: What kind of church will we be? Will we do the risky work of Jesus?
As we move toward the end of the year, I have been blown away by how God is faithful to His church. We turn 120 years old next March, and I’m proud to say that we will reach that milestone as a church that is just as dedicated to God’s mission here on earth as we were the day we opened – a place where all will find and know the love of God.

Pastor David

1 Comment

nancy reames - October 27th, 2022 at 8:28am

hope you felt all the love and support from the congregation Tuesday night.........your leadership is gutsy and inspiring and we are blessed to have you!