Happy 2023!

Happy 2023! It’s the start of a new year, an opportunity to look at where we were, where we are, and where we’re headed.  I’m sure you all have been making the annual resolutions, or if you’re like me, you might have already broken a few.

One of the reasons that it’s hard to keep resolutions is because we’re not fond of change.  As much as we talk about change, and want to change, when it comes right down to it, we just don’t like to change.  And when it comes to the church, change never happens in a vacuum. It always happens to people, includes people, and affects people. And wherever there are people, there are countless personalities and types of power that can come into potential conflict. Regardless of the practical and physical issues facing a church undergoing change — which alone are usually hard enough — the process is almost always complicated by prejudices and personalities.

Still, if we’re being honest, we must admit that sometimes change happens to us, and sometimes we cause it, but either way we must deal with it. Many of us are reluctant to choose change, especially if we are in a traditional church, such as Cason, that has experienced past days of growth and glory. But even though we can’t control whether change comes, “we can choose whether to embrace or resist it. We can choose the kind of changes that advances the kingdom of God into our world, or we can retreat into a subculture that attempts to isolate us from the world” (Stetzer and Rainer, Transformational Church).
The hard-to-hear truth is this:  either we change, or we die.  Now, I’m not trying to paint a dark and dreary portrait here.  The truth is that the Cason has survived this long, and who knows how long it could continue.  But there are churches that are still open and just don’t realize they are dead.  They exist to serve the dwindling number of people who worship there, and little else.  Sure, they may still have a few programs that operate, but the truth is they have long since stopped fulfilling their purpose.

You see, a healthy church is always missional.  A genuinely healthy church is a church that is clearly growing both internally and externally, though that growth does not have to be numeric. Rather, the growth is about what God seems to be doing for his beloved children who are both inside and outside the church.  Jimmy Dorrell, the founder of Mission Waco and the Church Under the Bridge said this during my Capstone class last week, “the measurement of a church’s health is the transformation of both the membership and the community. A healthy church is more interested in what God is doing in hearts, neighborhoods, and the world than with new strategies for growth (Dorrell, Witness and Ministry in Global Context: Experiencing a Culture of Homelessness).

We here at Cason, have seen this firsthand. Last year we took a huge step in our transition from a self-focused church to a missional church, and while there were some uncomfortable moments due to the change, the results have been undeniable.  Due to our new focus on external transformation, the missions of the church are growing at an unprecedented rate.  In fact, so much so that we have to be intentional about our space and resources.  People have found that Cason is TRULY the place where all will find and know the love of God, and they are coming to find Him and know it.  From children to young adults to retirees, people are coming.  In fact, the transformational effect of our external focus has caught the eye of those in the city, and as such they have decided to have Cason be the location of the MLK Day Worship Service.  Not bad for the “old, white church on the corner”, huh?

That external focus has invigorated the congregation and people are getting involved like never before.  Not one person said no to a leadership position for this year, and there is a sense of kingdom-mindedness and vision in the congregation to be about God’s purpose.

This kingdom-mindedness is being felt by our visitors, too.  For the first time in years, we are seeing an increase in attendance AND retention.  People used to visit us and then we’d never see them again.  Now, people visit and come back week after week.  This is because they sense a joy and purpose, and quite frankly, they want some of that.  For the past few months, we have had a couple worshipping with us and one day after church, they told me that “something was happening here.”  I couldn’t agree more.  That something is us living into the missional call of God – to put others ahead of ourselves, to love others as we love ourselves, and to make disciples for the transformation of the world.

There’s more work to be done, but if we are to change graciously and effectively as people and the church—and remember, we are going to change—we must begin by striving to see ourselves and our churches as honestly as possible. We humans are God’s highest creation, made in his image and for his glory, and the church is the body of Christ in the world. That’s why God lovingly calls us to change because he wants his people and his church to look more and more like him.

I’m grateful to be your pastor, and I’m grateful to see a congregation so hungry to truly be a place where all will know and see the love of God.  I’m excited about 2023, and our opportunity to continue to serve our church, our community and the world.  I encourage you to come to the Strategic Planning session on the 21st and join in Cason’s future for the next 120 years.

Pastor David

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