I guess this could be looked at as my final 10 bits of encouragement for CCF...a church we love with all our hearts!! Read these and let the Lord use them in whatever way he wishes to.
I know this is a long post, but I wanted to share it all in one place.
- There is a strong grace and favor that rests upon CCF. Recognize it, name it, celebrate it and thank God for it. It has been His doing, and it will continue to be His doing! Since being planted in 1929, Cottage City Mennonite Church/Capital Christian Fellowship has thrived and ministered. In all of these years, there has been no financial scandal, no moral failure of a leader, no church split, and an unusual harmony and grace! As far as i am concerned, that is God’s favor!! And I hope the church keeps praising him and recognizing Him at work.
- As you respond in the interim, rise up in the right way! This is not the time to act selfishly and push for your agenda in the life of the church. This is the time to rise up in an Ephesians 4 type of way, a time to become the Body of Jesus like never before. This is a time to show yourselves and the world what Christian community is all about. It needs only the presence of God and the people of God. This is not the time to act up or walk off. It is the time to step out in love, grace and service like never before.
- Pay attention to how you respond to change and risk. I promise you that there is one thing that will stay the same at CCF regardless of anything else—CHANGE! Especially in this next year. One of the biggest problems that I see happening in established churches is that people begin to be committed to a way of DOING church and not BEING the church. Do not become attached to what CCF is doing. Rather, pray that you assist it in becoming all that it is to be for Jesus! Remember, the message never changes, but the methods MUST CHANGE!!
- Here are a few words about your next Lead Pastor. Start praying for him NOW! Do not wait until you have a face. He has one. I promise. Remember this: the first six months he is here may be really hard for him and his family. They will be adjusting and trying to build new relationships. There will be days when they may wonder what they have done! In addition, the first wo years will be spent building your trust and your friendship. The sooner you offer it to him, the more confidence and anointing he will lead you with. You CAN hold him back if you do not encourage and accept him as God’s leader called to serve you! Also, please know that he is not the hired hand that does all the work! You are the one that does the work. He leads the work as equipper…let him equip! You minister! Finally, remember that he is not me. Don't compare him to me either quietly or publicly. Some of you will want to thank God that he is not me! Others may be mad at God that he is not me. Remember that I was called out, he is called in, and you are called to trust the Lord and pray for your leaders.
- The supreme importance Prayer! I believe that prayer has lacked at CCF! I take responsibility for that. I just really, really hope this changes. There are some people in that church that have been bothered by the lack of prayer (they've told me so). I hope you will find the courage to use your frustration to make changes! DO NOT leave it to the next Pastor to figure out. I tried, others have tried and we were not successful. Your next leader may or may not have the gift of intercession. Don't expect him to. He cannot, and should not have every spiritual gift. This is why you are here. I think that the best way for prayer to become important in CCF is for all those with the passion, gifting and desire for intercession to RAISE UP and begin praying together every chance you get. Just go for it! Who is stopping you? "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
- I am afraid that there is a special calling and anointing on CCF to be a SENDING CHURCH! I think that there is a sending grace on you. CCF seems to be a place where Jesus shapes, deepens, challenges, calls and sends people. You sent Pastor Chet and his family. You sent Pastor Dave and Helen. Now us. Maybe more in the future. Get this: Most churches I know have a common goal, worded one way or another, the concept is the same....GET MORE PEOPLE (salvation or migration) INTO OUR CHURCH (or to Jesus)! How cool would it be if a church (CCF?) adopted an opposite vision....to send as many people out as possible! I have this strange feeling that God would get behind this type of idea. It kinda reminds me of Matthew 28 and the Great Commission. Perhaps that is something that God might still be into. Just wondering. In our nature, we would want to horde. How can we do OUR thing if we give people away? Precisely. Let's do God's thing. And you might end up with more money and people than you ever could have imagined.
- How you steward your resources as a church is so important. I am sorry! I am sorry that the economy tanked, and I am sorry for any decisions that I made as your leader that did not maximize God’s resources. My hope is that you will pay attention to the pie chart as yo move ahead. Be sure that the ratio of money spent on “us” and money spent on “them” reflects Kingdom teaching. Do not forget what business you are in. God builds churches and brings increase (not you), you love people and be Jesus to the broken and lost. Do not get those two twisted. And make sure spending reflects that.
- As you pray and discern CCF's Vision for the future, I pray that you would seek the Lord regarding what the specific and unique calling is for this church. I think that our current “purpose statement” is solid, but broad. It is time to determine a more specific impact for the Kingdom that we are called to make. And I think that this is discovered and determined when 3 things converge: 1) The needs of the community, 2) The gifts of the church, and 3) The passion of the leader(s). Allow me to insert a personal hope that I believe MAY be a divine sense or call for you and the leaders of CCF to strongly consider. It was my predecessor's vision that CCF plant churches. He saw CCF as a church-planting church. I assumed that same hope. For many reasons that I will not get into, we did not plant another one in Pastor Dave's eleven years or my almost seven years. If I believed then what I believe now, we would VERY LIKELY had planted several churches. It was not in God's plan I guess. But, let me leave you with this...consider planting churches!! And when you do, define what you want to do according to the BIBLE, not according to the CULTURE! If you need to know more about this, ask me.
- The relationships you have with each other-- the purity, or lack thereof, will make or break your future. The main way that the enemy likes to disrupt moves of the Spirit of God is by attacking relationships. Protect against this! Commit in your hearts that you will live in right relationship with each other. When you sense and feel your heart is not right, go to the person and talk real! Encourage others to do the same. Keep relationships right and pure!! It will be the key to you being a LOVING church that is LOVING people!
- Prioritize your PRIVATE time with the Word of God and the God of the Word. This is central!! As a community-- your private time with Jesus can lead to a public revolution and revival! Without a private commitment to be alone with Jesus, this becomes a PUBLIC show and the Lord will not bless it!! Get with the Father every day! Sit at his feet and listen to him through His Word and His Spirit.
I leave you with the words of II Corinthians 13: 11 -- "Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you."
I love you and I thank God for the honor of serving you as your Pastor!