In my government class, I had the seniors watching the State of the Union address last week. Today, to cap it off, I asked them to prepare and deliver their own "State of the school year." It was fun watching them try to highlight the wins from their High School experience. I noticed how easily they were drawn into the negatives they viewed in their own world.
I had explained this state of the school year speech was meant to be positive, highlighting the good and setting vision for the future. Yet, somehow they all seemed to drift into at least one area where they hadn't succeeded.
Tonight I was reflecting on my own attitude of the state of the church. Honestly, the state of the church in Cascade causes me to despair most times I think about it. There are few Christians actively living out a gospel-centered life. Only 18% of people in the area consider themselves Christians, well below the state and national levels. And, a majority of Christians in the area don't regularly attend church on Sundays. There is nowhere near that 18% number in the churches of Cascade on a Sunday morning.
See how quickly I could get you sucked down into the negative thinking with me? I can't imagine my high school seniors and I are alone in how our thinking always turns to the negatives. Do you do that too? Do you find yourself down in the dumps because it seems God has placed too big of a burden on your shoulders and then walked away? Are you tired of praying for your friends, relatives, and life situations and it seems as though nothing is changing? Aren't these thoughts the opposite of joy? Is the enemy stealing our joy?
This train of thought got me wondering if I could even write a state of the church that highlights the positives and sets vision for the future. I've already spent to this point in the post reflecting on the negative. So, here I go for a shot at it:
Cascade Ministerial Association (CMA)
Most people aren't aware that a majority of the pastors in Cascade get together every month to talk about common efforts to reach the community and to lead the Body towards fulfilling the great commission. I think the most important thing we do is pray for each other. Jeff Wagner, Andy Wegener, Bruce Kissee, Robin Dugall, Marty Meyer, Shaun Peterson, Gene Haskins, Rob Meyer, Anthony Henry, and our trusty deacon Don Newberry are a great group of men to pray with. Each brings their own gifting, their own view, their own passion for what they feel God is calling them to.
Every year, one of the functions of the CMA is to organize an interchurch Easter Sunrise service. 2019's service was well attended and fulfilled its purpose of bringing the body together outside the walls of any one church building. Anthony Henry and his team at Trinity Pines does a great job of making the local body feel at home. I would love to see the Easter Service become more than just ONE of the services happening in the area on Sunday. I would love to see it become the only service happening on Easter Sunday. Are we so consumed with our service at our church that we can't be content to all get together in a meaningful way and share a full morning together worshipping and praising the risen Savior?
National Day of Prayer
Held in May of 2019, the National Day of Prayer was sparseley attended, but those who came were sincere in their prayer. We believe 2020 will see a much greater attendance as it is a presidential election year. We've discussed ways to include the teens from the school in this day of prayer. I envision a day of prayer that isn't only held in Ashley Inn with a set 15 minute prayer guide. I envision a day of prayer that moves Soup 'n Scripture to the front of the school for sandwiches and prayer at lunch, in the courthouse halls at lunch, in the rec center at lunch, and into the evening at a central church meeting place. I believe if we take prayer to the people, the people will pray.
Soup 'n Scripture
Many churches participated in Soup 'n Scripture. The numbers have been declining but the opportunity still exists for around 50 teens each week to hear about Jesus at the Community Church.
The interchurch worship nights were a highlight of 2019 for me. Seeing believers from different churches come together to worship and pray was incredible. We saw an average of around 65 when they first started. We saw several people get baptized, a few people healed, and many carried through hard times as they were lifted up in unified prayer. As the school year began there was a downturn in attendance that led to a break for the time being. However, in 2020 I expect there will be great times ahead for God's people to again come together in a unified heart of worship and prayer.
Church, I saw you trying to be involved in your communities! I saw church members delivering wood to the needy, churches hosting Halloween bonfires and food lines to draw people into their reach of love. I saw the church feeding the community at the Cascade Food Pantry. I saw many members of the church at basketball games supporting teenagers and cheering them on. And, I believe in 2020 we can see it go deeper. I believe we can see it go farther. I believe we can reach the unreached and build relationships where we have never seen them built before, if we obey!
Imagine with me for just a minute a Cascade that is known for love. Imagine a Cascade where the bar shuts down, beer coolers remain full and liquor licenses go unused because people don't care to drown their sorrows and loneliness. Imagine a Cascade that has people together all the time encouraging each other, eating together, praying together, building each other up.
Can you even imagine it?
I can. I can picture a world where walking into the D9 or Watkins would be a sure way to be invited into someone's home for the evening. I can picture single moms surrounded by helping hands and encouraging voices every day. I can picture teens fully engaged in community service, character development, and rigorous education backed by a church that loves them and engages them every day. I picture men, young and old living lives of purity instead of drowning in shame from their obsession with pornography. I picture addicts being supported every day along a path of sobriety by those also recovering and healing in the overwhelming power of Jesus Christ.
It might be hard for you to imagine. It might seem like the task is too big. It might seem like God has turned His back on Cascade. But let me encourage you: The task is not too big. The Bible says nothing is impossible with God. The Bible says God is not willing that any should perish. The Spirit inside me confirms these truths and echoes into my life, "Will you obey?"
Obedience. That is what it takes.
It takes the 18% of us who have been raised to life in Jesus beginning to obey each time the Spirit tells us to pray.
It takes us reaching out to the one who seems like they could drain us dry when the Spirit tells us to reach out.
It takes fighting through the fog of isolation to give an encouraging word when the Spirit directs us to.
It takes 18% each reaching one and discipling them for 6 months for it to become 36%.
It takes 36% each reaching one and discipling them for 6 months to reach 72%.
Can you imagine a 2020 that ends with 72% of the town reached for Jesus living vibrant lives for him? It is possible. If we will just obey today.
Christian, it is time to stop standing on the sidelines. It is time to stop with the indulgences. It is time to rise up and get busy.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine [my thoughts: social media and entertainment], for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. - Ephesians 5:15-21.
What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below on how we can do better in 2020 at fulfilling the Great Commission in Cascade.