Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Jacob Good and the Mission

Our church is 150 years old. Not the buildings; not even the people (I don’t think). There has been a group of Jesus-followers who have been meeting together and calling themselves First Baptist Church in this town since 1861. There were a few gaps in weekly worship services due to the Civil War, fires, financial hardships and a devastating tornado in 1880. There have been trying times. One pastor’s personal problems led him to take his own life in 1914. A beloved pastor, Dwayne Reed, died of cancer in 1982. There have been personal conflicts, disagreements and conflicting philosophies that divided us. But here we are – celebrating our sesquicentennial – 150 years. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 18:16). We are a living testimony to this truth.

Each quarter this year we are taking time to celebrate and reflect on what God has done in our church family since its beginnings in 1861. July 10, 2011 is the next one. I count it a privilege to “stand on the shoulders” of so very many faithful people over the past 150 years who were faithful to keep on going through some very hard things. My desire as a pastor is to help keep our people focused on God’s purpose for us. The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:12, “I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” During the Civil War, God laid hold of Pastor Jacob Good and many others to start a church in Marshfield, Missouri.  We are here 150 years later because of their obedience and determination and because of God’s faithfulness.

When I think about what those people were determined to do as they obeyed God’s calling in their lives back in the 1800’s, it brings up a question for our church today. Are we doing what God intends for us to do as a church? Are we being who God created us to be? We try to bring our purpose down to three words that sum up all we do as a church: Worship. Grow. Serve. These three actions are a vital process if we are to be an obedient and healthy church. But today I want to bring it down to one word: Mission. Jesus “laid hold” of Jacob Good and many others for a mission; their mission was to take Good News to the people around them. A century and a half later, our mission is still the same: take Good News to Marshfield. Our city needs to hear and see the testimony of Jesus through Jesus-followers, just like it happened through the lives of Jacob Good and a small group of people back in the day. We have some different ways in which we do that today, but the mission is the same and the message is the same: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Friday, June 24, 2011

Life Verse

Thirty-one years ago I clearly sensed God calling me into ministry. I was seventeen years old, facing college decisions and searching for some direction in life. At my summer life guard job, sitting up in my tall chair, I heard God speak: "Durwin, will you ever be happy doing anything but church work?" That's exactly what I "heard" in my mind. It is perhaps the clearest verbal message I have ever heard from God. Kind of a general question, I know. Maybe I was being called to be the custodian. That's real church work! But I knew in my heart that God was calling me to serve him. It was my "call to preach." My first response was a bit of fear. I didn't want to answer God's question, but I knew He was right. I would never really be happy if I was not following what He wanted for my life. After struggling with this thought for a few weeks, I finally talked with my pastor and my youth pastor, then, on a Sunday night, I shared with my whole church what God was doing in my life. That night, Andy, my youth pastor, shared a scripture verse with me that would impact my life every day since. It has become what I call my "life verse." Philippians 1:6 says, "Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." I have grown to realize that the good work God began in my life thirty-one years ago (and even earlier), He continues to this day. Life is not always easy; church work/ministry is a joy (mostly), but it is real work! But God never fails. He faithfully continues the work He has begun in my life, and He will do so until the day I stand before Jesus. That's what keeps me going. It's not my work; it's His. And this promise is good for you too. Whatever God wants to do in your life, let Him. You will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The first blog post

I'm jumping off into the world of blogging. It's a little scary, like preaching my first sermon, which I'm sure wasn't very good. But then, there were more people watching and listening then than are reading this now. OK. Pressure's off.

Last week, Kim and I traveled with our students  and youth leaders to Fuge Camp at Mississippi College, Clinton, MS. It was an awesome week. I have never quite fully grown out of my youth ministry days. I love spending time with jr. high and high school students who are discovering God's plan for their lives and living it out. These students were so tuned in to what God wanted to say to them. The MFugers were out each day serving in the surrounding communities. Our students led nine boys and girls to Christ last week! That's incredible! And this week they are mobilizing to serve right here at home. That's what it's all about. We go on a journey to hear from God, repent and receive the fresh wind of His Spirit. Then we realize that the real journey is right here where we live everyday. I needed this experience with God as much or more than any of our students. I love this generation of students who want to make a real difference in their world for Jesus. God, help me to make a difference in my little part of your world.

My daughter
Today is my daughter's 23rd birthday. Anna, I love you. You are beautiful. God has blessed me with an incredible daughter who loves Jesus. You serve Him with all your creativity and talents. I am so thankful for you.