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.”