Just about a year and a half ago I began my ministry at All Saints Lutheran Church.
Before arriving at All Saints I spoke with representatives of the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA about what I to expect working with the congregation. They told me the church had declined significantly and was on the verge of closing.
I was surprised to discover discussions about closing the church were premature. From my standpoint, I learned the congregation has a great facility, ideal location, dedicated membership, and unique ministry within the community. The church was positioned to grow, if members were willing to work together and reach out to the unchurched.
I told the church council I came here not to bury this church but to build it. All of the essential elements for growth were present.
Building a church may be likened to constructing a real building. The facility, its location, and membership are like the bricks of a building. The relationships between staff, congregation, and pastors are the mortar that hold the bricks together.
As I said, All Saints has all the “bricks,” so to speak, for building a vibrant congregation, but we need the right “mortar” to hold us together as the people of God.
A friend of mine recently posted this quote from Garrison Keillor who said: “Anyone who thinks sitting in church can make you a Christian must also think that sitting in a garage can make you a car.” Keillor is absolutely correct. Sitting in a church on Sunday does not necessarily make us Christian. We might also add that anyone who thinks baptism, confirmation, and Sunday school automatically makes us Christian doesn’t know what they are talking about.
Let me share with you three lines from the New Testament discussing relationships between members of a congregation.
Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up….”
Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Hebrews 10:24-25: “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…”
For All Saints Lutheran Church to grow we need to build each other up. Let us speak positively and lovingly to one another. Avoid negative or angry comments. Be especially encouraging of individuals who have taken on the task of leadership. We need the mortar of love and understanding to hold us together.
No matter how good our location, facility, and intentions, we have to have a loving and positive spirit to build this congregation together and grow our ministry.
Pastor Richard Pokora