Not long ago a question was posed to me and to some of our church’s leadership. “If this church is really successful and the changes we want to see happen come about in the next five years, what would that look like?” Good question, with lots of potential answers.
As good Baptists would, first thoughts imagined significantly more people on Sunday morning and a sound budget; both admirable things. We are after all children and grandchildren of the movement that could attract and count nickels and noses like no Christians before or since … Truth is, these are not bad barometers, but we concluded pretty quickly they weren’t the best.
There was a lot of talk about ministries touching the lives of many, meeting all kind of needs and wants. So we envisioned a place with the reputation that if someone showed up wanting in an area of life that mattered they could be shamelessly and effectively cared for. Imagine kids and teenagers growing toward and into a personal faith. And their parents would be partnered with to help that happen. Folks with challenges like grief, caregiving fatigue, divorce and recovery issues were at home and were meaningfully supported. We imagined being known throughout St. Pete as more than just the big church on Gandy, but as the safe and inviting place where real people can bring real problems and discover the gift of real faith.
We talked about scores of pockets of people doing life together, learning and loving in authentic community. It’s a place where the value of relationships so embedded deeply into the DNA that it oozes from every pore.
Then another person asked if we could imagine the kind of footprint we could make in the St. Pete community and beyond. One where people humbly and powerfully longed to be a creative, redemptive force upon the million or so people living on the Pinellas peninsula – and beyond.
Here’s the good news – a lot of that is already here and happening. A lot more is just waiting to be reached for and realized. Two years ago I came to be your pastor knowing we had a long journey ahead to arrive at those kinds of destinations. Today, I want to declare to you we are very close to seeing quantum leaps towards these ideals. I’m not given to overstatement, but I truly believe that is true. I also believe that while our increased engagement in and support of our ministry has brought us thus far, it’s going to take even more to take us to the next magnificent milestones.
Giving, serving, praying and preparing for such growth brings about results for two reasons. First, rightly-rendered time, talent, effort, and money will, in time, bear fruit. But it will also bear witness. Folks are watching to see how much we are willing to get behind these dreams and deeds. And so does God. He notices when his people are sacrificially spent on spiritual endeavors, and without fail blesses the work of those who are.
God is wanting to see this great church become all that he has envisioned it to be, and stands ready to pour out the blessings. More than ever, I believe that. God is also watching; watching to see what kind of church we want to be and to that end, what we are willing – and not willing – to do. So let’s keep dreaming it. Keep working for it. Keep giving to it and longing for it.
What would success look like here? What are willing to do, not do and undo to help that happen? Good questions. To which I know my people will have good answers.