Sometimes when I talk to people my own age I find out what they think about the church. It’s not good. They think the church is self-interested and just trying to preserve itself for tradition’s sake. They think the church doesn’t understand the world outside of it. They would rather go out on their own and visit lonely people at a nursing home than do that as part of a church. Some people have had some bad experiences in church and it’s painful to hear their stories. My heart hurts on their behalf.
As painful as these stories can be, I still believe in the Church. Not just our congregation-Mooreland Baptist-but the Church as a whole. Things are shifting and changing inside the Church and I think it’s a good thing. I think change brings new things, new growth and new opportunities.
I recently went to the Baptist General Association of Virginia’s Annual Meeting last week. Our executive director, John Upton, gave a report of what’s been happening around the state. And he got excited. Really excited. He was excited about all the church planting that’s been going on. He was excited about our young leaders network-the Spence network-and how it’s impacting the Church. He was excited about all the Fresh Expressions of Church that are happening. There was a video about a church that was started aboard a navy ship. And do you know what he said? He said, this has been my favorite year of all the years I have served Virginia Baptists. Don’t worry about the future. The Church is and will be just fine.
And he’s right. The Church will be fine. It will be more than fine. We don’t know how it’s all going to turn out. Who could have predicted that a church would be started on a navy ship? Who know’s what will happen next? But it will be fine. It will be different and that’s ok. Different can be life giving.
And as pastor of Mooreland, I cannot help but give thanks for our congregation. We are not self-interested. We are involved in the community. When the elementary school asks for donations we are there. When the North Garden Area of Community Churches looks for donations and volunteers we are there. When a local family in our community needs something we are there. When there’s a need for coats at the local clothes closet, we have a stack of them in the sanctuary within a week. When there’s a family who needs to borrow the sanctuary for a funeral, we say yes every time. If there’s a community group who needs to borrow the sanctuary for a concert or the fellowship hall for a party, we say yes every time. This week I was asked if the local school buses could turn around in our parking lot. I didn’t have to ask. I knew the answer from the church was yes. I approved it without hesitation.
Mooreland Baptist Church is a healthy church. We certainly aren’t perfect, that’s not what I mean. We are church who does its best to serve the community, worship God, support one another, and have a healthy fellowship. And that’s the goal. That’s what makes us a healthy church.
I am grateful for Mooreland. It’s a church where I can invite my friends. It’s a church where I can take my daughter and she will be loved, she’ll worship God and learn the old stories from people other than her parents. It’s a church that has been a constant, stable presence in North Garden. It’s a church who is very much loved by her God.
Mooreland Baptist Church may seem like a small congregation in an out of the way place, but it is so much more than that. It is a loving place. It is a place with a big heart for its neighbors and community. It is a place where the faith is taught. It is a place that strives to live the faith outside its walls. It is a place that has meant so much to me and so much to its community. Don’t forget that. Don’t forget the impact we can have. Don’t forget that we too are the hands and feet of God, even in a small place as North Garden, Virginia.