Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching at Hebron Baptist Church, the church I served as bivocational pastor for 20 years. Their pastor had resigned, and I was asked to fill the pulpit yesterday. It was a great experience being back in that church and brought back a lot of memories.
I had last visited the church about five years ago, and at that time I had noticed a lot of changes even then. Yesterday, I noticed even more. There were a lot of new people that I didn't know, and many of my former congregation were no longer there. The format of the worship service had changed. The appearance of the sanctuary was somewhat different although there's not a lot that can be done to a sanctuary built over 100 years ago.
There's an old proverb that says you can never step into the same river twice. Even if you step in, step out, and step right back in the river will be different. The water is always moving and changing so the river is constantly changing.
Churches definitely do not change that quickly, but change is always happening in a church even if it's not immediately noticeable. The people who attend the church are experiencing changes in their lives. During any given week a person may receive a poor medical diagnoses from tests they've had, someone else may have a loved one in a serious accident, a third person may have received a lay-off notice from his or her employer, a fourth may be dealing with marriage or family issues, and the list goes on. Because the church does not consist of the building or the organization, but the people, the church is always going through changes. How we minister to those changes must change as well.
When I was the pastor of that church I was privy to many of the problems the people were facing. Yesterday, because I didn't know most of those in attendance I could not know what they were dealing with in their lives. What I did know what that they had recently lost their pastor which often results in some level of pain. I also knew that because they live in a fallen world that many of them had some issue in their lives that was causing uncertainty, sorrow, grief, or fear. So I did what I try to do every time I preach; I shared with them how Jesus Christ can minister peace and healing to them no matter what they might be going through.
The church is the one place where people can hear a message of hope. Many people are hammered six days a week; the church should be a place where they can be encouraged and hear words that offer them a peace that passes all understanding and a hope that will endure the storms of life. That's what I tried to do yesterday and what I try to do every time I preach. I pray you do the same.