“…conversion is not about seeking or embracing an ideology; it is about bringing one’s religious behavior into alignment with that of one’s friends and family members.” — Rodney Stark in The Rise of Christianity, pp. 16-17
In our time together 72 people have come to the Foot of the Cross or to the Water of Baptism and have joined this congregation. Our weekly attendance numbers have jumped from 63 in 2013 to 77 in 2016. More and more folks are discovering that the message of Grace is more attractive than what they have heard in other sanctuaries, or is certainly more attractive than having heard no message at all.
So, it is time to thank God for bringing new people into our midst, for blessing us with new babies, and for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that has brought both infants and adults into communion with God in Baptism. It is time to thank God for inspiring the families of small children to come week after week, thus introducing Jesus to the next generation of this congregation. It is time to thank God for the veteran members whose volunteerism has kept this church running smoothly (most of the time!) and without whose dedication to giving of their time would result in higher budgets and much, much less fun! During the last three years some members have passed away, some have moved away, and a few have found more comfort in a different message of the Gospel; however, our numerical growth is nothing compared to the spiritual growth we have experienced in the sustainment of ongoing ministries and the creation of new ministries.
Yet, if Stark is correct, it is more than the message of the Gospel placed on the roadside sign each week that attracts people to walk through our front doors here at Redeemer. To my knowledge there is no one talking about the Yankee pastor or the cool Pentecost decorations as what attracted them to come here and to join. No, what I hear from both visitors and new members is their reflection upon YOUR kindness, warmth, love, and friendliness. Even those who have visited only once while on vacation have commented that they wished their congregations back home were as loving as this Redeemer congregation.
This is why my 2017 sermon theme will reflect the growing and maturing faith of this congregation. It is time for us to embrace the wonderful opportunity your loving, strengthening faith has afforded all of us; more than ever it is time for us to encourage the Council, the committees, the task force members and all those who for the first time are considering positions of service as they lead Lutheran Church of the Redeemer into a new and exciting future in the Name of Jesus Christ. This is why the 2017 sermon theme is: Developing Shepherds.
Welcome, shepherds, to 2017. Grab onto your shepherds’ crooks; it is time to lead.
To God be the Glory for all God has done, Pastor Steve