I feel very blessed and privileged to have served God at Calvary Nexus for over twenty years. You are great, and I’ve been blessed to see countless lives transformed by Jesus during that time. I love our church and look forward to serving you, Lord willing, for years to come. Yet, I confess that I feel so inadequate for the task of being a pastor in this part of the world at such a time as this. I’m comforted by Jesus’ promise that He will build His Church [Matt. 16:1-8].
After being a pastor for over 25 years, and having known countless pastors around the globe, I have anecdotally observed that churches are hamstrung when there is a lack of commitment to Christ and the local church. In the absence of true commitment, professing believers also experience stunted growth.
The Church universal, and its expression as a local assembly of God’s people are likened by Paul to a body [1 Cor. 12]. The metaphor helps us to understand that all parts of the body are needed for the body to be healthy. When part of the body does not function than the health of the whole is compromised. Furthermore, it would help us to understand that parts of the body are unlikely to be healthy when they are removed from the body. The spiritual health, well-being, and contentment of God’s people, and the advancing of Christ’s kingdom in our community, is enhanced when we live as part of a community of faith – the local church.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the first three chapters detail our position in Christ. The last three chapters describe the practice of being Jesus’ followers. Paul begs the church, that in light of all that God has done for them that they should walk worthy of their calling as a follower of Jesus. Then Paul explains that the primary practice of the Christian life is to live in unity, as part of a local community of faith. We are to place the needs of others before our own, be patient and gentle with others in the community of faith, and bear with one another in love. We are called to work to keep the unity among believers that God created by His Spirit [Eph. 4:1-3].
You may be aware of some alarming religious trends in our society, and our community is not immune. For the first time in history, there is a significant number of people who reject the existence of God or the supernatural. According to research from the Pew Center and Gallup, only 28% of younger Americans between ages 23-27 attend church. Other generations were estimated between 43-52%. Those who left organized religion increased from 6% in 1992 to 22% in 2014. Among Millennials the estimate was 35%. Almost half of unchurched Americans (49%) don’t see the Church providing a positive impact to their community. Finally, average church attendance has become less frequent.
What is the answer to reverse these trends in any local community? As in Ephesus, we need an understanding of the Bible and the work of the Holy Spirit [Ac. 19:1-10]. An appreciation for all that God has done for you is the basis for the urging to walk worthy as a follower of Jesus as part of a community of faith.
I understand that at times it seems inconvenient to participate in a community of faith. I also appreciate that our local church is not perfect, and that we are flawed leaders. We further realize that our failures may have been an obstacle to your participation in a local church. So, we want you to know that we are listening to you our Church family, and to our community at large. We want you to know that you are needed for the mission Christ has called us to in our community. And we are here to seek to serve, encourage, equip and love you.
Finally, what are we really asking you to do? I’d like to encourage you to pray and reflect about your commitment to the local church. One of our core values is, “We come together and go together.” Every weekend we gather to glorify God and grow in Christ, and we’d love for you to regularly join us. And during the week we decentralize to saturate our community with gospel-centered Neighborhood Groups where we grow in relationship with Christ and others.
Together in His Service,
Pastor Bruce for Calvary Nexus