Lessons Learned

Pastor's monthly newsletter article for January, 2012

It is good to be back at Saint Peter after a Sabbatical leave this past fall. I am very grateful for this time of rest and renewal, and for the many of you who filled in for me during my absence. We have a talented and committed group of leaders here at Saint Peter, and that is such a gift! Thank you all for your service.

I had a number of hopes for my Sabbatical. I intended to read and reflect, do some fishing, play some bluegrass, exercise more regularly, and travel a bit with my family (I did most of that; probably should have fished and picked a bit more…). I especially enjoyed the freedom to spend more time reading and reflecting on faith, life and ministry. I came away with some strong impressions that I would like to introduce you to here, in hopes that we could spend some time considering them more fully during 2012.

1. Evangelism Is Who We Are; It Is the Core of Our Mission. Evangelism is sharing good news from God with the world. We do this not necessarily by what we say, but by who we are. By being faithful in what we say and do, by treating one another with love and respect and compassion, by committing ourselves to forgiveness and reconciliation, by giving of ourselves in service to others, we are doing Evangelism. This is what it means to be the church.

2. Times of Crisis and Conflict Are Opportunities to Witness to Christ. We may not like it, but conflict is inherent in organizations that are seeking to grow and improve. Change brings anxiety, and anxiety causes conflict. As a Christian organization, we should be committed to resolve conflict in a way that honors every person involved, and that demonstrates our absolute commitment to forgiveness, renewal and new life.

3. The Consistency of Our Lives Is Our Most Believable Testimony to Faith; Especially When It Comes to Sharing Faith with Young People. I read a lot about nurturing faith in young people this past fall, and much of what I read was discouraging. Many young people have had negative experiences with the Christian church, have become discouraged by adult Christians whose faith doesn’t seem to have had much of a positive impact on their lives, and have little interest in churches that are more interested in themselves than in their community. What’s more, in many Christian churches, we find a watered down version of Christian faith that may make the believer feel a bit better, but doesn’t transform lives with the power of the Gospel. (For more on this, Google “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.”)

Yet there is hope! God continues to speak through the Word. The Spirit continues to move through the gathered community. A congregation that is rooted in the Gospel and committed to discipleship can make a strong, positive impact on the faith and lives of young people. We’ve made some good beginnings at Saint Peter, and I hope we’ll become even stronger in years ahead.

I’m excited to talk more with you about these ideas — and am so grateful for the time I’ve had to consider them this past year. It is good to be back. I hope to see you all soon!

God’s peace to you all, David J. Risendal, Pastor