Pastor’s Page: Payday Loans and Self-Preservation (7/20/17)

Brian McLaren, noted author and speaker, encouraged us at the recent CBF General Assembly to celebrate our 25th anniversary as a faith community. He quoted an Antonio Machado poem in describing our journey as like-minded Baptists: “You’ve made the road by walking.”
I want to thank the church for allowing me and my family some vacation leave. We went to Waco, TX to take in Magnolia Market and other venues–(it certainly wasn’t because it was cooler down there). You can see some photos on my and Lori’s facebook page about our trip.
I also wanted to thank Paul Bass and Bob Perry for filling in during my absence on Wednesday and Sunday. It means a lot to know that things will be in good hands while I’m away. We are fortunate to have them and others lead us on occasion.
Summer is a time of trips and inconsistency in our attendance, but I did want to thank you for your ongoing support of the operating budget. Thus far we are close to meeting budget and ahead of our expenses. It will be important to keep an eye on this moving forward, so I am grateful for your generosity.
I’m pleased to mention also the expansion of our University Hope Payday Loan Debt Relief Ministry. We are now able to assist persons PRIOR to their securing a payday loan. This is an exciting development and I am grateful a second credit union has partnered with us.
You can read more about this expansion by going to our website (uhbc.org), clicking the MEDIA tab, and selecting the Church Blog.  Thanks to all our mentors and volunteers for making this possible.
On a related note, you can go to ethicsdaily.com and read their series on Payday Lending. I was asked to contribute an article about UHBC’s efforts and how others can get involved. It’s entitled: “8 Ways Your Church Can Help Folks Escape the Debt Trap.”
Among some pastors and church leaders, there can be heard a lament about the demise of the church. They look at the numerical losses on church rolls that have occurred over the decades through death and attrition. A popular statistic is that 85% of churches are plateaued or declining. In view of these realities, the response can be “we’re just dying on the vine.”
The 21st century church is in transition. That includes us! We have younger, newer members coming to us who do not know about the long history of UHBC. They have found community among us not because of our past but because of our present and our future. Let’s remember that self-preservation should never be the goal of the church. As indicated last Wednesday night, our purpose is “not to save ourselves, but to save others.” Of course, that salvation comes through Jesus Christ.
Summertime is a time for travel and changes in schedule, yet it’s been encouraging to welcome new members into our fellowship during these last several weeks. It’s especially gratifying to see persons come to faith in Jesus Christ (we’ll have another baptism on the 30th!). We continue to expand our reach and influence into our community; many of you are making a difference for Christ in your jobs, schools, and social gatherings. These are signs of life in the body of Christ.
My point is that we never stop being the church. We are actually “the gathered church” around 2% of the time. The vast majority of the time we are the “scattered church.” Let’s use this time wisely to carry out the Great Commission and Great Commandments of Jesus. Remember: the most effective outreach is through personal relationships.
I’m grateful to be back in 417 land, even though it’s disturbing to catch a weather report recently with Springfield in the middle of a “Ring of Fire.” Let’s stay hydrated and opt for cooler places as necessary. Despite these oppressive temperatures, I hope we are all enjoying these last few weeks of summer before school starts.
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