As I sat down to write my last article for the Hilltop Hallelujah I wondered what I had written in my first article. So I sorted the folder of newsletter articles on my computer and found one; the article below I wrote in April 2010. I was immediately struck by its relevance as I reflect upon the ministry that we have enjoyed together.
2010 – “For we are not peddlers of God’s word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence. 2 Corinthians 2:17
This passage was the key verse from the book of daily reflections that I read the other day. These powerful words of Paul have stayed with me since then. What a wonderful reminder to us while we are in the midst of the Revitalization Process at Hilltop. As children of God we can sometimes become so excited about the promises that we have received through God’s gracious love that we try to sell it to others. Out of our desire to spread the Good News, we become like an infomercial, offering those we come in contact with one free gift after another, if they will only come to church with us. Instead of trying to sell God’s love, we should share God’s grace through loving, honest relationships.
During one of the interviews I had with the Pastoral Search Committee prior to coming to Hilltop, I was asked how I define success in the ministry. There are many books and programs that point to churches with high attendance and large staffs and budgets as being successful. They might be. But I think success in ministry is best defined by relationship. The relationship that each of us who are engaged in ministry (and all of God’s children are ministers) have with God as well as the relationships that we have with one another. Ministry should strengthen and deepen our relationship with God and with each other. If we are not growing in those relationships, then our ministry is not being successful. In the short time that we have been at Hilltop I am excited by the many “successful” ministries that are already taking place; The Hilltop Preschool and Day Care, Angel Food Ministries, Children’s Worship, Chancel Choir, Youth Ministry, Text Talk, Prayer Meetings, to name a few. And I am even more excited about the successful ministries that God has in mind for us in the future!
2018- As I look back upon our ministry together, I would characterize it as successful. Sure, there were things that didn’t turn out as we had hoped, or planned, but through it all my relationship with God and the people of God (you) has deepened and strengthened. We have not resorted to becoming peddlers of God’s word, but sharers of God’s love, which is what we as the church were created to do. I give God thanks for our time in Cromwell, and especially for each and every one of you. By your love, support and encouragement you have become a part of me and will be a part of any ministry of which I am a part.
You received me as a second vocation, recent seminary grad and have loved me into the pastor whom I have become. It probably doesn’t seem fair that you went to the trouble of training me and now I am leaving, but I am grateful that you are graciously releasing me to fulfill my call as a son and pastor in this next season of ministry. Know that I will think of you often and pray for you regularly. I, also, hope to join you regularly at the Lord’s Table for Holy Communion; for the meal of remembrance is not bound by time or space. Nor, for that matter, is the unity that we share in Christ. So while we might be apart, we still share in the same grace that has been offered to all people.
Much grace and love.