California is on fire.
Since mid-July, a group of complicated and ever-changing wildfires have destroyed the landscape and property in their paths, notably the Carr Fire in Shasta and Trinity counties and the Mendocino Complex Fire covering Colusa, Lake and Mendocino counties…
Several LCMS congregations have been affected directly by these fires. Trinity Lutheran Church and Early Learning Center in Redding, Calif., is only two miles from the flames of the Carr Fire.
Read more at LCMS Reporter: As California burns, Lutherans care
For more than a century, St. Matthew’s has been like nearly every other traditionally Lutheran Church: in a comfort zone.
All of us like what we like and we are comfortable liking it.
Nearly every Lutheran Church is the same. This doesn’t make any congregation that is in the comfort zone bad or out of touch – it makes them comfortable, relaxed, and happy that their church is open on Sunday mornings.
I believe it is time for a change, where we are not in a comfort zone, but are excited at possibilities of what bringing the Gospel to people means to our Christians lives. Excitement for the Gospel means we’re being led by the cross in all aspects of our church and outside-of-church lives. Hope in the Gospel is experiencing the true meaning of God’s love and forgiveness with others.
Comfort zone church is history.
It is the time of living hope.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
No one at St. Matthew’s in New Milford, NJ has ever gone through the process of starting a new church. The challenges, the fears, the “where are we going to worship” questions have never been a part of the everyday Christian life of any of the congregants of our 123 year old church in northern New Milford.
A series of challenges over the past few years has opened the doors to the exciting opportunity of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to lots of people simply by cutting away that which is holding us back, namely our fears and our building.
The fifty year old structure we call our spiritual home is in trouble. Well, it has been for a long time. We’ve put in thousands upon thousands of dollars to upgrade pieces of the building – a new roof, parking lot, handicap ramp, and the heating system, to name a few. But overwhelming problems are on the horizon – the electrical system needs to get up to code; our furnace is very old and even with the upgrades to the heating system, the furnace doesn’t have a lot of life left in her; the building really needs a cooling system because without it, our lights sometimes do not go on during the humid days of the summer; and the stucco on the outside of the building needs repair in numerous places. Oh, and that steeple leaking issue continues to vex us.
Financially, we are facing tough times. We’re a small congregation with limited financial resources. Not that small congregations are bad, but when financial issues come up, struggling with how to deal with them is a major challenge. With a building that is not attractive even with the bandages we’ve placed covering over our issues, the congregation has made the bold choice to bring the Gospel to people.
In early June, St. Matthew’s voted to sell our property in New Milford and move, to take up the mantle of bringing Jesus to His people, to partner with our LCMS friends to build a new St. Matthew’s and a new suburban ministry effort in Bergen County. A joyfully Lutheran ministry effort that shows and builds on the strengths of Jesus Christ. We want to bring to God’s people the hope of life centered on faith in Jesus, to be a people not worried about making mistakes, but seeking forgiveness from God and of one another. We want ministries that change lives for the better. And we want to build a community in different places that focuses on the hope that lives can get better and, by working with God, we can change them forever!
Essentially, we want to center our new church on the mission of bringing New Hope to people in our faith community now and those outside of it who need to hear the love of God in Jesus Christ.
As I was praying this afternoon after eating lunch, I don’t know if it was the Spirit or not but I had an urge to start this new church project. Why wait until the fall when people come back from summer vacation?
Why not kick off the New Hope project today?
There is plenty that needs to get done at St. Matthew’s in both the near and long term to make this project come to life. It starts now. We’ll need to hold lots of meetings with pastors and churches and church leaders and towns people. Inside St. Matthew’s, we need to discuss a lot of things about all of our “stuff” and what we’re going to do with all of it. We need to plan and most importantly, we need to pray.
We’re starting over.
It’s all about the New Hope found only in Jesus.