July 2020 was when we began holding in-person worship services during the pandemic. I will neither bore you with a re-hash of how we got to where we are now of strategically re-starting certain programs at staggered times, nor will I bore you with the ways in which we limited the number of people in the Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall by keeping people at a “social distance”. I simply mention July 2020 to remind you that 35 months later, we have members of our church that have not returned to worship with us in person. At this point, clearly it isn’t a virus that is keeping people away. It is a life-style pattern. For whatever reason, church involvement (and spiritual things in general?) has fallen off as a priority for many. If you are reading this and automatically laying 100% of blame at the feet of “the lazy” or “the ones who aren’t committed” or “the unfaithful”: check yourself. Though there is plenty of responsibility to go around for those yet-to-be-plugged-back-in, we as a church must own our responsibility too.
Have we maintained relevance in people’s lives as well as we should? Have we provided the spiritual nourishment that individuals need? Have we given our best effort to engage the 30-somethings that are getting married and having children? Do we have enough opportunities to provide to these families and individuals choices for study, friendship, encouragement, service to others? No. We haven’t and we don’t. Aren’t you excited!?! Clearly, we have work to do to better minister to people within our own church family. Our leaders are working hard to creatively find solutions to these issues, prioritize them, and avail new opportunities for us all in the fall.
The second reason I mentioned July 2020 is to highlight that by the end of this month, many of our people have been working incredibly hard for three straight years. We have several groups of people across our church family that haven’t had a much-needed break. Some of these are key leaders. For this reason, we are going to make a few shifts in the month of July.
Some of you may remember “F.B.C. in July” back in 2019. I think we all feel like we’ve aged a decade since then. Pastor Jim said wisely back then that “we are going to DO less church so that we can do more to BE the church!” This is the principle at play here as we prepare for next month.
“F.B.C. in July” 2023 will manifest itself most obviously on the calendar on Wednesday evenings and on Sunday mornings at 10:00. We will have NO SUNDAY SCHOOL in July. Instead, we will have social time in the Fellowship Hall as you arrive for worship. This is a great opportunity to bring a guest with you, and let me challenge you to make a point to meet someone new within our church family. If there is someone that sits in a different pew than you, who you have only ever seen from afar, make a point to introduce yourself over coffee during this social time! We will have a normal worship service in the Sanctuary at 11:00. This will include a regular Children’s Church service down stairs at 11:00 too. Our Choir will take a month off, and we will have special music each Sunday in July!
Additionally, on Wednesday evenings at 6:30, we will have four family fun nights in the Fellowship Hall. We are excited about the idea of three or four generations gathering together for snacks and games each Wednesday evening in July. This will replace all children, adult, and student bible studies throughout the month. July 05 will be an ice cream party celebrating our independence. July 12 will be a game night. July 19 will be a movie night. July 26 will be a second game night. More information about these theme nights will come out in the weeks ahead.
None of this constitutes a sweeping change, but with these subtle shifts, we are going to give a number of heavy lifters a break from their regular work. We acknowledge that many of you already have plans to vacate this summer. Let me also emphasize an important biblical principle. If you are having a break from your labors in some way, remember that we are DOING less church so that BEING the church will be better! If you don’t have to come to Choir practice, bring your neighbor, or grand-child, to game night and then go get ice cream together afterward. If you don’t have to teach Sunday School, take a friend to breakfast before bringing them to church with you. All of these events are intended to be very guest-friendly, we encourage you to bring a family member or friend with you in July. Even more importantly, make a special effort to brighten the day of a neighbor in July. I challenge each family to open their home twice in the month of July. Invite an unchurched friend over for a cold glass of lemonade; it doesn’t have to be a four-course meal! If we all make an intentional effort to be blessing to a neighbor twice in 31 days, we will truly be disciples that are making disciples!
He restoreth my soul when I’m weary, He giveth me strength day by day;
He leads me beside the still waters, He guards me each step of the way!
Rev. Andrew J. Reynolds