What a great celebration! Thank you all so much for a fantastic day of worship and memories and fellowship and food. Your cards, presents, and financial gifts were a wonderful surprise. And the presence and kind words of our regional minister and president Rev. Bill Spangler-Dunning helped round out a great day. Thank you all! Cindy and I really enjoy being part of Park Avenue Christian Church. There are so many hearts serving Jesus with such great joy. You are all a blessing to us and others.
It is hard for me to believe we are starting our 11th year of ministry together.
Last Sunday we had about 20 children come forward for the children’s moment during worship. And one of the things I noticed was…that at least 18 of those kids were not born when I became senior pastor. I can remember back in 2008 sitting around a table with a search committee, and we were talking about these very kids! One of the main questions from that search committee dealt with children and young families being a part of the church. I remember my answer was simply, “We have to make the church a place where they want to go and a people that offer love.” I believe we are that place. And I know we are those people. How do I know? Well, I asked two different children last Sunday and they told me. I asked, “Do you like to come to church?” They both jumped (yes jumped) and said YES! Then I asked, “Why?”. And one said, “Because it’s fun!” The other said, “Cause this is my church! And it’s cool!” One of my grandsons was standing close by, and added, “Yes, this place is awesome!”
Park Avenue Christian Church has always been a friendly church. Always. That is not the new thing. But over the last 10 years, we have developed a new energy in our kindliness. I have seen a joy that is contagious. I have watched kids come to church, and run to “high five” an elder. I think of that painting, with Jesus and the children, and I think…that is who we have become. We have become more Christ-like. I read Galatians 5, about the fruit of the Spirit, and I think…we have become even more filled with that Spirit!
When I was growing up, church was someplace that your parents had to drag you to. I know, because there were times that I felt dragged. But there were also times when I felt welcome…when I felt loved.
I truly believe Park Avenue Christian Church is a place that doesn’t just want to have children and youth programs because it is the thing to do. We don’t want to have programs because it will attract young families. We love kids! We love youth! Why? Because God loves them.
When you feel love; when you feel peace; when you feel you are safe; when you feel like people know you; that is the place you want to go.
I asked a young couple if they had to drag their kids to worship. They both said, “No, it’s the other way around. They drag us.” Way to go, Church!