Union Avenue Congregational Blessing
by Evangelist John Toolin
October 3, 1999
We kneel at your throne of grace this morning God and we reach out our hands to touch you-To touch the hem of your gown. And we know Father that as we reach to touch you, you reach to touch us. And as we look into your face you look into ours. And Father, as we hold each other this morning you hold us. We are a body of your Saint’s that are coming to you as your children. We come as individuals but we pray as a unified body this morning. We are of all ages and sizes. We are a family of diverse people and yet we are one in you. We have come this morning to place ourselves in your loving hands and to present ourselves humbly to you for your blessing.
To you who are known as the sons and daughters of God,
Remember that through God all things are possible. Remember that God has many congregations and people, but he wants this congregation to remember that through Him all things are possible.
Never forget that He wants you to enlist new Saints, new Christian disciples and new members to this fellowship. Those of you who have captured the vision of what can be accomplished he says the time to start is now. The time of waiting for someone else, for “them” to do something has come and gone. It is up to you to start to make something happen. To move out in faith. To be innovative and to be creative. You have already been made aware that God’s spirit is with you always, and at all times. Recognize and use your many gifts and talents and be prepared for the responses you will get from those that are in need of His love and support. You will experience times of being tired and of being overwhelmed and perhaps feel resentful for the time this ministry takes out of your life. Be of good cheer. Call to the One who has always supported you. Call on the One who created you and you will be strengthened and supported in this call to recognize the worth of persons, and to bring to bear on their lives the ministry of Jesus Christ. This congregation has been a congregation that has planted churches and it should always remember that history. This congregation should not only be a “monument to faith” but a spiritual fortress as well, so charged with God that it spurs man’s spirit Godward, so that the church may come to life in the souls of men, women and children and be a living reality.
You need to be a congregation that is looking to the future, recognizing that the road ahead is not flat, but that it is curved and has ups and downs. You need to be a congregation that is joyful, innovative, inspiring, bold and new; and when you are you will see people respond.
The congregation that models peace, kindness and love is a congregation that knows what really matters…that understands that the finest aspects of life involve the soul and the spirit. You are a congregation of a diverse group of God’s children called together in this place and in this time. You are facing challenges that you need to talk to one another about. To frame and debate the issues and to clarify the assumptions, perspectives and key values of how to be a congregation that is vibrant and growing; and to be a congregation that is truly the Word made flesh in this time and place.
Continue in your role as a parenting, pioneering congregation. This congregation has been and still is the platform for launching out into new areas of ministry. It is a platform for you to go out into the neighborhood and meet people where they are. Face the challenge’s head on. Raise your expectations. Do not be dismayed. The responsibility for the solutions to the problems that you face resides in you, in your God given collective intelligence. Use one another as resources and learn ways to the solutions. The burden to solve problems is not just a leadership burden. It resides with all members of this congregation, young and old. Apathy, ambivalence and complacency must not be allowed to thwart you from this great and marvelous work. Some of you are ambivalent about the efforts and sacrifices required of you. The call to service has not changed. The great and marvelous work that you have been called to has not been finished. You are still called to be in the forefront in service to this congregation.
As a congregation you are God’s angels of ministry. You carry within your heart the angel of ministry and God wants you to let it fly. You are the catalyst to bring spirit and element together. God will take the broken parts of people’s lives, bless them and make them whole. There are many that are not in this circle of love this morning that are directly related to you and God knows that you are praying about this and that it is on your heart. But celebrate your children. Celebrate your loved ones. For as they go about life they need to know God. They need to experience the love of God in their lives just as it occurred in yours. And they will. They must have their own experience with the Holy Spirit whether it be here or in another place. And they will. Celebrate their lives. Glorify them and keep them close to you. Let them feel the impress of God in their lives. They need to develop a deep awareness of themselves as children of God and members of the church. Never stop inviting them to come with you. Never stop inviting them to join with you in this faith journey in this place. Be gentle but be persistent in your endeavors to let them know that they are beloved of God and that He is waiting for their response to the One who loved them first.
As a congregation the Lord expects you to be instruments of knowledge, to impart what He has done in your lives and then to invite others to come and to know Christ in order to experience what you have. Do this and many will respond. All of you, no matter where you are positioned on the journey of life, that have heard the gospel and have accepted Jesus as your Savior have a responsibility to take action and be actively involved in congregational life. Come forward as a messenger of His goodness with loving zeal. Invite all to come and to know Him and to experience the higher quality of life that you have. Be sensitive as to where your blessings have come from and always remember that Christ gave His life for all and their salvation. Your lives are the validation of Jesus, the very testimony of Jesus because He has worked in your life. The Spirit moves in the life of this congregation – let others see this. Let the life of the congregation be an affirmation of Jesus Christ.
To you who are known as the sons and daughters of God, as God sent Jesus, Jesus sends you. You are empowered by the Holy Spirit. You are the body of Christ with many talents and gifts, but one God and one Spirit. There are no locks or bars on our doors to keep us in or to keep others out. The mission is to have people look at life through new eyes – to see that God is the basis of who we are and whose we are, to be an effective people of blessing that are involved, that are listeners, that are looking for opportunities to serve, to take committed action, to feed the hungry and to clothe the naked. God says I will always be there and I will give you myself and if you seek me you will get answers. God promises that He will pour out His Spirit on all people. Be confident that He is doing this. It is in your hands to be proactive, to make the invitation to come and see, to be a blessing to people. Jesus showed us what it means to be a people of action. He didn’t wait for the blind man or the lepers to come to Him. He went to them. He took action. He was the ultimate minister of presence. You are called to be the same. You are called to bring others to the Light of the world. The Light that is there for all who desire it. The congregation is to do as Jesus did which is to show people how to fulfill their humanity in this time that we have here on earth.
Do not forget who Jesus is. He is the center of all you are and all that you do. He is in your hearts. He is in control. When you fail to take care of all that you are responsible for you forget that Jesus is in you. Remember that you are called to bring others to the Light of the World.
God is supremely concerned about people. Salvation comes through Jesus Christ. This is your prime motivation for outreach. All other reasons for desiring more members in the church are secondary. Participating with the Spirit in winning persons to Christ must be envisioned, desired and earnestly sought after. You need to gather together as a congregation and choose a worthy area, map a likely course, anticipate Spirit-directed course corrections and set out in anticipation of success. Will you make mistakes? Yes. But God is a God of forgetfulness and forgiveness. Forget your past failures and frustrations. Think in terms of future possibilities. Encourage each other to identify possibilities and to look toward the future. Be creative and innovative in your thinking and in your worship. Search out assets and resources as you look creatively at new opportunities for ministry.
Lift up your heads and be of good cheer. Joy is in the heart of the believer. It is not the outward circumstances that you face that are important but the attitude with which they are approached. Sweetness and joy mark a healthy congregation. Worship is your lifeblood. When you gather expect to meet God. This is the time to acknowledge the divine presence in order to seek health, restoration and commission and to send you on your journey for the salvation of people. Such worship is taken seriously in its preparation and in its execution. Because of these expectations the congregation will experience life-changing worship. There are people in this congregation that need the sense of being in the presence of God. They want to hear if there is any word from God for them. Many of them will respond to great preaching. They are not tired of preaching they are tired of poor preaching. So prepare yourselves. Study and listen because what you have to say is important because you speak for God and people need to hear you. They need to be encouraged. You need to be animated, active, enthusiastic, and let the life-blood that courses through you, the very life of Jesus, shine brightly and let it touch everyone. People hunger for the spiritually sound and powerful preaching which brings them God’s Word for their lives.
God’s love for you does not waver or diminish. As a congregation there is joy, peace and hope to be found through the reflection of God’s love to all those whom you embrace and touch. Don’t waste your substance. Use your resources wisely in support of the Word of Jesus and in the service to each other and to the greater community. As followers of Jesus you are a worthy congregation and of high value. You have made your mark in this place and in this time. But do not tarry. Continue. Build relationships, one with God, one with each other and one with your community and the time is now!
It is incumbent upon all of you, and especially the Priesthood, to be instruments of knowledge, to tell, to share and to live out what God has done in your lives. Some of you must come and know God in order to invite others to experience what He has for them and you will do this in prayer and study as your callings are fulfilled and as you respond. Others of you in the Priesthood must be reminded that your days of ministry are not over just because you have gotten older. As to the Priesthood your years of experience are extremely important to the young people, to the youth that you witnessed here this morning that are coming after you. They need to experience what you have experienced and they also need to hear of it. Come forward as messengers. Do not wait to be invited. Be proactive. Be a mentor of His goodness. Remember that you are in this place to tell of Jesus. To tell of how He can heal those that are sick, heal those that are mourning, heal those that are poor in spirit, that are lost. You, this Priesthood, are to tell the weak that they can be made strong and that the despairing can be redeemed. Harden not your hearts. Let that angel of ministry that you carry fly forward with the compassion that you have and that you feel. Let the compassion of God’s Son, which you hold in the depths of your soul, course freely through your being. Let it manifest itself as you re-energize yourselves and respond to the needs of all those around you. You in this Priesthood and members of this congregation have been called to respond. To recognized that Jesus has been given for your salvation. As you have responded to this call you have come to know God and you have experienced a higher quality of life and God wants that for everyone, young and old. There are many that will respond. There are many out there that are responding now and when they see and hear your testimony as it is lived out, the flesh of your life becoming the Word of God, when they see that, they will respond. You but need to invite them to follow Him so He can act in their lives. As a congregation be prepared for the responses and consequences that will ensue. Let His Spirit move in your congregational life. Let others see this as an affirmation of Jesus Christ.
This congregation has seen a number of changes and there has been people hurt by these changes. There are people that have turned to other places and in fact have not come back to church. Within this Congregation there is some healing that needs to take place and it rests in your hands to do it. You are admonished to make it happen. Open up lines of communication. Work to become a strong, relational congregation, a congregation that is based upon a spiritual foundation, which finds its support in individual spiritual relationships with God. As you join together as a family you will experience the blessing of God’s Spirit as you reflect on your past and look to the future. Build upon your past success as a congregation that was the instrument of new church plantings.
There are many of you in this congregation that are alive and vibrant with the memories and power of the past. This is as it should be. But don’t let the memories and powers of the past prevent you from working now, today and in the future for the good of the kingdom. There is still much to do and you have a vital place in the process. You carry the keys to where this congregation came from. It is incumbent upon you that this be communicated to the new people here today that were never privileged to experience the rich heritage of this congregation. It is you that carry the keys as to how and why this congregation was filled to capacity. Look at them. Is it not possible to employ them again today? Those of you that were instrumental, responsive and supportive of new church plantings in the past be confident that your efforts have not gone unnoticed. God knows you. He knows your name. But the opportunity to continue to be at the forefront of church growth still exists. It hasn’t stopped. Don’t continue to dwell on how things used to be. Start today to make more history. Step out in faith.
As a congregation of disciples you are called to invite and to enlist for Jesus Christ those who have been receptive and responsive to the Holy Spirit. As a congregation the task is to witness and to participate in the gathering in of souls constantly attracted by the Holy Spirit. As you communicate the “Good News” of God’s love and the salvation message, it is important to remember what is necessary is not efficiency but redundancy. Clarity is achieved through redundancy and the examination of the gospel from many points. The gospel must connect in a comprehensible way. It must be made alive in people’s lives. It must be relevant to today in order for people to accept it. When people feel dissatisfaction with the way things are that is when they are open to change or to risk a major life-changing decision. Be alert to this.
You are encouraged to seek answers as to why there are so few enlistment’s of new disciples into this fellowship. His Spirit is reaching out and many have been responsive to that Spirit. The churches around you evidence it. You are encouraged to look at your fellowship and to focus on your effectiveness. Look and see how you can make expansion happen within the construction of your church and your organization. Stay true to the beliefs and the values that your prophetic leaders have given you and that you hold dear to your hearts. You have the tools. You have what is necessary. You just need to make it come alive. To make it relevant to people around you. With committed involvement you will acquire a new and more positive image. People will respond and will inquire about your motivating beliefs! Be diligent as a caring, concerned people, sharpening your ability to discover receptive people and witness in a manner relevant to each person. Seek answers on how to reach the youth. Apply what you already know. Use the gifts and talents that you already have. Sharing the gospel wherever the direction of the Spirit leads needs to be your focus. Partnering with the Holy Spirit can direct your endeavors in many ways. Be wary of pushing ahead on your own timetable without prayer and reflection. Much of the direction to be taken and the key decisions to be made will be left to you by the Holy Spirit to your discretion. You are called to be in partnership with the Holy Spirit in ways, which call upon the best creative gifts and deepest commitments that you have. God will always be there as your partner and He will provide answers, but you contain and have in you answers already. Seek them out.
And now dear people as we touch one another I pray that these words that have been spoken this morning will become more than just words. They have to be made flesh and blood somewhere. Unless the people, the youth, the community around you SEE the words, unless the words have a LIFE through us, you will not be fulfilling this call.
I pray, dear Saints, that the gospel will be SEEN in your life as individuals and as a congregation.
Today is a birthing date that could lead to many significant things for this congregation. This congregation is on an unknown journey with an unknown destination, a journey that is filled with a vast number of opportunities to minister to the hearts and souls of people.
Dear God, as your servants we have come to this holy place to minister to your people. We know that as they have touched each other, You touch them. As they hold each other, You hold them.
Father, we place them in your loving embrace this morning so that they will find their way, so that they will find the needed healing, so that they will be a laughing, joy-filled, loving group of people, looking to the future, knowing that You are there before them bidding them, Come and See.
May they be the flesh and blood, the living expression of your Son in whose name we pray.