I have been impressed anew this week with the spiritual and emotional health of Greater Portland Bible Church. Our Lord Jesus certainly has been and is doing a good thing among us. Generosity is one evidence of church health. Without brow-beating, without guilting, without sophisticated professional fundraising strategies, the people of this church are increasingly generous: financially generous in support of the ministries of the church and of our Global Partners; personally and privately generous when there is an individual need; generous with time and energy given to many ministry opportunities; generous with the welcome and acceptance of newcomers from increasingly diverse backgrounds, countries, and ethnicities; and generous with words of affirmation and appreciation to one another.
Another evidence of church health is changed lives. Without giving specific examples, I can tell you that I am more frequently hearing the stories of people who say they have grown in their love for Jesus and it is transforming them and their relationships. Recently, I am also hearing frequently about people who have put their trust in Jesus for the first time with the help of the people and the ministries of our church. I am praying that is just the beginning of a flood of people coming to him in the months and years ahead.
I, and many others, have commented on the remarkable unity and peace that our community has been enjoying. Unity and peace are markers of a mature and healthy church.
So how does a church come to be healthy? Jesus promised, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself.” (John 12:32) He was talking about the power of the cross as an evidence of God’s great love for us to attract people from all nations to himself. We have also found it to be true that when we have tried to lift him up before the eyes of this congregation, he has drawn us to himself. And as we have seen him more clearly, we have drawn closer to him with a growing affection, and he has changed us, personally and corporately, to be more like himself. It works. He is keeping his promise. That’s how a church gets healthy.
I believe Jesus has prepared this church for the next chapter of our life together, a chapter that will include a greater impact for him and his kingdom on the world around us and the greater fruitfulness of people being drawn to him who was lifted up. With the arrival of Pastor Jay Gjurgevich and his family this week, we are turning the first page of that next chapter. I hope that excites you! And, by the way, I hope you will not be reluctant to speak of your excitement out of concern for my feelings, because I am excited too. In fact, I take it as a commendation of my tenure in the role of lead pastor that our church is healthy and hungry and excited to make Jesus more visible in our neighborhoods, the city, and the world.