First Christian Church, Flora, Indiana

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From Woody’s Desk – December 2014

Category: Pastor's Column

It can’t be that time can it? I mean, it was just the fourth of July and school just began a few days ago. But reality steps in and says yes, it is time for us to think about the Christmas experience. It is more than just a day. It is more than a tree and gifts. It is a celebration about a baby being born who was promised long ago. It is about God’s only Son. My Christmas list:

-Understanding between people of color. Hatred and violence needs to fade away

-A new awareness of what “family” means. It is no longer husband, wife and their children.

We have blended families, often with 4 parents or grandparents taking care of children.

We need to accept that as truth.

-Removal of the word “poverty” from our vocabulary.

-No more homeless and hungry.

-Tolerance for those whose opinions might be different than ours. Not that we approve, but That we understand where they are coming from.

-Peace in a world that often seems to be falling apart.

-Government leaders who have the best interest of the “people” in mind.

-A growing, serving and witnessing Flora First Christian Church.

There is little that I personally can do to make that Christmas list become a reality. I can, and I will, continue to lift. up those dreams and so whatever I need to do in my life to make those things reality for me. I can’t change everyone’s opinion, but I can pray. And pray I will. Each and every day for the will of God to become a reality this Christmas season.

To all of our friends at First Christian Church, Barbara and I wish you a Merry Christmas. May the child named Jesus find room in your heart and may all of your Christmas lists become true. Praise be to God, for the birth of His son.

Nativity Bar

From Woody’s Desk – November, 2014

Category: Church Life, Pastor's Column

We have been praying together as a congregation for almost 7 weeks now. For me it has been a great experience. I Iook at the names on my list and think about that person and what they might be doing at the moment. I lift up their health, their work and family. And ask God to touch their lives in whatever way it needs to be touched.

It is amazing to me that so many people we have prayed for on a certain day, actually were in somewhat of a crisis or change on their prayer day. For instance, LaDonna Allen was on the prayer list a few days ago and on that day she was moving from her house to her new apartment. She told me on Sunday how much she needed prayer at that time. There have been other instances as well of a person who just by chance is on that days prayer list, is having medical test, trouble at home, or some joy to celebrate. It wasn’t planned that way. It just happened. And who can say that God doesn’t have a hand in everything we do?

November will be a very busy month in our church. The Centennial Celebration will be the focus for much of our activities. We are all looking forward to Neil’s visit and the celebration we will have on November IS and 16. We have committees, cabinet and board meetings this month (please note the article in this Tidings and the change of dates for these meetings). Our families will gather at the end of the month for Thanksgiving and we will vote, change the clocks and begin to think about Christmas.

Our Christmas basket project is just around the corner too. As always we will respond to the needs of our community and bless those who are in need. We are fortunate to have this opportunity and ministry. Please find the special envelope in your packets of offering envelope for this project.

October was busy too. We collected money for the Blanket Project. The TNT class put together 5O hygiene kits for Church World Services. We planned and prayed and worshiped and God responded. We took a church group picture and soon you will be able to order an 8 X 10 for yourself. A larger picture will be framed and placed with other group pictures. And the chili supper was held with one of the largest crowds ever, including several children. All in all, it was a good month.

God is so good to us. Let us, in this time of giving and receiving, never forget that our blessings come from Him. Give Him the time to be involved in your life. He wants to be there so bad, so don’t get too busy. listen for his whisper, look for his artwork and feel his Spirit in your life every day.

The SPIRIT LED Group

Category: Church Life, Pastor's Column, Special Classes

I wanted to catch you up on the progress of the SPIRIT LED group and let you know what is happening and how you can be more involved. This first phase began in the winter and the group of 20 or so have met two times.

At the first meeting, individuals and groups met and discussed the positive events that happen at First Christian Church on a regular basis. A total of 67 events were names, ranging from Sunday School to Outreach. The ministry to our children was lifted up as was the choir, men’s breakfast, CWF, camp program, helping each other, and true honesty and transparency in the church. I have posted the complete list on the bulletin board and you may take a copy if you wish. It is an amazing look at what we do.

Also at that first meeting, we talked about positive thinking and speaking. We were all challenged to think and say only positive things in and about the church and its family. Sometimes we concentrate too much on the things that go badly or the dissatisfaction we have with this or that. While those are important, it is also important to say positive things. So, we have all been trying, Sometimes it is easy and often it is more difficult.

The second session concentrated on the opinions the group had concerning dozens of questions, such as worship enthusiasm, leadership in the church, hopes for the future, evangelism, attitudes and more. I have not yet collated these results in a form that would be helpful, but in a couple of weeks, look on the bulletin board for another fact sheet. Not only are we concerned about how the church looks at itself, but at how those outside the church look at us, know what we stand for and what we believe.

Our third session, to be held in June, will put the first two together and a “road map” for the next 5 years will be the result. We will emphasize the positive, maybe change some of the things that cause us grief,  and allow God to lead us where He wants us to go. I can’t tell you where that is, but the goal I hope for will be a vital, caring and growing church that is sustainable for generations.

Now, your part. In the fall, the entire church will be invited to a 100 DAY OF PRAYER. This will involve every member and friend of the church who wants to listen to God lead. Small prayer groups will be formed and they will meet weekly for 10 weeks. A lesson for each meeting will be provided and I hope that we have great participation. I know the power of prayer. And as we, this congregation, prays for 100 days for God’s Spirit to invade us, He will hear us and He will answer.

Please feel free to ask me questions and share comments. And look to the future of Flora First Christian Church with hope and vitality.

Pastor Woody

Pastor Woody’s Column for December, 2013

Category: Pastor's Column

How do we get back to the day Jesus was born? It should be easy with all the social media apps for our phones and the internet. It seems to me we should just push a button and all of a sudden we would find ourselves in the middle of nowhere, gazing upon a newborn child, laying in straw and surrounded by his mother, father, some shepherds and an angel or two, just for good measure.

I looked for that app. It wasn’t there. I searched the internet too and nothing was found that could transport me back to that day more than 2000 years ago. I guess you might wonder why in the world would I want to go back to Bethlehem in the first place? Well, I like to be there (anywhere) when things happen. And if I were able to be there when Jesus was born, I’m sure it would have a profound effect on my life. And your life too. This would be the only church in town that had a pastor who was there when Jesus was born.

Silly isn’t it? How strange. It isn’t gonna happen! Or is it? Yes, it could. But not just for me; for each and every person who loves God, trusts in Him and believes in the birth of His only Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We see it in the faces of those who believe. Their eyes twinkle like they were the stars that hovered over the wise men who brought their greatest possessions to a newly born king. We can see it in the brightness all around us, even in the yard decorations that are often dotted with reminders of Jesus’ birth, a manger scene, or Mary and Joseph, or a simple star.

In those visual aspects of Christmas, we can journey back and rekindle in our hearts the celebration and welcoming of the King of the World. God with us. Emmanuel. It does not take a travel machine to go there. Listen to the songs of the choir or the scriptures read in church on the Lord’s Day. Hear the jingle of the bell at the Salvation Army kettle as it invites us to share. Be there when gifts are wrapped and picked up as our Christmas Project happens and we see the expressions on the faces of those who are truly blessed this Christmas.

So, won’t you come with me to Bethlehem? Let the newborn king, Jesus, the Son of God, be born in your heart once again. Renew that relationship you had with God for so long and let it grow deeper and more profound as each day of December brings us closer to the 25th. And on that day, the Day of All Days, pause amidst the gift wrappings on the floor, the food in the oven and the stress of the day; and thank God for giving us His Son, and our Savior Jesus Christ.

Pastor Woody

Pastor Woody’s Column for October, 2013

Category: Pastor's Column

It is that time of year! Leaves are changing color and the temperature is going down. Football games fill Friday nights and the gardens have to be cleared of old plants. And. of course, it’s the church’s time to tell me what I have to give in my offering. That once a year “pledge drive” that never seems to end. This year, let’s do something different. To be honest, I don’t think the church ever has ever told anyone what they are supposed to give, at least not in a dollar amount. True, it may have reminded us of what God says is an appropriate offering, a tithe (10%) of our income, but that’s one of the church’s responsibilities. What we give is between us and God, and every year, at the end of September, we are handed a notebook of pictures that tell the story of Flora First Christian Church. It lifts up the fellowship, worship, study and outreach of a congregation in north central Indiana. so in a few days, when you receive the notebook for 2014 budget considerations, remember these things. They are important and worthy to be considered.

Did you know that 21% of children across America are in church on Sunday? One out of 5. Our church is no different. We are currently seeing a shortage of older youth, but a bunch of younger kids are often here on Sunday. Your offerings help pay for lesson materials, outings, fellowship and study materials for these youngsters. And, if they have a great time in Sunday School, they might invite a friend. Maybe next year with efforts across this nation, 22% of young children could be in church.

Church is more than sermons. In fact many feel the sermon is the least important part of Sunday worship. For me, it is important, but other things happen in worship that are more influential. Did you see the video on Sunday about joyful sharing? Or has the choir every sung an anthem that touched your heart? JoAnn and Miriam and the choir add so much to our worship, and you gifts help to make that part of worship extraordinary and inspirational.

Can we get you a fan? Or how about a blanket? Sometimes these offers are given on the same day. One of the biggest points of discussion is the temperature of the church. It costs a lot of money to run the heating and cooling systems of the church. Sometimes we get it right, other times it is too cold or too hot. But the alternatives are not worth considering. We would not think of coming to church and not having cool or warm air coming out of the vents. Likewise we need water and electricity to function. Again, this is one place your offerings to the church go.

Did you hear about the stained glass and the roof? Priceless windows in the sanctuary were damaged by the hail storm of 2012. Our insurance paid to have them repaired. And some of your gifts help pay the premiums on the insurance of the building and parsonage. In the next couple of years, a new roof will be needed over the sanctuary. Sad to say, it will be expensive. I heard the amount of $40,000 tossed around, but it is far too early to tell. However, we need to plan ahead. Your gifts to the Capital Building Fund will ensure we have cash on hand when these repairs are needed. And the property committee thanks you in advance.

Yes, there are other things like salaries, office supplies, snow removal costs, fellowship events and other ministries that your gifts help pay. And all are important. But I think the most important thing we have to keep in mind is, “What would God have us do?” Our church budget has remained about the same for several years. It goes up about 2% this year. Can you help make that financial goal a reality? Maybe increase your giving to Flora First Christian Church by 2% or even 3%. so, if you give $25 a week, make it $26. Or, if you give $100 each week, make it $105. If each of us do our part, 2014 will be a successful giving year for the church. I think that is what god wants. I will consider His request and I hope that you will do the same.

Pastor Woody

Pastor Woody’s Column for September

Category: Pastor's Column

For the last few weeks I have had the honor of teaching the Crusader’s Class. On Sunday, my last Sunday to teach, I took personal privilege to “rand and rave” about some of the news stories that popped up last week.

One thing I heard was about a couple in Nevada who decided that they were going to kidnap police officers, hold them captive and have a mock trial, finding them guilty and then shooting them for their crimes. I was appalled. True, many have little or no respect for law enforcement, but to do such a senseless and horrible deed is such a waste. Has our country gone so far as to think that something like this could happen?

Secondly, some teen age boys were bored. So they decided to take a rifle and shoot someone. Kill them. And they did. Again I wonder, if we have gone this far in our society, where does sense come into play? It seems obvious to me people with this type of mind set need attention, and they need it fast.

Thirdly (and this did not come up in Sunday School) is the situation of a group of homeless in Indianapolis who live under a bridge and have in fact made this a permanent camp. They were ordered out of the area on Monday and told not to return. Where do they go? Who takes care of them? Why does homelessness exist in the numbers that it does?

I have no real answers. Our world seems to be falling apart, from situations like those above, to the crises in Egypt and Syria. How do we respond or do we just turn away, shake our heads, and say “what will be, will be?” Would Jesus have done that? Or would he have gotten involved? The problem, as I see it, is that so many people are so quick to offer a solution, but are unwilling to do anything about it. Not that we can stop chemical weapons thousands of miles away, but what about the 20 year old woman, who walks into our community, with no place to live? Or, what about the family that is struggling with all the baggage that comes with being a family: high prices, lack of good housing, no jobs. What do we do? I think, no, I know, these are things we as Christians should be thinking about. Jesus Christ is our blueprint and he has shown us a way of compassion and generosity. Can we hear him?

Pastor Woody

Pastor Woody’s Column for August – Change!

Category: Pastor's Column

Summer is about over. Change will happen as soon as children return to the classroom, the days get shorter, and the temperatures cool. We welcome this change, as it adds variety to life and it helps us appreciate what we have.

Some change, though, we do not like. Bones and muscles ache as we grow older. Our “to do list” doesn’t get done because other things get in the way of what we really want to do. And then there’s the garden. It has just about finished growing and now is the time we have to clean it out and prepare for winter.

Change happens in the church too. Sometimes we like it and sometimes we could do without it. One of the biggest changes has to do with our young children. We have been working hard to figure out the best way to keep Junior Worship and the Nursery, vital ministries in the church. Starting in September, Pam Spangler will be our Junior Worship leader. Pam is enthusiastic about this new opportunity and we will give her all the support she needs. Maurice Robeson will fill in during August before she begins. Another change is our nursery. We no longer depend on volunteers, as it was getting more and more difficult to find people willing to serve in that position. We are searching for a person who will be at church Sunday mornings from 9:15 to 11:30. They will be compensated for their time. If you are interested in being nursery attendant, or know of someone who might be, please let me know as soon as possible. The nursery is covered for the next two weeks, and after that we have no one signed up to be there.

A third change has to do with our praise service. We will no longer use  CDs for music on the first Sunday of the month. It has become harder and harder to find appropriate music that we can sing with so instead of having all songs on that first Sunday be praise worship songs, they will be used throughout the worship service. This was a difficult decision the worship committee made, but we hope it will not prevent us from praising God with our voices and our presence at worship. Please feel free to share with me any feelings you have about this.

Finally, starting August 25, I will begin a series of sermons that will tackle the virtues of being a Christian. Each week we will look at a different virtue and you will be given scriptures to read during the week. Some kind of Bible Study is planned as well. I hope you will enjoy and grow spiritually from this 7 week series.

With the writing of this newsletter, I complete 4 years of being your pastor. In that short time I have made so many friends and we have been through many ups and downs. God will continue to guide us and He will set the agenda for my  ministry at this, His church. Thank you for your support not only to me, but also to Barbara.

Pastor Woody

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