“… to offer Christ to those we encounter…” is the first part of one line of the mission statement of Laurel Heights. You can find our complete mission statement on the front of every Sunday worship bulletin. This summer you have encountered a lot of people, many for the first time. With Vacation Bible School, Project Transformation, Youth Mission Trip and the SA Youth summer program happening in addition to the regular ministries, there are a lot of new people finding Laurel Heights for the first time. But it is not just about numbers or encountering new people. You have committed to offer all you encounter to Christ and you have done that in an exceptional way.
This has started off being a great summer offering others the same relationship with Christ that you know and love. In a real way, you being Christ to them is offering them Christ. You have gone above and beyond a simple presence and shown love, compassion and radical hospitality. You have given sacrificially of your time and willingly shared of the gifts and abilities God has given you, often without realizing God had equipped you for the ministry before you responded to the call. You have made yourself vulnerable and opened your heart and soul. I have witnessed a person’s face light up when someone they recognized walked through the door to be with them and ask about their day. This is more than a simple act of mercy; this is relational ministry offering Christ.
The second half of this line from our mission statement is “and to nurture, equip, and enable persons to become committed Christians.” It takes a strong congregational commitment to present Christ to all the people we have met so far this summer. It takes a stronger, long term commitment to nurture, equip and enable them after the initial encounter. You have shown a commitment to offering excellence in all God’s work. Each person involved in leading the summer ministries of Laurel Heights is well trained and equipped to respond to God’s call. A special effort is made to ensure that each child, youth or vulnerable person is in a safe and secure place and those who love them know that. Where some churches cut back on summer ministries to compensate for drops in summer giving, you made sure the building was clean, the rooms comfortable and programs staffed with the same expectation to see Christ in those you see in the summer as you meet and welcome during Christmas and Easter.
As those you encounter, equip and enable become committed Christians you have welcomed them into our faith community. You have agreed to walk side by side with them because you believe your faith journey is inextricably intertwined with theirs. In a congregation as diverse and large as Laurel Heights, it is tempting to single out individuals or specific groups. You welcome each person as being of sacred worth and treat each the same regardless of past church experience or lack thereof, socioeconomic status, culture, values, family makeup or many of the other things the world uses to profile.
I am looking forward to the rest of the summer and what God has planned. Some of our summer programs have already ended and others will end soon and fall programs will begin. What new ways does God have to encounter, equip and enable us and others to continue our growth as committed Christians? In the past 100 years, God has used Laurel Heights to raise up several well recognized Christian leaders in The United Methodist church, both lay and clergy. I suspect history will identify several more over time. But possibly more important are all those who may never be singled out or lifted as an example, who simply served through the summer, encountering in a meaningful way one or two people and equipping them to make a difference in their community and the world beyond as committed Christians.
See you Sunday,