To write a faith witness, one might explore the question, “What brought you to God and to church?”
For me, the question to answer is “What KEPT me here?”
I’ve attended Federated my whole life (or at least since I was five), but you know as well as I, just attending is not what keeps a person involved in a church.
In fact, as a teenager, I had one foot out the door. Church had been a nice Sunday tradition with lots of nice people, but church was not specifically relevant to my life. God seemed like an outsider at that time; a distant entity on the far back burner of my mind.
At that same time, I didn’t think I had much to offer others. I was blithely content with a status quo existence, ready to go about my life in normal, inconsequential ways. And I believe I might have remained that way, if God hadn’t completely changed my story.
You’ve heard it said: “God doesn’t call the equipped, God equips the called.”
Well, with unrelenting persistence, the staff and lay leaders of this church literally “called” me. Our youth minister, Ron Woodruff, called to invite me to youth retreats (which transformed my life!), to lead in worship, to serve on boards, start a clown ministry, and to help plan church events.
The director of children’s ministries, Lynn Wilson, called to invite me be a churchschool teacher and then to attend workshops with her on ways to invigorating Christian education. Friends from Youth Group called to invite me to attend events or just to hang out together.
They called so often, that I had to change my life story from “apathetic member” (which had been a very comfortable identity)to “active leader”. That is what kept me here and keeps me coming back: God’s relentless call for me to show up and speak up, with God as co-author…front and center in my life!
Each call invited me to recognize opportunities to contribute, challenged my faith to stretch, empowered me to lead, believed me into being so much more than I ever would have dreamed for myself. This is the extended family who helped Paul and I to raise our family in active faith and that carried us through the toughest heartbreaks.
Through this congregation, God never left me off the hook and wouldn’t leave me alone…and I was hooked.
Because of your persistent invitations, your remarkable models of love and service, your edgy topics of discussion, your inspirational music, and your constant reminders of who I am and to whom I belong, God remains palpably REAL and relevant.
God has rewritten my life story line by line through a faith community that feeds my curiosity, lights my path for a purposeful faith journey, encourages my voice to speak out, and empowers my leadership.
I believe we…as a community of people who have discovered That Amazing Something which deepens lives and challenges us to bring God’s grace to our work, our world, and our relationships…we have the vital responsibility to let others in on the secret; to invite them in, share the delight of God’s grace, empower their participation in the greatest story ever told.
They say mainline church attendance is declining. So we can all nod our heads, agreeing that’s so sad, then return to sipping our coffee OR we can consider ways to be the change we want to see happen…right here…right now.
My current faith passion is to be actively involved in Alive 360 as it evolves and grows. It has been exhilarating to be part of something so original and dynamic. To help shepherd an idea which grew from our Appreciative Inquiry to re-invent worship in such a way that it draws more folks from outside a church experience into one infused with God’s unconditional Grace, with global relevance and with youthful energy. I hope that, very soon, Alive 360 can be set at a time more inviting to young families and more accessible to church school and connected to our whole congregation. If we mean to draw in families and new members, we need to offer it at a more reasonable time for all!
“God loves me just the way I am, and loves me too much to leave me that way.” If Federated is to continue to be that life force of God’s voice and presence in the Chagrin Valley and indeed in the world, it must count on me and on you to BE the change, to BE the leaders, and to CREATE the relevance wherever it is missing.
You could say The Federated Church saved my life…saved it from complacency and mediocrity. Saved me from living a life unexamined, uncommitted, disconnected.
I believe that, with God, we are in the business of saving lives. Will you join me in that important calling?
By the way, there’s an All Church Retreat coming up on Nov. 5th, masterfully led by Doug Wysocky-Johnson to awaken relevance and reconnection. If I invite you now, that will save me a couple hundred calls. I hope to see you there!
Let us join together in the spirit of prayer:
Persistent God of Love and Grace,
I’m so glad you never leave me alone!
You call me out from my aimless wandering and stir me from complacency. You provide me with all I need. Open my eyes to see who I can feed, to clothe with respect, to empower in love. Open my ears to hear new perspectives to recognize Your voice in the words of others. Open my mouth to speak Your Truth, to share Your Word, to walk the journey.