I shall never forget an assignment while I was in a seminary preaching class when I was struggling with the turmoil being experienced by God’s people in a difficult passage of Scripture. The passage helped me examine the problems of the day from the perspective of Biblical times, but I struggled to find a solution and hope. My preaching professor, the legendary Dr. Zan Holmes, Jr., said something that I never forgot. He said (to paraphrase), “just as Scriptural text helps you interpret the problems of the world, always look to the Biblical text for the solutions as well”. This instruction defined my approach to exploration of Scripture throughout my ministry. Today’s challenges succinctly come together for me in the classic saying of Jesus in John 16:33 where he said: “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (RSV)
I have seen Jesus overcoming in these perilous times through pastors and congregations upholding a faithful Christian witness. This has happened as congregations have demonstrated great flexibility. Most have created alternative forms of worship that have reached phenomenal numbers of people with the gospel. Churches have attended to the needs and care of members. Leaders have offered resilient and resourceful leadership to manage operations and ministries. Then churches have also demonstrated what Bishop Schnase calls “extravagant generosity”. For example, when it was learned that some churches in our District were struggling financially because of restrictions on in-person gathering, several other churches and individuals stepped up and we raised almost $6,000.00 through our
Golden Rule Fund: Churches Helping Churches
initiative. With this special effort, there were enough funds to send checks to the seven churches that met challenges to help them with at least half of their reported needs. Cathedral Oaks is cultivating a strategic partnership, only possible by Divine intervention, that will ensure its future sustainability. Giving in general has remained consistent in most churches in the District. Churches, members, and supporters have invested their time, talents, and gifts to ensure the survival of the church’s witness. The resilience and faithfulness of pastors and churches of the Crossroads District has overall been astounding and inspiring.
Nevertheless, our challenges persist. As I write his article, COVID-19 cases have been increasing. Pastors and their leadership teams have been forced to reconsider their original plans to reopen. The impact of the pandemic on our economy is settling in. Social and political issues are intensifying. Many are afraid, anxious, growing frustrated, and young people are uncertain about the future. The list continues.
But I am reminded of the simple yet profound instruction of my seminary professor to look to Scripture to understand the problems and find God’s solutions. In this hour, I am drawn to the words of Jesus who said, “In the world we will have tribulations; but we can be of good cheer, because He has overcome the world”. He is overcoming in the Crossroads District through the faithfulness of pastors and congregations who are continuing to be led and guided by God through the living Christ as revealed in Scripture by the power of the Holy Spirit.