We elected two new vestry members and examined our budget. It was a wonderful time and it was easy to sense God's presence and blessings on this place. After the business part of our meeting, I presented to those gathered what I believe to be our direction in the year ahead.
It is a vision of becoming a Biblically functioning church where God's priorities become our priorities. It's a place where the supernatural becomes commonplace, where God's activity is felt and experienced, where hearts melt, where difference fade, where needs are met, where the unwelcome feel welcomed, racial lines are blurred, and the rich and poor come together. It's like the Church in Acts and we will experience the same power because we will have the same unity that they did. It's a big dream but a faithful one.
I recognize that being able to dream this way means that we are positioned to move forward. Again, I know that it is only because of the good work of all of you and the leadership of COTHA over the years that has positioned us in such a good place. Our current leadership is a strong group of faithful men and women. We will see this leadership group grow because we will be intentional about it.
The vision of becoming a Biblically functioning community excites me but it's a church that I haven't seen in many places. It certainly is not the church I remember as a child and young adult. It's not that those churches were "bad";Indeed many, many fine people attended and participated in those places. It's just that church was not a place where lives were transformed, they weren't places where people would do all they could do to orient their lives around the ministry of the church.
It was a place for insiders, not outsiders. They were boring, if anyone found their life changed it was more by accident than on purpose.
The possibility that the mainline church might not survive unless it changed was introduced to me during my doctoral studies. What I heard and began to see startled me at first and then excited me. I began to realize that the mainline church had lost its way. In an attempt to maintain the way I've always done it" we were ignoring the fact that we weren't reaching people. In an attempt to be relevant, we let go of God's unchanging truth, the inspired Word of God.
We had become an institution. And the future wasn't bright.
Then God opened up something for me. In a variety of way, through authors, pastors and teachers, through mentors and friends, I realized that God's hand was in the slow, but rapidly increasing decline of the mainline church. God was doing this! He was replacing the tired old way of being church, where lives weren't transformed, and the lost were not being made the found. He was calling the church, from all denominations, to the way it was in the beginning. Someone called this the Ancient Future church. To say I was excited doesn't even get close!
And then God called me here. The strong beacon of light that illuminated a desire to see God bring hope to a hopeless world, through the ministry of a vibrant local church, lit the path from Kansas to Texas for me. He has brought me here so that we can become the kind of place where hearts are changed and hope overcomes despair. That beacon has not become weaker, it has become stronger.
This vision is not mine. It's a vision from God. We are being called to align ourselves with this God-sized dream and vision.  Today I painted this picture. If you weren't there, let me issue you the same invitation I did today. Where do you want to invest your life? Do you want to pursue a small dream, a dream that won't make a difference eternally? Or will you take a risk and trust that the kind of place we can become will increase the population in heaven? As one of my mentors says, the local church is the hope of the world. Let us, together, reorder our lives around the ministry of COTHA and let's become a biblically functioning community. When we risk this, God will receive the praise, the honor and the glory.