Wednesday, January 03, 2007

It's A Wonderful Life

It’s A Wonderful Life is the seasonal favorite when it comes to movies. Jimmy Stewart plays the part of George Baily who is given a frightening gift. In a moment of despair he wishes he were never born. So he is granted the gift to see what life would be like if he were never born. In this nightmarish parallel world the little town of Bedford Falls transforms into a seedy community known as Pottersville where people George knew have been changed into despairing and hopeless people—all because he never lived to touch their lives.

And it makes me wonder. What would happen to Ennis, Texas if this church never existed? Or perhaps more convicting: what would happen if tomorrow morning this church just closed the doors and everyone started attending churches in Dallas, Kaufman, and Waxahachie? Would Ennis even notice we were gone?

The last few weeks we have been asking Why did my Savior come to Earth? There are many reasons we have discussed and many we have yet to explore. But has it ever occurred to us there is a parallel question: Why have I come to Earth? Why has this church come to Earth, to Ennis? To word it another way: do we realize our purpose is inextricably bound up in Jesus’ purpose?

Jesus came to bring God’s rule into the world—to bring mercy into the lives of everyone. Part of that agenda was to create a group of people who would continue his work—who would serve as his continuing presence in the world. In Matthew 10 and Luke 6 Jesus points out the job of a disciple is to become just like his teacher. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul says we were given grace and created to do good works. When you read the book of Acts it becomes very clear the disciples are merely acting the way Jesus acted when he was on earth. The book closes without truly ending. It is as if the story was meant to be continued in the lives of every disciple and every church that followed. Indeed, that is the point: our lives—this church and others are to be the additional chapters in the story of God’s action on this earth!

The truth is, we have been placed in Ennis, Texas as Christ’s body to bring his mercy and love to affect Ennis. Far too often, we’ve focused on individualism. What is my purpose in life? That’s fine, as far as it goes. But we must never forget Jesus didn’t leave just one person behind. He left a group, a community to continue his work. Paul calls this community the body of Christ. What we cannot accomplish individually, we can accomplish collectively.

We’ve seen what we can do, haven’t we? This church has done many good works: the Spanish outreach, child care/Mothers-Day-Out ministry, our work with the orphans in Romania, mission trips to Africa, assisting Meals-On-Wheels, our emergency shelters, helping the Women’s Resource Center, Work Camp, and Angel Food. And how many families have been touched and helped by this church? We cannot truly measure the good that has been done.

But what about now and in 2007? If we decided to close up shop tomorrow, would anyone in Ennis notice? That’s a chilling question, isn’t it? Can you take a moment though and think of the possibilities? Can you dream? How could this church truly make an impact on this community? How could this group of people truly act as a body of Christ in Ennis? What ways can this church bring mercy to hurting people, justice to the oppressed, hope to those who feel hopeless and love to the unloved?

Would you take a few minutes right now think about this, talk it out? Share with your friends and colleagues what you would like to see this church do to make Ennis a place where Jesus’ love and mercy is demonstrated. Ask yourselves, “Where is the hurt in this community? How can we bring God’s love and mercy there?”

Understand it is not enough to dream. You have to put your hands and shoulders to that dream. Larry and Sherry Davis did this with Angel Food. They had a dream, researched it, recruited a team and went to work. Ron and Jeanette Inmon did this with the Crisis Care Ministry. Our women did this with the Women’s Ministry, Cora and April Young did this when they began their outreach in Ferris High School. We can’t come up with ideas and expect someone else to act on them. We have to move.

I invite you to ask yourself where God is calling you to step forward to help his church be Jesus’ presence in Ennis.

Would Ennis miss Gilmer Baldridge if we closed the doors tomorrow? I don’t know—I really hope so. But I pray that be the end of 2007 we could answer that question with a resounding YES!


Darryl said...

Some of you have responded to the lesson. Here are a few of the suggestions for outreach to our community:

-Involve our church with other churches in the community.
-Be open to the "new."
-Provide Clothing for the poor.
-Participate in something like HABITAT FOR HUMANITY or PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE.
-Care baskets for new moms at hospital maternity ward.
-After school programs
-Family mission trips
-Free "English as Second Language" (ESL) classes to reach Hispanic community.
-Teach English using Bible (Friend Speak or Let's Start Talking)
-Help create a more INVITING worship service to encourage others to attend.
-A REASONABLY priced Marriage and Family Counseling Service.
-Summer School for elementary age students.
-Visitation to community.
-Clothing drive for school children.
-Promote positive things we can do rather than spend time on negatives.
-Do a service for Ennis, invite people for lunch.
-Feed the homeless.

There were other suggestions relating to congregational life and not particularly oriented toward the community of Ennis. Those ideas will be reviewed as well.

At this point, I'd like for you to consider these ideas, or add any others. Feel free to discuss them on this blog. Remember: the idea is not for you to tell others what to do, but find ways in which you can serve the community of Ennis. If there is an idea here that resonnates with you, explore it. Discuss it with friends, see what you need to accomplish the task, recruit a team and discuss it with the leadership. Then GO FOR IT!

Darryl said...

Some rules for responding to this particular posting: 1) If you use the "Anonymous" setting, still put your name at the bottom of your posting or it won't be published. 2) No negative comments or attacks on others. 3) Stick to the subject. There are a lot of issues we could discuss--but impacting our community is the most important. If you are not from our town, that's ok. If you are living in a rural southern community of 17,000 or less share how your church has impacted your community. Tell us what you've done!