It’s a Sign!
“Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
Once again, I took a look at the sign as I drove past this morning. My route to the District Office takes me through the small town of Three Bridges. Along the way there is a Reformed Church with a messaging sign close to the road. There have been messages about soup suppers, community service days, times of service, Vacation Bible School, and other events. The point today is not so much what was on the sign as the fact that I looked at the sign!
When I was the pastor at St. Peter I always wondered how effective our sign was. I had pushed hard for a messaging sign when we built the edition. Previously we only had a sign with our name on it. I wanted to say more to our community. So, I lobbied our building committee to include a line item for a messaging sign. Most agreed and it became a reality.
I have to admit that after the sign graced our property for a year or so I began to have some doubts. Is it effective? Is it getting our message out? Do people see the sign or has it just become a part of the landscape and is now ignored? I didn’t know. Some of our folks saw other churches with clever slogans on their signs. It was suggested we do the same. I balked. Maybe? It was a risky move.
Now, after all these years, I think I have my answer. Now that I am no longer the pastor looking at St. Peter’s sign every time I come to church and the one responsible for the messaging, I think I know. I know because, as a member of the Three Bridges community who drives by observing, I do look at their sign. Yes, just about every time I pass I look at the sign! I look to see if it has changed, if something new is happening, if there is something for me.
Now, I have no intention of attending that church but I am still curious. What about others who are passing by? I don’t think they are so different from me; perhaps a bit more disengaged. But still my guess is that a message is getting out, “This is a place where you can come and be involved if you like. We have something to offer you.” So, the sign is at least somewhat effective.
What about your church, your sign? Maybe you don’t have a messaging sign but still it is important that it looks good and communicates that you are here in the community. If you do have a messaging sign do you use it to its full effect? Is it current? Is it relevant? Remember it doesn’t have to be cute or clever to get attention. It just needs to be changed periodically so people are looking for what’s new. It needs to communicate that there is stuff happening on a regular basis.
Beyond events and information, how about some gospel invitations? If I were to evaluate the church sign I pass, I would say that it shares too few gospel messages. While events and information are import we are really about the gospel. In my estimation law messages on signs just make people angry. There is plenty of room in well crafted sermons for law and gospel. People get a lot of law every day. Your gospel invitation on the sign might be just the thing that God uses to draw someone in.
I have had people attend worship and say it was because they saw something on our sign! I can imagine a gospel message like “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” touching the heart of a burdened person.
NJDU Homecoming for all NJD Churches!
As I write NJDU Homecoming is only two days away! I believe this event will be a great blessing to both our pastors and lay people. Pastors, Elders, Treasurers, and Council Members will get to meet with one another in breakout sessions to compare and discuss ministry in their congregations.
The day will feature both plenary and breakout sessions aimed at training and developing our leadership teams to be more effective leaders. The plenary sessions, designed to be like a series of TED talks, will teach and bring new insights to church administration. The breakout sessions will then give leaders an opportunity to learn, compare notes, and talk about ministry unique to their office.
I eagerly anticipate sharing with you next month the results of this Homecoming day. In addition, I don’t envision this as a one-off event but hope that, with some success, we can develop this into an annual training event.
Along with all the educational commencement ceremonies happening at this time of the year, my Official Visits of NJD congregations have commenced. My intention is to visit 1/3 of our congregations each year for the next three years. That means an average of 1.5 congregations a month. Excluding festival days, vacations, and the Sundays I am away for District business , that leaves a rather challenging schedule.
The good news is that congregations have been eager to schedule these visits. I put out five dates over the summer for visitation and invited a select number of churches to schedule a date with me. In less than a half week the dates were all full! It is heartwarming to know that congregations are as eager to meet as I am!
The first of these visitations has already happened. What a joy it was to meet with the people of God at Good Shepherd, Randolph! We had a delightful day worshipping, sharing, and talking about the ministry of the District and the congregation. I am so blessed to have some new friends in the Lord, to have deepened other relationships, and to better know how I can pray for and help this congregation.
Up next are Trinity, Morris Plains; Our Savior, Stanhope; Holy Cross, Bordentown; and St. John, Clifton.
I am looking forward to equally joyful days with these congregations and to one with your congregation sometime soon.
District Short Clips
As always, there is a lot going on in the District. Here are a few things to keep you abreast of
what is happening.
The following congregations are in the call process:
the call process.
The Fall District Pastors Conference has been scheduled for Thursday October 26th at King of Kings, Mountain Lakes. Rev. Dr. Rick Serina will be our speaker for the day on the Order of Creation. This is the subject of the newest CTCR Document of which Dr. Serina was the primary author. We look forward to the insights he can share with us on this important subject. Preliminary plans are being made for the presentation to be accompanied by a Bible study that pastors can use in their congregations.
Preliminary discussions have occurred to revive our youth gatherings. If you would be interested in contributing toward the planning of these events please let me know.
In addition, a cooperative confirmation program is in the works. Congregations who have small numbers of confirmands and would like to join with others in forming a larger class should contact Pastor Steve Vera. Please do so soon since classes will start in September.
Is your congregation looking for a social ministry outreach? Orphan Grain Train, Mid-Atlantic Branch does great work and is ready to welcome you into the partnership. Their primary mission is to gather clothing to ship to areas of need. They will not only receive your articles of clothing but are eager for a group from your church to work there for a day. The next shipment scheduled for June is bound for the Republic of Georgia to aid Ukrainian refugees. Past shipments have gone to Appalachia and Haiti. For more information go to their website www.ogt.org and lick on Mid-Atlantic Branch. Orphan Grain Train is a Recognized Service Organization of the LCMS.
2023 Synodical Convention
Once every three years (four in this cycle because of co-vid) Synod holds it national convention. The event will take place this year in Milwaukee from July 29th – August 3rd. Each of our four Electoral Circuits is allowed a voting pastoral and lay delegate. The Board of Directors is also allowed to send two non-voting delegates.
While the purpose of the convention is to be educational, inspirational and motivational, the majority of time is taken up by the consideration of the resolutions being brought before the convention for action. Our delegates will be gathering on Saturday June 24th at King of Kings, Mountain Lakes to discuss the issues and prepare to vote and participate.
As important as preparing for the convention is, we are also preparing to bring the convention back home with us to you. Our Board of Director representatives will be monitoring the resolutions and discussions noting which of them directly relate to our District and which one relate to our congregations. These resolutions will be evaluated and prioritized in light of our own District’s goals. Both the District Board, and you as congregations, will be able to join the conversation about the ones you desire to prioritize and implement in your ministry. We are hoping in this way to bring Synod, District, and congregations closer together.
God uses many different means to communicate his message of salvation through Christ. Something as simple as our church signs can be used of God. While we do well to give attention to our church signs, let’s always be ready to do more, to share the gospel and the hope of Christ that we have within us.
Peace be to you,