First of all. I encourage the people of Providence Baptist Church (the church I am blessed to pastor) to pray that God's presence would be real to those in attendance. I remember an old story concerning a telephone call received by a certain church in Washington D.C.. The caller asked, "Will the President be attending your church Sunday?" The response was, "I am not sure if the President will be present but God will." That is my prayer for back to church Sunday. I pray that as people come to church there will be one more there than the ushers can count. I am praying the people who come will know the presence of the Lord fills the place of worship.
I encourage the people I serve and the people of all churches to welcome the strangers in our midst. Please do not make them feel guilty that they have not been attending church, celebrate their presence. People today are hungry for durable and meaningful relationships. I believe those kind of relationships are prevalent among the Providence family. We are learning to communicate in word and deed, "what happens to you makes a difference to me."
My prayer is this will be more than just a day of the year when we encourage people to attend church. (I am praying that it will be much more than a time when Pastors will brag on how many people were in their church on Sunday.) I pray that as people come back to church they will experience the presence of God and begin the journey of building relationships that will bring health and healing in their journey. Above all, my prayer is that the church will provide the atmosphere for a Christ experience.
I must share a special word with our Providence people. I just read the following observation: "When many people hear the word "church" the following words come to mind: 1. Hypocrites 2. Judgmental 3. Boring. I celebrate that Providence Baptist Church is learning what it means to be a place of grace. We are not there yet but we are on a journey to becoming a place where grace is not only experienced but shared. We are not perfect yet we are learning that in our weaknesses we experience and share God's amazing grace. We discover anew each day that "God's grace has brought us safe thus far and grace will lead us home."
A closing thought: I love the words of God spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ""See I have carved you in the palm of my hand."
I look forward to atttending church with you at Providence Baptist Church on Sunday, September 21st.