We Need You!
By Pastor Connie Larson DeVaughn

Have you heard the good news? The Great Recession is over! In fact, it has been over since June 2009. In case you missed it, this was the news last month, reported by a group of economists from the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private nonprofit research group that is considered the official arbiter of economic contractions and expansions (LA Times, September 21, 2010). The experts took over a year to carefully study all economic indicators before coming to this startling conclusion.

The outcry from the public was immediate. Were these experts living on Mars? Were they on drugs? High unemployment, low job creation, the continuing hemorrhaging of the housing market, etc., pitted the reality of life-experience against this ivory tower report. In the court of public opinion, the experts were out of touch with reality.

I sided with the public against the experts in this debate. June 2009, when the recession was officially “over,” was the exact month that my husband, Robert (along with the majority of his co-workers), was laid off by his construction management company. The subsequent fourteen months of unemployment gave my family an immediate dose of reality that was eons removed from the world of numbers in which the economists were living.

It was with the reality of the recession in mind, and the equally obvious consequence that some of our members have been struggling financially, that Pastor George preached a sermon on the early church this past July. It was based on the report in the Book of Acts:

“Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as they had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the good-will of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” Acts. 2:43-47

The correlating description in Acts 4:32-37 describes in even more detail the joyful and generous giving that enabled the author to say, “There was not a needy person among them.” Pastor George had no solid answers, but he wondered out loud in his sermon, “What is the response of the church in this century to the economic downturn? Specifically, how should we at ABC function as Christ’s body given our economic climate?”

I did not hear this sermon (I was on vacation at the time), but I certainly heard about it when I returned. The response this sermon stirred up indicated that Pastor George had hit a nerve, and that more discussion was needed. The Membership Care Department was tasked with continuing the conversation. In the months since, both this Department and the Deacons have continued a fascinating dialogue which has included some of these questions:

  • How are we to be community to each other and to those outside the church? What does this look like when many of our members are hurting financially?
  • How are we community to each other in a culture in which, (because of new technology), connections are easier but at the same time less meaningful or deep?
  • What would Jesus be delighted to see in his body at ABC? What does Jesus want from us in the way we love each other and the way we love our community?

We do not yet have answers to these questions. We only have a sense that God is leading us through this investigation, without yet seeing where. And those who have participated so far quickly concluded that this conversation is too important to be undertaken by a department or the board. We need the wisdom of the whole church to think through these vital questions.

It’s a good thing we’re Baptists! A congregational church values the leading of the Holy Spirit in each of its members. Listening to God’s guidance through each other is embedded into our DNA. So we have decided to use our Quarterly Business Meeting on Sunday, October 31, for a creative brainstorming time, wrestling with the implication of scripture in the 21st century, in our community. We need you! We will spend about an hour together, thinking out loud and listening to each other. We don’t expect complete answers to the questions we have, but we do expect that God will lead us together, to live out our faith in real, tangible, practical, daily life. Your gifts, your views, your voice is important to us as we seek God together. Please come!