We see signs every day, and we almost forget to give notice to them unless we are lost and in need of directions. Signage in churches is important too. As a person who often is a guest in various churches, I find myself seeking some help with how to move from one building to another.
Recently, I thought about some events and experiences which serve to be signs for the future — at least in mind I see them in that fashion.
For a brief moment, I would like to share a few of these with you. Perhaps they will offer encouragement to you as you look toward the days ahead.
For the first time in at least six years, maybe seven, giving through the Cooperative Program increased in 2014 over the previous year. This is an encouraging sign, and I pray it is a turning point indicator that our churches have rebounded from the Great Recession and that they are now in better financial health. I further pray that the practice of biblical stewardship is being taught and personified in meaningful ways.
I attended the inauguration for our governor and the other elected constitutional officers in our state. I prayed the benedictory prayer for the occasion. As I experienced this symbolic swearing in for officer holders, I was reminded that they need our prayers now more than ever. Alabama is a state with a unique history. We have made our mistakes, but the most important lesson for us is to build a bridge from the past to the future. We need to learn from the past but not live in it.
Preparation for the Greater Birmingham Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham is well underway. I attended the launch meeting for this evangelistic effort, and I was impressed with the plans for this major event later this year. I know some of the key people in the Graham organization, and I pray that this will be a harvest-oriented effort for the metro Birmingham area.
Reports concerning church planting efforts in our state and beyond continue to encourage me. I am appreciative of the leadership Rick Barnhart and Lamar Duke are offering in this vital ministry for the present and for the future. Birthing new babies and nurturing them to maturity as churches cannot be overstated as to importance.
Church revitalization initiatives continue to be fruitful, yet under the radar to some extent. Our efforts at the State Board of Missions have been to coach and consult pastoral leadership. This is very much behind the scenes, but I am very impressed with the opportunity to come alongside pastors of established churches and offer guidance for the future. I must say that this ministry has enriched my life too.
Additionally, through the years I have been asked, formally or informally, to mentor pastors at various stages of their ministry. I cannot begin to tell you how edifying this has been for me as a minister of the Gospel. I wish I had been the recipient of this kind of relational experience years ago as a pastor in the local church.
My alma mater, New Orleans Seminary, asked me to help with a D.Min. seminar on campus awhile back. I enjoyed the experience much more than did the students. I learned more from them than could ever have gleaned from me. I left feeling encouraged about our ministerial leadership for our churches. Continuing education is a major need for us all.
In recent days, I have rededicated my life as a state missionary. Rededication for us as Christians is vitally important. We must remain fresh and fruitful as believers and leaders. To do otherwise is to be far less than we are called to be as followers of Christ.
Therefore, I am hopeful about the future, not because of what I have done or who I am as a person, but what Christ has done and is doing through His people. He is pointing the way to better days.