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More than existing, it's about thriving

Greetings, Connersville, and I hope this finds you doing well as we move into the summer season.

On June 9, the church will celebrate Pentecost Sunday, the day many Christian churches will celebrate their birth. It was the day that God sent His promised Holy Spirit to fill the people and begin the “Christian” movement in Jerusalem and beyond. It was a day that many had their hearts and eyes opened to God’s activity and purpose.

Many people came to know the presence of God’s activity in their lives through the birth, life, ministry and death of Jesus the Christ. May people accepted this truth and were baptized with water, as their hearts and lives were baptized with the “Fire” that John the Baptist preached about.

It was then that the church began establishing throughout the area and beyond. However, it is the opinion of this humble United Methodist pastor, that some how, some way, today we have missed the purpose of the message of Pentecost Sunday.

For me, the message was, and is, followers of Jesus must move beyond the walls of their local congregations and become missional. As the Apostle Peter preached to the masses, his message was about salvation in Christ, and to fulfill the mission of Jesus to reach all people, everywhere, even when they don’t look or act like us.

Too many congregations focus on self preservation and too many pastors focus on vocational success. We want to exist, but not thrive. This is not the Pentecost Message.

John Wesley, founder of Methodism, was not afraid the church would not exist, but that it would exist as a dead sect. He feared the church would be a group of people that were more interested in their preferences, and their needs, and not the needs of the community in which they exist.

My prayer for the churches in Connersville and in Fayette County, is that we don’t just exist, but that we thrive by moving outside our walls and build relationships with all folks whom we come in contact with. It is through the building of these relationships that one can have serious conversations about the importance of a relationship with Jesus the Christ, and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Again, it is not about numbers in the pews, or the amount during offering, but about souls, It is about letting folks know that there is something better than what we are currently experiencing. It is about letting men, woman, and kids know that nothing of this world will fill the emptiness inside our lives. The only thing that will make us complete, that will satisfy us is a loving relationship with God, through Jesus Christ. This is the message of Pentecost.

Jesus taught, “Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.” Later the Apostle John recorded Jesus saying, “Love your neighbor as I have loved you.”

Pentecost teaches us that we must love God wholly and others sacrificially and unconditionally. The church does not exist for themselves. They exist for God and to complete the mission of sharing the Good News to everyone.

You matter. You have value. You have worth. Jesus died for you. That’s the Good News!

May we, who are Easter people, also be Pentecost people. May we be people who are empowered by God’s Holy Spirit, going out into the coffee shops, diners, bars, movie theaters, ball games and civic groups, building authentic relationships based upon love and forgiveness.

It is then, and only then, the church that was established about two thousand years ago, will thrive. Have a blessed Summer.

Frank Oakman is the pastor of First United Methodist Church. He wrote this article as a member of the Fayette County Ministerial Association.