As I stand before you today as your pastor I feel the leading of Lord to share a few moments from my heart. I have just completed my first 30 days of ministry at Gastonia First Wesleyan Church. The first days of transition have been filled with grace as you have allowed me to mispronounce your name or not even know it. I have prayed for you with an unending passion as I commuted from Monroe NC to Gastonia. I want to express my appreciation to all those who gave sacrificially with their time and support to refresh the parsonage and I am so happy to report that all of our personal belongings have been delivered and we are finally establishing our home in Gastonia. My drive to church today was over an hour shorter than last week!
I have tried to establish my ministry at Gastonia First be one based upon the preaching of the Word of God. I have strived to remind you the God loves you and created you for a purpose. This morning I would like to pray from Psalm 139 over our church:
Oh Lord, you have searched us here at Gastonia First Wesleyan and you know us. As we come and go, you perceive our individual thoughts and our collective perspective. When we leave this building and go to our homes you are still familiar with our ways as the church that you joined together. Before any of us speaks a word to one another – you know what we’re going to say, oh Lord, you know about every conversation we have and every song we will lift up together to you.
You have hemmed in our church behind and before. Although sometimes we feel insecure, we know that we are safe because of your care, and that knowledge is too wonderful for us, it is too amazing for us to understand.
Where could any of us go from your Spirit? Where could we flee from your presence? If we went up to heaven you are there; if we made our bed in the depths you are there? You were with us on May 20, 1900 when 45 people met after a tent revival to establish this church. You were with us under the pastoral leadership of E.W. Black from 1915-1917 when the Tither’s League was established and the church grew to add four new Sunday School classes. You are with us when J.A, Wood came to pastor our church in 1931 – 1944 when the monthly end balance in the church account was 32¢.
You have been with us throughout the years as this church has grown and developed ministries that have touched the lives of others around the world. You will be with us wherever we are. Your hand will always be guiding us and your right hand will hold us fast.
Lord, you knit us together as the exact congregation you wanted us to be today, and you designed us from our very beginnings. We praise you because this exact collection of individuals and families has been fearfully and wonderfully gathered together by you. The work you are doing in us and through us is wonderful. We know that full well. Our specific and diverse composition was part of your plan when you called us to remain on the corner of Franklin Blvd and Church St in 1970. You proved yourself faithful oh God, when a two story building was added in 1986 to house First Wesleyan Christian School. And, when we were woven together all those years ago your eyes saw our church as it would be on this day in 2016. All the days and the ministry that you ordained for our church were written in your book before one of those days came to be.
How precious are your thoughts about us, oh God. How vast are the sum of them. If we were to try and count the thoughts you have for Gastonia First Wesleyan, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When we wake up in our individual homes all over this city, you still see of us as your precious church.
Lord, would you slay those who would try to stop your work through us? Would you send them away from us? Some speak with evil intent and misuse your name. Help us to hate the sin that causes people to rise up against you. Lord, might your enemies become our enemies.
Nevertheless Lord, we want you to search deep into the heart of our church. Cross examine us and test us and show us our anxious thoughts. Show us the things we do which are offensive to you or which might cause us to hurt one another. Then Lord, will you lead us instead to the ways that cause unity among us and bring others to eternal life with you.