On The Journey, Judy Bowman

How healthy is your parish?

We’ve all been in parishes that seemed so alive with the Holy Spirit. We were energized with a passion for our faith, to evangelize and to contribute our time, talents, and treasure. Volunteers were plentiful and full of energy and joy. And the pastor smiled a lot. But there are those parishes where things were different — lots of committee meetings, a financial focus, the same people in the same roles year after year — and a not-so-smiling pastor. It’s a church on life-support. Have hope. When you’re able to recognize some of these early warning signs you’re on the road to helping your parish become what God has called us to be: lighthouses and not clubhouses. Here are some questions to ask yourself about your parish. Are you getting it wrong or right?

1) Your parish doesn’t look like the community around it. Do the folks in the pews reflect the diversity of age, race, income and the overall demographics of your neighborhood? If not, then there’s a disconnect somewhere. Hint: it’s NOT the neighborhood’s fault.

2) It’s a problem if the only thing your community knows about your parish is where the buildings are located. And for some parishes even this might be asking a lot. If you’re invisible to your neighbors you aren’t sharing the light of Christ with them. You’re just a blank spot where Jesus should be. Ouch.

3) Do your ministries spend more time and money on their programs rather than on helping people? Sometimes we can invest a lot of effort DOING our ministry (meetings, planning, recruiting, fundraising, etc.) than we do in actually serving others. What’s the point if all we do is talk about service but rarely actually feed or clothe or visit or comfort someone in need?

4) Is the first question we ask, “How much will it cost?” rather than, “How will it lead people to Christ?” Of course money is one of our parish resources. But only insofar as we can use money to share the Gospel. From which hymnals to buy to which Vacation Bible School program to use—our primary consideration has to be people. Always.

5) Do you think of your church as a “place?” Of course it has a physical address. But the truth is that your church is a parish family with a God-given purpose—and that purpose must look outside of itself for its mission. Too many parishes exist to serve themselves alone. Too few parishes find their purpose in the service of their neighbors. Does your church “stop” at the doors?

6) Every parish wants new members. But some only want new members if they look and act and pray and worship and tithe like the old members. If we aren’t seeking out and embracing our neighbors (of all races, ages, finances, and backgrounds) we’re nothing more than a secular clubhouse. We’re salt that’s lost its flavor and what good are we? (Matthew 5:13).

7) You think it’s the pastor’s job to make all the hospital, nursing facility, and homebound visits. Sure, only the priest can hear their confessions and anoint them with the oil of healing. But it’s every member’s calling to do what Christ tells us: love one another. This means you and me visiting the members of our parish family who can’t come to Mass with us. The pastor isn’t our proxy when it comes to this.

8) And here’s what I think might be the biggest problem in many parishes: half your members are missing. Look around the pews. How many moms bring their children to Mass alone? How many ministry members are women? What are you doing to engage entire families in your parish mission? How are you reaching out to those missing husbands and fathers? And if they do come to Mass, are they just space-holders or do they embrace the call to service? The simple fact is if the men of your parish are spiritually-dead, then so is your parish.

So. How does your church stack up? Is it a living, growing family or the church of the walking dead? Are you the salt and light of your community?

“We are called to become a living Gospel in the world.” — Pope Francis

Glenda Smiley, Pleasant Valley Baptist Church

We had an amazing time of revival at Pleasant Valley Baptist with Brother Dean McNeese as God’s messenger last week. The Holy Spirit was sweet and present in the hearts of those who came to worship God. Our prayer is God will continue to revive us in the weeks ahead and lead us by His Spirit. May we be submitted, prayerful, and faithful as we continue in the spirit of revival. “Revival comes when a few people get thoroughly right with God and pray”, as shared by our Sunday night speaker, Brother Tom Lancaster, missionary to military. May we all get thoroughly right with God for our own sakes, our children, and our country. What a difference that would make in our lives and our country. Truly God would turn us around.

During week of revival meetings, Brother McNeese brought messages from Hebrews 12:1, “so great a cloud of witnesses”. Reminding us of those who have served God and gone on before us, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc.

Ephesians 1 & 3 the heavenly book, the exceeding greatness, the grace of God. Christ only is risen and seated at the right hand of God. Verse 21 tells us He is “far above all” Christ loves the church (body of believers) and died for it. The church is the inheritance of Christ. And, the week continued on with great teaching of the Word of God with hearts being touched and refreshed with a love for God and Christ. Tremendous week with the Lord!

Pastor Flood brought a thrilling message from the God’s Word on Sunday morning. Many put their hopes in earthly things and their satisfaction is only temporary. Hebrews, written by Paul, is a letter of “God is the better thing”. In Hebrews, the Christians were ready to abandon Christianity because all the temptations and trials were so strong. Paul encouraged them to hold on in the midst of troubles, to be faithful. Hebrew 6 verse speaks to, “for God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love”. Also, “that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises”. In addition, “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he swear by himself”. Verse 16, “For men verily swear by the greater; and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife”. God made a promise and confirmed it with an oath (resting on the very being of God). Verse 18, “That by two immutable things (promise and oath), in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation (encouragement), who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us”. The chapter goes on to teach this hope is “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, which entereth into that within the veil”. Jesus has already entered into the presence of God assuring our entrance into heaven. Jesus, the forerunner, has entered beyond the veil as an high priest making intervention for those who are His forever. An anchor is used to secure something in place, to make it steadfast. Our anchor is steadfast in Christ by faith in the Son of God.

PVBC is looking forward to Vacation Bible School, July 22-26, 6:30pm, 4K-12th grade. The theme this year is “Farm Fresh”. We are excited and planning a great time for your children to learn about God. Mark your calendar and make plans to have your kids in VBS. Be sure to bring the neighbor kids as well. Everyone is invited.

This coming Sunday PVBC will celebrate the 4th of July. After the evening service beginning at 5pm, we will grill hamburgers and hotdogs and have a great time together celebrating our great nation which was founded on God.

Please come for the evening service and join us in food, fun, and fellowship.

July 28th will be Homecoming! Pleasant Valley Baptist has a long and rich history in the Ringgold Valley. Many have attended, been saved, and blessed by the Word presented by tremendous preachers which have spoken for God from the pulpit. Please honor this ministry by making plans to come to homecoming if you have ever attended PVBC. Services will begin at 10:30 AM, with no Sunday school or evening services. Homecoming meal will be after the morning service with pot luck dishes. Please come to homecoming with food or without, There will be plenty and you are warmly invited to be part of this special day.

Brother Harry Hullender will be retiring and a celebration will be in his honor on August 11. Brother Harry is a wonderful man of God and many in the area know him as a friend. Join with us for this special occasion to recognize him.

Continue to remember PVBC in your prayers. Pray for those who are physically sick and need healing, Lula Petty, Carolyn Denton, Claudette Armstrong, Jewell Mitchell, Denise Pitts, and so many more. God knows every name and every need! Pray for the church, God sent revival, Pastor Flood and family, ministries, missionaries, orphans and nursing homes. Pray for our country, leadership, first responder and police, and our military. Prisoners and homeless need our prayers. Please pray for the influence of the church in our country. Please pray for souls to be saved! Pray for Israel.

Birthday wishes to all you will celebrate their birth date this week. That is the first birth, but all must experience the second birth. How can you have a second birth you may ask? By confessing sin, accepting by faith the finished work of Christ on the cross. Christ died for your sins that you might spend eternity with Him in heaven.

Our services are live streamed on Facebook. Service times are Sunday School 10 AM, Worship 11 AM, Evening 6 PM with prayer time at 5:45 PM. Wednesday Bible Study and Youth at 7 PM. Call for transportation 706-537-3633.

If you desire to know and learn the Word of God, Pleasant Valley Baptist is the church to consider. A traditional, God honoring church with a Pastor that knows the Word and loves the Lord. A body of believers that are not perfect, but desire to serve God and be more like Him. A church that loves people and wants all to be saved and grow in Christ. Why do you go to church? Church should be a time of worshipping God. Worship Him in truth by being taught the Word of God. Come and join with us as we worship the Lord in our services. Our focus is the Lord and His Word. PVBC would be honored to have you as our guest and you are always welcome!