Thursday, January 30, 2014

Carrying The Message On

Grandfather Francis shared a personal and touching note in some "Words of Institution" he gave before Communion one Sunday, handwritten on a loose-leaf notebook page:

There are many events that are written about JESUS in the New Testament. But to me The Last Supper stands out in my mind as of great importance. Picture a simple table with benches -- a group of men, some followers, a doubter, one a betrayer. There is JESUS, breaking bread, saying 'This is MY body,' then drinking the wine and saying, 'This is MY blood.' sealing the New Covenant; it is poured out to forgive the sins of multitudes. We are quite fortunate to break break and take the cup each Sunday. It is something that seems to bring us closer to JESUS CHRIST, to look back upon those 12 men that started Christianity, who went into all parts of the world to preach and teach. As true disciples, we must carry their message on.

Grandfather was a member of the Disciples of CHRIST. I'm a member of The Cool Church, even though we technically don't have membership rolls. However, we have the same mission, as CHRIST told us in Matthew 28:19 (NIV): "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the FATHER and of the SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT."

JESUS never told us it would be easy. When HE told Simon Peter and Andrew HE would make them "fishers of men," (Matthew 4:19) notice HE didn't say "catchers." My church got an all-too-painful reminder of that earlier this month when we tried to launch a new branch in the east valley of Phoenix. Our leadership worked for more than a year on this, researching, praying, advertising, praying, planning, arranging, dealmaking, and praying some more. We invested thousands of dollars into the effort.

Then on the launch Sunday, with a band and numerous staffers borrowed from Tucson, with new lighting and technical toys in a rented auditorium, when we were hoping to have 400 to 500 people show up for either one of two services, fewer than 100 made it into the seats. Our leadership sadly but realistically determined that it would simply cost too much and take too long for TCC East Valley to gain the attendance and Phoenix-based staff it would need to sustain itself. The new church lasted only one week.

Yeah, we're bummed out about it. The staff did everything they need to do on our end and trusted GOD to do the rest. But GOD sometimes gives an answer to our prayers that we don't expect or like, and often the answer is "no," or "not yet," or "not here." It's not the first time TCC has tried to launch a satellite church outside of Tucson and failed: a similar effort in Yuma lasted only a few months. We learned some lessons, got some answers from GOD, and moved on.

Even here in Tucson, we've had to deal with reality and hardship. One TCC branch in midtown closed when the pastor faced the need to devote more time to family, and we didn't have another pastor to step into that location. Another branch left us when the pastor developed financial and philosophical differences with the rest of the leadership, and he decided to start his own church. Several years ago, an activist group misrepresented us in a newspaper story.

My pastor has had to deal with huge struggles, setbacks and pain inside and outside of ministry. He lost his first wife to a brain tumor in a matter of days. One of his best friends, one who was a large part of the church, turned his back on him.

But still, we don't give up. TCC still has two thriving locations, and we're looking to expand again in Tucson. I gather Grandpa knew the challenges of getting people to come to church, but he did his end and trusted GOD for further instructions.

And as this edition of "30/30" wraps up, I'm happy to tell you Dearest Aunt Susan has found a few more of Grandpa Francis' prayers. Stay tuned.

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