November 30, 2020

 

Craig's Comments 

 
God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. Psalm 68:6

Writing an update during the holidays is usually a joyous affair as we celebrate so many of the blessings of life, but I am once again reminded that this year has been like no other. While I do celebrate the many things that God has done among our churches and in missions and church planting, I’m heavily burdened for the suffering in our community and world. Covid has left a scar that will not easily be erased by a second serving of your favorite holiday treat or hearing your favorite Christmas jingle on the radio.

The hard reality is that people are hurting. Many of our children are hurting from months of virtual quarantine, families have lost loved ones unexpectedly due to the virus and other causes, and so many of our sources of comfort and peace have been stolen by a Grinch who is invisible.

So many all around us feel like Charlie Brown as they have tried to kick the football of productive work, family health, faithful church participation, and others only to find themselves lying flat on their backs shouting “Ugh!”

Coming to such conclusions is really not a difficult thing to do and I do not want to ever sound like Chicken Little shouting that the sky is falling, but there has been one cultural reminder that eclipsed them all…Justin Bieber. In his recent song “Lonely” he sings,

What if you had it all
But nobody to call?
Maybe then, you'd know me
'Cause I've had everything
But no one's listening
And that's just (expletive) lonely
I'm so lonely
Lonely
 
Now, anyone who knows me knows that I don’t quote “the Beibs” very often, but when this pop star sings about something like loneliness he is not only expressing his feelings, but resonating with a generation of young people who are struggling as well. The reality of loneliness affects everyone differently. It could be a senior adult who misses their grandchildren (or people in general), adults who have had to alter their lives and work schedules to pivot during Covid, children who rarely engage with other kids due to remote learning, and teens who are just overwhelmed by the prospect of not returning to school, sports, theater, and life for weeks (or months) from now.

Have I depressed you yet? I hope not, because we have hope. I’m not speaking of the hope of a new vaccine, but the hope that is found in Jesus. Have you taken time to consider the difference that it makes in our lives? That is not to say that we don’t still struggle from time to time, but we have vast resources available when we walk by faith in Jesus Christ! It is those resources that I celebrate as I consider the many ways that God is working among our churches. Here are just a few examples:
  • We had a wonderful collaboration of churches, ministries, and volunteers to collect, purchase, package, and deliver over 175 food boxes to feed approximately 700 people across the region for Thanksgiving.
  • Our toy stores have had challenges, but they are on course to serve over 1,000 children this year.
  • We have been blessed to add a new toy store at Rise Church!
  • The number of churches seeking to engage unreached people groups in our region is growing due to a new collective.
  • Church planters are rising from the pews of our PMBA churches to explore planting through a new partnership with Christ Together called the Triad Church Multiplication Initiative.
  • Various efforts are being made to transend racial reconciliation discussions and actually do the heavy lifting of eradicating racism in our community and churches.
  • Our churches continue to effectively and passionately seek ways to love their neighbors and make a difference for the gospel where they live.
And there are so many more. So engage those who may be struggling with the realities of loneliness during this holiday season. Pray that God would give you creative ways to serve your neighbor and connect to be the hands and feet of Jesus right where you live…and while you’re at it:

Have a Merry Christmas!
Craig