I shared in a recent sermon that there are estimates by some researchers that there are now up to 6000 churches a year closing in our country. People are no longer waking up on Sunday mornings looking for a church to attend. What this means is that the church can no longer as a general rule expect to grow simply by attracting folks to come on their own to it. People with no connection to church will not even know which churches to be attracted towards! What this means is that we must increasingly go to folks “on their turf” in order to build relationships with them. One of the ministries at First Church seeking to do this very thing is the Acts Network. Recently a woman named Sarah Keasler, who is connected with an organization called Fresh Expressions wrote the following article about the Acts Network. I wanted to share her words with you as both a “thank you” for your support, as well as an encouragement to keep doing whatever it takes to share the love of Jesus Christ in our world for the transformation of lives.
It is a blessing to serve with you First Church…
The Acts Network is a new endeavor that First United Methodist church in Williamsport, PA is pursuing, under the leadership of Mitch Marcello. This network exists to intentionally create spiritual communities outside their existing “church building” walls. By working with and building up congregant leaders with apostolic hearts, they are discovering and learning how to hand their leaders over to Christ and empower them to find ways to interact with culture as it continues to evolve.
One group within the network meets every other Tuesday in a home. This community group has been meeting for the past ten months with the purpose of inviting neighbors, and those perhaps not comfortable walking into a church building. This past week a Muslim couple joined for dinner. For some of the congregants it was their first interaction over a shared meal with a Muslim. As the night progressed, topics of power, humility and how the Gospel beautifully merges these two seemingly opposing paradigms in the person of Jesus Christ. The Muslim husband was so drawn to the meeting that he called the following Tuesday asking, “is tonight the night we eat together?”.
It goes without saying it is not easy to open your lives to others, especially strangers. However, at least some of the congregants of First United Methodist Williamsport are learning how to step out of their comfort zones and invite people into their homes and lives in order to share the Gospel with those who have not encountered Jesus.