A Movement; Not an Institution

I am currently in a sermon series called “Meet the Goodpeople.”  My inspiration came from reading the book with this title by the Rev. Roger Ross.  My roots in Methodism date back to Hamilton Street Methodist Church in Dalton, Ga.  This church merged and became Trinity Methodist Church and later became Trinity United Methodist Church in 1968.  My mother was raised the oldest of four daughters; with a mother who was dedicated to the Lord and to the Church.  My grandmother, Liz Lingerfelt Parrot, was a faithful servant until God called her home in 2014. My mother tells me that her family walked to church weekly.  The church reached out to her family who struggled financially. Her father was a truck driver and her mother was a factory worker making barely above the minimum wage.  The Methodist Church reached out to her family, and, today, all four daughters still attend various United Methodist Churches in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina.

My mother’s family was the definition of  ‘Goodpeople.” But, someone reached out to them over 50 years ago, and now, they are servants of Christ.  I was raised up following Christ and joined Clemmons UMC in 1981 because Hamilton Street UMC reached out to the Lingerfelt’s (my mother’s family) first.  They made them feel wanted and welcome.

It pains me, that in my lifetime (1968), the United Methodist Church has declined from 12 million members to under 7 million members.  When things are bad, everyone becomes an expert.  When Methodism was vital, the church loved the common people or what I refer to as “The Goodpeople.”  We have lost our burden/love for the people outside the Church.  We have done worship to meet the needs of those within the Church or to keep certain people happy and not to try to reach those outside the church walls.  Methodism began as a movement and not as an institution.  A movement is like a wave that you catch, and then you ride it the best you can.  Institutions are in the business of preserving the past.  Even if the past was rich and filled with God’s favor, each church must stay hungry in reaching people for Jesus.

I became the Senior Pastor of Mount Pisgah UMC in July of 2016. Mount Pisgah UMC is rich in God’s favor. It has been a blessing to stand in the line of that tradition of faithfulness since 1855. Even though the church is established, I get the feeling we are moving away from being institutional and are headed into becoming a renewed movement. Mount Pisgah is a strong, evangelical Church that has decided to tackle 3 big tasks to reach those outside the Church.

First, on August 29th, we are engaging in the community by knocking on 2000 doors of homes that are within a ¼ mile radius of the church building and inviting them to be part of our community. We believe these homes house the “Goodpeople,” about whom I have been preaching the last four weeks and will continue to preach about through September. Some of the nicest people I have met do not attend worship on Sunday mornings. Meeting these people will take a lot of servants, a lot of time, and a lot of God’s favor. By tackling this ministry, the community will realize that we exist beyond fundraising initiatives. For some, we will be an answer to their prayer. My hope is to have over 100 people active in knocking on doors in the community by the end of 2017.

Second, on September 10th we are showing the movie “War Room,” which is a powerful movie on prayer and how it changes everything. On October 3rd and 4th, at 7 pm, we are having a special speaker from Texas, the Rev. Dr. Terry Teykl for an event called, “Prayer Encounter.”  Meanwhile, from September 10th – October 4th,  Mount Pisgah is starting a Prayer Ministry and designating a Prayer Room.

The main function of the Prayer Ministry is three-fold. First, we will have prayer coverage; inviting the Holy Spirit to cover each of our worship services from 8:30am-12:00pm every Sunday, starting October 8th. Second, we will be praying for the needs of the community and ministries of the Church. Third, we will be praying over the prayer requests which were received during the visits in the community. The Prayer Ministry will fuel Mount Pisgah away from institutionalism and towards a movement. My hope is to have 50 active prayer warriors.

Third, on August 27th, Mount Pisgah UMC made a bold move to form a short-term team to evaluate and recommend changes concerning our three worship services on Sunday mornings. The team will research each service—How long has it existed?  Is it growing or declining?  Where will it be 5 years from now if no evaluation occurs?  What population (generation) represents the majority in attendance? How long has this been the case?—These questions and others will empower the team to make necessary recommendations to the Church Council sometime in the first quarter of 2018 in order to reach more people with the Good News.

For these three main reasons, I feel that Mount Pisgah UMC will receive a fresh wind from the Holy Spirit and become a strong movement. Movements don’t die; institutions do. I believe our society is only as strong as its churches. For that reason, I don’t demean other denominations, because I desire them all to thrive. Those with an institutional mindset will struggle to survive and likely become a mausoleum of the past.  It is true that the hardest place to change can be the local Church.  For churches to remain vital, change has to happen. I am not sure exactly where Mount Pisgah will be a year from now, or in the next five years. I do know that a focus on evangelism and prayer has always been the will of God. The boldness to examine worship services in order to ensure the focus is on God and reaching God’s people outside the church is monumental and will certainly bear fruit.

If you are new to Mount Pisgah UMC, Methodism, or just checking the Church out, know that we strive to honor God in everything we do.  We would love for you to to be a part of our ministries by attending our worship services or by watching via our website or Facebook.  If you feel led to support the ministry of the Church, I just want to say thank you and God bless you!  .

Rev. Jeff Johnsen

jeff@mtpisgahgso.org