I’ll just say that the way in which I got to FUMC Greenville was full of prayer and God’s prevenient Grace, and I am glad that God had God’s hand in it. At first I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in the Delta, but my concerns and misgivings were quickly replaced with gratitude and excitement as the church embraced me with open arms. As a young, single, progressive pastor in our conference, I have been overwhelmed and amazed and honored by the reception I have had in this church. I’ve felt more at home here then I ever did at one of the most progressive churches in the Southeast.
I know the church has gone through some rough patches financially in years past and I know the dwindling numbers concern many of those long time members who are here. I try not to focus as much on numbers as I do on ministry and mission; however, numbers are important. The thing I want to remind you all of is that we will never be the church that we were in 20-60 years ago. That was the past, and it is a colorful and wonderful past! But today, we are in the present. The world is ever changing, churches in mainline denominations are shrinking, and now even churches that were growing in the USA have come to a place where they are beginning a decline. But this should not scare us! This should make us even more passionate about going out and sharing the gospel and love of Jesus Christ. But, we cannot dwell on the “Used toos.” If we live in the past and focus on the past then we surely will never move forward.
In my short time here I feel as if the church has turned some sort of corner. I may be seeing through rose colored glasses, but that is my perception. The Church has gone out into the community for Kids Fest and now the church is hosting a new group, Teach For America, and we have even gotten some involvement from some of the TFA kids. The church now has a pretty prevalent social media presence with an active Facebook page, twitter account, and website.
This church has so much to offer the community! Resources, will, and enthusiasm abound. We are in the heart of the city of Greenville and I am happy and thrilled about all the ministries we have going on; however, there is so much more we could do.
Here are a few goals that I have for us as a church to think about in the upcoming year and some of my hopes and wishes.
1) How can we best utilize our space? We have tons of space that is not in use, and it is my hope that we can find someone to use some of our space, even if it means we rent space out to a 501c3, non-profit, or any kind of organization that will better our community. Many downtown churches, if not most, now house existing 501c3s. I also want to open up some of our space for missions in the community. Many groups come to the Delta to do mission work and I hope to connect with UMCOR, UMVIM, and Americorps, among other organizations to see how best our space could be utilized.
2) Get out, Get out, Get out! Let’s be a shining beacon of God’s love in the community. I hope we can do more events like Kid’s Fest. I also hope we can get involved in other community events such as the Hot Tamale Fest. So much is happening in Greenville and I believe the church needs to be a part of it!
The church is trending in the right direction, but we need to keep the momentum and trajectory headed in forward progress. The world is changing. The church is changing. We don’t want to be left behind, but we also want to remember our church’s mission of creating disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. So let us continue to be that church that seeks and serves God by serving and loving others through Christ.
Rev. Justin White
Nov. 22, 2015