Can These Bones Live?
Ezekiel 37:3 (GNT) He said to me, “Mortal man, can these bones come back to life?” I replied, “Sovereign Lord, only you can answer that!”
Revitalization is hard! Revitalization is especially hard for a religious community that seeks to reconnect with a neighborhood to give expression to the deepest values of their faith. For many congregations that have carried out significant ministry in the past, in a particular neighborhood, there is a memory that hopes and believes the future will be like the past and the wonderful former times will carry forward with only incremental change. We all know that the wonderful former times are not coming back, and truthfully our best days are in front of us. With patience and the power of God, a once struggling congregation can be revitalized with powerful preaching, engaging worship, exciting ministries and a faith to step beyond the boundaries of the ordinary.
A question was posed to Ezekiel as he surveyed a valley of dead bones, “Can these bones come back to life?” I asked myself this intriguing question over three years ago when called to the Genesis United Methodist Church (Louisville District), as I walked through the doors of a congregation that was held together by a faithful few, yet brewing with so much potential. We as a congregation have worked hard to change the atmosphere of the church, to reach a dynamically changing culture and community, while preserving the dignity of The United Methodist Church.
We are now seeking to create programs and ministries that speak to the needs and concerns of a new generation of church-goers and seekers. Last year, we developed an evangelism program called From the Seats 2 the Streets, with an emphasis on engaging our local community. A team of persons “hit the streets” of the local neighborhood by passing out door hangers and evangelism cards, in keeping with the Great Commission. We have witnessed the fruits of our labor with frequent guests and visitors and with new persons uniting with the congregation. Every Sunday we encourage members to pass out and randomly give these cards to neighbors, family, and the unchurched and former church members as we seek to do a new thing in the congregation.
We also started a Young Adult Ministry called Final Fridays, in which on the last Friday of the month persons 21-35 years of age meet for fellowship and to participate in group activities. To further engage the young adult population, we have a connectional group (i.e. Sunday school) called “I’ve Kissed Dating Goodbye,” which centers on topics such as Christian dating, healthy relationships, and God’s definition of love. Our Wednesday Bible study is called News You Can Use, which serves as a question/answer/discussion setting as we study various books and topical issues. Since September, we have been studying the Book of Revelation, and this study continues to be a favorite among many members.
We continue to operate a daycare called Harambee Pre-School Academy which currently serves children ages six weeks to twelve years old and has an enrollment that has grown from 12 to 34 active participants. This ministry continues to engage the psychosocial, educational, and spiritual needs of children, with a staff that consists of church members and employees. Earlier this year, the Department of Energy blessed our congregation with a $23,000 grant for going green. This grant will allow us to change faulty wiring, insulate windows and walls, which will drastically reduce astronomical energy costs. The church is now technologically connected and can be found on Facebook (GenesisUMC) and Twitter (@genesisumc), which we use to advertise events and upcoming sermon series, and we are making preparations for the development of a website. We have developed a relationship with Benjamin Richmond, the CEO of the Louisville Urban League, and Mayor Greg Fischer on an initiative called 15K. This ministerial endeavor seeks to create a college-going culture by pipelining 15,000 local African-Americans into community colleges, universities, and trade schools to equip them with employable skills. This will allow Genesis to serve as a meeting location for informationals about grants, scholarships, and work study programs for those in our congregation and community who are seeking higher education.
We have developed a relationship with the Shawnee Healthcare Center (SHC) to bridge the gap of healthcare disparities and concerns that plague African-Americans, low-income and uninsured persons. Monica Brown, who serves as the Director of Neighborhood Transformation, led an informational on the medical services offered by (SHC), along with Dr. Brent Duncan, who serves as the medical director, on February 12, 2012 during our morning worship experience. We are planning a health and wellness clinic in the spring for underinsured and uninsured persons, with services ranging from pap smears, STD testing, and prostate exams.
On March 2 at 7:00 p.m., we will host World Day of Prayer with a multi-cultural worship service, testimonies, and fervent prayer on the leading issues of our day. Then on March 9-11, we will host a leadership conference with Dr. Kevass Harding of the Dellrose United Methodist Church (DUMC) from Wichita, Kan. to learn innovative and creative ways of doing ministry in the 21st century. This event will be open on Saturday to all denominations and church leaders, and he will be preaching on Sunday March 11. More details to come. DUMC has served as a model for church growth, revitalization and a personal mentor of the pastor, in dealing with the myriad of challenges facing existing congregations. On March 25, the month will be culminated with our annual Family and Friends Day with a seeker-sensitive worship service, relevant preaching, and a pitch of what God is doing in our congregation. Dinner will be served immediately following worship and will be capped off with a concert by Black Diamond Choir at 5:00 p.m. These and other exciting events are in the works at the Genesis UMC as we seek to revitalize and breathe new life into our congregation.
We have adopted a mantra at the Genesis Church, “. . . a place of new beginnings” and we are certainly the embodiment of a new day and a new beginning. We are living proof of God’s response to Ezekiel, “I will put my breath in them, bring them back to life, and let them live in their own land. Then they will know that I am the Lord. I have promised that I would do this—and I will. I, the Lord, have spoken.”