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Dear Friends,
We have heard the news over and over and over that mainline congregations and denominations are shrinking. Books and books and books have been written to try to instill more life into mainline congregations. "Dry Bones can Live Again", "Power Surge", "I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church", "Once and Future Church", and on and on and on it
goes. Even the sermon series I started with, "Five Faithful Practices of a Fruitful Church" is on this list. It goes on and on and on. The books on church growth in this age, could fill a library. As someone who is dedicated to the church, I've read
many of them.

One thing they all have in common is that each church that's growing requires enthusiastic commitment to God, serving God, wanting God's church to flourish more than anything else in this world! It was the core value and belief that no
other organization, no other place, no other way of being could please God more than being involved in the church. And that enthusiastic commitment takes a LOT of energy and the ability to allow negativity to bounce off and not effect
it! Ever see a marathon runner? There are a kazillion excuses the rest of us have as to why we wouldn't want to do that. But the committed marathon runner does not allow those negative vibes to deter their commitment to the race. They not only are determined but the more they train
for the big event and succeed in their goals, the happier and more positive they become. The happier they become, the less they are deterred by excuses as to why they cannot achieve this goal.


Churches that are growing are filled with Joyful, Enthusiastic, Prayerful Commitment! And that commitment isn't to church, but to God! A church I know grew and grew . .. they were vital, exciting, and a happy church. One reason was there was an older couple named Betty and Harry. Betty and Harry were committed to greeting every single person who came through the door for over 25 years ... yes, the church had regular greeters, too ... but Betty and Harry stood
at the doors and greeted every one as if they were Jesus Christ himself. They believed the love they had received in their lives from God, was a love to
be shared ! They were really likable people who were good with people of all ages. Hugs were passed out easily. Warmth overflowed. It was ...drum roll, please ... contagious! The other part
of this church was they enjoyed being with each other. They greeted each other with warm smiles, they enjoyed serving together. They had fun together even when they were in meetings. They
were joy bringers for each other. When hard times came, they were fi lled with compassion for each other and all the world. They were committed to bringing God's love, joy and faith to their community and the world. They didn't just show up ... they showed up with cheerfulness, grateful and happy to be serving, grateful and happy to be loving, grateful and happy to be making church and service a contagion that knows
no bounds!

So, in this budding season of Thanksgiving ... what are you thankful to God for? Saying thank you is nice, but acting happily grateful is even better.
How does God know you are really grateful? Love God with your whole heart, mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself!

Peace! Pastor Laurie

St. John United Church of Christ


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