Twenty-five years ago this July, I stood in front of fewer than twenty people and preached my first Sunday night sermon as pastor of Lancaster Baptist Church. My title was “Striving Together,” and the text was Philippians 1:27: “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (emphasis added).
As a young pastor, I wanted a church that would strive together to reach our community for Christ. I wanted to see people saved, added to the church, and growing as spiritual Christians who would love and work alongside one another.
At the time, I could never have dreamed of the incredible ways God would work through a church who did just that. In the past twenty-five years as we’ve labored together for Him, we’ve seen God bless our efforts with greater fruit than we could have imagined.
Yesterday, I shared with our church that our new theme for 2011 is “Striving Together.” Although this has never been one of our church’s annual themes, it has remained a heart-theme of our ministry over the years. It has been our joy to strive together as a church to reach our community with the Gospel and to strive together with other pastors, missionaries, and churches around the world to reach the entire world with the Gospel.
Philippians 1:27 emphasizes the need for a church to work together in three specific areas:
- Our stand—As a church, we strive together for Christlike character and spiritual consistency: “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast….”
- Our spirit—In our spirit, we strive for a Holy Spirit developed unity and a loving understanding within our church: “…in one spirit, with one mind….”
- Our striving—Together, we recognize that we are striving against a common foe and for a common faith: “…striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
As we celebrate our twenty-fifth year of ministry, it’s a joy to look back at the fruit God has given our ministry to His glory. But more than a year of celebrating or reminiscing, it is my prayer that 2011 will be a year greatly used by God. With more fervency and unity than ever before, I want to strive together with our church—and likeminded churches around the world—for the faith of the Gospel.