Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hard Lessons

Though I've only been here at STCC for 2 weeks, its feels more like 2 months! The pastor and congregation here really encouraged me to dive headlong into this new community, and that's exactly what I've done.

I have so many responsibilities, and the pastor here at STCC guides with a (self -proclaimed, mind you) "hands-off" approach. That basically means, whatever God leads me to do -- I am free to do. I am free to take complete charge of a project and shape it and mold it into the thing I feel led to create. This freedom also affects how I work with other members of the church -- I have complete freedom to organize workers, invite youth to activities, or even plan "training meetings" for upcoming events. Along with this approach -- as you may have guessed -- comes a GREAT deal of responsibility. A GREAT DEAL. I am in the midst of planning projects that won't get done unless I coordinate them and I have people who look to me for what to do and when to do it. I am not exaggerating when I say, I have never had so much responsibility placed on my shoulders. Never.

This is a new experience, and I'm not sure how I'm doing at it. I'll give you an example. One of my main tasks this summer is to plan, from the ground up, a 4-day Youth Revival. I never realized that planning such an event had so many ins and outs! There's so much to be considered. A normal day of planning consists of, first, finding entertainment for the revival (this involves a great deal of networking and LOTS of telephone calls). I've been trying to locate several Gospel Rappers and invite them to perform. I've also been in talks with a Christian Comedian and a Christian R&B singer. Let's not even talk about drawing up contracts and setting prices. Second, planning involves going to different businesses in Charlotte and asking for donations -- paper products, food, fliers -- anything that might assist in serving the youth. Third, it involves creating publicity for the event -- composing fliers, putting an ad in the newspaper, booking a slot on local radio stations, etc. Fourth, it involves contacting local churches and inviting them to join us during the revival, and encouraging them to share their gifts during that time as well. Next, there's going back and forth with choosing a theme. What message does God have for the youth? What theme does He want the revival to center around? Also, workshop topics and leaders have to be selected, the menu finalized, the needed funds raised/located, and on and on!

And, all this is on top of daily ministry activities like leading Bible study, serving at Trinity's Table which is a free-meal program offered twice a week, preparing sermons, serving at SOULED OUT which takes place every Friday night from 6-8 as a fun place for youth in the community to come and chill, pastoral care of the congregation, and personal times of prayer and fasting.

The honest truth is, I usually totter between two extremes during the day. Sometimes I remind myself to stand firm on God's Word and I know, without a doubt, that God has everything under control, and I stand confident that God would not have called me here if He wasn't going to challenge me and grow me. And other times, I look around and simply feel like I'm about to have a panic attack.

STCC is a pilot project that was started by the Western North Carolina United Methodist Conference, as an exploration into innercity and urban ministry. Its not a HUGE ministry, and the STCC building isn't particularly high-tech or fancy. There are only 1 or 2 people on full-time clerical staff, and money, of course, is always an issue. Nevertheless, the ministry is doing so much. God has been so good and has truly moved in the midst of STCC. STCC understands the communities that surround it (housing developments), and it uses that understanding to "meet...people where they are" (that's the church's motto). However, its the kind of ministry where when a good thing happens, everyone knows without a doubt that it was only by God's grace. Everyone realizes that though it seemed impossible, and there wasn't enough money, and there weren't enough volunteers, and there were way too many 6-12 year olds running around, and there wasn't enough food to go around...even though it seemed impossible....God did showed up and showed out anyway. Because we are constantly reminded of how little we have in terms of resources, we are constantly reminded of how much we need God.

As I serve here at STCC and I am stretched in ways I've never been stretched before, and stretched in ways that honestly I do not like to be stretched -- I am reminded of how God alone is abundant. Dr. Amy Laura Hall, in her Christian Ethics class, reminded us that Christ is abundant. Even when resources are not -- Christ is and always will be. I am worn so thin, and I even run out at times, and sometimes I'm tempted to complain, give up, cry, and scream. That's when I remember that our work here at STCC exists and continues only by God's grace. We are only vessels. This is a lesson I struggle, on a daily basis, to remember.

Nevertheless......God is faithful, and every now and then He places people or events in my path to remind me of this lesson. This past week, my reminder came in the form of "Sweating in the Spirit!" "Sweating in the Spirit" is an aerobics DVD. Every Monday and Thursday, the women of the church come together (dressed in t-shirts, shorts, and sneakers), pop in the DVD, and.....sweat in the Spirit! The aerobics class is a FUN way for the women to spend time together, and to remind one another about the importance of physical health. As I stood there exercising, laughing, and dancing with my sisters in Christ, I was reminded of the beauty of community and I was encouraged to keep on keepin' on. And that's exactly what I'll do.

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