This article was published in The Lutheran Ambassador, our denomination’s magazine. It gives you a look at how the whole Fanning the Flame Process is working at St. Paul’s.
I’m a member of St. Paul’s Free Lutheran Church in Leitersburg, Md.. Located in a small village, the congregation has grown smaller and the membership older over the years. In an effort to become healthier, we embarked this year on a program of revitalization called “Fanning the Flame.” Our ten-member team has been meeting, studying, and praying for the Holy Spirit to guide our efforts. During this time of spiritual introspection, God has revealed our need to change our focus. We must look outside of ourselves into our neighborhood, community and even the world. We are small, but God still has a purpose for us.
Many member participated in a spiritual gift assessment to learn how we, as individuals and as a group, are best suited to serve God. As Romans 12:6-8 says.
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
One of the most prominent gifts in our congregation is the gift of mercy. This gift is the special ability God gives to some members of His body to feel empathy and compassion for other people who are dealing with physical, mental or emotional problems, and to translate their empathy into deeds that reflect the love of Christ. (For a listing of all the spiritual gifts see Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4).
People with the gift of mercy are naturally attracted to caring ministries, ministries that help people meet all sorts of needs. Caring ministries are also a great way to evangelize. Why? According to Pastor Harry Reeder, who developed Fanning the Flame, here’s what can happen when a congregation undertakes mercy ministry:
- First, God is glorified because others see the gospel in action
- Then, people are influenced by encountering authentic Christians
- Last, church members are encouraged and edified, becoming better disciples as they participate in ministry
Since more than 50 percent of our members have the gift of mercy, it seemed like a no-brainer. St. Paul’s needed to invest in mercy ministry. Where would we start?
…… to be continued