November 20, 2016
On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he reaffirmed for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord.
“See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.”
Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to their own inheritance.
See the church bell out on the lawn on the south side of the building?
You see, in 1951, a group of young people from Iron Gates Christian Church went in search of a church bell. They found exactly what they were looking for in an abandoned church in the small community of Atlas. But instead of taking the bell from the building, they filled that building with a church.
16 years later, May of 1967, that church relocated to the corner of Duquesne and Newman to reach the new college campus that was coming to town. They built a new building with money donated by a businessman in California who wanted them to give 10% of its budget to missions, even though they had no idea how they were going to operate the other ministries of the church on only 90%.
49 years later, we are a church of around 1700 people or so, worshipping Jesus each and every week, giving 19 ½ % of our budget to ministries that are reaching out to people here, near, and far away.
And so we have a bell on our lawn.
It is a symbol of celebration.
We remember God’s faithfulness of the past, we remember the Annual Thanksgiving Dinners, the Bible School classes, the giants of our past—the B.A. Austins, the Rick Bushnells, the Jay and July St. Clairs, the Randy and Julie Garisses and so many others.
We celebrate and remember, so we advance.
The truth is, we need more church bells on lawns. We need more piles of rocks. We need more risky, extreme faith that leads us to place where we stop and celebrate how the Lord was faithful.
So let’s celebrate How God has moved among us.
We celebrate the fact that every week, 10 volunteers from our church visit public school lunchrooms, having Jesus conversations with students at lunch tables.
We celebrate the 209 people who have joined a small group this fall.
We celebrate the man who said he felt drug to church every week, but now it is his favorite day of the week and looks forward to it.
We celebrate the couple that was getting ready to leave the church but they got plugged into a small group and finally feel like they belong.
We celebrate $121,000 given to One Less Gift last year to show compassion to people in need here and around the world.
We celebrate the 1,000 adults in 100 challenge groups this last January.
Celebrating the success of the past focuses the mission in the present for the vision of the future.
So let’s give praise and honor to him who sustains us and is the one who is responsible for our celebration.
Let’s celebrate God’s faithfulness in the past, yet also recommit our lives and our focus to the mission today, that we are still called to advance our mission of making disciples of Jesus who change the world.
And let’s look to the future, to the tomorrow that God has promised he will bring about, and let’s join with him in reaching into the future and bringing about that new heaven here on earth.