Although our calendar officially turns the year over on the first of January, the new year actually starts in September.
In fact, New Year’s Eve used to be on Labor Day. Unfortunately, people got so busy after Labor Day they were unable to celebrate the new year until about a week after Christmas. To overcome this awkward delay, the new year’s starting date was eventually pushed back to January. There is no other logical reason to celebrate New Year’s day so close to Christmas.
In the church calendar, September is clearly a month of new starts and fresh beginnings. In September pastors eagerly anticipate their congregations return from summer migration. In the Northwest, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ by attending church. However, they commemorate Christ’s return to the Father (the ascension) by disappearing for the summer. Jesus goes away to be with the Father while the congregation goes away to make s’mores.
September (frequently late September) is a month of miraculous returns and heartbreaking disappearances. Church leaders anxiously wait to see who went away on vacation and who simply went away. Many congregants reappear; some never return. In September new visitors arrive and old friends occasionally depart for different pastures with different pastors.
Along with the tearful goodbyes there are amazing hellos. It encourages my heart to realize that right now God is preparing a person or a family to visit our church. When they visit us, something in their heart will confirm they belong with us. This won’t happen with every visitor, but some will find a church home in Evergreen. What a profound blessing to share in Christ-centered community.
Loving community doesn’t just happen at Evergreen Church, it happens in churches throughout Auburn. I consider it a great privilege to work alongside the pastors of Auburn. I’m proud to call many of these ministers my friends. Yes, they have plenty of faults, but so do I.
It is my sincere goal to not just serve Evergreen Foursquare Church, but to serve God’s church. God’s church has many wonderful styles, forms and flavors. On occasion, people visit my church because of this column. They are frequently surprised by our charismatic flavor. Some people even walk out of our service after the first song. Those kinds of responses can be disheartening yet understandable. We each have our own unique background and tradition.
With this in mind, I want to encourage you to not give up in trying to find a church home. There are a lot of good reasons not to attend the church I serve, but there are very few good reasons not to plug in somewhere. If you’re stuck, let me give a few suggestions.
Arleigh Champ-Gibson pastors White River Presbyterian Church. He is a very sincere, Christ-like man. Why not check out his congregation? Warren Bullock is the pastor of Northwest Family Church. Warren is extremely wise, gentle and caring. He truly loves people. Why not give Northwest a visit? Pat O’Leary pastors Lifegate Foursquare Church. Pat is a great friend of mine who loves the city of Auburn and its people. It would delight my heart if you visited Lifegate this Sunday.
Then there’s Stacy Scott of Neighborhood Chapel, Matt Krachunis of Faith and Victory Church, Paul Allison of Family Life
Center, Ron Kocher of the Auburn Free Methodist Church, the pastoral team at Grace Community Church, and many other dedicated ministers and congregations. All of these churches are worth a visit. I don’t always agree with everything my pastor friends say, but I trust the intentions of their hearts.
As we head into the new school year, I want to encourage you to embrace the power of starting over. If you don’t have a church home, then try your best to find one. If you can’t find a church you like, then at least go out and be the church for your friends and neighbors. If you do have a church home, try to plug in and use your gifts and testimony to serve others.
Don’t wait for January to start the new year. September is a great month for new beginnings.
Doug Bursch is the pastor of Evergreen Foursquare Church. Evergreen meets Sundays at 10 a.m. at the Riverside High School Theater. He can be reached at www.yesevergreen.org or firstname.lastname@example.org.