Pastor's Note

August 3, 2021

A few days ago I was talking to an older, wiser, and very gifted pastor who was kind enough to spend an hour answering my naive questions about how to pastor well. (Whether you can tell or not, I actually ask a lot of people for advice!) At one point, I asked him something about leadership and the future of the church and he said something that really stuck with me:

“Well, do no harm.”

You might recognize this as one of the Wesleyan “3 Simple Rules.” I talk about them a decent amount, and I’ve heard them before. So it’s not the advice itself that stuck with me. It was the matter-of-fact way he said it—as if this could actually be a guide to making big decisions. “Well, do no harm” suddenly seemed less like an abstract nicety to believe in, and more of a real response to a broken world.

I’ve especially been thinking about it these last few days as hospitals fill up again and people consider the possibility of returning to a mask mandate. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been heartbroken seeing the anger, suspicion, and lack of compassion in our community. It became real for me last week when we had a funeral and the family requested that all guests wear a mask. One of our staff members shared with me how they had multiple people refuse to wear it until it was explained that we were simply honoring the family’s wishes. We had people make an issue out of masks … at a funeral.

I don’t know if our country has always been so selfish—so unwilling to give up some of our own comforts for the sake of others—or if this is a new phenomenon eating away at our communities. But either way, for me, the 3 Simple Rules feel like a life vest in the ocean. They give me something to focus on for my life—even if I don’t see other people living that way.

Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God.

It reminds me of the grandfather who came to church recently with a mask even though he had been vaccinated. He said, “I’m wearing mine until my granddaughter can get her vaccine, too!” Not because he had to—but because he wanted to support someone vulnerable. So this week when the topic comes up again—masks, Delta variant, vaccines—just remember that no matter what forces are at play, ask yourself: "What does it look like for me to 'do no harm'?"

By the way, the director of the NIH who helped spearhead the development of the vaccine is an outspoken Christian doctor named Francis Collins. He’s also Dr. Anthony Fauci’s boss. Here’s a video (https://bit.ly/2021vacc) of him answering questions about the vaccine! I just so appreciate the work they’ve done to save lives … which is in line with the second of the Wesleyan 3 Simple Rules :)

Just some thoughts. Take 'em or leave 'em, but I’d just invite you to join me in praying for our church and our community as we figure out how to follow Jesus in the midst of everything else.

Pastor Chris

P.S. Just a reminder that the church is currently a mask-optional space for vaccinated individuals, but Jackson County has a mask mandate beginning Monday. We'll be
complying with this for all events in our facilities beginning Monday, August 9. Let's pray that lives are saved!

Posted by Chris Abel

July 7, 2021

Every week or two, Beth and I will bring our miniature dachshunds over to the church to run around the massive backyard area. I have literally never seen animals look
happier! Because the property goes so far back, we don’t ask our volunteers to mow all the way back, and as a result, the natural grass has grown up to nearly chest level.
But there is a mowed path to the pond and it’s gorgeous and relaxing. (I really recommend you check it out yourself!) Moments like these humble me because I realize
how blessed we are as a church, and how blessed we are to have tools for ministry like our amazing property and building.

We have this building and land, not because we deserve it, but because of the people who have come before us—not just one or two generations, but going back 149 years. Before Blue Springs was even a city, the people of First United Methodist Church were growing in faith and serving this community! And our church today stands on their shoulders. Remembering this fact helps me feel simultaneously grateful and responsible.

I use that word “responsible,” because it can be tempting to think about church through the lens of “me.” You know what I mean: my preferences, my comfort, my territory, and my comfort zone. And in a world that’s changing faster and faster, sometimes in our anxiety and worry, we can find ourselves becoming even more “me” focused. Instead of looking at our church resources as tools for ministry to invite people to grow toward Christ, we can see these resources as tools to serve ourselves. It’s almost like buying a fancy pie as a housewarming gift for the new neighbors … and then eating it yourself when you’ve had a bad day (which is an example that is probably too close to home in my own life … ).

But God has a funny tendency of taking our “me” and making it a “we.” When it comes to a community of faith, we’re always learning how to focus less and less on “me” so we can focus on what Jesus asks of us. And this, friends, is probably the hardest part of being part of a church community! If you do it right, you benefit less. The more you follow Jesus, the less comfortable you’ll probably be. The more you focus on the people you love, the less you’ll focus on what you want. The more you let God move in your life, the farther you’ll be from the comfort zone you hold onto.

Sound really appealing, doesn’t it? (Ha!)

But the good news is, we’re standing on the shoulders of multiple generations of faithful Christians who made it more about Jesus than themselves. And they’ve entrusted us to do the same. And I think we’re up for the challenge. Grateful for you and for where God is bringing us!

Pastor Chris

Posted by Chris Abel

January 23, 2021

It’s already 2021. Can you believe it? I'm still getting used to it. SO MUCH has happened this last year! I’ve been thinking about how different my life looks compared to this time a year ago and while there were some tough times, there were a lot of good times, too. Here are just a few of my personal memories.
 
  • Someone actually married me! And my crazy plan to have our wedding in Beth’s parents’ back yard actually worked!
  • We got a second miniature dachshund and named her Winnie. She’s already bigger than our little man, Reeses. (I guess “miniature” is relative?) 
  • I bought a 1969 trailer, tore it apart, and am rebuilding it. Definitely a story to tell the kids someday.
 
2020 was also an important year for our church… even in a pandemic. When I came to First UMC a year and a half ago, I prayed God would use us for something bigger than ourselves. And even though it’s had more challenges than I ever could have imagined, here are a few things God did this past year.
 
  • We took a leap to provide a free Drive-thru Christmas Nativity… in the middle of a pandemic… in the freezing cold… and 1600 people came to hear the Christmas story! (That’s almost double our Christmas Eve service last year!)
  • We restructured our staff in order to bring on two key leaders who will help us take our next step as a church: Our Next Gen Director, Mona Candea, and our Associate Pastor, Andrew Nelson.
  • We made hundreds of masks for first responders, wrote letters of encouragement to local teachers, provided hundreds of donuts for hospital workers, and provided Easter baskets for the local fire stations.
  • We gave our biggest Christmas Eve offering EVER—$41,000—that will provide mobile health clinics to make a difference in people’s lives through the Mozambique Initiative. 
  • New people from around the country have begun worshipping with us online. Wow.
 
And these are only a snapshot of the way God has been faithful to our church this last year! People are being impacted by your involvement and generosity, even in a year with obstacles and challenges like we’ve never seen. And God isn't done with us yet!
 
If you’ve given in the past, or are a member of the church, you hopefully received a letter and “estimated giving” card this week. We can’t see the ways God will continue to work through our church this coming year, but your planned generosity allows us to plan for what could happen this year! If you didn’t receive a card or would like to join our faithful crew of financial supporters, just comment or respond to this e-mail and we’ll make sure you receive a card (or visit bluespringsumc.org/2021 to submit one digitally). I am so grateful for the way God has moved through you, and so glad we get to do this together. 
 
 
Chris
 
Posted by Chris Abel

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