A Message from the DS
What's Your Story?
As Charge Conferences come to an end, I want you to know how much I have enjoyed being with each of you and hearing exciting stories of ministry that are transforming our corner of the North Georgia Conference. These stories of new ideas, programs, and projects are making a difference in the lives of many people and I want us to share them. So, the front page of our newsletter will become a place where we can share these inspiring stories. If your church is doing something exciting that is making a difference in your community, write a short article about it and email it to us so that we can include it in future newsletters. Here is the first one from Rev. David Adamson and St. James UMC in Hogansville.
Do you believe the scripture in Revelation 21:5 that exclaims, “Behold, I make all things new”? After watching God’s plan unfold at St. James UMC in Hogansville, I not only believe it, I’ve lived it!
The past few years have been a real struggle for our church. We watched as our numbers dwindled due to funerals and members moving away. It was a sign of the current economic times as families and businesses moved to other communities to find employment, stability, and growth, leaving our church struggling just to stay open. We averaged less than 10 attending members a week during this past year, and there was an ominous silence every time we talked of what it would take to grow and be a missional church. The people were tired, I was tired, and we were all searching for answers.
After quite a few difficult conversations, last May, our members talked about closing our church with one last service to honor the rich 60-plus-year history and ministry of St. James. At the end of that meeting, I felt such a God-sized hole in my heart and soul, because I could not believe that I was changed, transformed, and called to ministry just to close churches. It’s not in me! It’s not in my DNA! That’s not who God made me to be, but as I looked into the eyes of the St. James faithful, I knew I was staring in the face of hopelessness.
It bothered me so much, that I shared my sadness with my best friend. He asked a very simple question, “Have you talked to God?” Honestly, no, I had not. I had been so caught up in closing the church with dignity and honor that I had neglected talking to the One who refers to his church as his bride. Through discernment and prayer, God gave me a new vision – His vision – in a dream. God said, “Everyone who comes to me, comes to me step-by-step.” I realized that God was not just revealing to me the people He wanted to send, but even me myself! At that moment, the idea for Step By Step Ministries was born! God then sent me a messenger with the scripture from Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Now it was clear: hope…give them hope. This is our new vision. This is how we are to fulfill our mission to make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world!
This led me to survey the young families in the community that I met through our community food ministry. I asked about their needs, and if they did not have a church home, I asked what they would look for when considering a church. What I learned was that over 50 families had needs for clothing, food, a worship time outside of the traditional Sunday morning setting, and a place they could call home and feel comfortable.
With this new information, we set out to bring change to St. James. The Fellowship Hall was renovated to accommodate a multi-sensory contemporary worship experience utilizing modern music and video presentations, enhanced with new lighting, visuals, a stage, and seating people around a table instead of in rows. We committed to provide hospitality by serving food each week, and at the end of worship, offer a clothes closet or food pantry to meet the needs of those in attendance.
In order to follow God’s plan for our church, though, I knew I needed help, because St. James had absolutely no resources. I turned to my home church, Cokes Chapel UMC, and asked Rev. Dr. Mark Jordan to help me in accomplishing God’s plan for St. James. Through Cokes Chapel’s prayerful help and generosity, all kinds of donations started pouring in: a projector, a pull-down screen, new computer equipment, worship media software, a complete sound system with speakers, graphic design work, clothes for the clothes closet, food for the food pantry, and physical labor were all contributed to help Step By Step prepare for its launch.
We started Step by Step at 4:00 PM on Saturday, November 1st. Since the beginning of our Saturday afternoon worship, we have been able to touch 8 new families and helped over 21 families through our clothes closet and food pantry! Our average weekly worship attendance has tripled, and is growing steadily. What has been especially exciting is that each week there is someone new! And as I look into the faces of our members now, I still see the faces of the faithful, but now they are invigorated by vision and hope for our church! These are the faces of the new St. James!
Sometimes, the greatest gift isn’t just in new things, but in seeing old things being made new! Even with all of the upheaval and change we have experienced, our small congregation is still intact and thirsting to be a part of our new ministry with fresh ideas and renewed energy. As one member put it in perspective last weekend, “I want people to be blown away when they walk through the door.”
So, let me ask you again – do you believe when God says, “Behold, I make ALL things new”? I know I do. I have seen it. I am living it!
Blessings to you,
Rev. David Adamson
Pastor, St. James UMC and Step by Step Ministries