Not By Might

In Zechariah 4:6, the prophet is given a word to bring to God’s people.  The people have returned from exile in Babylon and are rebuilding Jerusalem.  There is some dismay as they take on the task because it seems so huge..  They thought everything depended on them and they were weary, overwhelmed and exhausted.

So the prophet is given a word to speak, “This is the word of the LORD…’Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.”  Two things stand out in this passage that address the feelings of the people:  The Spirit, who especially in the Old Testament, is the life-giving, “make-it-happen” member of the Trinity is called into action.  The LORD also uses His name, “the LORD of hosts/armies.”  He uses this name to assure us He has the resources to fight the battles and bring the victory for us.  I love the story in 2 Kings 6:17-20, where Elisha prays for the LORD to open the eyes of his servant to see the angel hosts on the hillsides.

So, why talk about these episodes in the life of God’s people? These stories remind us that as we talk about “building the family of God” in our mission statement, we are counting on the Spirit and the LORD of hosts.  In June, Bethlehem approved a capital campaign to reduce debt.  The idea is—that if we pay down (or even, off) the mortgage debt—we would have more resources available to expand our ministries.

These stories remind us that as we talk about “building the family of God” in our mission statement, we are counting on the Spirit and the LORD of hosts.

Looking at the size of our mortgage, it’s easy to feel like those returning to Jerusalem—overwhelmed.  Remembering that we had a campaign in the past to pay for the Community Center and wondering if we aren’t “paying for it twice” now can leave us feeling like those in Zechariah’s day—exhausted.  That’s why I remember what God has already said:  Not by might, not by power, but by

My Spirit!

Dreaming about what we would do if we had more resources to expand our ministries takes us to the same word from our LORD.  His Spirit leads us into the future, into our community—into ministry.  What ministry could look like may depend upon how much of the mortgage we pay off.  I understand that paying off $500,000 might fund a staff person dedicated to developing new ways to connect with our community—through our preschool, using our building to bring people into our midst—following Bethlehem’s “mission heart.” 

What if we are able to pay off more than that?  We’ll look around to see what God is already blessing, but maybe we could add staff that would focus on small groups and family ministry as well as mission trips and activities…maybe we could partner with agencies in our community to enhance their work or support/partner with sister congregations to expand the kingdom of God.  The Spirit seems to be leading us to follow Jesus in not just building the family of God here at Bethlehem but helping to build the kingdom of God in our neighborhoods.

Capital campaigns often build buildings.  This time, by God’s grace and the Spirit, we hope to not build a building, but the kingdom of God.  In his book, Everybody Always, Bob Goff distinguishes between building castles and building the kingdom.  Castles have walls and moats to keep people out, he suggests, while kingdoms build bridges and count everyone a citizen.  This is especially true of the kingdom of God.

So, how can you help?  You can keep the whole enterprise in your prayers.  You can take stock of your time, talents and treasure—and determine if any of these can be dedicated to the campaign.  There will be training for leaders during the week of August 17 that will provide more information.  If you would like to participate, please speak with Jim Cullen or me.  There are some important leadership and support team positions that need to be filled with people eager to help.  We’ll be kicking things off at the send of September.  Join the adventure to see where the LORD of hosts leads us!

Joy in the journey,

Pastor Jeff

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