A Braver Calling

Pastor Lowell Michelson and congregational leaders felt they were past the transition period and ready to initiate new ideas for their future about a year after he began his ministry at Lord of Life in West Chester. But sometimes circumstances can affect a vision.

“We hadn’t gotten too far in the process when all of a sudden we had to deal with the sprinklers,” sighed Pastor Lowell.

Pastor Lowell had been informed that a new sprinkler system would have to be installed, which was going to require a lot of money and time. He and the congregation, however, decided to take the news as an opportunity to deal with other needs faced by the more than 20-year-old building, such as adding more meeting space, replacing “carpeted pews,” and painting interior spaces that had not been upgraded since the church was built as a mission site. Thus began the 3-year “Share the Light” capital campaign to fund needed improvements. The COVID-19 pandemic came along not too much later. Sometimes circumstances can affect a vision.

Fortunately, in mid-2019, Lord of Life also began Stewardship for All Seasons (SAS) – a Thrive! sponsored program that trains congregations not merely about financial stewardship, but also about visioning, communications, positive use of social ministry, effective governance, and much, much more. It made a difference in how the congregation dealt with the challenges brought about by the pandemic.

“SAS,” said Pastor Lowell, “provided vocabulary and clarity to dream big and cast a vision. It gave us the boost needed to determine what we are being called to do and not merely what we are comfortable doing.”

They determined their calling to be dealing more directly with issues of social justice. It made things uncomfortable for some families, even causing them to leave. Yet, as sad and painful as it was to bid friends farewell and Godspeed, the congregation was energized by the sense of fulfilling God’s call.

“Christian faith is so much more than putting money in the plate,” said Pastor Lowell. “People stepped up to spend overnights with our ministry to the homeless, help with VEIL (the Hispanic congregation housed at Lord of Life), and participate in ways they hadn’t done before.”

How did that help Lord of Life deal with challenges brought about by the pandemic?

Pastor Lowell explained, “Latching onto our calling made us braver” about facing challenges and delays. “It’s like canoeing on a lake. You need to identify a spot to head toward even if the wind or waves make it take longer to get there. Same with our vision. COVID-19 will pass. We will take what we’ve learned, like how to do online worship, and bring it into the future. It may take a bit longer, but we’ll get there. In fact, eight households that have never been in our building are now part of our online community. It’s exciting!”

We’re excited, too! Stewardship for All Seasons is now helping twenty congregations of the Southern Ohio Synod claim their calling from God and face the future with new hope and abilities. It is underwritten by the Thrive! mission campaign, which is funded by generous congregations and individuals across the synod.