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Faith Matters: Our faith inspires us to attempt great things

  • Shutesbury Community Church. May 2, 2017. Paul Franz

  • Rev. Joseph Greene inside the Shutesbury Community Church. May 2, 2017. Paul Franz

  • Rev. Joseph Greene inside the Shutesbury Community Church, whose members have a goal of making their historic building handicapped-accessible. Paul Franz



Shutesbury Community Church
Friday, May 12, 2017

(The following is a submission to The Recorder's weekly column, “Faith Matters.” Each Saturday, a faith leader in Franklin County offers a personal perspective in this space. To become part of this series, email religion@recorder.com or call 413-772-0261, ext. 265.)

Shutesbury Community Church has a membership of around 25 people and an annual budget of less than $40,000. Despite these limitations, we began the long process of restoring our parsonage last year, and this year we are pursuing plans to make our church building fully handicapped accessible. Why would a small church attempt such projects that together may total four to five years of our annual receipts? Our faith inspires us to attempt great things.

“Faith” often can be a loosely defined word because the object of faith makes all the difference. When I say that our faith inspires us to attempt great things, I mean that we have faith in a personal, active God who intervenes in human history and our lives. Jesus encouraged his disciples to exercise this kind of faith because “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 17:20; 19:26).

Although we are limited, the God we trust is not. We share this belief with adherents to the historic Christian faith throughout the ages.

William Carey, considered to be the “father of modern protestant missions,” once said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” William Carey’s faith-based expectation led him to move to India, where he established schools for impoverished children and translated the Bible into several Indian dialects. Carey accomplished great things because his faith led him to trust that what was impossible for him was not impossible for an almighty God who works in the lives of the faithful.

This type of faith is not a “warm and fuzzy” wishful thinking that nothing bad will ever happen. The Christ-ian faith is centered on Jesus Christ, which means that our trust is based on God stepping into human history and suffering as a human to conquer humanity’s sin and separation from God. If the object of our faith suffered as he accomplished the impossible task of defeating sin, then hardship and disappointment by no means undermine our faith that we “can do all things through Him who strengthens” (Philippians 4:13).

Suffering, limitations, and opposition seem like impossibly big obstacles, but the Christian faith believes that God is bigger than these obstacles. Despite the death of his two children and his wife’s mental breakdown, William Carey continued to trust that God was working in and through his life to accomplish great things that transcended his circumstances and suffering. Indeed, some of the fruit of William Carey’s labor did not become evident until after his death, which is appropriate because truly God-sized accomplishments will always transcend one person’s life.

In light of our faith and the truly difficult faith journey that many believers have walked, Shutesbury Community Church’s attempt to rebuild the parsonage and install handicapped access does not seem like an impossible task. Certainly, God will need to intervene and bring all sorts of people and resources together to complete this task. But our faith tells us to step out and expect God to work in and through the process.

Last summer, God inspired a group from North Carolina (whom we had not met before) to donate many work hours and dollars to begin the first stage of parsonage restoration. For this reason, we not only trust God with the process, but also with the results — whether these projects are completed as planned, or the journey takes us to great things we haven’t even thought of.

Our church’s primary mission is to grow in our love for Christ and to share his love with our community. We feel that these projects will help us fulfill that mission. But can God grow us in love for Christ and love for people even if we never finish the projects as planned? Absolutely. Our faith trusts God; it does not trust in God following the path we think is best (which is actually trusting in ourselves and using “God talk” to baptize our self-idolatry).

These projects are just one concrete example of our church expressing our faith in action, but every day we all are faced with faith choices. Let faith inspire us to attempt great things that transcend ourselves.

About Shutesbury Community Church

Shutesbury Community Church is a small church with a mission to love Christ and share his love. Sunday worship service begins at 9:30 a.m. and includes both traditional and contemporary elements: hymns, worship songs, prayer and sharing from the Bible. After the service, there is a time of refreshments and fellowship.

The congregation meets in a beautifully restored, 1827 meetinghouse on Shutesbury Town Common (6 Town Common Road). The fellowship was reconstituted in 2009 and has a heritage dating from the late 1700s from both the Baptist and Congregational churches of Shutesbury.

Website: www.shutesburychuch.org email: shutesburychurch@gmail.com