In our Protestant Churches an installation service for a new Pastor is kind of like a wedding. All the hope and promise is there. So are the words of warning and encouragement. Both parties are asked to make a vow. Both are given responsibilities. There is music and glitz and glamor and a big feast after wards.
These thought came back to me again on Sunday afternoon as Rev. Nancy Morrow was installed as the new pastor of the Central Baptist Church in Norwich. It was a very nice service with lots of music and an upbeat, hopeful mood. It also seemed very appropriate that it was held on Valentine's Day when I thought about it later in the day. I was glad to be there.
As I was reflecting on the day this morning, I felt a little jealous. I wished there was some way we could do something like that for us here at First Baptist. I've been here twenty fifth years come June. It has been a great run for us at the First Baptist Church of Norwich. I began in 1985 and was hoping that I could last five years.
I was a young pastor right out of seminary. I was blessed with a wonderful mentor growing up. My pastor took the time to talk to me about church and taught me all about pastoring. When I went to seminary I met a pastor who was the model of integrity and I worked with him and learned from him. In my second year of seminary I was called to serve a small congregation in Charlestown, Rhode Island. I met a great pastor in a neighboring town after I had been there for a short time. He shepherded me through those first days of ministry. When I came to Norwich I was excited and ready to go.
My first sermon was entitled "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and I laid out my plan for a five year mission. I said we could reevaluate things at the end of that time. I just hoped they still wanted me when we got there.
My ministry in Norwich has now been a series of five year missions. It seems like every five years we get a chance to look back and look ahead. Life has certainly changed as we finish up our fifth mission together.
The first mission was one of discovery and getting to know the the universe together. The second mission was one of growth and exploration. I got my doctorate during those year and kept trying new things. The third mission was one of rapid advancement and colonization, if you will. We grew and brought in new members. We began expanding our sports ministries and our music ministries. We added services and tried lots of new things. The fourth mission was a time of renewing and reorganizing. We began interacting more with our community and our sister churches. The fifth five year year mission was a time of rethinking and redirecting our ministry. We began to see our mission as one of transformation. It included mission trips and a mission church emphasis.
Lori and I have been married 28 years this May and both of us have changed so much in that time. That's what happens in marriages. It happens in churches too. Maybe we need to celebrate the past this summer and have a big 25th Anniversary service where we do a re installation service. It could be like a renewal of vows. Let's invite the preacher in (ABCCONN) and do it again. Then again, maybe we don't need to do that. We don't have to do it formally but we do need to do it informally as we make that recommitment to continue to work together for the good of God's kingdom.
The truth is that whether it is in a marriage, a church relationship or a personal relationship with our Lord, it is important to continually renew your commitment to one another. We can't take each other for granted. We must remain committed to sharing the love and the grace that is part of that relationship. Too often we let our relationship to God slide when we get busy. We stop going to worship. We forget to pause and pray. We begin falling into bad habits. Before you know it we have grown apart.
Someone asked me why so many marriages fail. I told them because we stop dating and stat taking each other for granted. The same is true with God. We need to keep that spark of love and faith alive by rekindling it every day. That's the only way it will last an eternity.
So if you and God have drifted recently. Maybe it's time to renew your vows. He's waiting. It's up to you.