Saturday, May 23, 2009

Road trip Prayer Journey

The Shamokin area Catalyst pastors took a prayer journey through the deepest part of the lower anthracite coal region in central Pennsylvania this week. They returned with a great sense of the need for some solid, healthy Bible believing churches in this area.
Travelling with Rich Earl and Rodney Murphy were Dale Hill, Scott Gray, Kerry Bingaman and Steve Wise.The group began by driving down Rte 61 through the small coal cities of Mt Carmel and then Centralia (the town that is burning underground) and onto Ashland, Girardville, Shenandoah, Mahanoy City, and Gilberton and ended in Frackville, where we ate and talked over the journey. Population in just these towns totals over 40,000, including the small patches of homes in between. Add in the surrounding communities and the population reaches 60,000 or more, with nary a growing church in sight.
In Shenandoah and Mahanoy City we went two by two prayer walking and asked the Lord to help us discern the needs of the cities, and to send a church planter to bring the Gospel.In one city of just 8,000 we saw 8 Roman Catholic churches, most of which have been closed. In another town we saw 12 churches of all denominations, 8 of which have been closed.
The high unemployment rates, brain drain, high dropout, teen pregnancy rates as well as child abuse rates do not make this region a hot spot to attract industry or even church planters. The culture here is unique, and requires extra grace. The question is "What does the Lord see?". We will continue to seek the Lord, asking Him to send a team to plant a church or two in this area. It will take extraordinary commitment and wisdom to do so effectively. The need is great and the Lord loves the people of the coal region. Would you pray with us?
Luke 10:2 Then He said to them, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Crosses Burned in Shamokin

The Coal Region has a rich history of hard work, sacrifice and perseverance. There is also a historic melding of many cultures. Immigrants from as many as 26 distinct people groups came together in the Anthracite region to work as hard as any people have ever worked to make a life for themselves, and they did it with a high degree of acceptance and cooperation against all odds.
That heritage is being threatened, if the most recent reports of cross burnings prove true. The recent influx of African-Americans and Latinos has caused anxiety, and some appear to be taking matters into their own hands. That has never worked too well here in America, as we continue to live down our history of lynchings, the KKK shenanigans, Jim Crow laws and more. We had a short spell of skinhead activity in our area in the late 90's that produced nothing good.
This should be a wakeup call especially for the church. It was crosses that they burned! That is an affront to God and to His church. We are in a battle for our community. If we fail to be salt and light then the darkness will prevail, whether it is coming from intruding gang members, or from an angry native populace. We must be vigilant in prayer as well as good works and vocal opposition to evil.
The church must break loose from the paralyzing delusion that nothing has changed. Many churches continue to function as they did 50 years ago without recognizing that the local culture has been in a death spiral. If we do not actively engage everyone who will listen with the life changing message of Jesus Christ then the church in this community will become more and more irrelevant with each passing year.
It is plain...
Matthew 5:13-16 (MSG)
"Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. "Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.