In March of 1984 Susanne and I moved from south Texas, to northern Indiana. The Nazarene church in Syracuse, IN had been reorganized and I began this great adventure. We pastored there 7+ years. It was at this location that I became involved in my first building program. Our son was born in nearby Goshen Indiana while pastoring here. This was the church where I learned many important ministry and life lessons.
1 To reach a community you must become involved in the community. The community ministerial association conducted a boat in worship service from Memorial day to Labor day at the largest natural lake in the state of Indiana. It was very well attended and pastors of the community shared the preaching and leading of the service. Several came and sat along the shore and many came in boats and anchored them around the boat that the speaker preached from. It was in this setting that I learned the power of church and ministerial cooperation. It was here I learned that when churches cooperate there is a greater community impact.
2 I really learned leadership in this pastorate. A business leader in the church took me under his wing and taught me important life lessons, as well as I caught a lot of leadership principles by spending time with him. This was a wonderful laboratory of learning. It has impacted my life to this day.
3 It was here that I learned God does do big things in small places. The town was quite small, and the church grew. There are always enough people to lead to faith and to disciple, regardless of the size of the community. Truly some of the best gifts do come in small packages.
4 Prayer became central to the move of God we experienced. Our prayer meetings on Wednesday night became the highlight of the week. We saw answers to prayer and the people were excited to see what God was going to do next.
5 It is exciting to see people come to faith and to see the church increase in attendance. Some of the most fulfilling days of our ministry happened in this little town.
6 I learned that growth does not happen over night. My first service in Syracuse was attended by 18 people. There were Sunday nights in the winter that I preached to less than 10 people. You must do your best even if the crowd is small. I preached my heart out to 8 people, and tried to conduct myself as if there were 800 people there. I learned to keep plugging away and do your best, pray and trust God for the results.
7 I learned there is more to overnight success than overnight! When our church began to grow people thought I was an expert. They wanted to know what my secret was, but the truth was that there was no secret. I also learned to beware of people who tell you there is a secret. Let me tell you the secret, do your best, pray and leave it with the Lord.
Thank you Wawasee Community Church of the Nazarene folks, you made a lifetime impact upon my life. The saddest lesson I learned here was that like my first congregation, many congregations do not survive long term. This church likewise has closed. I left there 24 years ago. The lessons I learned in Syracuse Indiana are still a part of my life. One final lesson, seize the day, today is the only day we are promised.