We’re so glad you found our website. Whether you’re visiting us from another part of the world, or from right here in the Huntersville, North Carolina area — welcome!

We’re so glad you found our website. Whether you’re visiting us from another part of the world, or from right here in the Huntersville, North Carolina area — welcome!

We’re so glad you found our website. Whether you’re visiting us from another part of the world, or from right here in the Huntersville, North Carolina area — welcome!

Pastor Paul's Blog

I Hope this is Not TOO Late

Some of you may have already done your Christmas shopping. You may be already committed. But, if you aren’t, I hope you’ll watch the video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ccuC87NBpw&t=2s). We showed it a couple of weeks ago at church and I invite you to watch it, even if you have already seen it. It is what we are going to be talking about during the Advent season. It is a movement that is sorely due.

Advent Conspiracy was started a few years ago. This is from the website, adventconspiracy.org/about:

"Over a decade ago, a few pastors were lamenting how they’d come to the end of an Advent season exhausted and sensing they’d missed it – the awe-inducing, soul-satisfying mystery of the incarnation.

For many of us, we were drowning in a sea of financial debt and endless lists of gifts to buy. We struggled to find the connection between our Christmas to-do lists and the story of Jesus’ birth.

An overwhelming stress had overtaken worship and celebration.

The time of year when focusing on Christ should be the easiest was often the hardest. Somehow, this had become the new normal.

So, in 2006, three pastors, Chris Seay, Greg Holder, and Rick McKinley, decided to try something different. They called it the Advent Conspiracy movement, and came up with four tenets—Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All—to guide themselves, their families, and congregations through the Christmas season."

I want to join the movement, and I am inviting you to do so as well. It’s simple really, focus on the four tenets – Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All – rather than obsessing over the giving of gifts to our family and friends. I am committing to leading my family and our congregation in de-emphasizing the gift giving pattern, and focusing instead on the birth of Jesus.

It will mean that we will have to have conversations with our family members and our friends. It will take courage to say to them, “I won’t be exchanging gifts this year, in the usual way. I suggest we come up with a different way to express our love for each other.” If money needs to be exchanged, offer it to a church or charity instead. Rather than spend hours at the mall looking for “stuff” to give, why don’t we spend that time together with our family and friends? Let’s offer gifts of our time and talents to God and to each other, rather than bloating our credit card statements. Let’s support the work of God in the world, rather than accumulating junk that will be discarded in days or months ahead.

I might suggest that our Thrive! project would be an excellent avenue to direct the giving that we might normally offer in gift giving to friends. Make a gift in honor of someone to Thrive!, and we will let them know they were honored in such a way.

As we enter this special time of year, as the songs are sung and the decorations are displayed, maybe this year we can focus on what Jesus means to the whole of the universe, and not stress out over unrealistic expectations that are surely never going to be met through gift giving.

Will you join me?

"Not Here" for a Thanksgiving Meal

By now you may know the story of how the “Not Here” ministry was started, but the story is so good I like telling it over and over. Justin Stewart and I were standing in the church kitchen looking at a big storage bag of hot dogs that were left over from a Youth event. Justin asked, “What are we going to do with these hot dogs?” My response was, “Oh, I don’t know, we will serve them again for another occasion.” He replied, “I’m going to take them down and give them out to the homeless in Charlotte. I know where they hang out.” Okay then.

That was the start of something big!

From there the ministry grew weekly. The next week Justin prepared soup and took it down for our homeless neighbors. Then, every week, something else. He ended up setting up at different spots in Charlotte, but the police would come by and say, “It’s great what you are doing, but NOT HERE!” Eventually, a space at Hope Chapel was secured, and “Not Here” had a home.

Justin moved to Colorado in 2016, but with the dedication and leadership of several volunteers, the ministry continued. Kirk Sipe took the lead, and others continued to lend their talents and abilities for this vital expression of God’s love and grace.

Now, other churches have come alongside ours, providing additional help. A worship service, led by Charles DiRico, is offered after the meal every week. Most weeks, clothing is available to those who need it. It is an amazing thing to watch how this ministry thrives.

“Not Here” is not in the church budget, per se. We don’t fund the food served, or the supplies used, or the gas to drive the van. When people want to support the “Not Here” ministry, it is through directed giving.

This Sunday, our “Not Here” ministry is going to provide a meal for us. The food comes from the same place the Thursday food comes from, donations from places like Chipotle, Chick-Fil-A (Denver), Outback Steakhouse, Carrabbas, Little Caesars and Bone Fish grill. Our talented chefs take and re-purpose the food and make it even more delicious. This Sunday, you are invited to stay after the 10:30 service to share in a pre-Thanksgiving meal. The money you donate will go to provide for the “Not Here” ministry supplies; the plates, the serving items, gas, etc. An estimated $1,200 per year is needed. We trust that the spirit of giving will be flowing through us as we are blessed by this food and gathering.

Thank you to all the “Not Here” ministry people who are answering the call of God, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink.” May God continue to bless “Not Here.”

Thrive! One Year Later...

I was nervous. I had never made such a big, bold ask. $750,000 is a lot of money. Two years isn’t that long of a time. Yet, through prayer and discernment, we had been led to this big ask and it was the time. And in October of last year you responded! As we celebrated our Commitment and Celebration Sundays in October of last year, we were so pleased to know that you had pledged $660,000 (and many give without pledging) and we were on our way to a significant event in the life of the church, paying down the debt on this church building. We were a church that was not just going to survive, we were made to THRIVE!

So, here we are, one year later, and your faithfulness is showing. We are well on our way to achieving our goal of $750,000 by October of 2019. Bob Inskeep will give us the numbers on Sunday. What I want to do is give you information about “what’s next?”

This Sunday, we will announce the amount received so far and give you some great news about what your giving is allowing us to do already! We want to celebrate what God is doing through you with a covered dish meal after the 10:30 service, and there will be games and a bounce house for the kids! We are hoping everyone will purchase and wear your “Thrive” t-shirt on Sunday! We think this is a great way to show our solidarity in support of this project. We have much to celebrate and we want the energy and enthusiasm to shine!

It is also important that we continue to connect the “Thrive!” project to our Mission statement. Our new mission statement is, “God calls us to open the door, make room at the table, and create spaces to foster lasting relationships with Jesus Christ.” We believe building this facility is a part of opening the door and making room at the table. When the church was at its last location, it was landlocked and unable to grow. The rationale behind building the new church at this location was so that we could “make room at the table.” And we did! This building at this location offers us amazing space and great facilities to live out this mission statement. This church functions as a “community center” and enables us to offer so many blessings to our neighbors in the community. We are thriving in this area.

There is one remaining step, though. We have to be more focused at creating spaces to foster lasting relationships with Jesus Christ. Those spaces may not be literal, but figurative. They may be in conversations on a baseball diamond, a basketball court, or a soccer field. They may be at a race that we host with a community partner that helps bless the community by raising funds for a great cause. It may be as we hammer nails together at a Habitat for Humanity house. We must engage with the community, using words when necessary, to connect with a younger generation that is not just going to show up at our worship services just because we have them. To build a “Passionate, Thriving, Loving Community,” we have to meet people where they are, just like Jesus did, earning the right and privilege to share in their lives the good news we have found in Jesus Christ.

Your giving to the “Thrive” work frees us to put the dollars we need in the right places. Every dollar given to pay down debt is like a vote of affirmation that we trust God will complete this awesome work he began in the hearts and minds of the people who started this work a long time ago. We will continue this journey of faith and see the awesome things God will do, as we just trust him more and more with all that we are.

I look forward to seeing you Sunday, wearing our “Thrive” shirts, and celebrating the God who is thriving in this place!

One Step, Two Step...

One Step, Two Step. . .

 Do you remember our first step with the Nehemiah Project? Here was the proposal we voted on:

Let the Vision Drive.

During our Saturday workshop, members of the church learned that every ministry decision, program, and relationship must be aligned with a driving vision to begin a new life cycle of fruitful ministry. Upon accepting this report, the Lay Leadership and Nominations Committee will convene a Leadership Team that will work with a guide to discern a driving vision for the church. This process will include fully defining the church’s mission statement (what it means to be in authentic Christian Community), a vision statement, and guiding values for the church. The leadership team will work with the guide to ensure that all programs, resources, and management decisions are made in a way to support the mission of the church. The leadership team will be made up of the pastor, the lay leader, the church council chairperson, and seven people who are gifted in thinking about organizational leadership. At least 3 persons on the team will be 38 years old or younger.

I am happy to report that the Vision Leadership Team has defined a driving vision statement and mission statement and have settled on what we believe are the values of the church. We began this process back on July 29! Many, many hours have been spent praying, reflecting, debating and discerning who God might be calling us to be and how to proceed toward that vision. I want to thank the members of the Vision Team!

Pam Aiken (Church Council Chair)                Krista Sipe (Lay Leader)

Elizabeth Alleman                                          Brianna Omundson

Michael Anderson                                          Charlie Rininger

Matthew Blickley                                            Charmaine Stokes                             

Katie Kerns                                                     Paul B. Thompson

John McMillan                                                 Steve James, Coach

Our Vision statement!

Passionate, Thriving, Loving Community!

Our Mission statement!

God is calling Huntersville United Methodist Church to open the door, make room at the table, and create spaces to foster lasting relationships with Jesus Christ.

Early in our work, we decided that our previous statement of “Creating Authentic Christian Community” was not sufficient to describe the work that God was calling us to do in this place. So, we started with a basic exercise to determine our values, the things that we as a church believed were THE most important characteristics God was calling us to be. The exercise took an exhaustive list of characteristics, about 50 of them, and narrowed them down to the essential five. Then, I did the same exercise with the staff. Two groups in the Disciple Bible Study did the exercise. Small groups were then asked to do the same work.

Here is the list (arranged top to bottom) in order of importance:

 

Vision Team

Staff

Disciple Group 1

Christ-centered

Christ-centered

Christ-centered

Love for all

Love for all

Love for all

Passion

Passion

Spiritual Growth

Partnership with community

Partnership with community

Relationship

Outreach/Missions

Outreach/Missions

Relevance for Everyday Living

Disciple Group 2

Small Group 1

Small Group 2

Christ -centered

Christ-centered

Christ-centered

Love for all

Passion

Love for all

Spiritual Growth

Outreach/Missions

Relevance for Everyday Living

Relationship

Meeting the Needs of the Congregation

Partnership with Community

Evangelism

Continuous Learning and Development of Gifts and Skills

Passion/Spiritual Growth

                                                                                                                                        

What I take from this is AMAZING alignment and agreement! We very much agree on the essential values that we want to embody! So, we used this list of values to begin to define our Vision statement. I urged, and we agreed, that a Vision statement has to be BOLD, GOD-SIZED, and BIGGER than us. It needed to be a vision not just for a better church, but for a transformed community. And that is what we are after, a community that is Passionate, Thriving and Loving. I’ll talk more about this over the next few weeks, fleshing these out as they emerge from scripture.

Our Mission statement reflects the mission statement used when the church was going through the campaign to build this building in the 2000’s, “Making Room at the Table.” The Mission statement calls us to use what God has provided and intentionally begin the conversations that lead people to have a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ.

So, what’s next? Here’s an outline of some upcoming dates:

October 14           First Sunday in sermon series on Vision and Mission  (statement)

October 21           Connecting our Vision and Mission Statement to our Thrive Project – Our children will be surprising us! – Celebrating the Fall Community Extravaganza!

October 28           Thrive Celebration – Celebrating your generosity! – Children will be “Trick or Treating” in costumes during the Sunday School hour – Continued exploration of our Vision/Mission Statement – a covered dish meal afterwards!

November 4         All Saint’s Sunday – Celebrating Holy Communion – Musikids singing – Charge Conference after the service.

What is next? We need to see if we are in alignment. In sermons over the next weeks, I’ll be bringing up examples of plans we think are in line with our vision and mission. At some point, I’m going to ask you to show your support for this vision/mission statement. It is important to us that we give you the information you need and then move forward TOGETHER!

Then, on October 22, the second of the Nehemiah Project tasks begins in earnest. Dan Pezet, our Conference Director of Church Development, will be meeting with our Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) and the newly formed Leadership Development Team to begin to align leadership resources (Clergy, Staff and Lay) to this Vision and Mission Statement. This is an essential step as we focus on the things God is calling us to do to foster relationships with Jesus Christ and have Passionate, Thriving, Loving Community.

I know this is a lot of information, because there is a lot going on! I hope you can digest this and we certainly encourage you to ask questions and gather more information. This is an exciting, and changing, time in the life of the church. My belief and confidence is that God will lead us forward and we will continue to THRIVE!

I hope to see you Sunday!

Paul B. Thompson

Senior Pastor

Nehemiah Project Update - September 21, 2018

I want to offer you an update on where the Nehemiah Project stands! While we haven’t spoken much publicly, there is SO MUCH going on behind the scenes.

Your Vision Team members have been meeting to identify, clarify and develop a driving vision statement for God’s church here. Whereas “Creating Authentic Christian Community” has been a descriptive phrase for what we wanted to do, it has become clear that this “vision statement” has not been sufficient. We have started to discover and uncover a bold, God-sized vision that we hope will be able to drive the life of the church for years to come. We have studied the values we hold as representative members of the congregation. We are studying other vision statements to see examples of good vision statements. And most of all, we are praying that God will give us HIS vision of what God will have us do with and for him in this community.

We think we are close! We have narrowed down the words that we feel are the beginning of a compelling vision statement. My plan is to explore and share those words with you in a sermon series that will begin on October 7. We will then “vote” on the acceptance of the new vision statement at the conclusion of the sermon series on October 21. The vote will be largely an exercise to determine whether you are ready to move forward, or go back to the drawing board on further defining the vision.

In the meantime, we will be convening our Leadership Development Team. This team is designed to begin to align the human resources of the church (clergy, staff and laity), with the vision. Dan Pezet, the Conference Church Development leader, will be convening our Leadership Development Team and the Staff-Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) on October 22 to begin conversations to align our staff and leadership needs with the compelling vision the church adopts.

With the Reverend Jesse Smith leaving to take an appointment in Kannapolis, we will be adjusting Youth ministry leadership to incorporate a newly forming “Youth Leadership Council,” and with Cameron Floyd filling some roles, we will maintain the Youth ministry programming until further decisions are made by the Leadership Development team in conjunction with SPRC.

It has become clear to me that this is a pivotal and transitional time in the life of the church. We are making important decisions that will shape the life of the church for years to come. I am confident that with prayer and spiritual discernment, we will be able to find the direction God has in mind for this church. If you have questions or comments, I would be delighted to receive them and share with the various teams.

I look forward to seeing you soon and ask that you pray diligently for all the decisions that are being made. May God bless us all in this journey of faith!

Nehemiah Project Update! Vision Team is Set and Ready to Meet!

Nehemiah Project Update!

Vision Team is Set and Ready to Meet!

What happened with that Nehemiah Project? Didn’t we agree to participate? Where is all that? Well, here’s the update you’ve been waiting for!

Our Vision Team has been set:

Pam Aiken (Church Council Chair)             Krista Sipe (Lay Leader)

Elizabeth Alleman                                           Brianna Omundson

Michael Anderson                                           Charlie Rininger

Matthew Blickley                                             Charmaine Stokes                              

Katie Kerns                                                       Paul B. Thompson

John McMillan                                                Steve James, Coach

We will meet for the first time on July 29 at 5:30 p.m. at the church. This first meeting will give us time to get to know each other, build trust with each other and work through a set of questions to begin our visioning process.

On Sunday, August 12, following the 10:30 a.m. worship service, we will be eating lunch together and then meeting with our Coach, Steve James. The meeting is planned for all afternoon, until 6:00 p.m. It’s going to be a long day!

What can you do? Pray! Pray for the members of this team that we can discern God’s unique vision and calling for the disciples of Jesus Christ who call Huntersville UMC home. We will update you further as we get into this work.

As a reminder, here are the five (5) initiatives we agree to as a church:

  • Let the Vision Drive: The Lay Leadership and Nominations Committee will convene a Leadership Team that will work with a guide to discern a driving vision for the church. This process will include fully defining the church’s mission statement (what it means to be in authentic Christian Community), a vision statement, and guiding values for the church. The leadership team will work with the guide to ensure that all programs, resources, and management decisions are made in a way to support the mission of the church. The leadership team will be made up of the pastor, the lay leader, the church council chairperson, and seven people who are gifted in thinking about organizational leadership. At least 3 persons on the team will be 38 years old or younger.
  • Be in ministry with Younger Generations: We will create a task force, and with a guide, focus on Youth ministry and the possibility of recreational ministries to further engage this community.
  • Leadership: We will study Leadership and Organization for Fruitful Congregations by Stephen Ross and develop systems for Lay Leadership, look at our current Staff system and align those with the driving vision of the church, with the help of a guide. The goal is to increase participation in all levels of church life.
  • Door to Core Discipleship Pathway: We must develop a system of connecting people from those thinking about visiting the church, to actually attending, leading to full participation in the life of the church. We will have a Discipleship Pathway team that develops and implements this strategy, with help from a Coach/Guide from the Conference.
  • Adopt an Attitude of Abundance: We will convene an Abundant Stewardship Team to explore how to take the stewardship in the church to the next level. We will look at debt reduction and ways to use existing resources to move the church forward in the area of financial health and engagement.

I look forward to updating you on the progress being made and seeing how God shapes us moving forward!

Paul B. Thompson

And Now the Work Begins: The Nehemiah Project Moves Forward

What began with our “Thrive!” project, in which we moved forward as a congregation in faith to address our indebtedness, then afforded us the opportunity to engage in the “Nehemiah Project”, a partnership with our Annual Conference. You have embraced these projects and have voted with 99% approval to begin the Nehemiah Project. Believing that this opportunity could not be turned down, I am grateful for your ringing endorsement of this direction.

I am also grateful to all of you who participated in the process to this point. For those who came to the Nehemiah workshop Saturday session, the Town Hall meetings, to those who voted, and especially for the leadership of our facilitators, Pam Aiken and Kevin Franklin. God has us on the move!

I want to remind you of the five (5) initiatives you voted to embrace with the Nehemiah Project:

  • Let the Vision Drive: The Lay Leadership and Nominations Committee will convene a Leadership Team that will work with a guide to discern a driving vision for the church. This process will include fully defining the church’s mission statement (what it means to be in authentic Christian Community), a vision statement, and guiding values for the church. The leadership team will work with the guide to ensure that all programs, resources, and management decisions are made in a way to support the mission of the church. The leadership team will be made up of the pastor, the lay leader, the church council chairperson, and seven people who are gifted in thinking about organizational leadership. At least 3 persons on the team will be 38 years old or younger.
  • Be in ministry with Younger Generations:-We will create a task force, and with a guide, focus on Youth ministry and the possibility of recreational ministries to further engage this community
  • Leadership-: We will study Leadership and Organization for Fruitful Congregations by Stephen Ross and develop systems for Lay Leadership, look at our current Staff system and align those with the driving vision of the church, with the help of a guide. The goal is to increase participation in all levels of church life.
  • Door to Core Discipleship Pathway:-We must develop a system of connecting people from those thinking about visiting the church, to actually attending, leading to full participation in the life of the church. We will have a Discipleship Pathway team that develops and implements this strategy, with help from a Coach/Guide from the Conference.
  • Adopt an Attitude of Abundance:-We will convene an Abundant Stewardship Team to explore how to take the stewardship in the church to the next level. We will look at debt reduction and ways to use existing resources to move the church forward in the area of financial health and engagement.

The next step is in the hands of Dan Pezet, the Conference Director of Church Development. He is to gather the two of us with our District Superintendent (Mark Andrews), and our District Vitality Specialist (Rev. Dr. Stephanie Moore Hand), and establish a timeline for implementing the 5 initiatives listed above (expected to be around 2 years). We anticipate having this first meeting in the next 30 days, and then shortly thereafter convening the Vision Team (initiative 1 above). As noted, as Vision has to drive, this is the logical place to start.

We will keep you informed as to our progress by providing updates similar to this one. We would ask you to be praying for us through this process. I ask that you pray, asking God how he might he be calling you to engage in this process. We certainly have a sense of momentum going right now and want to continue to trust God to lead this congregation that we might be a powerful influence in the community, pointing to the good news of Jesus Christ as our ground and hope.

I welcome questions or comments you may have. Please let me know of your ideas and dreams God has planted in your heart.

Now we take the next step forward in this church’s long and faithful story. May God’s grace and peace be with us all.

Nehemiah Project Update and Town Hall Meetings

Last fall, while in discussions with Dan Pezet, our Director of Congregational Development for the Western N.C. Conference of the UMC (WNCCUMC), it became clear that Huntersville UMC was beginning to THRIVE, but lacked some elements for sustained growth and mission focus. We had successfully entered into a capital campaign, called THRIVE!, and were beginning to see tremendous progress. Attendance was growing. Financial support was increasing. Interest and activity in every way was progressing favorably. Our church’s health was GOOD, and we believe God needed and wanted us to be GREAT!

And so, we began conversations around how this church could flourish and make even more impact in the Huntersville community. In December, your Church Council leadership voted to consider a process, called the Nehemiah Project, that would offer the church a partnership with the WNCCUMC in this growth. With the affirmation of the Church Council leadership, we voted to begin the process. We asked, and you responded, by filling out nearly 150 surveys of your impressions of the church. We followed that up with a “Nehemiah Project” weekend. Interviews were held with leaders and newcomers to the church. We intentionally engaged new and long-time members. On Saturday, March 24, we held a workshop led by Dan Pezet, to hear about our dreams and goals for the church, and to see if we were in agreement about initiatives that would help us move forward toward GREAT!

On Sunday, March 25, Dan Pezet presented to the congregation a summary of those initiatives. The report concluded that there were 5 first steps we needed to take. Here is the summary of those: (the full report is available on our website and paper copies are in the lobby)

  • Let the Vision Drive by refining and considering if “Creating Authentic Christian Community” is the real vision and find ways to let the vision drive the decision making of the church.
  • Be in ministry with Younger Generations - We will create a task force, and with a guide, focus on Youth ministry and the possibility of recreational ministries to further engage this community.
  • Leadership - We will study Leadership and Organization for Fruitful Congregations by Stephen Ross and develop systems for Lay Leadership and look at our current Staff system and align those with the driving vision of the church, with the help of a guide. The goal is to increase participation in all levels of church life.
  • Door to Core Discipleship Pathway - We must develop a system of connecting people from those thinking about visiting the church, to actually attending, leading to full participation in the life of the church. We will have a Discipleship Pathway team that develops and implements this strategy, with help from a Coach/Guide from the Conference.
  • Adopt an Attitude of Abundance - We will convene an Abundant Stewardship Team to explore how to take the stewardship in the church to the next level. We will look at debt reduction and ways to use existing resources to move the church forward in the area of financial health and engagement.

We will have “Town Hall Meetings”, open to all, to discuss these initiatives. The dates and times for these will be April 22 at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. in the Fellowship Hall, and on Wednesday April 25, at 7:00 p.m. also in the Fellowship Hall. The purpose of these open meetings is to discuss, ask questions, and gain perspective on this proposal. Pam Aiken will facilitate the discussions on April 22. Kevin Franklin will facilitate on April 25. Dan Pezet will be present on April 22 to help answer questions.

On May 6, at 11:30 a.m. (or after the 10:30 service), we will have Mark Andrews, our District Superintendent, present to conduct a Charge Conference vote. All are welcome to attend, but the vote taken will be among current members. Of those attending and eligible to vote, 70% must approve to move forward. If 70% approve, we begin to address these initiatives, recognizing they may take 1-3 years to fully develop. If the church does not vote with 70% approval, we move no further in partnership with the Conference on this route.

I hope that you will be able to attend one of these sessions to gain more clarity. In the meantime, if I can help answer questions or give resources, please let me know.

I hope to see you this weekend!

Paul B. Thompson, Pastor

Huntersville United Methodist Church

Nehemiah Weekend: Building the Walls, Breaking Down the Barriers

I don’t know how familiar you are with Nehemiah in the Bible. To understand who he was and what he did, you have to understand a bit of history. In 587/586 B.C., invaders from the East (present day Iraq) attacked Jerusalem and the surrounding area in southern Israel, known then as Judah. They set up a blockade around the walled city of Jerusalem and literally starved the city to death. In 586 B.C., these Babylonians completed their conquest of Jerusalem, tore down the walls of the city, and captured the people who remained. Many of the inhabitants of Jerusalem were drug away into “Exile”, re-settled in new areas away from family and friends. Many were taken and re-settled within Babylonia itself.

Nehemiah was born to those who had been taken away into Exile. He is known for rising to high rank within the Babylonian government, in spite of his Jewish heritage, and then leading a campaign to re-build Jerusalem’s walls. He sought permission and support from the King to lead this effort. Through many hardships and in the face of opposition, Nehemiah began the restoration of Jerusalem and the Temple and set the stage for Jerusalem to once again become the Holy City, the “city of God.” Nehemiah’s work set the stage for a return for many Jews to the promised land, for in the building of the walls the barriers for returning were broken down. God always seems to take the despairing times we face and restores us to blessing and home with him.

Our church has certainly faced some challenging times, and these have been well documented. The great recession and the move from our previous location were enormously difficult. But now, God is in the midst of a restoration and a rebuilding that is so encouraging! Our Western N.C. Conference of the United Methodist Church is eager to help us continue this growth and journey forward, and are helping us in what is now known as the “Nehemiah Project.”

Back in December, Dan Pezet, Director of Congregational Development, made presentations as to what the steps would entail if we wanted to engage in this process. We eagerly agreed as a Church Council and have begun to put into motion the Nehemiah Project.

Over the last few weeks we have been asking you to fill out a “Readiness 360 Survey” on-line. This survey is critical. Your responses will drive the direction of our church in the future. We will identify 3-5 initiatives our church desires, and the Conference will agree to provide resources, human and otherwise, to help us launch these initiatives. Based on feedback from the surveys, and from conversation we will have on March 24 at our Church Workshop, Dan Pezet and others from the Conference will present to us a report on Sunday, March 25. This report will be received in our COMBINED worship service at 10:30 that day. I am asking that EVERYONE gather at 9:30 for a time of fellowship around coffee and donuts, and then we will worship together. At the end of the worship time, we will receive copies of the written report. We will be given time over the next weeks to talk about the report in “community gatherings” and set the stage for us as a church to vote on the results. It will require 70% of the church to affirm the work of the Nehemiah Project at the vote. This is an exciting time as we consider what steps God is calling for us to take next.

Could I invite you to pray for this Nehemiah Project? Could I ask you to please take the survey if you have not already done so? Could I ask you to think big, bold, God-sized visions for us? I have become convinced that this is an opportunity for us as a church that could help us truly impact the community around us in even greater ways than we thought possible. Will you join with Nehemiah and re-build walls and break down barriers to God’s work?

To take the survey go to https://app.readiness360.org/survey/login and enter survey code 7161432193.

Love, Lent, Fool's and Easter

Have you noticed an oddity in the calendar this year? Ash Wednesday, the day that begins the season of Lent (preparation for Easter), is on Valentine’s Day. Easter Sunday, the most holy day of the Christian year, is on April 1, April Fool’s Day. A coincidence like that has to be celebrated, and we are planning on it!

Here’s how we are planning to celebrate:

Feb 14 – 5:30-6:30 p.m. Pancake Dinner in the Worship Center. We will have pancakes and fixings available for a donation beginning at 5:30 up until 6:30 p.m. We encourage you and your family to join us as we get rid of the “Fat Tuesday” leaven and begin the season of Lent.

Feb 14 – 6:30-7:15 p.m. Ash Wednesday Service
This service is one of the most moving of the year for me personally. The meaning behind the service is that we are reminded of our mortality “that we are dust and to dust we will return.” We place ashes on each other’s foreheads, making the sign of the cross, and say these words, “From dust you have come, and to dust you shall return. Repent, and believe in the good news.” So, we are reminding each other of our common end, that we will all die, but as people of faith our good news is that we are assured of our life to come. As a culture we are not accustomed to such conversations, but in the Church we welcome the opportunity to proclaim our faith in what God has done for us in Christ Jesus.

For the series of sermons that will begin on Ash Wednesday and run through March 25, we will focus on the seven deadly sins that tend to separate us from experiencing the love of God: Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed, and Apathy.

Beginning February 21, we will be forming Small Groups to discuss the themes of each Sunday. We will offer a meal, catered from a local restaurant, between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. Reservations will be necessary so that we can provide adequate provisions. At 6:30, small groups will be formed and a facilitator will coordinate the discussions around questions we will supply. The process is designed so that relationships are formed and deepened, with confidentiality understood within the group. The small groups will run for five weeks, from February 21 until March 21. We hope to reform groups after Easter around another subject.

I am excited about this time of spiritual growth. This season is designed so that we both encounter God’s truth, but also so that we can study this word in community and glean from each other’s experience and understanding. We will grow closer together as we eat, study, and worship together.

I so look forward to seeing you in these days ahead, walking with Jesus in this season of preparation toward a cross and an empty tomb.

Questions for God

One of the challenges of being a Pastor/Preacher is deciding what to preach.  It’s a BIG book, the Holy Bible.  My experience has been that I tend to gravitate toward the Gospels, particularly the Gospel of Mark, as my favorite material.  I tend to grapple with many of the same questions in my preaching. For example, I often find myself wrestling with “what is the meaning of salvation” and how do “works” relate to God’s saving us?  Wanting to grow as a Preacher, I am really working on “preaching with a purpose”, and deciding what it is that God’s people are grappling with is an important step for me in that growth. 

That’s why I need your help!  Starting in January, I (along with Jesse, our Associate Pastor), want to know about the “questions you have for God.”  I want to take on a number of those questions in a sermon series that will begin in January and run until we have dealt with your questions.  Here’s what I need you to do: write down on a notecard your question and put it in the box provided at church.  Or, send me a message at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Or, text me or call the church, or respond on Facebook, or whatever way you can.  What question are you struggling with about God, or with God?  What have you always wanted to ask, but never had the opportunity?  Here’s your chance!  I can’t promise I have the easy answer.  I can promise that I will grapple with you and seek diligently the answer in scripture and in the traditions of the church. 

I wonder if your family, or friends, or neighbors, or co-workers, would be interested in this series?  We will post the sermon series in December and hope that maybe you can use this topic to interest someone into coming to hear what God might be saying to us about these questions we have for him. 

So, think about the question you have, and send it to me!  I’m going to begin work on this right away, so respond quickly!  I look forward to the journey!

The series begins on January 7, 2018!  Send me your “Questions for God.”

What Honors God?

John Wesley led the people called Methodists to a definition of worship that was basic to the pattern of Christian practice and thought:  the appropriate honoring of God for what God had accomplished through Jesus Christ, God’s Son.  What was clear is that Wesley held in tension how that worship should be shaped.  On the one hand, worship should be inward, a service of the heart, a singular heart connecting to God in intimacy, deeply personal.  On the other hand, worship is a means of grace, an “ordinary” way in which God’s grace and presence is conveyed to all people.  Therefore, Wesley recognized worship took different forms.  Prescribed forms lead Christians through a range of prayer types (confession, intercession and thanksgiving), whereas extemporaneity allows personal prayer from the heart.  Some worship is quiet and reflective, other vibrant and bold.  Worship could be singular, in the solidarity of one soul seeking God, but also in the corporate nature in which many gathered to be led as one body.  (The Wesley Study Bible:  Worship; Nashville, Abingdon Press: pg. 509).

In more modern times, Methodists have adapted our styles of worship to fit the context of the community of faith.  We have United Methodist Churches that are VERY traditional in tone, containing elements of worship established for centuries.  But, we also have churches that offer modern takes on worship, using contemporary styles of music and instrumentation, technology, and style.  Some United Methodist churches are “charismatic”, very expressive in their mode of worship, celebrating boldly the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Many churches find they can offer differing styles within their worship offering, holding that tension even in each worshipping body.

At the beginning of this year, we made a decision to offer two distinctive expressions of worship.  We announced and executed a strategy to take our 8:30 service and make it more “traditional.”  We decided to sing hymns led by piano and organ sound, to include responsive readings and creeds and other more traditional elements of worship.  I agreed to wear the clergy robe and we put the traditional worship furnishings out every Sunday.  That decision has been met very favorably based on the feedback I have received.  At the same time, we decided to intentionally move the 10:30 service a few steps toward “modern.”  We secured the leadership of Cameron Floyd and other participants in a “praise band” to lead us in the singing of more modern “praise” songs.  We took a couple of other intentional, modest steps toward this modern style service, and again, the feedback I have received has been positive.

We continue to evaluate and reflect upon the ways we offer corporate worship, and feel led to make some more modest “tweaks” to the 10:30 service (leaving the 8:30 service as our traditional worship offering).  Beginning on August 16 at the 10:30 service, here are some changes we will implement to see how the worship flow feels:

10:25-the Worship band begins to play instruments

(no singing)

10:30-A word of welcome is extended, a reminder of who we are and a request to sign the attendance        registers and prayer request cards

10:31-An opening musical set led by the Worship team

10:40-Offering received, with an added  song

10:46-Children’s time tied to worship theme of the day

10:50-Song-Special-tied to the message

10:55-Video-creative element/Guided prayer in keeping with the theme

11:00 Scripture and Sermon

Closing Song

We will be eliminating a “Passing of the Peace”, the Doxology and Announcement time, except for brief highlights of important upcoming events

The Acolytes will be invited to participate in the 8:30 service.

We/I will welcome your feedback and critique as we try these changes to see if they improve our flow of worship.  As we seek to engage the people around us in the search for God’s abiding presence, we believe we must be attuned to ever evolving and changing culture, while holding steadfast to the good news of Jesus Christ that transcends time and space.  Thank you for being people who understand that our mission is always to reach new people with this good news while growing in those who are already followers of Jesus a desire to grow in Him more.

May the Lord bless us all in this Kingdom work.

Spiritual Gifts - Not Just for Pentecostals!

When I was a child, I had a relative who attended a “Pentecostal” church.  Because I was close in age and spent a lot of time with my cousin, I ended up going to church with them on some Sunday nights.  The church they attended was “Pentecostal” because they believed strongly in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and thought those gifts manifested themselves in things like “speaking in tongues”, or other expressions of worship that might include very loud and visible expressions of praise to God.  Many of those things rather scared me as a child as I didn’t understand them and they seemed so   foreign to the Baptist church I attended.  Later, my relatives quit attending that church, but I have held some of those memories and have processed them through the years enough to recognize both the beauty and the oddity of those experiences.

The Bible is clear.  Everyone has spiritual gifts.  If you are a believer then you have the presence of the Holy Spirit in you and with that Spirit comes a myriad of gifts.  It has nothing to do with being “Pentecostal”, and has everything to do with discovering how God has uniquely wired you for service in the Kingdom of God.

Over the last few months, we have included in the bulletin a pretty good list of various “gifts of the Spirit” and some definitions of those gifts.  These have included gifts like:

              Administration           Apostleship            Compassion            Discernment

              Evangelism                 Exhortation           Faith                           Giving

              Healing                       Helping                   Interpretation           Knowledge

              Leadership                 Miracles                  Prophecy                  Servanthood

             Shepherding               Teaching                 Tongues                    Wisdom                     

             (taken from the UMC.org website)

These gifts are taken from scriptures, specifically Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and I Corinthians 12-13.  What is important is to 1) understand that you have gifts; 2) know how to use them; and 3) recognize how God might put those gifts to work for the betterment of His Kingdom.

I discovered a long time ago that one of my primary spiritual gifts is hospitality (not listed above).  I have a knack for recognizing and welcoming new people. I am not afraid to go up to a stranger, introduce myself, and try and make that person feel a part of the gathering.  I’m not sure why and how I have this gift, but I do have it and I try to use it as best as I can.  I think it has made a difference in the life of the church, for the good.

You have a spiritual gift, too, and it would be great if you could recognize your gift and intentionally live into that gift for the blessing of God’s Kingdom here on earth.  We are going to be preaching on spiritual gifts,  offering ways to discover what your gift is, and challenging you to put that gift to use.  I am absolutely   convinced that as the church of Jesus Christ recovers our sense of being his servants, then we have what it takes to shape the world for Christ’s sake.  The sermon series begins on October 22 and will run for 3 weeks.  I look forward to helping you discover your spiritual gift and helping you find ways to live fully into those gifts.  And you don’t even have to be Pentecostal to do it!

You Say Goodbye...I Say Hello: Thanks Jonathan and Welcome Jesse!

The month of June is transition time in theUnited Methodist Church tradition.  It is the time when appointments are “fixed” at Annual Conference, then become reality for hundreds of clergy and congregations each year.  The times are bittersweet.  Pastors who have been loved by congregations are bid farewell, and the excitement of making new friendships is considered as new Pastors are welcomed.

This year, I am feeling a mixture of sadness and excitement.  I say farewell to my friend and colleague, and Associate Pastor, Jonathan.  Many of you will remember last year when we were in the search for additional leadership, Jonathan came on-board on a “temporary” basis.  We knew going in that Jonathan had a long-term goal and plan to plant a church, and were prepared to keep Jonathan until that goal came to fruition.  It has come earlier than I had hoped, but what a fun time it has been!

Jonathan is a character!  He combines an infectious joy and playfulness with a deep spirituality and desire to serve.  We have laughed hysterically and we have had serious conversation. He has opened my eyes to many things I wasn’t seeing, and given me great support and encouragement about the directions we are heading.  I wish him nothing but the greatest of blessings in his new venture and feel confident that the good work God has begun in him will be completed.

Jesse Smith will be appointed our new Associate Pastor.  Jesse will be a tremendous blessing to us as a church and especially to our Student Ministry.  He comes to us in a somewhat “unique” way.  Jesse has spent the last two years developing a ministry called “Reactivate” church, which will continue, but will blend with Jesse’s work with Huntersville UMC.  He will be given primary leadership responsibility for furthering our Student Ministry to 6 through 12 graders.  He will also work to help in the other areas of Pastoral Ministry, including preaching, Pastoral Care and small group development.  He and his wife, Camille, have two children who keep them on their toes!  We will be sharing more information about Jesse soon. 

In the meantime, will you join me in giving thanks to God for Jonathan and the work God is doing through him?  Jonathan’s last Sunday with us will be June 18.  He will be preaching that day and telling us good-bye.  We will host a reception for Jonathan after the service and hope that you will express your gratitude to him that day especially. 

Soon after that, we will have a time to welcome Jesse and his family.  The days ahead are full of promise and opportunity for us as we welcome this new leadership and embrace God’s guidance.  

Time to Thrive!

She is 90 something years old.  She comes virtually every Sunday, in spite of her health.  She loves this place, loves these people.  Her heart is in this place. As long as she possibly can, she will be here.  Then, there’s Cody, and Adam and Donna, and Gwen and Kristin and Joey, all residents of our McCleskey UMAR home.  Where would they be without us, this church?  This is their home, a place where each of them belongs, where they come alive, where they live independently and yet in community, where they THRIVE.  This church makes that ministry possible. 

Back in the spring, family after family left the preschool graduation ceremony saying, through tears, how much this church’s preschool meant to them.  Their children were prepared and ready for the next step in their journey, for they had been shaped by love this church displayed, for they had learned about Jesus, and numbers and letters and colors. They were ready to THRIVE!

Dawn Deese Young recently wrote on our FB page:

I was referred here by Novant Oncology to the food bank. My family is going through a very difficult time and a true test of Faith but when I came here....it was the best feeling!! Margaret helped me both times and she is so sweet and caring. All of the ladies are a blessing!! Thank you for feeding our family during this time.”

Huntersville United Methodist Church is an “authentic Christian community.”  For over a hundred years, we have been woven into the fabric of this community, a steady witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ, calling sinners to find blessing and forgiveness, and life lived more fully today and forever.  We continue forming relationships that change lives, and with Christ Jesus as our model and guide, we help each other in the journey.  Kathryn Dailey put it like this,

We are a community of people that want to see and be seen. We don't want to be "one of the masses" at the mega churches. We want to know one another and share life with one another. We value knowing each other by name and sharing our successes and our struggles. We see value in being a community that has singles, families and seniors because we know we can teach and learn from one another. Because we know the different stages of life we need each other to create a rounded life experience.”

This church exists to change lives.  Sometimes the change happens on the streets of Charlotte, through a meal and a message at “Not Here Ministries,” or in a game of basketball and an offer of salvation through “MAD (Make a Difference) HOOPS,” or in a meeting room of folks struggling with addiction.  On Sunday mornings through song and sermon, and Room in the Inn (a ministry to the homeless), and throughout the week, hundreds of lives are impacted and transformed by the work of God in this place and through these people. The change is sometimes slow and deliberate in coming, and sometimes instantaneous, but changed nonetheless, to THRIVE!  We believe our faith is formed and strengthened when we offer ourselves in service to God and his people.  This is the distinctive quality of HUMC!

“And we want to keep the tradition of The Church in our lives and in our community. We believe in a way of life and a structure that God has given us for living. We don't want to be a people that subscribe to this notion that you just take care of yourself and not your neighbor. We are all in this together and we want to live that. We are a mission church that sees value in cultivating and growing missions in all avenues even if they don't apply to our station in life.”

This community of believers is the result of dreams and visions, of prayers and sacrifices, of love and community.  For a congregation that has experienced challenges before and overcome them, this time is no different.  When the times bring challenges, this congregation rallies each time.  We are ready!

This week begins our “Thrive Project!”  I hope to see you Sunday as we begin to dream God’s dream and share with each other, moving from just surviving to THRIVING!  This is an exciting time in our church’s history and I look forward to sharing more with you then!

We invite you to also attend one of our Visioning events, Wednesday, September 27 at 7:00-8:30 p.m., or Friday September 29 from 6:30-8:00 p.m.  Pray for our church as we sense where God might be leading us. 

Our theme song for this project says, “We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives.  We were made to THRIVE!” And now is our time!

See you soon!

Paul B. Thompson

Why United Methodist?

This coming Sunday is recognized in the United Methodist church as “Heritage Sunday.”  It is designated as the Sunday closest to May 24.  Why is May 24 so significant?  It is the date that John Wesley, the founder of this movement known as Methodism, had his “Aldersgate experience.” 

Aldersgate was a street in London, where there was a Moravian Chapel.  Wesley attended a Bible Study there, and on May 24, 1738, records in his journal that as Martin Luther’s preface to the book of Romans was being read, “I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” ("What is Aldersgate Day?" umc.org. The United Methodist Church.)  History records this as a turning point in the life of Wesley, and ultimately for a movement that would have significant impact on the world.

Many have said that this was the “conversion” experience of John Wesley.  Though he was already a Priest in the Anglican church, though he was dedicated to the faith and had long preached the Word, this was a moment that would re-shape his life.  Wesley, maybe for the first time, received that assurance of God’s love and forgiveness and it changed him.  It was the start of something that began to shape first the Church of England, and would later become a people derisively called “Methodist.”

This Sunday, I will share a bit about why I am a part of this Wesleyan church, and what makes us a bit “unique” or “special.”  Having been raised in a different expression of the faith gives me a good insight, I believe, into the strengths and weaknesses of the United Methodist Church.  Not to give away all of my sermon, but being United Methodist combines the best of the “evangelical movement”, those concerned with “social holiness” or social justice issues, and, sacramental.  I will flesh out a bit of what those mean for us in the church today.

In addition, at the 10:30 service, we will have a recognition time for our Preschool, children, teachers and families.  That is followed by a great BBQ fundraiser for our Youth mission trip.  I hope you will plan to join us!