After spending a few days at the National New Church Development Conference, the Rev. Edwin Andrade said he was leaving excited for the church of Jesus Christ.
"God is really doing amazing things and moving in powerful ways," he said. "And friends, there is more than just hope. In Jesus, there is victory."
The conference was held here Aug. 9-12.
And although Andrade was energized, he acknowledged that this feeling isn't always present. Fear can paralyze us, cautioned Andrade, an organizing pastor of Nueva Rivera Presbyterian Church in Sterling, Va.
All have heard the statistics and news about how the church is losing relevancy, membership is decreasing and how mainline churches will soon be on the sidelines. Even here at the new church development conference, many are afraid and feel that their work just keeps getting harder.
But by operating with this "glass half-empty perspective," we have let fear tell the story, Andrade said.
He spoke about a college job he had as the night manager of hotel. One night, three people came to the front desk. One pointed a gun at him and demanded money. When Andrade told them he didn’t have the combination to the safe, they told him to run, and he ran for his life. He gave a report to the police, but when he tried to go back to work the next day, he was frozen — fear had taken over, and Andrade had lost the hope and security that he’d previously felt at work.
The same can happen with new church development ministry. Pastors fear losing money and members, Andrade said.
But it's important to remember that there is reason for hope, he added. "Through the power and the death of Jesus Christ, we can begin to look not with a 'glass half-empty perspective,' but with a 'tomb that is empty perspective,'" he said.
And while we know that the tomb was empty because Jesus rose from the dead, there is a difference between knowing and truly believing.
"It is time for us to allow that truth to seep into our hearts," Andrade said.
It's easy to get energized at a conference and to feel hopeful about going back to work, Andrade said. "But something happens between the conference and reality that we lose that enthusiasm," he said.
Andrade encouraged participants to remember Matthew 28: 5-8, in which the angel tells Mary and Mary Magdalene that Jesus is risen. They "departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy."
Most of us have one thing in our lives that we hold onto, believing that we're the only ones who can control it. We're afraid of what will happen if we let go, Andrade said. For him, it's worrying about the health of his young son, who has Down syndrome.
Andrade asked participants to visualize their fear and to tell it that Jesus is more than enough. We don't need the latest technologies, strategies and experts if we believe that Jesus is more than enough
If we truly believe this, the church will be different, he insisted. We won't depend on funding or membership numbers, but solely on the Holy Spirit.
Andrade urged the crowd to leave the Matthean tomb quickly and begin to be empowered.
"Can you allow Christ to rescue you?" he asked. "Can you let go of that one [fear] that's always in the back of your head and know that God is always in control?"