Meet the DLTs: Pastor Brian Lothridge
December 11, 2019 / By Brian Lothridge
The Church exists to serve the people who are not yet a part of it.
This is a new way for me to think about why the Church matters. I wish I could take credit for it, but it’s a paraphrase of something I recently heard from the mouth of the Rev. Dr. Aaron Bouwens, Director of Vital Congregations for the Upper New York Annual Conference.
He’s right. If we exist to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world then we are to continually look outside of the church walls, get to know our neighbors, and invite them to journey with us in this life of discipleship. That isn’t to say those already a part of the church are unimportant. A vital church will continue to help its community grow deeper in their walk with Jesus. However, part of growing deeper with God is loving our neighbors. Our main focus is on the people who have not yet joined us with the hope that our invitation to this journey will be a part of God’s transforming work in the world.
What I hope I bring to this great team of clergy and laity is a concern for our neighbors near and far who are not yet with us. My focus is ministering with those on the margins. That has led me to develop one of the four Worship Without Walls sites in the Mohawk District, alongside pastors Carol Jubenville, Cory Jones, and Joelle Faulks. This ministry reaches out to our communities with the simple message, “God loves you.” We say it in word, prayer, food, as well as handing out winter gear, gifts, devotional material, and more. This has also led me to partner the two churches I serve with the Jervis Public Library in Rome to take on a new ministry called Laundry Love, where we hope to serve the community with free laundry for a few hours each month. Our hope is to get to know folks we wouldn’t otherwise meet. We want to love by service and friendship. You can find out more about that project at www.laundrylove.org.
I also would love our churches to take a look at using their buildings for more community ministry. I am pleased that the churches I serve both open their doors to groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Girl Scouts, but our buildings are often woefully underutilized. In the coming year I hope to create plans to use our buildings to serve the community better, to get to know our community better, and even find ways to invite people on this discipleship journey. I plan to take some of the laity at the churches I serve to a seminar called Who is My Neighbor, sponsored by the New York State Council of Churches and UNYAC, among other partners. Multiple events are planned around the state with one happening on May 19 at University UMC in Syracuse. Find more information at www.nyscoc.org.
Let’s join Jesus in the work he is doing outside of our walls. Let’s invite our communities to this discipleship journey so we can see our communities transform. Let’s use our resources, including our buildings, to give God glory. May we be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be the agents of transformation we are called to be!