Summary: Not everyone who started following Jesus kept following Jesus and not everyone who come to our church will stay in our church. Some thougths
Are you leaving me too?
On December 7th 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the people of the United States and referred to the previous day as “A Date Which Will Live in Infamy”. Most of you know what he was referring to, on December 6th Japan had attacked Pearl Harbour.
There are other days that people remember, and most are generational. Can you remember where you were when JFK was assassinated, or when John Lennon was shot, I remember where I was and what I was doing when the Challenger went down in 1986 and when I heard about the Twin Towers falling in 2001.
Each of those events was a pivotal point in history. Most of us have pivotal points that we can remember in our personal histories. Times when things changed, when they suddenly became different than what they had been. The birth of a child, the death of a parent, losing a job or ending a relationship.
If you have been a part of Cornerstone forever then you might recall the “Spring of Tuesdays”. Which technically it wasn’t all spring and it wasn’t always on Tuesdays but it was close enough and it was catchy.
And there aren’t many here today who know what I am talking about. Ian and Sylvia Richardson, Karen Wickwire, Mike and Sajonna Kneebone, Heather Stubbert and Paul Caza were there, and Angela and I of course.
So here is the background, Angela and I moved to Bedford in 1994, 19 years ago this month to begin what was called a “parachute plant” or a “catalytic church plant”. Which meant that we were it. You’ve all heard us joke that when we started there was Angela and I, our two kids, the cat and a hamster and then the hamster died. Cornerstone began worshipping together as Bedford Community Church on April 9th 1995. And by then we had a core of around 50 people who would consider Cornerstone their church home, that meant that on an average Sunday we had about 35 men, women and children present. Through the course of the first year and a half we saw that number grow to about 100 who called us home and were averaging about 75 or so in our services.
There had been a number of changes, we had brought a second staff member on, we had moved from the LeBrun centre in Bedford to the Empire Theatre in Bedford. For those of you with a blank stare there used to be a six cinema complex where the Lawton’s is now in the Mill Cove Plaza.
And life was good, the church was growing, lives were being changed and the world was our oyster so to speak.
On Christmas Eve 1996 we had our service in theatre three, it was really cool because there were movies being shown in the other five cinemas and we were celebrating the birth of Jesus in the theatre we called home. And that was when it started. Greg Hanson, who was our worship pastor had put together a teen band who performed a very rocky rendition of “We Three Kings”. And as they rocked the house I looked up and caught the eyes of a family who had been with us for about a year and I thought “they are not happy.”
A week later on Tuesday December 31st I received a phone call from the family letting me know that they felt God was leading them to another church. And thus began the spring of Tuesdays.
Between January 1st and the first of May our average attendance fell from82 to 43. In that five month period 12 families who had called our church their church home moved on to other churches, and those who contacted us about leaving always called on Tuesdays.
And they took their money with them, what’s with that. Our offerings fell by forty percent. The small salary we were giving our assistant got cut, we moved out of the office we were renting on the Bedford Highway, Angela and I were in the process of building a home in Kingswood and weren’t even sure we would be able to afford to make the mortgage payments because the church couldn’t afford to pay my salary and so I began looking for outside work. And I had no idea what had happened or how to stop it. At times I compared it to a snowball rolling down a hill. Or on my more carnal days like rats leaving a sinking ship.
And when I talked to the people who left they all seemed to have good reasons for leaving, at least they seemed to be. And when they couldn’t find a good reason they used the trump card, “God is calling us to another church.” It’s kind of hard to argue with that. But most of them told me to not take it personally. But that was kind of tough.