“Jesus replied, “Because of your unbelief. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”” Matthew 17:20
In February of 2018, a year before I would retire from Second Presbyterian Church, I attended a conference at a church outside Washington D.C. I went to this conference to hear one of the main speakers, Dr. Tod Bolsinger, Presbyterian pastor and author of the book, Canoeing the Mountains.
Using the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which faced the extreme difficulties of crossing the Rocky Mountains, he explained how the 21st century Church must adapt to the “mountains” we face. I loved his book and wanted to hear him and meet with him, which I did. He gave me a new way to see how the Church could change with our changing culture.
The conference was an important turning point in my life and ministry for another reason. I accidentally went to the wrong room for a workshop and ended up hearing pastor Verlon Fosner speak on the innovative form of church called “Dinner Church.” I discovered a wonderful way for a church to serve the needs of those who live in poverty and suffer homelessness. I knew this was what God was telling me to do.
But did I have the faith to step out and risk doing this new way of doing church?
Jesus taught a lot about having faith in God and specifically in his means to doing all things, even impossible things like removing mountains. To remove mountains is the proverbial type of overcoming insurmountable difficulties. Having the faith to start up a new ministry in one of the worst neighborhoods of our city would be like moving a mountain for a guy like me, who had never worked in urban ministries.
I didn’t have a lot of faith. All I had was this crazy idea that I was supposed to start a dinner church at the Westminster Community Center. But God started moving mountains. He brought together a group of people to work with me. He gave me the support of our Executive Presbyter and the Presbytery Committee on Ministry.
We can’t conjure up some magical faith. We can’t put faith in our faith. Such faith in ourselves will always fail us. Christ is our faith. So even our small faith, symbolized by a tiny mustard seed, is effective when it’s faith in a Big God.
When I see the growing number of people coming to CCDC, I know Christ is working to honor our faith of stepping out to care for those who live in poverty. The lives being impacted by God’s love and grace, enable me to believe God can remove mountains of addiction, racism, loneliness, depression, homelessness, and hopelessness.
Come join us in “removing mountains,” and help support us financially to provide for the needs of those who live in the Near Eastside neighborhood.
May God’s Peace be with you,
Pastor Jim and Debby Riley