On the Front Line for the Lord!
Last Sunday, Denise and I worshiped with our son, Nathan and his family at the 1st Congregational Church of Berkley, California. The sanctuary is a traditional New England style congregational church. The sermon was given by a young adult who holds the designation of “Emerging Leader.” Much of the church including the sanctuary was destroyed by fire and the congregation recently returned to the worship space. The congregation seems relatively affluent, but with a deep and abiding social consciousness: preparing lunches for the poor; Christian Education special programing and much more.
Through the sermon, I kept thinking about the Apostle Paul, how he suffered, but also how he personally was one of the greatest evangelists, if not the greatest evangelist the church has ever known. Then, I began to think about myself. No, I do not count myself in the same league as the Apostle Paul, but I do feel like I am “On the front line for the Lord!”
I am in my 41st year as an ordained minister, and 32nd year as pastor and senior minister. My ordination into the ministry was June 13,1976. That same summer, I also graduated from divinity school and was married. My ministry continues to evolve. The church continues to witness in a bold way for Jesus Christ. My congregation is becoming poorer, but we are raising more money. During my pastorate, the church has distributed over a million dollars in scholarships, paid off the original construction loans of over $1.6million, replaced the church roof at a cost of $200,000, renovated the church for $1.1million, and soon will complete the replacement of the lower level floor at a cost of $50,000. We are replacing sanctuary lights at a cost of $15,000 and soon will upgrade the video ministry at a price tag of over $30,000. My ministry is to a diverse group of people who come from a radius of 28.4 miles. Our missions start in Detroit, Michigan, but reach to the heart of Ethiopia and former refugees of war in Liberia. Several of my members are out of work, but many are prospering. At the same time, I am beginning to write and have written two books. I am finding more fulfilment than ever as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I pray for the sick, bury the dead, marry those in love, counsel the distraught, encourage the children, and preach the Word of God. I really do view myself on the “Front line for the Lord.” During my time as an elected member to the Detroit City Council, I was told that some whispered that I was “Uncontrollable”, because of my values and principals.” In other words, I could not be bought. Yet, through it all, I feel like I am on the “Front line” as a witness for Jesus, and I love it! I am getting back to my first love, music and trying to more effectively incorporate music into the sermonic moment of worship, and through it all, I feel like I am on the “Front line for the Lord,” and having fun as I minister.
I encourage you to read the following sections from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and his second letter to the church at Corinth. As you read these passages, I invite you to ask yourself, “When have I suffered because I chose to witness for Jesus?” Ask yourself, “Am I on the Front line for the Lord?”
Ephesians 4: 4 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 
2 Corinthians 11: 24 Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. 28 And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I am not indignant? 
Questions for Reflection:
- What does it mean to you to be, “On the front line for the Lord?”
- What are your thoughts regarding how Paul suffered for his faith in Jesus Christ?
Prayer: Lord, grant me strength to witness for you. Through the storm, through the fire, through the rain, grant me words to tell the world of your power, grace, mercy and love. I am weak, but you are strong. I am but one person, but the all the power in this universe is captured in the power within your hands. Search me, try me, know me. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the life everlasting. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior I pray. Amen.
Written by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III
Photo by Nathan Page Hood III
Additional Prayers Photos and Meditations from Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III at https://nicholashoodiiiministries.wordpress.com/
More about the ministry, mission, prayers and publications from Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III at www.nicholashoodiiiministries.org