An Open Letter

by Pastor Billy Chidester

I hope that you are doing very well. I know that you, like me, had much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving! Having said that, it was a rough Thanksgiving for me. I began feeling bad on Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving and when I woke up Thursday I felt horrible! It seemed like nothing more than a sore throat and I thought it would pass in a couple of days as it often does. Well, not this time. By the time Monday rolled around and I was able to get to the Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist I found that it was a viral infection and antibiotics wouldn’t help. All I could do: wait it out. So, that’s what I’ve been doing. Everyday I feel a little bit better and every night I sleep a little better than the night before (praise the Lord!). But, during this time I have had plenty of time to reflect, pray, study, read and reflect some more. And this has been a blessing from the Lord. Sometimes I find it hard to stop and reflect on what the Lord is doing and ponder where the Lord is leading us. I thought that this would be a good way to let you know what the Lord has been doing in me the last few days.

I’ve been thinking much about our vision as a church at Elmdale over the last few months. I am more convinced than ever that God has called Elmdale into this community to be a bright light. He has called Elmdale to be different and set apart from the rest of the community, city, and world at large. I think that you will agree with that statement very easily. I’m not saying anything new or life changing. Or am I? The gospel should always set us apart as people of the book—as followers and disciples of Jesus Christ. But more specifically we should stand out in our love. In John 13:35 Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Again, this is nothing you haven’t heard before. But what if we read it in the context of multi-ethnic vision we have been talking about? Our nation is divided right now, is it not? The racial tensions that have been brewing to what seems to be a boiling point over the last few months in our nation are a sad commentary of our time. And many believe that the government has the answer to this issue. I would like to point out that racism is a sin. Try something. Name three (3) sins that the government has been able to snuff out in the 200 year history of the U.S.A. Can you do it? I think not. Why? Sin is a spiritual issue that government cannot eradicate. We know who can deal with sin issues though. His name is Jesus Christ! Jesus dealt with racism on the cross 2000 years ago. Can I get an Amen? Jesus brought peace between Jews and Gentiles and He did it through the cross. He put to death the division between the two. (Ephesians 2:15-16). Praise God! He did the same thing between the division of black and white, as well as every other ethnicities within our nation and world. Through Christ we can have peace. Actually, through Christ we already have peace with those of other ethnicities who are followers of Christ. So, if there is any place in the world where people of different ethnicities and cultures should be able to “work it out” it is in the church. Four years from now, I do not believe our nation will be able to survive the racial tensions it has experienced over these last couple of years. If the church (Elmdale included) can impact this issue we have a responsibility to do so. God’s vision for Elmdale is that we would be a multi-generation and multi-ethnic congregation that multiplies disciples, in order to reflect His creation, to reflect His commission, to reflect His Kingdom and to reflect this community. This is God’s call for us and we will talk much more about this in the coming months.

For now I want to warn you, this will be exciting, challenging, and uncomfortable. It will mean change (yes I said the ‘C’ word!), adjustments, and struggles. But, if this is indeed the role that God has called us to play in our community and world, it will also open the flood gates of blessings. What I ask from you right now is that you pray. Pray for wisdom. Pray for me, Pastor Billy. I want to do God’s will no matter the cost. Pray for Elmdale. The Lord will do some molding and some pruning as we embark into the future. Pray that God would reveal to you if there are any racist thoughts or mindsets that you have. If you are like me your initial response is that you are not racist, but over the last few weeks I’ve done personal soul searching and found that there is more in my heart than I imagined. So, take time to reflect.

Finally, I would like to say thank you. Thank you for your partnership in the gospel. Thanks your for your faithfulness to the Lord. Thank you for seeking the Lord with me.