Pastor William's August 2023 Newsletter Note on Change
There is this interesting little spot on the coast of North Carolina that I hope to visit one day called Portsmouth Village. The village is somewhere in the middle of the Outer Banks, and was once one of the busiest ports on the East Coast. It was established in the mid-1750’s and grew over time. By 1842, over half of the goods that were exported out of NC went through this port. It was a bustling place full of people and commerce only 250 years ago or so.
But, shortly after the Civil War, the development of larger ships required deeper inlets. And unfortunately, Portsmouth’s waters were not deep enough. So over time, commerce began to dwindle. When you read interviews from people in the town at the time, this was a very difficult period. The people talk about the loss of their livelihoods and how people began to move away. In 1860, there were 700 or so permanent residents. By 1971, all the commerce was gone, and there were just two residents remaining. If you go there today, there are still many buildings and historical markers, but Portsmouth is a ghost town. It is a sad story.
But what may be even sadder, was the lack of action in the time when the decline began. There were challenges beyond the town’s control, like the war and the occasional hurricane. But across those 160 years, from Portsmouth’s height to today, you read testimonies decrying the loss. People who were used to one way, who instead of innovating, became disappointed and disheartened. And in that state, everything declined around them while they settled in their sorrow. Until one day, before it was all over with, it was already too late. And today you see the shell of what once was: hopes and dreams of a once bustling town.
This account occurred in Portsmouth, but there are similar stories in towns all across the world. And in fact, this account has occurred in the lives of some churches as well. 1 Corinthians 15:58 tells us “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Meaning, be immovable in our central message, which is the Gospel. However, be always abounding in God’s work, which is to move the Gospel forward. Because our work will be blessed, it will not be in vain and will accomplish God’s plan for us in our time.
So if you ever find yourself watching the changes in our world, even our neighborhood – and then you hear the ways the church is trying to meet those changes with the Gospel – remember this: We are called to move the Gospel forward. And that so often means innovating, adjusting, and meeting the time we are in now with the same truth. And remember the story of Portsmouth. We thank God for the work He has done in another time. Let us build upon that work like they did, lest we decry the changes of our age, time passes, and there is a historical marker outside our door, telling people of a once great church that no one attends anymore.
With you in the work,