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State of the Church 2023: "At the Crossroads"

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” - Jeremiah 29:11

Back in college, I knew a guy named Tom. He was a good guy, a little quirky, but a nice guy. Every time you asked him how he was doing, he would respond, “I’m at the crossroads.” The words themselves weren’t arresting. It was how he said them. He spoke as if he was pondering the most profound questions of his life. “I’m at the crossroads, Jim.”

About the first dozen times, he answered that way, I would be moved to ask him about his school major, his family, and his life. After a while, I must admit that this guy’s daily existential crisis got old. Eventually, I stopped probing into his personal life. I still would be friendly, and I still asked, “How are you?” Still, he would answer, “I’m at the crossroads.”

Reflecting back, I wonder if Tom was a fan of blues music. Robert Johnson sang about the crossroads:

“I went to the crossroad

fell down on my knees

I went to the crossroad

fell down on my knees

Asked the Lord above ‘Have mercy, now

save poor Bob, if you please.’”

Some think the song is just about an intersection in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Others believe that it has more sinister origins. The rumor was that Johnson sold his soul to the devil for the gift of his musical talent. They say that for Johnson, the crossroads represent the choice between damnation and redemption.

For most of us, our choices are not as dramatic as all that. Most days, we aren’t struggling between heaven and hell. However, Tom’s words might be a reminder that we do wake up every day with a decision to make. Do I live for the sake of integrity or not? Do I love my spouse today, or do I ignore her needs? Do I act courageously, or do I do just enough to get by? Is it “Thy will” or “My will” be done?

I’ve been recently thinking about crossroads because I realize that our congregation stands at the crossroads. Our decisions in the next few years will chart a course for the future. In the coming months, we will be doing some self-examination. What’s God’s dream for the First Presbyterian Church? How do we respond to changes in our culture and society? What do we need to change? More importantly, what needs to stay the same?

For me, the most frustrating part of Tom’s response, “I’m at the crossroads,” was that he never actually made a choice. He never could share the joys and challenges of traveling down the road. He was just stuck there at the crossroads.

I certainly don’t want that for our church. I’d like us to take a step in faith. That’s where we need your help. We need your prayers. We need your hard work. We need your financial assistance. God is calling us to a decision. He has an exciting future in mind for us. Will we step away from the crossroads and join God on the journey?

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