Church Plant Memoirs: The Left-Over Gospel

Every week since our church launched, I, along with others, have been charged with various jobs in relation to the smooth running of the church service. Whether its setting up worship equipment, placing inserts in bulletins, preparing after service coffee, or making ready the elements of communion. There’s an encouraging hope in doing those things week after week. There is burgeoning anticipation of seeing our small group of regulars, and we do have regulars, praise God, that return every Sunday evening, along with a few new faces that seem to stumble upon these old church doors each week. For me, it’s never enough. We have far too much left-over Gospel at the end of our service each Sunday night. 

Every week we have worship bulletins printed. These bulletins are filled with the order of our service. Each page is robust with the reminders of Christ’s work. Every song or hymn sung, is designed to bring us to the cross. Each scripture passage listed and read, brings us face to face with our Savior. We recite a creed, meant to succinctly remind us of the work of God through his Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. My favorite is the words of confession, that allow us to be honest about sin before God. Then we read along as the Pastor eases our suffering and struggling hearts, when we hear beautiful words of absolution. Immediately after, we are then ushered into communion, and finally blessed as we leave for our week, renewed by His Spirit, and reminded of His Grace.

These bulletins handed out to each visitor are filled with verbal reminders of Gospel. Every church has left-overs at the end of their service, and we’re no different. As per my usual routine those leftovers are deposited in the church recycling bin. However many “Gospel booklets” are left over, is too many. I want the problem of needing more. I want the problem of asking couples to share. I want the problem as the church treasurer, of having to find the funds needed to print more. I want more people to get these Gospel handouts. I want more people to read these creeds and confessions, to see the words of the songs sung so they penetrate a week-weary soul. I want them to see what scripture says to us each week.

Yes. There is far too much left-over Gospel here.

Another one of my main jobs each week is to set up the communion offering. We have a dish full of Christ’s body, and tray of individual cups that are filled with the blood of Christ. We regularly set out one tray of each, and during communion our pastor comes down from the pulpit and individually offers Christ for us. Being a new church right now, this is a remarkably intimate and loving act to have a pastor come to us in that moment. It’s a beautiful analogy of Christ, who offers up himself to his followers. When service is ends a few minutes later and I’m in clean up mode, we, like many other churches, have a few cups left, still full, and there is still a dish which looks too full of his body left over as well.

I don’t know if you’d call this worrying or fretting, but part of me is always in “fix-it” mode during the service. Part of that means keeping close count of how many come out to the service, just in case I need to ready a second tray for communion on the fly. Like any other church, our growth will probably be incremental and we can adjust what we do as we move forward. But, would it be so bad to have to hurriedly set out more elements due to an unexpected boost in attendance. I welcome that “problem.” We here, pray for the “problem.” We also trust God to handle that “problem.”

For me, any left-over element of communion, is too much. I want people to tangibly experience the Gospel in communion. I want them to know the meal we offer them is life itself. I want them to be strengthened, by Christ for them here. I want them to see the body broken for them, and I want them to look at and consider the blood poured out for them. After service, when I properly dispose of what’s left, I consider who could’ve taken this cup if he were here, and I think of someone else who needed Christ to be their strength and hope in this moment.

Yes. There is far too much left-over Gospel here.

I’m an odd character, so I don’t know if anyone has these kinds of thoughts but me. Perhaps, it’s being intricately involved in a church-plant at ground-level. Maybe, some other pastors and leaders think the same thoughts in their well-established worship halls. I certainly don’t think it’s a bad thought to have. The reality in any church where the gospel is preached, sung and feed to their members, there is way too much left-over. It’s left-over with every empty seat. It’s left over in every voice who isn’t here to sing in unison with the saints. It’s in every empty hand, when no one is there to extend in back in firm embrace.

I know God will build this church, and he has. I’ve seen it personally. I’ve had the honor of greeting people every week, and I make a point of reminding those returning visitors, some who are now committed regulars, how great it is to see them as they become part of this growing family.

But still, there is far too much left-over Gospel here.

I guess I wouldn’t want it any other way.

You might say, we have an abundance of Gospel waiting for you.

If you’d like to know more about our church, our pastor, listen to some of his sermons, and read his other writings, check out our website by clicking the name below. If you’d like to help us out, go to the website, and click the menu and when it drops down  click on the “GIVE” button.


Epiphany Lutheran Church

you can also find us and give via VENMO. Look us up there at    @EpiphanyLutheranNYC

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