In 2000 a young seminary graduate named Matt Schilling became pastor of Grenada PCA in Mississippi (Now Grace PCA). At the time the majority of the Session was determined to keep the congregation “lily white” (their words). Racist jokes were commonplace. The previous pastor was known for making racist slurs from the pulpit. Poor white people were called “white trash” to their faces and made to feel unwelcome.
It wasn’t as if all the members were running around as racists or snobs. In fact, most of them were good people who didn’t look down on anybody. Sometimes church relationships can be hard. Some spoke out and quietly tried to change things. Others were just quietly sad at the conduct of a few. Still others just weren’t paying close enough attention to know.
For 9 1/2 years (2000-2009) Pastor Matt labored to bring about biblical faithfulness. He was wounded and weary from battle. But the Holy Spirit gave him power and he fought for Jesus. The congregation continued to decline in numbers. But the seeds of righteousness and repentance were sown. I think he left feeling a little defeated.
Today (July 30th), we enjoyed being musically led in worship by two young African-American men. One has come about 7-8 times and the other 2 times. The congregation loves these guys and there is a push to make them our permanent music team.
In attendance was the young Asian immigrant who just became a member. We are paying for her to get her Green Card so we can hire her as our part-time office manager.
Also in attendance were two people who were called “white trash” and asked to leave because they visibly lived in poverty many years ago. But God has brought them back.
At a community pastor’s meeting this week the most prominent African-American pastor in town said that he was pleased to hear rumblings in the black community that Grace has finally left its racist past behind and is becoming known for loving minorities. He actually gave me his number and asked to meet with me one on one to discuss ways our churches could minister together. If you knew this man you’d know just how shocked I am. But he also mentioned Matt Schilling by name and said that he was the one who labored so hard years ago at racial reconciliation and that this is what Matt had hoped for Grace PCA.
Matt Schilling just became a Navy Chaplain. I admire him and praise God for his faithfulness. God used Matt to sow the seeds that are being harvested now.
At our Session meeting today we officially embraced Matt Schilling as our missionary to the military and voted to begin funding the PCA chaplain support ministry of MNA at his request.
If you are discouraged right now. If you feel like you are fighting a losing battle for biblical reform and renewal, think of Matt. Your labor is not in vain. Faithful ministry is successful ministry even when it leads to hardship and suffering.
If you have left a church feeling wounded and broken, remember that our God is the Father of all mercy, compassion and grace. Your service made a difference and Jesus loves you more than you can imagine. God will bring benefits from your labor years after you are gone.
If you ever run into Matt know that he is a spiritual Giant here in Grenada, Mississippi. To the praise and glory of God.
And know that the current members of Grace Presbyterian Church have hearts for all people and do not think themselves superior to anyone.