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JOE LAGUARDIA: As the new year begins, take time to thank spiritual leaders

Joe LaGuardia

Joe LaGuardia

As the year comes to a close and a new one begins, my mind has been reflecting on the Lord’s words to His disciples in Matthew 9:37-38: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

That is true: This new year, we need to pray for workers in the harvest as 2014 brings with it a new crop of possibility, people in need of spiritual revival, and programs that need enacting. Yet, let us not forget to thank God for the workers that are currently in the field, those often overlooked laborers whom God has called into the ministry and mission fields.

This season, let us give thanks for our pastors in our local churches. I am privileged to have met many of the pastors in this county, and I can say that there is not one whom I wouldn’t turn to in a time of need or crisis. Such pastors work tirelessly to visit their parishioners, volunteer on local boards, and preach every weekend.

It is true that we have lost a few good pastors over the past year — they will be missed — but I look forward to meeting new pastors who will take their place and take up the mantle of ministry in our local community. Have you thanked your pastor lately?

I am thankful this year for church planters. I remember distinctly a conversation I had with my Southern Baptist brother in Christ, Larry Cheek (director of the Stone Mountain Baptist Association), some time ago about church planting.

He expressed a desire for the Association to go from 90 affiliated congregations to having 150. I and several other pastors agreed that one of the most effective ways to reach this goal was to invest in church planting in our community, especially home churches.

Since that time, many churches have been founded, some for niche ethnic groups, others for meeting unmet needs in our community. There is one such church meeting at Trinity Baptist — a growing and vibrant, contemporary church founded by church planter, Quincy Barnwell.

This year I am thankful for Pastor Barnwell and all of our church planters in Rockdale County who try to come up with innovative ways to help people come to know the Lord.

I am grateful for the priests, monks, and sisters in our community. I had a chance to meet the new priest at St. Pius X, Father Randy, and I encourage everyone to get to know him and make him feel welcome. I showed up at the church one day without calling ahead — just came unannounced — and he took time (30 minutes, a long time for busy clergy) to talk with me.

I am grateful for our clergy at the monastery as well. I often have people ask me what monks do over there at the monastery, and my answer is a simple one: prayer. I am convinced that without those prayers in the cloister, our clergy and congregations in the field would be half as effective.

I am thankful for missionaries who have the courage to go beyond their comfort zones in order to bring the gospel to unreached places. This is where the real value of denominations come into play as so many of our churches give to mission-sending organizations to make sure our missionaries are well funded and cared for.

I can think of several missionaries our church supports through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, including our local teacher-turned-missionary, Melanie Martin, who serves in Nigeria through the Rafiki Foundation.

Lastly, I am thankful for the priesthood of all believers — that “silent” majority who are faithful to a local church or small group and simply do ministry in their places of family, fellowship, work and community. Without these workers, our churches would not be churches at all, our ministries and non-profits would be nothing but skeletons struggling to see tomorrow.

As one year comes to a close and a new one begins, I encourage you to pray, give thanks, and affirm our ministers and missionaries in our local community. Let your voices be heard: send a card, make a phone call, give a word of affirmation and encouragement.

The Rev. Joe LaGuardia is the senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, 301 Honey Creek Road, Conyers. Email him at trinityassociate@bellsouth.net or visit www.trinityconyers.org.