My title sounds like the beginning of a column on money or the 2016 budget, but it is not.  If, at the end of these paragraphs, you believe that I am exhorting you to give more money to the church, then you have misread me—not that there is anything wrong with that.

Today I was reading a yellowed volume by Robert B. Semple titled A History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Virginia.  It was published in 1894, and the part I was reading consisted of brief sketches of pastors and churches in the 18th and 19th centuries.

One line stood out in a description of Caleb Fisher, pastor of the Machipongo Church on Virginia’s Eastern Shore:

“Mr. Fisher was upwards of forty years of age when he began to preach.  It is not to be expected that under those circumstances he should make any great advancement in improving his gifts.”

Two thoughts come to mind.  First, the writer held nothing back when he penned these lines.  My memoir, if I ever write one with such candor, will probably go unpublished.

Second, I hope what Semple said about Fisher could not be said about you or me.

I now know that at forty years of age I was just getting warmed up.  If I have not made some slight incremental improvements in my gifts over the past quarter century, I have squandered the opportunities and abilities God has given me.  And so for you.

If this is so for individuals, it is also true for institutions.  River Road Church, Baptist will celebrate its 70th birthday in 2016.  In so many ways our congregation and its ministries have made great advancement over the past three decades, just as our church improved its abilities and reach during its youth and early adulthood.

I believe this will continue to be true for our church, and for you too.  Our opportunities are as vast as our vision, imagination, effort and faith in the God of yesterday, today and tomorrow.