To God Be the Glory

To God Be the Glory

December 7, 2020
Pastor Ralph preaching

5 miles south of York, 48 miles east of Grand Island, and 55 miles west of Lincoln with a population of 409 is how some would describe McCool Junction.  Pastor Ralph Gaines describes it as ‘awesome.’ 

Having been appointed to McCool Junction in 2013, Pastor Ralph had an adjustment to make after spending several years at a new start church in Omaha.  Poor cell phone service and understanding that the meal at 6pm is called ‘supper’ were just a couple of things Pastor Ralph had to get used to.  “I didn’t know what to expect,” Pastor Ralph said as he reflected on that warm summer night when he pulled up to the church to meet the representatives for the first time.  He immediately noticed the beauty of the old church, meticulously landscaped, and with a big electric marquee sign.  Having been with McCool Junction now for nearly four years, Pastor Ralph explains, “It’s the friendliest church I’ve ever been with in my life.  They truly show love and concern and care, and they are the hardest working people I’ve ever met…… and it’s just awesome.”  The combination of these hard-working, God-loving people with Pastor Ralph’s vision and dedication have led to some great things.   Where the average Sunday attendance was previously 44, McCool Junction UMC now averages between 95-100 people.  In the 3.5 years since Pastor Ralph was appointed, 70 new members have joined the church and only one person was from outside of the community.  Two adult Sunday School groups and two youth groups are thriving, a new after school program called WLC (Work for Christ, Live our faith, Care for others), was introduced and currently has 57 kids registered, three new Bible studies are going strong, and the Hope Ministry, focused on helping those in need across a wide variety of topics, was started and is flourishing.  McCool Junction UMC seems to be on a trajectory path to a future full of even more growth.  Pastor Ralph explains, “I’ve seen growth in membership, growth in baptisms, and growth in involvement.  Some Sundays we have 20-25 kids at the service.  If they stay on this path, I see this church continuing to grow big time and to God be the glory.” 

In the fall of 2016, Pastor Ralph attended a district meeting where he heard the Foundation explain the many services it offers to all Nebraska United Methodist Churches, including financial options to help secure the future of each church.  It was at this time that Pastor Ralph realized the vision of McCool Junction needed to incorporate the services of the Foundation.  He spoke with his Finance Committee Chair about some of the things the Foundation has to offer like, stewardship sermons, estate planning, and the help in creating and marketing an endowment fund for the church.  The Committee Chair was ecstatic at the potential.  “They were very excited to hear about these opportunities.  They had three smaller CDs at the bank that weren’t making any money.  They looked into the Foundation’s investment service program and realized they could do better at the Foundation.  They saw an opportunity and a relationship with the Foundation that could help the church better than the local financial institution.  As they began learning more about the Foundation’s services, they also began seeing and understanding that it’s not just a place where you put your money,” explained Pastor Ralph.

A couple of months after that meeting, McCool Junction moved its CDs from the bank to the Foundation and has decided to embark on a journey to grow its new endowment fund. This little church with big growth and big energy also has a big vision, and is taking the right steps in making sure this momentum continues. 

“I’m so proud to be the pastor of the biggest little church,” Pastor Ralph says.  Not long ago, little 7 year old Emma said to her parents, “I want to be a preacher.”  “A preacher?” they asked. “Yes! A preacher just like Pastor Ralph!” she exclaimed.  Pastor Ralph responds to stories like these with a line his congregation hears very often from him, “To God be the Glory!” 

To God Be the Glory indeed.

Galatians 1:5
To God be the glory forever and ever! Amen.