Senior Minister Paul Rasmussen gives five reasons why the humble church started a century ago thrives and blesses others today.
A church that got its start to fulfill Southern Methodist University students’ requirement that they attend services each week is celebrating its 100th anniversary. And a century ago, when some members of downtown Dallas churches were tapped to transfer to the new place on the outskirts of town, none might have envisioned how large and influential Highland Park UMC would become.
On February 21, 2016, Senior Minister Paul Rasmussen will lead a service culminating a year of celebration, observances and service marking the landmark anniversary. Rev. Rasmussen says the church’s legacy comes down to five points:
A community worth having
“They knew that if the church was going to last, it was going to be a community,” says Rev. Rasmussen. “They recognized that it had to be a family.”
As one example, during the Great Depression, the church sponsored more than 200 families and operated a small loan fund for needy students.
“In a culture that celebrates independence at almost every turn,” Rev. Rasmussen say, “Highland Park United Methodist Church said no, we’re going to be about community, because the richest part of the Christian faith is not about individuality, it’s about sharing life together.”
A standard worth achieving
The Scriptures call Christians to live with an extraordinarily high standard, one that HPUMC has taken up and placed at the heart of its mission as a church.
“I think we are so bad in Christianity today at dumbing down the standards,” says Rev. Rasmussen. “It’s insulting to the next generation. They want to be challenged, they want to grow, and they want to see a church that walks the walk and helps the poor.
“We don’t want to just treat women who have come in with domestic violence. We want to raise the standard and teach our men to never, ever hit a woman.”
A message worth applying
Often preachers focus on simply teaching people the Bible. While Rev. Rasmussen says HPUMC does place a high emphasis on teaching Scripture, the church has always placed a heavier importance on teaching people how to apply the Bible.
“Our goal for 100 years, for every pastor that has ever stood in the pulpit,” says Rev Rasmussen, “is to teach our congregation how to live a life that reflects the values, principles, and grace of Jesus Christ.”
A model worth changing
One of the things that makes Highland Park United Methodist Church unique has been its emphasis on having multiple styles of worship. To accomplish this, Rev. Rasmussen says the church has relied on a spirit of innovation and acceptance of change.
“For 100 years this church has invited and encouraged multiple styles of worship, because we just want to feed you the Gospel.”
Take the anniversary service on February 21. The message will be shown in multiple worship venues, including the sanctuary, the Cornerstone contemporary service, the old-home-style Cox Chapel, the teaching-oriented Kerygma, and HPUMC’s East Dallas campus, Munger Place Church. The message will also be live-streamed at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 am via HPUMConline.org.
A faith worth reproducing
Over the past 100 years, HPUMC has planted more than 38 churches, from within the Dallas area to as far away as Alaska.
“People will say, ‘Paul, stop! Highland Park is big enough.’ But it’s not about Highland Park,” says Rev. Rasmussen. “As long as there are people in the world who are broken and do not know Jesus Christ, then we are not big enough.”