Most things don’t last very long nowadays. They grow antiquated, no longer meet our needs, or just feel dull and tired. So when a church celebrates its hundredth anniversary in the same town, it’s a very big deal. It means that it has found a way to stay relevant within a changing society that is constantly demanding something new. This is no small task, but Sugar Land Methodist has found a way to do it. It might have something to do with its Senior Pastor Martin Nicholas, who has a bit of a record of his own, pastoring the church for 25 years. Not only does the church bring in a crowd at their three weekly services and numerous activities throughout the week, but it has launched three other churches – Faith United Methodist, The Harvest, and Christ Methodist – all begun with families, staff and resources from Sugar Land Methodist. Not surprising given Nicholas’ passion for sharing God’s love with others and engaging the church throughout the world. He left the corporate world when God called him to ministry, so he knows firsthand that while following God’s plan might be hard on the wallet, it nourishes the soul and feeds the spirit.
He also recognizes that the church and ministry are changing and that in order to grow, the church cannot replicate programs from the past. “We have to navigate and apply a whole different set of skills to reach those who are far from God,” he explained. “We struggle with how to bring them into a relationship with God. We have an understanding that missions means both sharing the love of God in a compelling way and in a way that meets the needs of the hurting and the hopeless.”
And he and Sugar Land Methodist don’t just talk the talk. “We were perhaps the strongest force of leadership and resources for East Fort Bend Human Needs Ministry, the largest care group in Fort Bend,” said Nicholas. “We sheltered Hurricane Harvey victims for 3 months, and served as a shelter for other hurricanes, including Katrina.” The church also partners with Town West Elementary as mentors and volunteers, bringing teams who work the grounds and beautify the campus. Additionally, they provide staff and their church facility for training and education.
Nicholas describes the church and its members as faithful, strong, friendly, mission-oriented, community-minded, and operating with a servant’s heart. The church celebrates diversity, which is evident in the multiple races, educational and economic backgrounds, and generational span present in every service. After 25 years, he has baptized children of couples he’s married, and sometimes fourth and fifth generations.
That’s saying something in a time when more and more people are skipping church. Sugar Land Methodist is not immune to the trend, and while Nicholas understands that busy schedules, or just a need for rest, is usually behind the decision to stay home, he cautions against it. “Christianity is a faith that involves community. You cannot be a lone ranger as a Christian. How we equip, guide, pray, and relate to others all helps individuals grow. The absence of corporate worship limits our ability to formulate praise the way we should, and it inhibits being led into using our gifts and passions. It takes others to support, guide and nurture us as we do the same for them.”
As Nicholas reflects on the centennial celebration of the church, he understands the urgency of looking forward, rather than resting on his laurels and enjoying the church’s success. He believes the only way to do this is by being faithful to God and asking Him where and how o lead the church. After prayerful consideration, the ministry team is working on four breakthrough goals: To embody a mission perspective, to cultivate a generous congregation, to grow more diverse, and to invest in the young. Those initiatives are lived out in their after-school care, recreational program, and a high-quality preschool, just to name a few. They continue to look forward to the next 100 years by asking Why are we here? What does God expect from us?
In honor of the momentous celebration, the Bishop will visit on the last Sunday in August and during the year, the church will be reflecting on its history. Over a dozen congregants have gone into ordained ministry, plus dozens more have joined full-time ministry as their vocation. They will be sharing their stories of how God used Sugar Land Methodist to utilize their gifts and abilities for His glory.
Nicholas hopes that these stories will be an inspiration to others.
“As Methodists we believe we grow in grace, so when God called me to ministry, I quickly understood that it’s not what I do, it’s what the church does that matters. My role is to preach so others grow more Christ-like so the work God begun in them comes to completion.”
To be part of a church making history, visit during one of their worship times: 8:30 for a traditional service (orchestra and choir), 11:00 for contemporary (praise band), or 9:45 in The Venue, an intimate, more liturgical experience.
The church is located at 431 Eldridge Road. For more information, visit their website at www.sugarlandmethodist.org.