On the occasion of a trip to Washington, DC, for the wedding of my daughter, I picked up George Tenet’s book entitled The Center of the Storm. Tenet was the leader of the Central Intelligence Agency for the years 1997-2004. His book gives fascinating insight as to what it is like to give support to counter- terrorism for the United States. A significant number of threats accompanied an act of terror (think 9/11) in this chapter of our country’s history. We remain at risk from the threats of our enemies.
What happens around the world in the form of terrorism also happens in the spiritual realm. The Bible describes the Christian life like a battle. It is not a battle against flesh and blood, a literal battle involving ISIS, bullets and weapons of mass destruction. Instead, it is a battle against the rulers and powers and forces of evil in the heavenly places. The essence of our mission is to bring light into dark, enemy territory. God’s kingdom is described as a wedding feast, and we are tasked with extending invitations to neighbors to find a home in Christ. How are we doing in this mission? It is not by might, nor by power, but by God’s Spirit that we gain ground in our God-given mandate. Let’s start by celebrating God’s wins through us:
- We have seen our average weekend attendance grow from 352 to 365. This is an increase of just under 4%. I commend you for inviting friends and neighbors to corporate worship! In the way of providing additional room (and choices) to our neighbors, we have added a third weekend service on Sundays at 9:00 AM. Our giving has been steady, with annual income projected to be over $600,000 for the general fund, for an amount similar to last year’s income.
- When it comes to service, we appear to have 76% of our regular attenders in some form of service, through our church, toward our community. This is an increase of over 10%. Our church is to be commended for the many and various ways practical acts of service are being rendered toward fulfilling our God-given mission. In addition, we used the occasion of our 50-year anniversary to serve our community. This included preparing food trays for local law enforcement, making upgrades to our neighboring Marshdale fields, providing firewood for a needy family and distributing water to neighbors near Evergreen Lake.
- When it comes to sharing the gospel relationally, we have come to know of some 33 faith commitments to Jesus Christ. The majority of these have been in children’s and student ministry; however, we have seen an uptick in the number of adults who have made faith commitments. We have seen these faith commitments marked by five individuals who followed Christ into the waters of baptism. Our “Live It Out” initiative has to do with practical demonstrations of God’s love in and toward our community. I am pleased to share that just under $100,000 in gift intentions (over and above regular giving) have been made toward this initiative!
These wins and gains toward the fulfillment of our mission have not been without challenges. The growth in our average weekend attendance has been slower than in the past few years. Gift intentions to our “Live It Out” initiative have carried us about two-thirds of the way toward our goal for the first phase. This may necessitate a modification in how we go forward in providing support to adult small groups and outreach. We still face the challenge of a building with deteriorating siding. Finally, I can think of a number of instances when our adversary has threatened us with malaise, apathy and temptations toward disunity. I believe these challenges provide us with an opportunity.
We have an opportunity to band together in ways we previously did not under the Lordship of Christ, looking directly at our challenges with eyes of faith. We have an opportunity to prayerfully rely on God’s word in a season of transition. For example, alongside of thanking Hunter and Lauren Headley for their ministry with and toward our students (and praying for their best in their new calling), we can support Marty Lake in his interim student ministry leadership role. Further, we can pray for God’s leading with Ron Kilgore and our search team for a new student leader. In every case, we can renew our commitment toward “inviting neighbors to find a home in Christ together.” The battle belongs to the Lord, and at the end of the day, He will prevail.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Jeffrey Clark