At the heart of the Christian faith is to receive and experience new life. The Apostle Paul says “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old things passed away, new things have come.” The Christian faith includes a promise that our old, tired, empty, faulty, law-breaking, spiritually dead “life” may be forgiven, raised again and born anew with authentic, true, eternal life. The grand theme of the Bible is an irrevocable movement from the old heavens and earth to the new heavens and earth. We can reflect this in a small but important way, one life at a time.
What we celebrate is God moving in and through our midst to create new spiritual life in 2014-15. According to our best information, we know of 36 individuals who have received new spiritual life marked by 21 baptisms. This is great reason to celebrate! When one person is transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, angels celebrate. We dance with the angels and praise God for his wonderful work in our midst.
I believe people need big reasons for giving themselves, their time and their treasure to Christian work. This is certainly a big reason – people receiving new life by faith in Christ. Thank you for your generous support of the general fund for ministry in the estimated amount of $610,000. This number is very close to the giving figure from our previous year; however, our treasurer advises me that we have replaced a number of one-time gifts with steady giving units, which is a positive trend.
Seek: The two leading indicators for our church health in seeking God are attendance at weekend corporate worship and in healthy small groups. I am pleased to say we have seen healthy responses in both areas. This year, our average weekend attendance increased by ten percent, from 319 to 352. Praise God! Our people are gathering to worship God and are bringing their friends. I commend you for inviting neighbors to gather with us in corporate worship.
Serve: The two leading indicators for serving others include the percentage of regular attendees who serve in Christian ministry and the number of service projects in our community. We have heard of a wide number of these projects, including serving at our community Thanksgiving dinner and our community Easter breakfast, doing laundry for Idrahaje staff, providing refreshments and support for the memorial service of a neighbor, making shoes for impoverished children in Africa with “Soles for Hope,” helping a new couple move into the neighborhood and more. We are grateful for these expressions of Christian love in our neighborhoods. We have also had about 65% of our regular attendance serve through our church toward our community. Thank you for your labor of love!
Share: The leading indicators for sharing the gospel relationally have to do with our number of outreach initiatives and the number of conversions and baptisms. We hosted ten outreach events, including a new “Yes” weekend for our worship services on Easter and Memorial Day. God used these events and the regular ministries of our church to result in 36 conversions and 21 baptisms (26 children, 5 students and 5 adults).
Other highlights include completing a playground project that has strengthened our ability to serve young families, adding sound system upgrades in our Celebration Center, installing new lighting in our Student Center and many other important projects with our church care crew. We convened a “5 Year Plan” strategic team to recommend steps of faith toward God’s preferred future for our church. We believe the prayerful process of this team is more important than the product. As of this report, our leadership is still waiting for the recommendations to come from this team.
We certainly have seen God’s blessing in the past year; however, there are a number of challenges we face going forward. One of these includes limited seating and parking available at our single Sunday AM worship service. One of our core values is a “welcoming environment for all who join in our journey toward Christ.” If we are going to continue to elevate this value, we will need to be thoughtful and intentional about how we welcome neighbors looking for the love of Jesus Christ. One of the ways you can help is by becoming a regular partner with our Saturday worship service. This frees up needed space and opportunity in our Sunday AM worship.
Another challenge is to build a neighborhood or community mindset into our small group service projects. A number of our small groups have served the needs that exist within the confines of our building (and this is commendable). However, I believe God’s “better yes” includes our small groups engaging our neighborhoods and community with service projects that shine Christian light in local neighborhoods. Finally, it appears that the percentage of attendees who are involved in ministry or service has not increased as we desired. Since every believer is designed by God to be a kingdom-worker, we need to discern how to mobilize the full spectrum of Christ’s family to this end.
I am humbled and greatly challenged to address these matters and to continue to point toward a better future that includes our community experiencing God’s love in a practical way. We are grateful for our progress but realize there is so much more to do going forward. May God’s Spirit fill our sails as we follow His calling toward a “better yes” in the months and years ahead.