July 1st is the first Sunday of our new fiscal year, so I'm delivering my annual pastor's report. I'm posting the manuscript before I give my report, but I'm pretty sure I won't quite follow this word for word.
Way back in January, on the first Sunday of the year, I shared with you our church’s revised mission statement and unveiled the 5 disciplines that we’re committed to as a community. Last December, our leadership team spent some time asking the question, “what does a Christ-follower at Trinity Family look like? What are some disciplines we want people in our community to develop? Ways of living that will help them grow closer to Jesus and help us be a community that honors Jesus?” You see the 5 on your notes, worshipping God, connecting with believers, serving others, giving sacrificially and investing in unbelievers. We’re going to walk through these 5 disciplines and I’ll share with you my perception on how we’ve progressed over the past 6 months and where we’re headed the rest of the year. To use the language of our denomination, what I’m about to share is my 2007 pastor’s report.
This is hard to measure. We can’t set up a worship meter to gauge the authenticity of our worship gatherings. I can assure you that we’ve continued to work toward creative ways of engaging worshippers. A great example, last Sunday’s ‘underground church’ experience. A lot of you thanked me for that experience. But don’t thank me, (or blame me) thank my wife and David Brush. We’ve got a worship planning team. This summer we’ve switched up our order, to get us out of our comfort zone and to keep moving us toward authentic worship. I’m not sure what it will look like, but I can promise you we’ll continue to experiment with how we structure our worship gatherings. There’s nothing wrong with comfort and familiarity, but we certainly want to avoid ruts; ruts hinder worship.
I also want to remind you that what happens in the sanctuary on Sunday morning is just a fraction of what worship is about. When we gather to worship as community on Sundays, the experience will be deeper and richer if we’ve engaged in personal worshiped God throughout the week. Personal worship looks like this: reading our Bible, sitting in silence before God, watching the sun set, praying with your family. Personal worship is vital to your relationship with God. If your worship is limited to Sunday morning, you’ll be starving your soul. As a church, let’s continue to worship as individuals and as a community. And let’s invite others to join us. Whether it’s worship through a spiritual discussion at Perkins or worship in our cafeteria/ sanctuary.
Connecting with Believers
Following Jesus is not a solo sport; it’s impossible to live the Christian life on your own. We need each other. The primary way our church facilitates this commitment to living the Christian life together is through our small groups. Small groups meet in homes every other Sunday night. This is where true community is developed, where people are prayed for and where people are challenged to grow in their relationship with Jesus. About half of the adults are connected into a small group. That’s a good number, but I want to see the other 50% connect.
But a new way to help us connect with each other is what we’re calling TFC Fridays. Once a month opportunities for us to connect beyond Sunday morning. Our first one was last Friday, our showing of Charlotte’s Web. The last Friday in July we’re having a pool party at the Gardner pool. Not sure on August yet. On September, we’re going to be taking part in what’s being billed as Gardner’s biggest ever tailgate party. In the high school stadium’s parking lot. It’s homecoming weekend and the beginning of our city’s 150th birthday celebration. I pulled some strings and our band will be providing the music for the entire party. And those are all my good ideas, I’m open to suggestions.
But the point is that it’s all about community, we can’t do this alone.
I’m really pumped about this area. All of my ministry training was based upon the field of dreams model, “if we build it (and make it really good) they will come.” But God has been transforming my approach. It’s not about waiting on people to show up but it’s about going to people, serving them where they’re at.
Last Sunday we started making plans to serve the ladies that dance at the local gentleman’s clubs. During the meeting, you could sense the excitement to “just go love people.” Several people who haven’t been in Sunday morning worship for awhile have heard about the ministry and said they want to help.
We must keep thinking of ways to go love people.
And within our community, we have a bunch of people who serve. You wouldn’t have chairs to sit on or a nursery for your kids were it not for consistent, dependable service. If you’ve been worshipping for awhile on Sunday morning but you’ve yet to find a place to serve, let’s talk about it and we’ll find you a place.
You may have noticed that I’ve spent more time talking about money this year than last year. Part of the reason is that I’m becoming less of a wuss. But the main reason is that while serving as your pastor, I’ve come to understand why Jesus spent so much time talking about money. It’s not because God needs your money. But God commands us to give because God wants our hearts. And he knows that the only way to a person’s heart is through their wallet. Unless God has control of your checkbook, he’s not the top priority in your life. That’s the hard truth. So we’re committed to this discipline.
There were some moments of sacrificial giving that really pumped me up this year. One was our Resurrection Sunday offering. On Easter Sunday, you gave $2,307 to the Gardner Multiservices Center. I also get pumped up when see people being obedient. A couple months ago a family told me they’d just dropped a huge check in the offering. “We haven’t been obedient and we’re ready to get back on track, this is our back-tithe.” That kind of stuff just makes me want to cry. That’s amazing obedience.
Last April I was spending some time in prayer, asking God to help me lead Trinity Family toward financial obedience. I shared it with my small group and they all prayed for me.
The next morning while I was praying and journaling, I got the idea for the Summer of Faith challenge. I prayed about it a few more weeks and had the strong sense that this was where God was leading. Now I usually don’t hear from God directly, he doesn’t leave me notes in my journal. But he usually speaks to me through hunches and ideas that won’t go away. And I believe the Summer of Faith challenge was from God. Which leads me to believe there’s been some disobedience in our church, because no one took the challenge. Some of you were thinking “the Advisory Council is just trying to squeeze more money out of us” but the plan was to give away the money. We were going to give the money to a smaller church that has really been struggling. Tithing isn’t about an organizational bottom line, it’s about you experiencing the blessing of giving to God first. Putting God in charge of your checkbook.
We’re going to continue to stress this discipline. This fall, we’ll be talking some about debt and consumerism. We’ll offer the Abundant Living financial class again. We’re going to keep growing in this area.
Investing in Unbelievers
We’ve focused on this discipline this summer by taking 5 minutes during every worship gathering to pray for the names in this box, the names of those who don’t yet know Jesus. Praying is the foundation for this discipline. But we need to be aware of the fact that we’re often meant to be the answers to our own prayers. We’ve been praying for a month, what are you doing to build relationships with those people? Have you had any spiritual conversations with them? It matters, because we are God’s vehicle of salvation. God brings people to his son through us.
Last week, the Kelvington boys had their mom drive them all over Gardner, inviting their school friends to our movie night. We’ve got a guy on our softball team that isn’t a part of a church, because Jeremy and Tonya Pride were intentional about building a relationship with an unchurched friend. That’s living out this discipline.
If you’ve been connected at Trinity Family for about… 2 minutes or so, you’ve heard the challenge to invite. Invite friends to worship, to Movie Night, Love and Logic weekend, all these events. Inviting an unbeliever to a church event is a huge step in their spiritual journey, but it’s a step that must grow out of a season of relationship building. It’s all about building relationships with people, so we can love them. Are you building relationships with people that don’t yet know Jesus or are you snuggled up in a Christian cocoon?
We’re going to keep praying, but I challenge you to be living out those prayers.
We’ll always have room for growth in these disciplines, we’ll never arrive. As long as we’re obedient, Jesus will continue to strengthen and mature us in these areas.
This morning’s challenge from Revelation to live above complacency is very timely for us as a church, because we’re at a point in our development in which it would be very easy to become complacent. As I read and talk with church planters that have a lot more experience than myself, I’ve discovered that years 2 and 3 are the hardest but most important years for a new church. By now, the adrenaline and newness has worn off. And we’re staring at the hard work necessary for steady, healthy growth.
Some of you have been feeling it. I’ll be honest, I’ve been feeling it. I think the reality set in last January, during the back-to-back snowstorm on Saturday night. This is going to take a lot of work. If we’re going to grow as a church that honors Jesus, we’re going to have to plow ahead with a relentless tenacity. No room for complacency.
We plow ahead because what we’re doing matters. The local church is the hope of this broken world. Bill Hybels, the Michael Jordan of church planters, recently made this statement at a church-planters conference. “If you’re planting a church, you’re at the center of the most important thing going on planet earth, the redemption of human lives.”
It’s happening through this local church. Last April, we had the privilege of baptizing Amy Bottcher. Lately I’ve been having the privilege of reading through the book of John with Amy’s husband, Travis. I know I’m supposed to be the seminary grad with the answers, Travis has been showing me some good insights. Just last Tuesday we talked about what it means to be born again. Travis told me that 6 months ago, he wasn’t thinking about this type of stuff, but now he feels like the Holy Spirit is following him around. That is why we started Trinity Family.
If we’re committed to these disciplines. If we remember that we’re here to help other people grow closer to Jesus, then we’ll push through the times where we wonder why we’re working so hard. And we’ll see God change people’s lives for eternity.
Submitted by the pastor who loves you very much and desperately wants you to live for Jesus,