Every year, I write a “State of the Church” report for the Annual Charge Conference. I thought I would send it out as this week’s blog, which will allow more folks to see it. While I can’t put on one page everything I think God is saying or doing, or everything I am feeling as a pastor, this is my best effort at it for 2015. I love you and appreciate you taking time to read my report! – Craig.
2014 ended with an amazing bang in this congregation, as congregational financial generosity—combined with the promised sale of the Edge building—brought the congregation out of financial debt for the first time since at least the mid 1990’s. We entered 2015 on an incredible high-note…
2015 has been a most unusual year in that it has not been nearly as easy as 2014 or previous years have been. On paper, at least, we have lost members—good and Godly Jesus-loving brothers and sisters whom I miss badly and adore greatly. We will probably also see a decrease in financial giving as compared to 2014. Yet, the same God who walked us through the financial miracle of 2014 or the dramatic numerical growth of 2013 has and is walking us through the readjustments, losses, and deep times of prayer that mark 2015. It has been no less remarkable or God-led than any previous year—but that is not to say that it has been easy!
In the midst of all this, the Lord has continued to bring guests and visitors, and the worship services, though not over-capacity as we had grown accustomed to in the past—are still healthily full. Our Life Group ministry is stronger than ever, with 20 or so groups meeting every week.
What has really been amazing however, is the clarity and power of the words that have come forth from God—words of assurance and guidance that at least help shed light on the stretching that has been taking place the past few months. The Lord has spoken through a plurality of voices (bringing confirmation and lending credibility) that He is designating our congregation as an “Eastern Gate,” in reference to the Temple Gate through which He will return. The Eastern (or Golden or Beautiful) gate is also known as the gate of revival and healing (as it was for a man born lame as Peter and John passed through it on the way to pray in Acts 3). Further, the Lord has deemed us to be “Gate Keepers” as part of being this gate. Further still, the Lord spoke a word of encouragement early in the year that Livingston would be a center of revival for this area. While naming things such as “a revival center,” “Eastern Gate,” or “Gate Keepers” can seem arrogant or exclusionary on the surface, to not discuss or explore in prayer what God is trying to tell us would be foolish; it seems to me. We are certainly no better than any other congregation; nevertheless, God has spoken these things clearly to us this year with a destiny and focus in mind…
God has spoken clearly, yet it has been a more difficult year than previous ones—at least on the surface. It calls us to remember that God’s call on our lives is not always easy—nor is it simply about “going to heaven” someday. The Lord is working things out in our midst—in the very ethos of our Church—that are important, so it is important to remember that He is always working things out for our good…!
Yes, the same good, good God who led us through the easier days is leading us through these more difficult ones—with a good, good outcome in mind! Over the past decade, He has led us through a long, gradual transition from being a programed-based church to being a Life Group-based church. It seems like we may be in the next phase of transition—as the Lord moves us further away from the institutional church model and ever-closer to being a Home-based, Book of Acts, early Methodist-like Church that is radically open and welcoming to even the worst of sinners and yet radically powerful in leading everyone through the transforming power of the Spirit into being fully mature, “going on to perfection” followers of Christ.
I liked 2014 better, but I suspect in time we will look back with great joy on the greatness of our God in 2015…!