You all worked so hard getting us through a busy December-January period filled with congregational meetings, elections, budgets, and so forth. It’s good to feel like we’re finally settling into the ministry year of 2015. It’s wonderful to see the church family being a family, … and you do it well ! A recent visitor to the church spoke to me about what a healthy church Emmanuel appears to be. I give thanks to God for that comment ! Let’s continue to pray toward that end. Developing and maintaining unity and good church health is hard work – whether it’s in a family, a business, or a church. Regular confession of sin, and lives lived with the filling of the Holy Spirit, will cause us to be all God wants us to be.
I hope the following notes on activity at Emmanuel will stimulate your thinking and your praying for our church family and its ministry.
Staff Meeting with David Viland
A little less than two weeks ago a unique church “Staff” meeting took place at the church. David Viland, of Christian Investors Financial group in Minneapolis, was our invited guest. David worked closely with Emmanuel during our first building campaign eight years ago and was a tremendous help to us at that time.
David led us in a discussion of ministry, vision, and finances at Emmanuel. Thanks to a couple of really good note-takers at that meeting, here’s a brief outline of how that discussion went :
- Strengths at Emmanuel :
- growth (numerical, and individual spiritual growth)
- a focus on the Gospel
- programs for youth
- a diverse, active congregation
- strong leadership
- Concerns at Emmanuel :
- being able to match the needed resources to the growth
- a seeming lack of formal processes for certain tasks within the church
- a seeming need for spiritual growth and leadership among men
- Issues that may need to be addressed :
- improving communication between elders and stewards
- helping church members know who to go to for what needs
- a need to be more proactive, less reactive
- a need for training (teachers, small group leaders, worship leaders) and resources
- debt reduction ; better giving toward finances
- financial planning : hiring additional staff ; how to plan for future growth
- What is the mission of Emmanuel ? What is its vision for accomplishing that mission ?
- The Great Commission is a mission statement for the Universal Church. Too many local churches (ours included) make it their personal mission statement. A local church needs to be able to articulate how that Great Commission looks specifically in its community.
- There is a unique intersection between our community (Hermann and surrounding area), our congregation (the specific gifts, talents, experiences, and culture that are Emmanuel), and our leadership (the passions, visions, and talents of those God has called to lead the church). In that unique place of intersection is Emmanuel’s mission.
- We can’t do everything. God didn’t call us to do it all. Even Jesus didn’t do everything while He was on the earth. At the end of His life, He prayed to the Father and said, “I accomplished the work You gave me to do” (John 17:4). Sometimes local churches can try to do so much they become “a mile wide and an inch deep.” At times there must be “strategic abandonment” of some activities in order to more effectively accomplish God’s unique calling for this church in this place.
- What is the state of finances at Emmanuel ?
- Finances seem to kind of be on “auto-pilot” (i.e., some lack of goals or direction ; finances low during the summer then better by year’s end).
- There is a track record of God providing what we need.
- There needs to be a clear vision to which to give.
- It’s difficult to budget for church ministry if giving is sporadic.
- Need to nurture a culture of generosity, discipling Emmanuel’s people to be godly stewards for generous living. When we give generously, we speak differently – more passionately and knowingly – about giving. We must not miss out on the blessing of giving.
- Celebrating ministry successes proves to be a motivation for increased giving.
- People give more to the Lord’s work when they are informed, inspired, involved, and invited (to give).
- Imagine how much greater work could be accomplished for the Lord if we dealt with the $650,000 debt load we are currently carrying.
- There will be opportunities to continue this discussion during the weeks and months to come. David Viland has some specific ideas and resources to propose to us soon. Let’s keep in touch about these things and be praying for Emmanuel’s mission, vision, and the means to achieve them.
About thirty of our 6th, 7th, and 8th graders are at Hidden Acres Camp near Ames, Iowa for Winter Blast yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Let’s pray for them, their leaders, and for a safe return to Hermann tomorrow. There are going to be some kids (and adults) come home fired up about life with Jesus ! Let’s be ready to encourage them along their way.
Several of you are interested in baptism. I’m very excited about that ! We are tentatively planning to have baptisms on Easter Sunday, April 5. If you would like to be baptized as an expression of your faith in Jesus Christ, please let me or Jeff know that. We would love to include you in the baptisms on Easter Sunday.
Senior Pastor Search Team
I’m excited at the start our Pastor Search Team is making. They met on their own – apart from the Elder Board – for the first time this past week. Let’s keep them in our prayers for the important work they’re doing : Becky Aldrich, Rich Brune, Laura Maddox, Allison Roth, Lucas Schneider, and Larry Shoemaker (liaison from the Elder Board).
What’s going on with me ?
Thank you for caring, praying, and asking about how I’m doing, and what I’m doing. I can see concern and care in each one of you, and I am appreciative and humbled.
I am eager to move forward with a new chapter of my life. I have a clear sense that the major part of my life’s work for the next several years is to finish the big job Diana and I started together of raising this big family. It’s intriguing to me ; it’s challenging ; and I’m excited about the growing relationships I can have with my children, both younger and older. I am amazed to see them smile, given what they’ve been through, and I’m grateful to know that each one is growing in his/her own way in spiritual life. It would be my great joy to have them all serving the Lord in some capacity, whether in full-time ministry or as a committed layperson. Clearly, time is short until the Lord’s return, and the next generation must rise and lead God’s work.
I am praying about employment and the possibility of what future ministry might look like for myself. I feel good about the timetable I’m on ; I sense God has orchestrated events in my life through December and January, and I feel good about the process, even though there is no specific “place” for me yet. I’m open to ideas, and I feel blessed to have the support and prayers of so many people.
I do admit to some weariness with daily life. More than ever, I’m doing everything I used to do plus much of what Diana used to do. (My hat is off to all mothers !) I dislike very much preparing grocery lists, going grocery shopping, and making meals (although I must say we’ve had some good ones recently). Is it the wall-to-wall chores and work each day that keep me from sleeping well at night ? I don’t know, but I find I’m awake often during the night and rarely sleep soundly when I do sleep … and so many dreams ! You all are in some of them ! Someone has written, “Exhaustion combined with sleeplessness is a rare torture.” Some days I understand that.
There has been a certain, recent wave of depression and grief. February is a tender month, and the events of February two years ago seem very close. At times, just the way the winter sunlight comes through the window reminds me of things we were doing and talking about, plans we were making, in February 2013. Sometimes when I’m working at my desk there’s an urge to go downstairs and check on her, see if she needs anything, fix her something to eat.
I find myself alert to the gifts God gives each day. Some recently have included ping-pong tournaments with the kids at home, a wintry sunset, an unexpected phone call. The meeting with David Viland was also, for me, a gift of encouragement from God. I love people who can speak clearly of vision ! I hope you do too. I have great admiration for the leadership of the Evangelical Free Church of America and feel blessed to have benefited from those leaders for much of my life.
All in all, I guess I’m waiting on the Lord. And that’s a pretty good place to be. In fact, I wish I had spent more time there in years past.
Below is something I read recently written by Malcolm Muggeridge on the theme of waiting on God. I hope you enjoy it and that it gives you some perspective for your own life.
Hope to see you tomorrow ! Discovery Bible Study ; Book of Acts study ; activities and classes for children at 9:00. Worship at 10:15. Men’s group tomorrow night at 5:30.
“Waiting on God”, from Confessions of a Twentieth-Century Pilgrim, by Malcolm Muggeridge
In the stress of life, collectively in the chaos of politics, individually in the clamorous demands of the ego and the flesh, it is always open to us to wait on God. All we have to do is, as it were, to make a little clearing in the wild jungle of our human will, and then keep our rendezvous with our Creator. He is sure to come ; His presence falls like a comforting shadow, and then we are at peace. Our tiny exercise in Time is lost in the immensity of Eternity ; as Blake puts it : “All the world in a grain of sand, infinity in the palm of your hand.”
This experience is open to anyone at any time – fighting one’s way onto a crowded commuter train, forcing tired eyes to grapple with turgid words, sleepless in an interminable night ; and then, suddenly and incalculably, peace ; the acceptance of earthly circumstances ; all the turbulence, doubt, conflicting devices and desires ; crystallizing in one single prayer : “Thy will be done.”
“Vanity Fair is closing down.”
“A treasure-trove of artificial pearls.”
God signifies an alternative impulse – to sacrifice rather than grab, to love rather than lust, to give rather than take, to pursue truth rather than promote lies, to humble oneself rather than inflate the ego. In all creation the hand of God is seen ; in every human heart, in a blade of grass as in great trees and mountains and rivers ; in the first stirring of life in a foetus and in the last musings and mutterings of a tired mind.