Thursday, May 29, 2008

How it's going...

Ever since we left Iowa and moved here to Chillicothe, one of the questions I've been asked a lot by old friends is "How's it going?" They love us and so they want to know if the challenge and risk of taking on a new ministry (not to mention moving away) has been worth it. I virtually always answer, "It's going great!" because in the areas that really matter it's going well. Some of our recent successes as a church include:
  • Attendance YTD has increased 11% vs. 2007 for a 2008 average of 166.
  • 15 men are engaged in discipleship with either myself or one of our elders.
  • 30 people participated in "Evangelism is Relationships" training with 20 agreeing to be held accountable for investing time and $ in someone in their RSI (Relational Sphere of Influence)
  • We recently launched a new Connections Ministry, which will be responsible for ensuring new members/visitors get integrated into the life of our church.
  • We have formed a team of highly motivated, evangelistically focused women who will be launching a MOPs ministry in the fall to reach Chillicothe moms, the only such ministry of it's kind in a 2o mile radius.
  • Our annual men's salmon fishing trip to Kenosha, WI included 24 men, of which several were non-Christians, which made it not only a fun fellowship event, but also another opportunity for relational evangelism.
  • Karen and the Children's Church team have nearly doubled participation in Children's Church to around 25 kids each week.
  • Our Junior High group on Wednesday nights at the Cafe has grown from 4 students to 20.
All of this is to say that lots of things are going very well.

On the other hand, there are some down sides to all of this, as there always are. Not everyone is happy or particularly relishes my leadership and preaching style or even likes me. Which is distressing, disappointing and at times, intensely painful. It is also proof that I am the leader of a church, a perfectly designed, God-ordained institution in which imperfect people worship God, minister to one another, and reach a lost world. I pray that I am a good leader, a patient shepherd, and an effective preacher and teacher. I pray too that God would graciously "fill in the gaps" by His Spirit when one of these areas lacks due to my imperfect humanity or my as yet unconquered sinful nature. I pray that my flock offers up similar prayers on my behalf. And most of all, I pray that God would be honored by whatever faltering, imperfect and frail use I am making of His gifts.

This thought reminds me of a line by C. S. Lewis, who compared God's work with us as being akin to a father teaching his child to walk. He said (paraphrasing from memory), "If even the will to walk is there, God is pleased even with our stumbles." I guess that's how I feel about our life and ministry. Karen and I (me most of all!) aren't perfectly obedient all the time nor are we perfectly meeting the needs of our congregation and community. But the "will to walk" is there, so I think God is blessing us to a great extent in spite of (rather than because of) the things we are doing.

In other words, God is lavishing His grace on us and we are sensing His pleasure. What could be better than that?


Horn herd mom said...

Great perspective and well said.

Lynn said...

Hi Joe,
The report on how things are going sounds great to me. I am very excited to see the direction the church is taking and thankful for your leadership! Follow hard after God and we will do well to follow after your lead. After all, to be liked by all men might make one a politician, and we all know the implications of talking out of both sides of your mouth and being a people pleaser:) Please God first and the rest will flow. Criticism is one of those things that one needs to consider and pray about, but not take immediately to heart without considering the source and the manner in which is has been given.

I will be praying for you as you endeavor to serve God and us. Be encouraged by the awesome things He has done in such a short amount of time. If there were not opposition, I would fear we were not on the right path!


The Bullhorn said...

Lynn and Karen,

Thanks to both of you for being my constant bulwark of support and encouragement. I'm humbled.