SUCCESSION PLANNING FOR PEACE

The Ten Commandments for Successful Succession Planning

The clock is ticking. At my age you have to start thinking about handing off the pastoral baton to a younger guy in God’s timing.

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While I still hope I have a few good years in me at the helm, wise leadership requires thoughtful discussion and diligent prayer about how to plan for such a significant thing as pastoral transition in the life of the church.

Lately our elders have been pouring over Next: Pastoral Succession That Works. Too many churches suffer a disruption of their peace when pastors come and go. We want to avoid that if at all possible.

One practical assignment suggested in the book involved the current pastor drafting his own version of the Ten Commandments for successful succession planning. I found it a helpful exercise.

I offer these as a possible encouragement to any other church facing the same stewardship challenge.

  1. He shall run the race hard for the glory of God and the welfare of OGC over the rest of his course as pastor-teacher—however long the Lord determines that he remain on point.
  2. He shall consistently take initiative to keep the conversation about succession ongoing so that no one else may feel awkward about having to force the issue due to his reluctance.
  3. He shall do everything in his power to ensure that the baton handoff occurs—when it does—in a fashion that safeguards the peace and purity of Orlando Grace Church.
  4. He shall regularly pray about the succession process for wisdom and guidance from the Lord from start to finish.
  5. He shall determine to listen carefully and defer in humility as must as possible to the concerns/desires of the rest of the leadership team in executing the plan.
  6. He shall neither exit prematurely from his role nor linger past-time in the same, but seek to discern with the rest of the body the most opportune time for the transition.
  7. He shall diligently seek to determine from the Lord what next vocational assignment awaits him and his wife, whatever and wherever that may be.
  8. He shall act as the number-one cheerleader for the next pastor-teacher and do everything in his power to ensure the man’s good success and favor with the people and community.
  9. He shall tend carefully to the needs and concerns of the rest of the staff throughout the succession process such that their voices are heard and their welfare served.
  10. He shall exit when the time comes with a heart of gratitude and humility for the privilege of having pastored faithfully, albeit imperfectly, so great a church as OGC.

IS YOUR CHURCH LOVING?

How To Help Your Church Abound in Love

I certainly hope so. It should be. Jesus declared love the distinguishing mark by which all others would know that we are His disciples (John 13:35).

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But here’s the deal. Paul prays in Phil. 1:9 that their church’s love may abound more and more. He exhorted another church very much the same way:

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more (1 Thess. 4:9-10, emphasis added).

It seems we can’t afford to rest on our laurels when it comes to the degree of love operational in our congregations.

Here are seven ways you can potentially affect the abounding of love in your church so as to ensure its peace and unity:

  1. Admit to the Lord any failures on this front, believe the gospel again, and determine to obey in His strength in the future.
  2. Embrace the commandment to excel in love as just that–marching orders from Jesus. We can’t treat this virtue as optional. Also, regard it as the A-priority responsibility it is. Why else would Peter write: Above all, keep loving one another earnestly (1 Pet. 4:8, emphasis added).
  3. Never assume you have arrived on this front. The Bible doesn’t make room for complacency in our love performance. Ask the Lord to help you push the edge of envelope in ways you haven’t done so before.
  4. Make it a habit to do loving things. Build your love muscles by practicing kindness. Alexander Strauch calls kindness love with work clothes on. Write notes. Give gifts (even little ones). Make a phone call. Buy someone lunch. Drop by for a visit (ask first).
  5. Practice hospitality. Texts teaching about love often include the exhortation to open our home to others. For example, Paul exhorts, Let love be genuine in Rom. 12:9. Then in v. 13 he adds, Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
    We find another example of this combo in Heb. 13:1-2. One commands, Let brotherly love continue. Then v. 2 quickly follows with, Do not neglect to show hospitality. Few things say love more persuasively than sharing a meal with others around your table.
  6. Pray for one another in your church to grow in love for one another. Last Sunday we studied that text in Philippians (1:9) where Paul prays for their love to abound. So this week I am praying through our member/attender list for each household for the same thing. Your church has such a list, doesn’t it?
  7. Finally, and most importantly, meditate often on the love of God for you in Christ Jesus. I think Paul prays in Eph. 3:18-19 the way he does for this very reason. He knows if we can even remotely comprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth of Jesus’ love for us, it cannot help but overflow through us to refresh others.

Churches that love well in Jesus advertise well for Jesus. And members who abound in love are the kind of members who excel in helping preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace in their churches. Go for it!

Question: What’s one thing you want to do this week to push your love for others towards an abounding level? You can leave a comment here.

Ownership

ownership

That’s my word for 2015, at least in terms of my pastoral role.

I hope to pray about ownership.

I hope to model ownership (the cancer battle notwithstanding).

I hope to preach on ownership.

I hope to exhort about ownership.

I hope to counsel about ownership.

I hope to rebuke (in love, of course) when I encounter lack of ownership.

I hope to disciple in ownership.

I hope to teach about ownership.

In short, I hope to eat, drink, and sleep ownership as a covenant member of a local church  AND challenge others do the same.

Why wave the banner of OWNERSHIP over Orlando Grace in the New Year? Does a text like Acts 2:42-47 suggest we should do anything less?

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

I doubt the church of Jesus Christ has seen since any greater demonstration of ownership to her mission than it did in those early New Testament days. Notice the word “devoted.” Literally it means “to be strong toward.” These folks had a passion for certain things that drew them together. Teaching, fellowship, worship, hospitality, generosity. They constantly flexed their spiritual muscles in these virtues of community. The impact in the city of Jerusalem was so profound  that God did the adding of souls to His church through their what? Ownership.

Tomorrow begins another year of ministry at Orlando Grace Church. Will we as covenant members “own” our community like never before? I pray we will. We can start by those who are able joining the prayer team at 8:30 AM in the conference room. We can continue by jamming the three new equipping hour electives (spiritual disciplines, resolving everyday conflict, and systematic theology I) at 9:30 AM. And we can peak with spirit and truth worship and praise at 10:45. We can overflow by taking lunch together, including invitations to new people God brings our way.

Let 2015 be a year of ownership like never before for our joy and His glory.

A Shepherd’s Dilemma

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Frankly, it’s hard for any pastor, I suspect, to zero in on only one. Lots of things perplex, challenge, disturb, perhaps even dismay a shepherd of God’s sheep. The one I feel the most more than not is trying to shepherd those with whom I can’t seem to make contact.

Proverbs 27:23 exhorts, “Know well the condition of your flocks and give attention to your herds.” The writer’s main application may well pertain to literal diligence on the farm, but I dare say any pastor worth his salt will make the connection that he should familiarize himself as well as he can with the sheep of his pasture for their welfare. Add Hebrews 13:17 to the equation, the sobering truth that undershepherds ultimately will give an account to the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4) for those entrusted to their charge, then you have a pretty good idea how distressing it can be for someone who takes such a thing seriously to lose touch with the lambs in his fold, many or few.

As self-serving as it may seem, here is my plea to sheep everywhere to help ease this dilemma of shepherds everywhere when it comes to their obligation to feed, tend, know, and care.

One, become a member of your local church. Without your informed consent, your willing submission to the pastoral authority in your church, your shepherd has no ecclesiastical ground upon which to move into your life with the array of responsibilities with which he is charged, especially your discipline if necessary. This is why Hebrews 13:17 exhorts believers to submit and obey. You acknowledge that some ecclesiastical authority, somewhere, has your permission to keep watch and even intervene with discipline if you stray and that they are indeed responsible before God to do that. Remember, you cannot be put out of that to which you don’t belong (see 1 Cor. 5).

Two, don’t forsake the assembling of the saints together on the Lord’s Day (Heb. 10:24-25). It’s not the only way shepherds track sheep, but it’s a primary and significant way. We look to see who is hanging around the ordinary means of grace each Sunday that is the preached word and the Table. By the way, you can help your shepherd a lot if you will communicate with him in advance when you are going to be on vacation or away from the assembly for any other reason so that he need not be concerned about whether or not your absence means you have fallen into the ditch somewhere and that he needs to come with his crook to help yank you out of there.

Three, if you become discontent with your church and decide to go searching for a different sheep pen, do your present shepherd who cares about your welfare the favor of letting him know. Give him a heads up. I get that this is hard. You don’t want to hurt his feelings. You just want to slip quietly away. All I can tell you is that my default response when anyone extends to me the courtesy to communicate in this fashion is this: “Thank you for loving me well by cluing me in. You just made my mission-impossible job a bit easier.”

Four, don’s stay in limbo too long and as soon as you can take the church you are leaving off the hook for your care by resigning your membership and/or preferably transferring it to your next place of community. I’m not saying every church cares about this kind of record keeping, though I believe it should. But it helps your shepherd and it protects your soul if you make a clean and appropriately timely and sooner-rather-than later shift and inform the necessary parties affected.

My personal philosophy of people moving from church-to-church boils down to this: bless and release – EXCEPT if someone is running from sin or conflict. In those cases the same sin and the same conflict is waiting for you in greener pastures just in different garb. Deal with your stuff where you are and then if still lead, get a move on, little lamb.

And if you don’t know how to do that, ask your shepherd for help. If he can’t or won’t, you should probably leave that pen anyway.

A Church “Do Your Best”

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This week I am doing sermon prep in Ephesians 4:1-6 for a message in September, Lord willing. In the text the apostle exhorts believers who desire to live out a worthy walk in Jesus to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” The word for “eager” is variously translated “make every effort” (2 Pet. 1:5) or “do your best” (2 Tim. 2:15). In other words, there are some things about life in gospel community that demand our all. Paul argues in Ephesians 4 for those called of Jesus to His glorious salvation and made part of His glorious church that virtuous (see v. 2) peacemaking ranks right up there at the top of responsibilities in which we will want to excel.

That commitment will work itself out in various forms, but I want to talk about just one with the help of Jonathan Edwards from his work, Charity and Its Fruits:

220px-Jonathan_EdwardsAll undue anger indisposes us for the pious exercises and the active duties of religion. It puts the soul far from that sweet and excellent frame of spirit in which we most enjoy communion with God, and which makes truth and ordinances most profitable to us. And hence it is that God commands us not to approach his altars while we are at enmity with others, but “first to be reconciled to our brother, and then come and offer our gift” (Mat. 5:24); and that by the apostle it is said, “I will, therefore, that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Tim. 2:8).

So what does this mean?

If we take seriously an eagerness to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace such that we do our best in this regard, then peacemaking will take priority even over corporate worship. If we cannot overlook an offense, then we will make every diligent effort to meet with the necessary party to reconcile and not pretend to lift so-called hands in holy worship when we have avoided our responsibility to do so.

If applicable, you have between now and Sunday to do your best. Go for it!

Why All the Fuss About an Ordination?

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Call it fuss, call it hype, call it excitement, call it attention, call it what you will, this ordained pastor is jazzed about participating in setting apart another godly man for the ministry of the gospel this Sunday night.

Lord willing, on January 19, 2014, 6 PM at OGC, Kevin Scott Wilhoit will become Rev. Kevin Scott Wilhoit. This, I am convinced, is the biggest of deals deserving all the fuss, hype, attention, and excitement an entire church can give to it. This begs the question, of course, why is that the case?

I can think of at least three important reasons:

First, the ordaining of a man to the pastorate constitutes an answer to a high priority prayer request commanded by Jesus Himself. I refer, of course, to Matthew 9:35-38.

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

If anything suffers from a scarcity-of-resources dilemma it is the supply of godly ministers on hand for a plentiful spiritual harvest. That God has answered our prayers at OGC in giving us Kevin for these purposes warrants our ecstatic delight for the prospect of less harassed and helpless sheep in God’s church.

Second, the ordaining of a man to the pastorate recognizes the love and goodness of God to His church in gifting us with yet someone else capable of equipping the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. Here, of course, I refer to Ephesians 4:11-12.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.

Another ordained man in the pastoral ranks increases the likelihood that more of God’s people will acquire greater knowledge of God’s word and the discipleship training they need to function in such a way as to contribute to the edification of the church.

Third, the ordaining of a man to the pastorate delegates dreadfully serious and desperately necessary responsibilities to someone who acts on God’s behalf to care for those for which Jesus acquired ownership at the ultimate price. Now, of course, I refer to Acts 20:28-30 (a portion of the text selected by our guest speaker for the ordination service).

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

Such things can keep me awake late into the night. Guide the flock. Guard the flock. Care for the church. What a massive responsibility! Who is competent for these things?

I can think of no other compliment I can pay to a man or credit I can give to God than this: if I myself were not a pastor entrusted with similar privileges and responsibilities at my own church, I would put myself and my family under the servant-shepherding authority of someone like the soon-to-be Rev. Kevin Wilhoit. And I would definitely count myself blessed to do so.

I wouldn’t miss the opportunity this Sunday night to celebrate with him what God has done in calling Him to serve Christ’s church even for a chance to spend an evening picking John Piper’s pastoral/theological brain. And some of you know just how big a deal that would be for me!

My prayer is you will share with me in the ordination fuss, hype, excitement, and attention this weekend.

And please don’t forget to bring a finger food to share for the reception.

Ten Reasons NOT to Become a Church Member

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Sometimes I feel woefully inadequate persuading good-for-nothing-brick types to join a local church through positive arguments. For this post I decided to try the reverse psychology approach with ten good reasons why someone would NOT want to join a local church.

One, you should not become a church member if you do not want your profession of faith in Jesus to be evaluated and deemed credible or not by a body of believers charged with determining, with God’s help, who really does belong to the King as opposed to who might just be fooling himself (Matt. 7:21-23).

Two, you should not become a church member if want to avoid any of the inevitable “one another” commitments of the New Testament that find their fullest and best expression in covenant community (John 13:14).

Three, you should not become a church member if you think participation in the ordinary means of grace – the preached word and the sacraments – are somehow optional in the Christian life (Heb. 10:24-25).

Four, you should not become a church member if you want to maintain complete control over your finances such that you feel no obligation to support the local ministry from which you receive ministry and experience community (Gal. 6:6).

Five, you should not become a church member if any of the idols of your heart have such a grasp upon you that you fear exposure by rubbing shoulders more intimately with other members of the body of Christ (Heb. 3:12-13).

Six, you should not become a church member if the idea of submitting to anyone’s authority gives you the willies and that you might be held accountable to the commitments covenant members make as a part of church membership (Matt. 18:15-20).

Seven, you should not become a church member if you prefer to sit on the sidelines of the church and bury your gifts in the ground for fear of the what the Lord might require of you in terms of ministering to others (1 Pet. 4:10-11).

Eight, you should not become a church member if the tyranny of busyness so controls you that you can’t imagine fitting another thing, no matter how important, into your schedule (Eph. 5:16).

Nine, you should not become a church member if the only world that concerns you is within your own four walls and that obeying a commission to take the gospel to the unreached people groups of the world and/or the folks where you live, work, and play don’t register on the radar screen of your life (Matt. 28:18-20).

Ten, you should not become a church member if you don’t want to belong to the one entity God has ordained to put His glorious plan and purposes on display before all things invisible (Eph. 3:10).

Why Churches Should Require Membership Covenants

Man Signing Contract

Next week, Lord willing, OGC will take in a dozen new members.

Note: for a biblical defense of the concept of church membership click here.

We praise God for the new bunch of folks He has brought into our fellowship. Each of these saints has attended our membership class. They have completed an extensive application and submitted to an interview with two of our officers. They have been approved by the elders in a formal motion at a business meeting and so noted in the minutes. And without exception, each has signed a dated covenant of membership. Copies of that covenant will be made available in the service next Sunday for every member to reaffirm the commitments that come with belonging to a covenant community of believers.

The question I wish to address in this post is why insist on members of a local body signing a membership covenant? Answer? INFORMED CONSENT. What in the world is that? Informed consent is documentary evidence of a church member’s familiarity with the teachings, policies, practices, and requirements of participation in the community and most importantly their agreement freely and willingly to abide therein. Why does that matter? Many reasons, but none more important in our litigious age than in the matter of church discipline.

The reason, among others, that there is a covenant of membership on file in our office with my name and date on it is because I don’t trust my own deceitfully wicked heart (Jer. 17:9). Should I wander off into unrepentant sin, perish the thought, I want my elders and church to come after me with the full force of Matt. 18:15-20, Gal. 6:1-2, and a bunch of other texts aimed right at that heart. Furthermore, I don’t even want to be tempted in the event of such an unfortunate set of circumstances to entertain the idea of suing my church for slander or some such nonsense. Having given my informed consent in the way of a covenant of membership assures that OGC doesn’t have to think twice about even excommunicating me if necessary for fear of an expensive and damaging lawsuit, not to say the havoc such a thing would bring upon the peace and welfare of the church.

Most people I speak with to attempt to persuade them about the importance of church membership rarely even give this aspect of the matter any thought whatsoever. Peacemaker Ministries has done a good job of articulating this and can help to explain:

Church membership is generally viewed by the courts as being a matter of contract, whereby members freely choose to associate with a particular church community and in doing so accept the benefits and duties of that association. The membership process provides an ideal means to obtain informed consent to a church’s policies and practices. Informed consent is easier to prove if you establish membership in a clear and explicit manner.

The article then proceeds to outline four steps to this end:

  1. Membership Class
  2. Membership Interview
  3. Declaration of Membership – public installation and records to that effect
  4. Written Commitment

Here’s how they unpack that all important fourth dimension:

Further evidence of express informed consent may be obtained by requiring new members to sign a written commitment to membership, which includes a specific reference to having received a copy of the Relational Commitments and to being willing to support and submit to them.

The entire article is worth your time and effort. To read it click here.

Have you thought about this as a professing Christian? It matters a lot to your spiritual welfare and that of the church to which you belong that you do think long and hard about it and that you give your informed consent for the glory of God, the welfare of the church, and the good of your soul.

What Kind of Assistant Pastor We Should Want

I finished my Father’s Day message for this year today. I selected Psalm 112 for my text. The writer commands us to praise God for the extraordinary blessing of a man who fears the Lord. I call that kind of man an awestruck man. The man who fears the Lord lives moment-by-moment in a reverent awe of God that shapes everything he does.

As we prepare to interview on Saturday four men from our body for the assistant pastor of administration post opening this summer at OGC, we should concern ourselves with numerous issues related to character and skill, but none more than this one. Paul Tripp, in his book Dangerous Calling, explains:

Awe of God must dominate my ministry, because one of the central missional gifts of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to give people back their awe of God. A human being who is not living in a functional awe of God is a profoundly disadvantaged human being. He is off the rails, trying to propel the train of his life in a meadow, and he may not even know it. The spiritual danger here is that when awe of God is absent, it is quickly replaced by our awe of ourselves. If you are not living for God, the only alternative is to live for yourself. So a central ministry of the church must be to do anything it can to be used of God to turn people back to the one thing for which they were created: to live in a sturdy, joyful, faithful awe of God.

Would you pray for the interviewer team that we ask the right questions and probe the right issues in our time with these men? Pray especially that we get to the bottom of all-important issues like their degree of awestruckness (yes, I made up a word) before the God of the universe. While you are at it, pray this pastor knows something more of the same virtue for the glory of God and the joy of our people.

By the way, how’s your awestruckness quotient these days? Praying it gets bigger and bigger for us all.

State of the Church 2012

I delivered this report at our annual meeting on Sunday night. I wanted to make it today’s blog post in the interest of informing those who could not attend.

Overall, I praise God that I sense before the Lord that the state of Orlando Grace is better than it ever has been for as long as I have served among her leadership in one way or another since January of 2001. I base that on the following considerations.

First, we are at peace and have been so consistently for nearly ten years. Not only that, but our commitment to and proficiency in the biblical practices of peacemaking continue to increase. This is no small matter, particularly in a season when, for going on two years now, we have undertaken the construction of a facility. That we have experienced only a very few bumps along this road in the way of disagreements and, to my knowledge, have resolved those impasses where necessary through conflict coaching and mediation, is a great mercy to a church that wants to reflect the unity in the Godhead by the unity of its people. I plead with us to see this project to the end with a high commitment to preferring others over ourselves and guarding ourselves from trampling one another underfoot as we may zealously campaign for a preference or concern for how something is done or what it looks like.

Second, and this is related to the first consideration, we are a people committed to godliness of behavior, agodliness more and more fueled by the power of the gospel to transform us and not our own legalistic effort. A combination of elements seems to have converged to help us in this regard. My own regard for the importance of the gospel and the need to motivate from the gospel and only the gospel both in my preaching and in pastoral care is something the Lord has drilled into me, sometimes quite painfully, over the last year like never before. The influence of the Acts 29 Network has contributed to that for me personally, and though we still have yet to forge officially a strategic alliance with an association, denomination or network, whether Acts 29 or some other entity, even informal cooperation with these churches serves us well to this gospel end.

In addition to that, curricula like How People Change in our growth groups and other gospel-shaped resources serve to keep us from experiencing more bouts of gospel amnesia than we might otherwise suffer. Our leadership is more focused on the gospel than ever before and I believe we as a people are orienting our lives more thoroughly around the gospel as well. This is huge and must ever remain a principal concern for the wellbeing of our assembly. For this reason and by God’s mercy and His providence, our experience of church discipline has remained confined for quite some time now to only steps one and two of Matthew 18:15-18 and only rarely has even the threat of step 3 – tell it to the church – come into play in the shepherding of our people. In that God is holy, and means for His church to reflect that holiness in the way it conducts itself in the world, this too, I believe makes me a happy pastor and servant in His church, saying much indeed is well.

Third, our march toward building our first-ever church home has resulted in our taking a hard look at areas of weakness and seeking to address them with God’s help. For example, we have tackled our weaknesses in community by multiplying growth groups. We now have more than ever before with nine different groups total, I believe. The Soul Talk curriculum of the fall quarter equipping hour and the Graces of Gospel Shaped Community sermon series last year saw us make strides also in learning better how to love one another. And I watched our people come through heroically in most recent crises in the Mangrich and Willson households where we put our best loving feet forward to those facing crushing need. As the church is meant to mirror the love within the Godhead, this growth in community and love, not the only expressions mind you, but some of them, stands out as a reason for rejoicing.

Another significant way we have improved as we think about opening a building, doubling our space, and likely growing in significant ways, is the overhauling of our Christian Education and nursery/childcare ministries. The addition of the Praise Factory program for children as a gospel-shaped curriculum is enormously important in the way our church comes along side of our families in educating their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. The addition of Katie Fairey to our staff as the coordinator of the nursery ministry, along with Evan her husband’s help and the help of a number of others has led to a far better stewardship of the protection and welfare of our little ones that should make us all sleep better at night knowing that those most vulnerable in our midst have policies and procedures in place to secure their best of care.

Much progress has been made in the realm of discipleship as well. Kudos to the CE evaluation and subcommittee chaired by Will Powell as they have led us into our three year scope and sequence adult equipping hour curriculum overseen by Scott Devor and launched in January of this year. We now possess an identifiable, strategic curriculum for adults that addresses a comprehensive number of classes and emphases that once completed constitute legitimately a body of knowledge, if consistently applied in everyday life, that will contribute to our living more than ever as fully devoted followers of Jesus.

Operation Nehemiah, what we have called the rebuilding of the walls at OGC ever since our last major conflict in the summer of 2012, while largely finished, continues in some strategic ways. Building a facility and having our own church home has always been one of the nine action steps related to that campaign for church wholeness and health. We are drawing so close to completing arguably the most challenging of those steps. We gave last year in hard work to it. We are giving this year in even harder work to it. When concluded, and I remind you we have undertaken the task in a recession economy with nearly everyone pitching in through sacrificial giving so that God gets the glory and not us, we will no longer be an invisible entity in the community but rather possess a visible and permanent presence that will result making ministry in the community more viable in so many tangible ways. And we, the covenant members of OGC, during this season are the ones who have gotten to do this. No one else. It has been our privileged stewardship. No one will regret that reward. Heaven will make amends for every sacrifice.

Of course there remain concerns for the future. We have ministry areas that need leadership. I am pleased to report that there are some women who have been praying about stepping into leadership of an overall women’s ministry at OGC. We hope in this year to form a women’s ministry team. If you have an interest in serving on that team for a year or so, let your elder know. Similarly, we have someone interested in taking point in a local outreach team, a team which has been somewhat dormant due to a lack of leadership other than my own limited time to contribute to it. And this leads to areas of concern related to completion of Operation Nehemiah that lie before us.

  1. Continued growth in a missional commitment as a congregation. Whether that means church-wide and/or group participation in mercy ministry or other strive-for-the-welfare-of-the-city kinds of initiatives, or the commitment of each covenant member to pray for unbelieving people and to engage them in the places where we live, work, and play, or initiative evangelism in public places and from door-to-door for those who thrive in that kind of thing, we need to continue to turn up the heat on the thermostat of our commitment to outreach. Praise God that I hear more and more people asking for prayer for lost people, their sharing their faith with lost people, and making time to build relationships so that there is opportunity to be salt and light and reap souls where God might bring a harvest.
  2. We must solve our staffing issues with the potential of losing three of four support staff in Greg, Evan, and Katie. As you can imagine, this is number one on my list of concerns in a year when the obligations of ministry will likely spike with the opening of our facility that we would lose such valuable servants. That being said, I am trusting God that He has replacements in such a case or volunteers or both, who will come to serve in strategic ways in our church. We will not lack His supply.
  3. We still need to pursue affiliation options and pray for God’s direction in this regard. That being said, I rejoice that between the Spurgeon Fellowship and Acts 29 regional Gospel Cohort, we are not isolated. We have churches to whom we can turn if we have need and to whom we can lend aid if necessary.
  4. In 2013, Lord willing, we need to tackle the first-ever revision of our by-laws. Something to look forward to as God leads.

I am certain a great deal more could be said about the state of OGC. However, concerns notwithstanding, God has been very good to us and we have every reason to trust that He will do nothing but good to us in hard and sweet providences alike in the days ahead.

Praise be to His excellent name.