The new year (of 2018) has gotten off to such a quick start that we have not had time to stop and really give thanks to God for last year (2017).
In short, God has blessed First Church abundantly… abundantly in the last year! Let us praise God for these realities!
In the months to come, I will be sharing more specifics from each of our primary ministry areas so that you can be aware of what God is doing in those areas and to also ask for your prayers for our staff serving in those areas.
But today I wanted to give you just a few highlights from 2017 so that we might praise God for what God has done and prepare for what is ahead.
We welcomed 49 new folks into full discipleship through membership
We launched the 4 Steps of “A Disciple’s Journey” designed to help every disciple of First Church take their next deeper step in discipleship
We officially partnered with IJM (International Justice Mission) in line with our emphasis on social concern as part of our vision of transformation in Christ
We saw significant growth in our youth ministry
We continue to see expansion of our Acts Network with new groups launched as well as the start of our first worshipping community in the Acts Network
We welcomed some wonderful new staff including Katie Stepnowski (Director of Tech ministry), Jake Bair (CLC service and worship leader), and Erin Mowry (Office manager).
We officially approved our third college student in three years to pursue pastoral ministry
We experienced for the first time in many years giving that left us in the black at the end of the year instead of the red
We saw the CLC debt paid off in its entirety (you will hear more about this in weeks to come)
We ended the year worshipping about 842 folks per week (which is significantly larger than any other church in our Susquehanna United Methodist Conference)
I cannot thank you enough for your willingness to partner with God. But let us make no mistake about it… these good things are a result of God’s grace. To God be the glory!
Now, as much as there is to celebrate, I need to ask for your willingness to continue to walk in faith and to ask ourselves, “What’s next?” Because here is our reality: What has carried us to this point, will NOT be what carries us into the future. The reality is that we are perfectly designed to achieve what we are currently achieving. But if we want to see 1000 or 1500 people reached for Christ each week in worship, or 200 folks joining in full discipleship/membership, or 10 Acts Network groups becoming worshipping communities, or 100 youth confirmed each year, or 20 college students in our ministry internships, or help thousands of folks freed from slavery or hunger each year, then it will require us to continue to shift and adapt how we do things.
We will need people increasingly sold out for Christ… folks increasingly willing to experiment (knowing not everything we try will always work—we must learn to “fail forward”)… increased generosity… increased nimbleness… new structures… more passion… more faith… a missionary mindset… and an increased realization that we are here for those not yet here.
Easier said than done I realize. But my hope is that as we are seeking to move in this direction you are already seeing how God is moving and you are inspired to keep following wherever Christ may lead for the glory of Christ alone!
I could not be more excited about our days ahead. My own passion is white hot for our vision of “Transformation in Christ, Changing Lives Inside and Out…” and for the opportunity to live out this vision with you.
May God’s faithfulness in the past spur us on to faithfulness in the future.