“More or Less”
A pastor’s annual report reminds me of those annual state of the union addresses in DC.
Blah. Blah. Blah.
Can you define euphemistic?
When I write my annual report, I think about my book sales.
I’ve written 6 non-best-sellers with a 7th never even published and I’m running about a trillion to one in sales behind the toothy guy with Euro-Sheen from Texas.
So I don’t expect anybody to read my annual reports because of my reputation for writing less than compellingly; besides, like my books, I’d know if anybody actually read what I wrote because…
If I have to explain that to you, you’ve never read any of my books.
Nobody else has read ‘em either.
Annnnnnd don’t kid yourself.
I don’t know many that are going to read yours; or as a friend once said to me in writing his, “I’m just going to use last year’s annual report and see if anybody notices.”
Paper airplanes, anyone?
If you think that’s cynical, uh, you’re right.
Cynicism born of empiricism.
Anyway, here goes.
In no special order, here are some rambling reflections and inspirations/indigestions – You decide! – on/from life and ministry on the Corner of Lincoln and Main in Belvidere, Illinois within the context of, as James Brown used to sing, “Living in America, I Feel…Good…Bad…Whatever.”
2021 kinda reminded me of 2020. We lost two elders and some others because I refused to be anybody’s nanny and suggest deportmental mandates based on the CCPC19 that is unprecedented, fluid, and incrementally unfolding with diametrically opposed “experts” on its magnitude and duration. In other words, nobody knows what the anything but heaven is going on and I have never pretended that I do…though some people keep pretending that they do when everybody knows they don’t.
Now that I’m only running behind Dr. Turner in tenure and should pass him if the roll isn’t called up yonder before then, I can say worship is more authentic and faithful over the past two years than the previous…
We have so many new family members – I mean real-deal-Jesus-loving-and-Bible-believing people – that reinforced the faithful remnant that worship is much, much, much more intense, intentional, and together with less dissonance because the plastois (a transliteration from Greek worth looking up) are gone and our praise and thanks and proclamation and prayer are punctuated by an increasing passion for soul-winning, nurture, and Matthew 25 missions (existential and eschatological).
Because our worship, life, and ministry together are so much better than ever because of our pruned and reinforced membership, I have often confessed to feeling badly about not feeling badly about people that left since the CCPC19 because the people that came have made things so much better.
Just as I continue to pray our Lord’s comforts and consolations for everybody that suffered over the past two years, I know our Lord has used the past two years in a Romans 8:28 kinda way on the Corner of Lincoln and Main.
Certainly, I “wish” we never had to go through the past few years generated by the hyperbole, hysteria, and histrionics of a manufactured virus used as a tool of fear to manipulate and intimidate to control and move from a republic to a socialist slave state; yet I am so thankful for what He is doing on the Corner of Lincoln and Main in sprinkling salt and generating light to leavenate and heavenate.
So I feel badly about not feeling badly about our addition by subtraction.
With enthusiasm for worship and even attendance increasing slowly, steadily, and solidly, we have four very strong adult Sunday School classes with another one about to be added and two uncommonly well-attended Bible studies on Tuesday mornings with our Senior Pastor Peder Carlson and Tuesday evenings with Leslie Kopp.
Though our Midweek programs for youth should grow with persistence and patience and an extraordinarily caring and competent staff and team increasingly augmented by the new families that are trickling in, we are praying for more children so we can keep our baptismal promises.
Our local (Compassion Closet) and global (Build a Dream in Mexico) missions continue to love Jesus by loving like Jesus with grace, mercy, and forgiveness wrapped in agape.
As we like to say on the Corner of Lincoln and Main, we’re a lot more into saving souls and feeding bodies than pushing paper and fueling bloated bureaucracies.
If you haven’t watched Alabama sophomore QB Bryce Young’s acceptance speech in winning the 2021 Heisman Trophy as America’s most outstanding football player on 12/11/21, Google or YouTube it.
What he says says so much about what we are experiencing together.
Here’s an excerpt: “First and foremost, I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Without Him, I couldn’t be here. Through Him, all things are possible…I’d like to thank my dad…my mom for always having my back…[keeping baptismal promises]…my family…my teammates…for protecting me and allowing me to win an award like this.”
Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 come to mind.
It’s happening in confessional, repentant, and, ergo, faithful churches like ours
Thom S. Rainer’s recently released The Post-Quarantine Church: Challenges and Opportunities That Will Determine the Future of Your Congregation offers this compelling counsel for all churches that claim to love Jesus: “The pandemic was a wake-up call like none other. The post-quarantine era is an opportunity to make the necessary positive changes to move our churches forward…Our churches had busied themselves trying to do too many things that were not essential to the core mission of the congregation…Focus on those areas that are primary to the church’s mission and eliminate everything else…Focus and eliminate…Healthy churches in the post-quarantine era will be focused churches. They will do few things well!”
I especially like Rainer’s guiding principles for churches: “Here is what is not changing in the post-quarantine church…The Bible is still the Word of God…Christ is still the only way to salvation. Prayer is still vital. Evangelism is still a mandate.”
Again, our foci are worship, soul-winning, nurture, and Matthew 25 missions (existential and eschatological).
The really good news on the Corner of Lincoln and Main is Jesus not Caesar is Lord and Savior.
He is our foundation, focus, and filter for all we say and do.
We are praying and trying to build on the best of our past for a better future and we are abandoning the idolatries of longing for the way things never were or maybe were but are no more.
We are looking to the future rather than our behind(s).
It’s a Philippians 3:12ff thing for us.
Look it up.
Look Him up.
Lock heads, hearts, and guts together in/through/for Him.
Churches that are more about Jesus and less about anyone/anything else live happily ever after.
That’s our highest goal, greatest ambition, and most fervent prayer.
More, more, more about Jesus!
Less, less, less about those idolatries that distract us from the allegiance and affection due Him alone.
If you want to stand strong, stand with Jesus!