Reflecting on Year One

uhalNext week will mark one year of service for me as pastor of Main Street. On the Sunday I was installed as pastor, I told our people: “I never want to move again!” Kernersville was our fourth move in six years, so by the time our family unpacked yet another U-Haul, we could not bear the thought of doing it again. For that—and other reasons—my aim from day one was to serve and lead with a view toward the future, with the prayerful hope that God would graciously allow me a long tenure at Main Street that would result in much gospel fruit abounding to his glory. One year later, my prayers and desires for the future remain unchanged!

As I reflect on the past year, I am grateful for all that God has allowed us to accomplish. It’s been a busy year, and, from my perspective, we haven’t been busy for the sake of being busy! Every accomplishment of the past year has been designed to lay a solid foundation for the future; preparing Main Street to be a viable gospel-witness in the heart of Kernersville for generations to come.

Below are some of the highlights of the past year:

  • Instituted Membership Class: To my knowledge, Main Street never had a membership class before. The membership class not only introduces prospective members to who we are, it also encourages people to join. This class has paid dividends—we have welcomed 16 new members into our fellowship since September.
  • New Website: In the twenty-first century, the first door most people “walk through” is the website. Understanding this principle, it was critical that we update our website. Although our present website may not be the hippest, it is at least functional, easier on the eyes, and more user friendly compared to the previous site!
  • Rebranded: Along with a new web design came a new logo, which reflects my desire that we will be a church that “Exalts Christ” in all we do.
  • Transitioned to One Service: When I arrived at Main Street I soon discovered that I was the pastor—in effect—of two churches; one worshiped during our “contemporary” service; the other during our “traditional” service. For several reasons, both theological and practical, I realized immediately the importance of transitioning to one blended service. Though it took much time and planning, we made the transition in March with relative ease.
  • Staff Changes: In June, we transitioned our former Youth Director to a new position: Director of Missions, Outreach, and Discipleship. This move was born out of a deep desire to transform Main Street into a church that is faithful to live on mission to the glory of God.
  • Baptisms: We baptized eight new believers in Jesus Christ this year. Six of the eight are somewhat unique in Baptist life: adults who were never baptized as children. The other two were children.

I am grateful to God for how he has moved at Main Street in the past year. I’m also grateful to the members of Main Street who have embraced much change. They are to be commended. The above could never have happened without their support.

Going forward, much work remains undone and many challenges lie ahead. But I am convinced as much today, as I was twelve months ago, that Main Street’s best days are ahead of us, and not behind. If we remain faithful to the task God has given us, I have no doubt that he will continue to bless us in the months and years ahead.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Matthew 28:19

 

 

 

Returning to Missions

Landscape

As I stood to preach from Mark 6:7-13 a couple weeks ago, I shared with our church family some sobering statistics concerning the health of the church in the United States.

Consider the following from LifeWay Research:

  • Over the next seven years, 55,000 churches will close their doors.
  • Only 20 percent of churches in the United States are growing.
  • Only 1 percent are growing by making disciples of Jesus Christ.

No matter how you slice it, the church in the United States is losing ground. It’s easy to cast blame on the broader culture, but if the church is to reverse these trends it must first examine itself.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Generations of Christians have assumed that if they remained faithful to come to church, give their tithes and offerings, sit under faithful gospel-preaching, etc., the church could never fail. After all, Jesus said so right there in Matthew 16! The above statistics prove otherwise. Many of those 55,000 churches have been faithful to preach and teach the gospel within the walls of the church edifice. So why are so many “faithful” churches failing?

It could be that we have misunderstood the imagery of Matthew 16. When Jesus speaks of a “gate,” he is drawing imagery from the ancient world, in which city gates were the most strategic defensive weapons of a city. City gates were designed to keep invading armies out, and to keep the people inside secure. When Jesus says, “the gates of hell shall not prevail,” he is suggesting the church is like an army on the offensive, and its primary mission is overrunning the kingdom of hell.

This reminds us of an important principle of mission: our mission lies far beyond the walls of our church buildings. We can’t set the captives of hell free by playing it safe in our own sanctuaries. We must invade enemy territory to transfer people from the domain of Satan into the kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13). When the church lives for this purpose nothing can stop it, not even the gates of hell.

We see the seeds of this principle in Mark 6:7-13, where Jesus sends his disciples out on their first mission endeavor. He’s trained them and equipped them, and now they are ready to invade enemy territory. As the disciples went, Jesus “authorized” their mission. Note specifically that he gave them authority to exorcise demons—to overrun the gates of hell (Mark 6:7)! He also instructed them to go with the bare necessitates, trusting God to provide. In the same way, Jesus has authorized us to “go” (Matt. 28:18-19). As we are faithful to go, I believe we can trust God to provide all we need.

One of my goals for Main Street is that we would be obedient to “go” beyond the walls of our church. I am pleased to see the church respond well, as just this week we made an important staff change to implement a renewed missions emphasis. Daniel McNeil, our previous youth director, has agreed to transition to Director of Missions, Outreach, and Discipleship. I am looking forward to working with Daniel as we begin to form a strategic focus on missions for Main Street. Please pray for us as we seek to go. Pray that our people would be eager to go. Pray that we will trust God to provide our needs. Pray most of all that the result would be an abundance of gospel fruit, leading to the glory and praise of our wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ.