Life at First Baptist is splendid and exciting! Our church is full of news of babies being born, new people joining the church, our small groups are thriving, people being baptized, the homeless being fed, schools being blessed, volunteers stepping forward to serve in numerous ways (our fall quarter volunteer summit is on September 20th) and we are looking ahead to the all church potluck out at Salt Creek on September 11th.
It is so much fun to be part of this church in this season of her life. We are experiencing a rebirth of our congregation. Praise God for this joy He is bestowing upon us. And as I reflect on this joy, I want to also remember from whence we came.
It is, I think, fitting to ask the question: how did we get here? How did this happen? Certainly it wasn’t some overnight happening. We didn’t open our doors one day and suddenly a bunch of new people walked in and said – hey, we want to make First Baptist our home church.
Rather, this rebirth came because God had a vision for our church and He shared that vision with the people who already called this church home.
Of course, it is always possible for a people to say, “no thank-you” to God’s vision. There are many, many churches whose doors are shut and windows are shuttered because they exercised the option to say, ‘no’ to God’s vision. There was always a real possibility that our church could have refused God’s direction. In fact, that possibility remains even still. Our following of God’s way is always an invitation for us to join Him in what He is doing. He never forces His way upon us.
So it is with a happy heart we celebrate that the good people of our congregation accepted, and continue to accept, God’s invitation to join him in the pursuit of His vision for us. Specifically that we would reach the younger people of Port Angeles with the hope of the Gospel of Christ. Ultimately we found a mission statement that reflected this vision, that we are “leading people in an ever changing culture to the hope of Jesus”. But while the exact verbiage was a long time in coming, the idea was always clear.
It was back in November of 2006 when the church evaluated whether or not I was the pastor God desired to place behind the pulpit at this church. On a Sunday evening there was an opportunity for everyone to hear me preach and a time for questions with the potential pastor over a thanksgiving style meal. The pressing question was – can we draw in younger people? (I am convinced that part of the reason the church voted to roll the dice with trusting the pastorate of the church to a 30 year old was the hope that a whippersnapper might draw in other whippersnappers).
The reason this is important is it shows that the vision for this church to reach the young families of our community originated long before your current pastor was brought on board. In fact. it was that this God given vision was already established which gave the church the courage to take a risk on someone new and inexperienced.
Of course, following God’s vision is rarely a straight and easy road. It involves purposeful listening and prayer, it involves clear discussion, and it involves sacrificial living where we see the God’s mission as more important than our interests. It is holy and sacred and supernatural. And, of course, the very idea behind something being “super” natural is it is not merely natural. What comes naturally is pursuit of our own self-interest. What comes naturally is a desire to keep things the same. What come naturally is a desire for others to conform to us.
The super-natural way of God however drove this church in new and sometimes uncomfortable directions. More than just bringing on board that whippersnapper of a pastor. To list just a few of the changes our church has brought about we have:
1. Established a 9am contemporary worship service. It was held in the youth room because there were so few people attending holding it in a smaller venue than the sanctuary seemed wise.
2. Hired a new staff member we couldn’t afford to minister to the youth of Port Angeles. Following God’s vision means taking risk.
3. We brought in experts from the region office to help give an assessment of our church and by way of a deep study of our church they provided several prescriptions.
A. Change our church governance model from a diaconate board of 15 members to an elder board of 5 members.
B. Set up a mentoring relationship between the whippersnapper pastor and a more seasoned minister. The mentor we found was Rev. Paul Burnham, one of the men who helped with the assessment. A fun aspect of this is it meant that our church now had a young pastor named Timothy being mentored by a more experience minister named Paul. One can’t get more biblical than that, eh?
C. Get rolling on small groups! The small group model we are following, “Activate”, is the one recommended to us by the mentor we chose.
D. Establish a clear mission statement and vision for the church.
E. End both the contemporary service at 9:00 and the blended service at 11:00am. Instead start a truly traditional service at 9:30am and a contemporary service at 11:00am.
The church voted on these 5 recommendations and by an overwhelming majority, they were accepted. And believe it or not – this all happened in 2011 – five years ago. It is amazing how quickly time passes by. Of course, not all of the changes have come swiftly or easily. Indeed, we are still learning to incorporate and live with some of the changes – such as lowering the number of all church business meetings from quarterly to annually, unless otherwise needed.
Nor are we done moving in new directions as we continue to follow our God given mission to “Lead People In An Ever-Changing Culture To The Hope of Jesus”. But the joy and encouragement as we move forward is that by God’s grace, what we are doing is working.
When we brought in the “assessment team” one thing they had us do was a self-study. One of the interesting questions we answered was to look at when our current membership of the church had joined. This is the chart we filled out:
If we were to fill out that form today, the number of people who have joined the church since we accepted the recommendations from the assessment team has more than doubled. There are now over 70 people who have started to call our church home since 2007. *A major thank-you to Church Family and the Historical Committee for keeping such great records of these things!
Of course church health isn’t just about numerical growth, but if we are effectively sharing the Gospel message then numerical growth is a necessary byproduct of our faithful proclamation of Jesus’ love. We may not (yet) be experiencing the explosive growth of the early church, but so long as we continue to follow the vision with which God has blessed our congregation we will continue to see new people “added to our number”.
And to this goal, there will be a special “Pie with the Pastor” luncheon following the 2nd service on September 18th for any of our new comers who would like to learn more about what it means to become a member of the church. Please pass word to those new folks you see attending our services.
Blessings, Pastor Tim
38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name ofJesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” 40 Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” 41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.
~ Acts 2:38-41 ~