The biggest thing that has happened since the last letter is that the church has been paid off. When we came out here four years ago there was near $80k on the loan. A little savings and a lot of blessings later we paid it off with a final offering the week of Thanksgiving. It is a wonderful feeling to know that the church is out from under that debt. We don’t plan on acquiring more, but the way that the church has grown in the last four years leaves me wondering how we are going to get everyone inside in the next four.
Joh 15:1-2 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. (2) Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
It is necessary that all churches go through times of purging. From the naked eye of the pastor this seems to be a failure on our part when we see people leave the work. When this happens I find myself looking for a “beam” in my eye so that the Lord will “continue to bless” His work. The above verse shows us that sometimes when people leave us it is the blessing of the Lord and that we don’t have to confess something or look for something we did wrong to get the “blessing of God” back on our ministry. By purging the church brings forth more fruit.
The unfortunate thing about purging is that sometimes you lose people that you see are being used in the work or have potential for future labour. It is like a yard sale where you second guess getting rid of something that isn’t broken and still has potential. The truth for me is that they will probably have more use somewhere else under someone else. Only God knows.
This was the case in the last few months when we saw 25 people leave the church. Some for noble reasons such as elderly parents in another town, some for financial reasons such as a job promotion, and some for necessary reasons such as doctrine. At the same time as having some leave because of their doctrine, we also have had some people join the church. Regardless of whom left, I have them in my heart.
One family scheduled a meeting with me two weeks out. During that time another couple scheduled a meeting to tell me they disagreed with my teaching in Revelation. Two days later the first scheduled meeting took place. (Needless to say I was kind of reeling from the blow of the “Revelation” meeting.) As the meeting took place I couldn’t help but feel that this was just going to be another blow, but come to find out they just wanted to say that they appreciated me a lot and were so thankful to finally find a church that spoke the truth. Seems like God knew I was gonna need that meeting to boost my spirit.
Knock on the Door
During this time that the 25 people left the church I was feeling a great sense of discouragement. I felt like I was watching a car wreck and there was nothing that I could do about it. When you are running 75-80 people in your church each Sunday and then about 1/3 of them leave it can be very disheartening.
I remember praying during this time and telling God that I didn’t come out to this little church to make a name for myself; I came out to bring God glory and if it brought Him glory to take people from this work then so be it. As I heard a preacher say recently, “It doesn’t matter who comes and goes as long as God comes and stays.”
One Sunday morning as I was dragging my feet to get to church, a knock came on the parsonage door. There stood a lady with a racecar jacket on and looking rather helpless as to what to do. After asking her what she needed (because that is what I assumed of her), she said nothing, but that she wanted to know if she could give me her tithe. (With that being said a day or so before I had prayed and asked the Lord to help us get back to a certain amount in the church savings account before the annual financial meeting in February. We had drained 90% of the savings to make a big dent in the remaining loan balance and were just about empty.) I told her of course she could give the church her tithe, to which she produced an envelope with $5,000 in crisp hundreds! Prayer answered! The questions I didn’t ask her, but should have were: 1. Do you make $50,000 a week and 2. Will we see you and your tithe again next week? After inviting her to church, she left and we haven’t seen her since. Seems like God was telling me that no matter how many people leave, He was still gonna see to it that His church was taken care of.
On a side note, we had 70+ in church last Sunday (3/26), with about 10+ out of the services.
1. Prayer for our family as we will be adding a “final” baby girl to even out the troops in the summer. Pretty excited about this. Ps.128 (Side note: by the end of the year our little church will have 5 babies added to the nursery.)
2. Also pray for us as we put on hold looking for a house. With the ebb and flow of the church and prices being 3x what they were in NY, I find it wise to wait until we have a decent down payment to proceed forward. This is a pretty big letdown for both Rose and I, but we both feel that it is the best decision for now.
3. Since the church is growing there is the need for more solid help in certain areas of the church (sound/website/song leading/SS/etc). Whether that comes internally or outwardly, God knows.