Every year, the President of the United States gives a “State of the Union” address. This speech is usually designed to look back on the past year and to look ahead toward the opportunities in the future. Today, I’d like for us to think about the “State of the Church” – specifically, the state of Mt. Haley Church of God.
Looking back on the past year in the life of this church, I see many high points. We celebrated six baptisms on Easter Sunday. We remodeled our youth room and have seen it begin to fill up on Sunday evenings with teenagers searching for God. We have branched out with a weekly meeting for our sixth-grade youth, which has been very profitable and consistent. We saw two adult discipleship groups spring up, a men’s and a women’s group, which met specific spiritual and relational needs for their members. We worked with several local ministry organizations, such as the Mid-Michigan Teen Challenge and the Pregnancy Resource Center. We held monthly men’s breakfasts for consistently strong groups of men from our community. We learned about our spiritual giftedness and began thinking about how to put those gifts to use in creative ways.
Early in 2012, we asked the Lord for a reprieve from a series of deaths among our elderly members, and he saw fit to give us emotional rest for most of the year. We channeled our energy toward positive improvements and ministry activities including our sound system upgrade, our upcoming Guatemala mission trip, and our sponsorship of a delegate to attend this June’s Global Gathering in Anderson.
We engaged in a fourteen-week study of the Book of Revelation on Sunday evenings. A strong, consistent group of disciples came week after week to learn about this most confusing and challenging book of the Bible and about how the Church of God has interpreted it in the past century. We were unafraid to ask difficult questions about scripture and our identity as people of God. We found encouragement and challenge as we studied this book together.
All these and more are blessings from the Lord, reasons for us to celebrate his grace and give thanks for his guidance. What, then, are the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead? (These, by the way, can serve as areas of prayer for the coming year.)
We have seen new faces in our Sunday morning worship services, and for this we give thanks to God. Yet our average attendance in 2012 was exactly the same as in 2011. Real growth (numeric and spiritual) and consistent corporate worship are growing edges for us.
Our church council is in a prolonged state of transition. Presently, we are searching for leaders to fill two specific leadership roles in the church. This is an ongoing need for us, because the leadership of the congregation helps to set the tone for the congregation as a whole.
Our children’s ministry has relaxed in the past several months for many good reasons. As we move ahead, this is one area that will need our collective attention: how shall we minister to children? (Hint: an effective way to attract adults to the church is to provide excellent ministries for their children.)
Our community and global outreach is continuing to shift and grow. How can we become more aware of our neighbors and their needs? How best can we meet the needs of people in our neighborhood so that the love of Christ shines through in all we do? How can we make an impact for the kingdom of God in the world at large?
Our personal and corporate walks with the Lord must continue to move ahead. We are called to grow in Christlikeness so that worship of God becomes something automatic for us: not just Sunday morning attendance but an everyday kind of Christian faith.
My vision for Mt. Haley in 2013 is that we would become a people actively committed to our twofold mission, which is to grow in discipleship and to reach out to our world in the love of Christ. Programs and people may come and go, but the goal remains the same: to glorify God through our partnership together. May God be blessed by our efforts in this new year!
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV)