Churches are tragically notorious for having member meetings that look like WWE events. Loud bombastic fighters who show up just to stir up the crowd and cause trouble, lemming-like supporters that cheer on their favorite ringleader, a helpless pastor stuck in the middle trying to play referee. Unfortunately that’s the norm for lots of churches. And so when I come out of a church meeting where there’s abundant unity, generous encouragement, hopeful excitement, humble love, and joyful laughter – I’m amazed.
By God’s grace, and to His credit alone, our Core Group meetings feel more like a meal with good friends than a cut-throat business meeting. I know we’ll have difficult decisions and harder days down the road, but these early days are sweet and I’m loving them. We had another great Core Group meeting on Tuesday of this week. Here’s a quick recap:
Finances: Thank God for our finance team. Dennis presents financial reports to our small church with the same level of detail and excellence as if we were the chief executives of Comcast. God has gifted us with them and we are blessed for it! We have some major things to celebrate. For one, we’ve moved towards financial self-sufficiency. We no longer have any formal outside support coming in. As of September 2011, the training wheels have come off and we’re left to either peddle or crash. Now we’ve got some serious peddling to do, but for being just two years old as a church – this is a huge step of maturity. One of the things that’s enabled this to happen is that our people are maturing in giving as well. We entered 2011 asking our people to give 25% better than they did in 2010. Needless to say, it was an aggressive budget. Yet by God’s grace, our people responded by giving 44% better! Now we have plenty to grow and places we can do better for sure. But overall, even with a major renovation project, we ended the year even better than we had hoped. Furthermore, God moved us to respond to His generosity to us as a church by being generous; giving away about 18% of our local giving to church planting and mercy ministries. Praise the Lord for His provision and His grace! And to Him be the glory alone.
Elder Track: Another reason to celebrate is that we are ready to launch our first Elder Track. The Scriptures tell us that God desires for each local church to be led by a team of called, qualified, gifted men. These men are to live exemplary lives and lead the church as undershepherds to Jesus. As we head in that direction, we’ve got four men who sense a call to pastoral ministry. Siby Varghese, Binu Abraham, Dennis Mathew, and Joe Thottukadavil each shared on their own sense of calling, their love for Seven Mile Road, and their eagerness to jump into the Elder Track. The Track is a process by which we’ll take the next year to walk with each Elder Track Candidate, examine their life, explore their character, investigate their readiness, and seek the Lord about whether or not He is calling them to pastoral ministry at Seven Mile Road. So be prayerful. Ask the Lord to bless these men and their families, and ask Him for wisdom and discernment as we seek to follow His leading for the good of these men and our church.
Mission: Finally, we celebrated the various ways in which God has us participating in His mission. In February, we’ll be sending a team of doctors, nurses, and IT professionals to Bombay for two weeks. This team will help Bombay Teen Challenge run a medical clinic in the heart of the Red Light District. And as exciting as this is, we also swapped stories about what God is doing among us locally right here in Philadelphia. It seems that God has us on the brink of a new season where our people are learning what it means to be missionaries not only across the globe, but across the street. Pray that the Lord would save people and use us to that end.
Father, thank You for what You are doing in us and through us. Let the glory be Yours alone. Mature us where we are immature. Forgive us where we are sinful. Keep us united in Christ. Keep division, gossip, slander, malice, bitterness, factions, and fractions, far away from us. Help us to be one as You are One and by our love for one another, let the world know that we are Your disciples.