The following is the report I submitted for the past year of ministry at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA. It will be included in the annual ministry reports made available to the congregation.
There is a unique strain of bamboo that grows in Malaysia. You plant the seed, fertilize, and water it. During the first year, it does nothing. During the second year, you fertilize and water the seed, and it does nothing. The same occurs during the third and fourth years. During the fifth year, you fertilize and water the plant … and it grows 90 feet in 60 days. It has been known to shoot up 3 feet in a single day.
In many respects, the role of a senior pastor is similar to that of a bamboo farmer. You plant, fertilize, water, pray, and wait for a fruitful harvest. I have tried to follow that pattern and principle through preaching, teaching, leading Bible studies, and conducting membership classes. During the spring, I invested in a group of dads with the Raising a Modern-Day Knight program. In the fall, I started the Men’s Fraternity, introducing men to principles about how to pursue authentic manhood. I’ve tried to communicate vision to the congregation. In January 2015, I began teaching the Sojourners, a Sunday School class for parents of young families. I have returned again and again to train young pastors and emerging leaders in Russia.
This approach to ministry reflects two of my core values. One is depth versus breadth—building deeply into people and letting God determine the breadth of the ministry. The second is bringing all to maturity and many into leadership—helping people take steps towards greater spiritual maturity while at the same time investing more deeply in those who lead.
Let’s give thanks for how God provided financially for FCBC in 2014. In November 2014, I challenged the congregation to pray about our finances. We had a gap of $31,847 between our budget and our giving (11/30/14). God answered prayer and you gave! The gap was closed to $23,938 (12/28/14). We ended fiscal 2014 at 95% of budget. Praise God for his provision! Thank you for your faithful and generous giving!
When you factor in $600K+ set aside in building funds, $130K+ set aside for an associate pastor from the sale of the parsonage, plus an additional gift of $250K which will allow us to add staff for kingdom impact, it’s hard NOT to give thanks for what God is doing in our midst. We have much to be thankful for about our financial health.
Many people today adopt a scarcity mentality. They feel that there is only so much money, time, people, resources, etc., to go around. We should avoid taking unnecessary risks because once it’s gone, it’s gone.
In contrast, I believe Scripture calls us to adopt an abundance mentality.
Ephesians 3:20–21 – “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
God can do more in a flash than we can even dream. Consequently, we should take greater steps of faith, pray more radical, stretching prayers, and believe that the same God who moved in the book of Acts is still alive and at work today.
I believe we are experiencing an Acts 13 moment where God has placed his hand on Chris Ames, Dave Krok, Jack Gilbert, and Robin Dolbow, and asked us to set them aside for ministry. We have the unique opportunity to invest in our own people and train them for more effective and fruitful ministry. I am excited about what God is going to do in their lives and how he will use them to help expand our outreach and ministry.
During the membership class, I teach about the core value of an every member ministry. I explain that your ministry is as or more important than my ministry. Caring ministry conducted by a small group leader is just as valuable as that done by a pastor. A hospital visit made by a Sunday School teacher is just as encouraging as one done by an elder or a deacon. The gospel shared by a neighbor over coffee is just as powerful as when it is preached from the pulpit.
Each one of us has received at least one spiritual gift. We are to use our gifts in ministry to help build up the body of Christ at FCBC.
Ephesians 4:16 – “… from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
In November 2014, I encouraged the congregation to pray for six specific requests. I encourage us to continue praying for these items during 2015. Please pray that God will …
- provide for our financial needs and grant us the joy of giving
- give us a passion for the lost; a passion for evangelism and discipleship
- move every attender to become fully engaged and serving in ministry
- cause us to be willing to change and adapt
- multiply our ministry so we become fruitful and effective
- bring revival and renewal at First Central
Thanks for being part of the body at First Central. I believe God has great things in store for us in 2015.