Each January, I write an annual report for our ministry at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA. It combines looking back on what we accomplished in the previous year as well as looking forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead. Below is this year’s edition.
Over the past weeks, I have been impressed by two facts. One is that God is on the move and doing great things here at First Central. The second is that we are in a spiritual battle facing an enemy that wants to thwart God’s plan.
I’m encouraged by where I see God at work. Over the past year, we have seen people come to faith in Christ. We have baptized new believers who took steps of obedience. We have added several new members to our fellowship. We have seen people grow in their knowledge of Scripture and their commitment to Jesus Christ. New people have stepped into roles of serving. Our Sunday School classes, small group Bible studies, women’s ministries, and Men’s Fraternity play a significant role in the process of helping people connect and grow.
We have blessed the community through our Tutoring Ministry, Trunk ‘R Treat, Lord’s Pantry, Clothing Closet, and service projects at the Senior Center. These provide hands-on, practical ways to introduce people to the church through needs-meeting ministries. We have touched many lives as a result.
We have invested in training and equipping future ministers. Using a special gift, we added Chris Ames and Jack Gilbert as interns, brought on Robin Dolbow to lead our Children’s Ministries, and helped Dave Krok in his pursuit of biblical education. It’s a privilege to see them learn and grow in their knowledge and ministry skills.
Our commitment to missions continues to deepen. We have gotten to know our missionaries better through our What in the World? luncheons. We sent a work team to Echoing Hills last spring. In 2016, we will send two teams—one to do work projects at Pinebrook Camp in the spring and a second team to do evangelism in Ghana in late summer. I continue to help train pastors and leaders in Russia as well.
You responded well to the sermon series on Generosity. Our giving increased as you became more faithful and generous. While we did not close the gap completely in our deficit, we ended the year much stronger than we were in the fall.
All of these things and more encourage me that God is at work in our midst. At the same time, I am sobered by the reality that we face an enemy who wants to derail us and thwart God’s plans.
I am more and more convinced that we are in a spiritual battle for the minds and hearts of men and women. There are those in our community and our church who struggle with fear, worry, grief, and addictions. Some are reluctant to commit wholeheartedly to follow Jesus. Some are afraid and want to avoid risks. Some have failed and are afraid to start anew. We are surrounded by needy, hurting people who need to know they can experience freedom in Jesus Christ.
The more we attempt for God’s kingdom, the bigger a target the enemy paints on our backs. Rather than retreat and play it safe, however, we need to step out in faith and take even greater risks for God. To do that, we need much more than our own strength, wisdom, and resources. We need fervent prayer, complete dependence, wholehearted commitment, and deep reliance on God’s Spirit.
It will be exciting to see what God does in and through us in 2016.