A few weeks ago, Jack Green asked me where I thought the church would be in two years. It was an interesting question. One which I am asked in one way or another fairly regularly. It is also a question that deserves a thoughtful response.
The truth is that I don’t know where the church will be in two years. On July 14, 2019 I stood before you as a pastoral candidate and laid out the truth about what lay ahead for us, should we choose to embark upon this journey of church revitalization. I said that our situation would likely get worse before it got better. And that was without any knowledge of Covid!
As I look back over the past two years, I am encouraged. And I hope you are, too. No, we haven’t seen net growth. We haven’t baptized anyone. We haven’t reached any young families. Not yet. But here’s what we have seen. In spite of the expected challenges of revitalization and the unexpected challenges of Covid, God has brought new members and regular attenders to our church family. We have become more diverse.
If you had asked me back in 2019 where I thought we would be in 2021, I would have painted a pretty bleak picture. I would have forecasted our attendance numbers to be about where they are now. But I wouldn’t have accounted for those who remain connected via our online presence. When you add those two groups together, we have experienced growth.
I would have also forecasted a sharp decline in our financial stability. The Financial Plan for Ministry that the church approved last Fall for 2021 budgeted for a $100,000 deficit. You read that correctly. We went into this year expecting to use as much as $100,000 from our reserves. But at the end of the third quarter, we had only used $13,000 from our reserves! As one of my seminary professors used to say, “There’s an ancient Greek word for that, WOW!” Our income is up compared to last year, and during the third quarter we exceeded our quarterly giving goals for the first time in more than a decade.
I don’t know where we will be in two years. But I know that God has positioned us, at this very moment, for a purpose. Like Esther in the Old Testament, he has brought us to northeast Birmingham for such a time as this (Esther 4:12-17). Esther risked everything, including her own life, to save the Hebrew people. She risked everything to fulfill God’s plan to deliver the Jews.
Yes, I believe that God has brought us to this place for such a time as this. And it is His good pleasure to use us to make Jesus known in northeast Birmingham. But it’s going to involve risk. We can not play it safe. We’ve got to be willing to leverage everything we have for the sake of the gospel.
The budget that was presented to the church at our Family Meeting in October is a bold step forward. As was the case last year, it will likely involve the use of reserves. But it also leads us to accomplish our mission:
We will be a family of churches who are sending transformed people to make Jesus known across the street and around the world.
It leads us to fulfill our vision:
We desire to be a neighborhood church for northeast Birmingham.
And it provides the financial resources to fuel our strategy:
Gather > Grow > Go >
I don’t know where we will be in two years. But God does. So, let’s stay focused on Him. Committed to living out our mission. Committed to making our vision a reality. And committed to following our strategy.