I am a happy man. After six months as pastor of this great church, my heart is full of thanks to you and to God, and full of hope for 1981. God reigns over the world and no one can frustrate His designs. This is His design for me and you in 1981: "I will not turn away from doing good to them... I will rejoice in doing them good... with all my heart and with all my soul" (Jer. 32:40f). God's greatest pleasure comes from doing good to sinners who trust His sovereign grace. Therefore, I will not doubt His goodness to me, even if 1981 bring "tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness or sword." In all these things we are "more than conquerors"!
If I were reading an annual report I think I would like to be told how a pastor spends his time. So here's a little sketch. First of all I try to spend about an hour in the morning in prayer and meditation simply for the sake of my own faith. I do not generally wake up happy. I must go to the Word and to prayer to find the joy of the Lord which is my strength for the day. Then I try to plan the day quickly and order my priorities so that what's most important gets done. The remainder of my mornings I generally spend in Sunday service and sermon preparation. In addition all day Friday and all day Saturday are spent on the two Sunday sermons. It takes about 15 hours to write a sermon if I am already familiar with the Biblical text and have studied it before. So about 30 hours of my week goes into sermon preparation when I preach twice on Sunday.
In the past 6 months I spent most of my Tuesday afternoons with David Carlson visiting older members of our congregation who cannot generally come to the church. Every Tuesday at noon we have a church staff luncheon where we discuss our ministries, look into the Word and pray together. Every other week I meet with the interns for 1 1/2 hours of consultation, Bible study and prayer. There are also meetings with 3 other seminarians doing field work at Bethlehem. Monday and Wednesday afternoons (or when needed) I meet people in my office for counseling and try to take care of all sorts of time consuming administrative tasks (like writing annual reports). I have visited hospitalized members 2 or 3 times a week but have not done any regular home visitation (except for the elderly). I take Thursday as my day off and try to relax with Noël and a good book.
There have been 10 funerals for our members in which I have taken part. A funeral generally takes about 8 hours, counting arrangements, preparation of the homily and performance of the ceremony. I have performed 3 weddings (Provo, Shelley, Kassa). With rehearsals, dinners, receptions and preparation these generally take more time than a funeral. In addition I meet with each couple about four times for premarital counselling.
Every other month we have had the A.S.K. Class at our home for four consecutive Sundays from 4:00 to 5:30. I lead these myself in order to get to know the new people as they come in. Then there are the monthly Trustee meetings and the Deacons' meetings to which I go and generally bring reports. Of the numerous ministerial associations (ecumenical, evangelical and B.G.C.) that meet regularly I have only made time to go to the B.G.C. south area pastors' group.
In addition to these things there are the emergencies that arise when counsel or comfort is needed any time of day or night. And there are the infrequent tasks of searching for staff (like finding Glenn Ogren and a new Junior High intern, Greg Heinsch), and having 3 open houses in December (about 350 visitors), and taking 4 days away from my family alone just to pray and plan for 1981.
These are some of the things I have found myself doing as your pastor. How much of it has been wheel spinning and how much will bear eternal fruite I leave for God to judge. I know everything I have done needs improvement. And, God willing, will be improved.
I appreciate your patience with me in the beginning of my ministry here. I love you all in the Lord and want above all to live
"for the advancement and joy of your faith",