Only Look Back for the Sake of the Future
As I write this report (January 15, 1984) I can hardly bring myself to look back. I feel like a jockey on a great thoroughbred just before the gate opens. Every year my anticipation builds of what God will yet do through our church.
- Just this afternoon Noël and I hosted an A.S.K. class of 32 prospective members—the biggest class in three years.
- Morning worship services averages 584 in 1983, up 7% from 1982 Evening services averaged 203, up 16% from 1982, and Sunday School averaged 479, up 12% from 1982.
- Staff changes all point to a powerful future: Dean Palermo in music and worship and Steve Roy as an interim in outreach and pastoral care. What a great privilege to have men of this caliber! The addition of Roger Fast as Business Manager will relieve me of burdens, make us more effiicient, refine our planning and clarify our financial procedures. What a gift to BBC Roger is! Sue Robinson-Murach is now working part-time as Carol Steinbach's assistant, and Albert Von Haden is the new assistant for Neil Grover. 1984 should bring one more staff person. I am eager to dig in and dream and plan and work for you all with a complete staff! Hasten the day!
- The removal of our old house last summer and the purchase planned removal of the white house next door will add needed parking, make us very visible from 8th Street and open the way for expansion if the feasibility study points in the direction. What pleasure to have Cavour Justus leading a dynamic task force for site development!
- God has touched us with a new burden for missions at BBC. Tom Steller is looking toward new responsibilities in missions mobilization of Bethlehem and will probably take a team to the U.S. Center for World Mission this summer. Many of our number are seriously preparing to go overseas.
But if you wonder whether God is answering our prayers to send out laborers from us, look at this list of people who have entered the ministry or gone out on mission from BBC in the last three years: Tom Pals, Glen and Ruth Bloomstrom Paul Lindberg, Becky Buckingham, Laurie Staurseth, Dana Olson, Dan Howe, Tom Varno, Glenn and Mavis Ogren, Lisa Harrell, Gary Gislason, Cidy Vandervort, Paul and JoLayne Widen, Rick and Mary Wilson, Marty Chorzempa, Dan Ehresmann, Scott Wells, David and Faith Jaeger, Barb Beck, Paul and Ruth Goddard, Cidy Martin, Carol Steinbach, Ozzie and Lois Nelson. Not to mention a dozen seminarians preparing to go out from us. (Did I miss anybody?)
To help support all this the staff wives (Noël, Julie, Susan, and Sara) are leading a Pre-Ministerial Wives group that has about twenty young women. Few things thrill me more than these evidences that God is really making Bethlehem a seedbed for missions and a launching pad for new ministers. Keep praying Matthew 9:38 to the Lord of the harvest.
- You did a marvelous job in giving to the church in 1983. We met our budget and beyond. But we overspent and fell short. I accept responsibility for that and am deeply sorry we did not tighten our belts. With the coming of Roger Fast such misjudgments should be avoided in the future. The challenge to pay for the white house and its removal this year is great. Let's pray for unusual growth in givers (new members) and giving (new generosity).
- Recent conversions and the need for a new believers' class encourage me that a new boldness, a new sense of urgency, a new comitment to strategize against the strongholds of unbelief, a new expectancy is in the offing. Steve Roy is doing a great job with the Ananias teams and many of us feel a freshness about belonging to the Majestic God. Let us pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to give us power as we witness! O that in 1984 the Lord would add to the church weekly as many as are being saved!
- My own sense about the health of the church is that we are alive and on the brink of thriving. The Lord has spared us from any significant divisions or factions. I know of no pernicious people at Bethlehem. Even when there is dissatisfaction about something I do not sense a destructive desire in anyone. This is remarkable! It is a marvelous work of grace.
The key to the spirit of life at Bethlehem is the exaltation of God. As long as he is preeminent and lifted up in our midst as majestic and holy and sovereign and full of mercy, we will stay healthy. If we become people-centered or program-centered or building-centered, everything will deteriorate. "Beholding the glory of the Lord we are being changed!" (2 Cor. 4:18).
- A final word about myself. I just turned 38 this week. My oldest son will be teenager in two years. We are watching the last baby go through all the stages for the last time. Noël and I just celebrated our 15th anniversary—we are deeply in love. And we love the ministry. I cannot cease thanking God that he brough us to Bethlehem. Just as the joy of my marriage has never faded, neither has my joy in this ministry. A good wife, a good church and a great God! Who could ask for more?
I could! More love to Noël, more love to you, more love to God. I am addicted to heavier and heavier doses of joy. I crave to live on the brink of eternity where nothing is petty and all is lightning and cosmic stillness. No shame. No guilt. No fear. Suffering with the incomparable Christ until he flashes forth, when every moment of labor will be repaid with a million ages of glory.
Pursuing more in '84,