The Tremors of 1985
I challenge you to ask seriously: What should Bethlehem look like at the year 2000—a brief 14 years away! This is what I dream about. Will you dream with me? This report is intended to be fuel for the fire of your imagination.
Seismology is the science of earthquakes. Spiritual seismology is the science of discerning the tremors that could lead to a great spiritual awakening. There are remarkable tremors of the Spirit around the world today. And there were some promising ones at Bethlehem in 1985.
To mention a few:
1. The ministry of prayer has persevered and grown. There is an ongoing prayer team, a prayer room, prayer during services, prayer every day at 7 a.m.; and each year's week of prayer in January surpasses the one before in the number of people involved (for example, in the all night prayer meeting). Prayer pervades the ministries of the church. And the pastoral staff felt constrained some months ago to add an additional 45 minute time of prayer before our weekly Monday staff meeting. David Bryant's ministry last spring was a great boost. From the life of prayer come the other tremors—as in Acts 4:31.
2. The International Students ministry flourished with two outstanding retreats and the renting of the INternational House near the campus of the University, which houses about 15 international student men and several Bethlehem men. We are praying that this ministry can become solidified through a closer link between the hosue and the church staff.
3. Instead of sending out the 15 we anticipated under auspices of 90 by '90 we sent out 21. The total toward our goal of 90 now stands at 37 with four years to go. "Pray the Lord of the harvest to send...!"
4. The montly Frontier Fellowship was established on the last Wednesday of each month. This is a time for focusing briefly on the unfinished task of world evangelization, the unreached peoples of the world, for information, challenge, giving and prayer.
5. Noël and I were given the privilege to leave the church for six weeks to minister in Liberia and Cameroon. We thank God for your generosity in allowing us to be away—even over Easter. It will prove to be a pivotal experience in making us a world church on the front lines of "the final era."
6. Steve and Susan have felt the call to take a leave of absence and teach for a year in Cameroon beginning this August. Let us pray that every obstacle will be overcome and that this will catapult us even further into the thick of "the last battle."
7. The Perspectives class was offered again on Monday evenings with over 80 enrolled. "Perspectives on the World Christian Movement" is a course for college or seminary credit that is given around the country under the auspices of the U.S. Center for World Mission. Over half its alumni are preparing for cross cultural missions.
8. I was elected to the Foreign Mission Board of the Baptist General Conference. This will inevitably keep me in the nitty gritty of World Missions advance. O, that it might indeed be advance! And not just maintenance!
9. God put it in your hearts to meet the 1985 budget even though it was a 35% increase over the previous year. He did this with a Gideon victory. For the first time in memorable history He knocked out a Sunday morning worship service with a 21 inch snow storm the first week of December. "You have too many Sundays to win this victory!" And so HE won it! To Him be the glory!
10. Our worship attendance last fall was 18% greater than the preceeding fall. Ponder the implications of these figures as you prepare yourselves for a year of major long-term decisions at BBC.
Attendance September through December
|Number of Sundays with morning worship attendance...||1981||1982||1983||1984||1985|
|greater than 500||10||12||15||17||17|
|greater than 600||1||3||12||16||17|
|greater than 700||0||0||1||11||16|
|greater than 800||0||0||0||5||13|
|greater than 900||0||0||0||0||7|
|Average worship attendance for the entire year||482||489||550||686||751|
|Average Sunday School attendance for the entire year||471||507||596||613|
We will not delude ourselves. These are only tremors. The earthquake is still in the future. The tide is still out. The key now is perseverance in prayer and the ministry of the word. God loves to exalt the radical truth of his Holy Word.
God has put within me a love for this church, a love for the ministry, a love for the Word, a love for the lost, and a love for his glory. All I dream about is Bethlehem. I just turned forty. You gave me the best birthday party I ever had. At the year 2000 I will be 54 (either in the body or away). Can you dream with me? What should BBC be in 14 years? What will we be? I plan to be here to find out. It is simply too good to miss.
Driven by dissatisfied contetment,