My reading of the heart of the people in 1988 is that "SPAN the Nineties" gave us a high in March. Then in the spring and summer there was a sag as direction seemed unsure. Then in the fall (as we "battled unbelief" together) zeal grew hot again as direction clarified.
In that swing Char Ransom, Steve Roy, and Kurty Swanson left the staff. They were precious partners in the work. Char went back to public school teaching, Steve took the senior pastorate of Temple Baptist in Portland and Kurt went back to school to prepare for missions.
Laurel Bissett is doing an admirable job as Interim Minister for Children. We are tremendously privileged to have her available to serve. The staff are trying to carry Steve's load with the help of lay leadership.
Dan Lehn joined us as Business Administrator and has guided us to a happy financial conclusion this year. Expenses were kept significantly under budget and the income exceeded what we needed to pay all our commitments.
Steve and Nopaluk Cable joined us in the place of Phaitoon Hathamart as leaders of the Lau church. They are already much loved by the Lau congregation and are seeing growth. We hope that an independent church can be released in teh coming year or so.
Elsie Viren completed her sixtieth year on the staff at Bethlehem. I have overlapped with her 14% of that time, which is enough to fill me with admiration and love for her.
Carol Steinbach completed six excellent years of ministry as secretary and as special assistant to me. I thank God for her tremendous helpfulness for those years. Now Shelley Solin has been called in and is already distinguishing herself as efficient, thorough, and unflappable.
Statistically, there has been steady growth. (See Esther Flaten's report for baptisms and membership additions.) Our worship attendance was an average of 7% above last year with 18 Sundays over 1,000 as opposed to 9 such Sundays in 1987. In 1988 for the first time in the history of the church the morning attendance went over 1200 in worship (not counting the nurseries). There has been a problem since September balancing the three morning services. The middle one has been excessiely crowded.
The financial advances can be seen from the other parts of this report. What amazes me is that our giving increases continue to grow much faster than our attendance increases—over twice as fast last year. I take this to mean that not only are more people coming to BBC but something happens to their priorities after they have been here a while.
"SPAN the Nineties" is on track as far as I can see. About $550,000 (32% of $1.7 million pledged) came in during 1988. As 1989 begins the building committe is hard at work and there is a spirit of expectancy and hope in the air.
Besides my responsibilities of preaching, staff leadership, counseling, visitation, etc. I accepted serveral other ministry opportunities:
- The Harold John Ockenga Lectures on Preaching: Gord-Conwell Divinity School.
- Missions Week Messages: Western Conservative Baptist Seminary.
- Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (Bethlehem and Central Lutheran).
- Lecture on Jonathan Edwards: Bethlehem Conference for Pastors.
- Three messages at the annual meeting of the Columbia Baptist Conference.
- "Prayer: the Work of Missions": Annual Meeting of the Association of Church Mission Committees.
- Member of the Steering Committee: Prayer 88.
- Member of the BGC Board of World Missions.
- Member of the BGC Prayer Commission.
- Three combined Sunday evening services of churches in the Isanti area MBC.
- Wheaton College chapel address.
- "A Heart for God" Conference at Trinity Baptist Church, Wheaton, Illinois.
- Thanksgiving service of the Good Neighbor Fellowship.
The Home Front
Noël and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary on December 21. I have her picture here in front of me as I write. If I cover the right half of her face I see a childlike, happy girl. If I cover the left half I see a strong and confident woman. Then I take my hand away and I see Noël, and love her with all my heart.
I stand in awe of God. I love him. He is my life and my hope. I am ready to meet Him face to face, because of Jesus. O that we could make Him known more and more in this city and to the ends of the earth. "Spreading Praise to All Nations" (SPAN) is a great cause to live for. And it begins right here in my heart—and yours! Do you love this great God? Do you love Him with all your heart and soul and mind and strength? Is He your portion in this life and the next? Do you love to think about Him, and listen to Him, and draw near to Him, and live for Him? With you all I say, Yes...
...with all my heart,