I want to thank the church again for granting me a three month leave of absence in 1990. I was able basically to finish two books that will be published, Lord willing, in 1991 (The Pleasures of God, and Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.)
The celebration of my 10th anniversary was an overwhelmingly encouraging event for me—beyond all my expectations. I am still reading the letters that so many of you sent. And I marvel at the grace of God to take a frightened little boy and a pimple-faced teenager and a brooding academic and use him to build faith for God's glory! Surely nothing is impossible for God.
I will mention the highlights of the year as I see them. This is not all that happened. So I encourage you to read the other reports here as well.
- God is teaching us more and more about the Holy Spirit and about his gifts and graces, and making us more and more hungry for "all the fullness of God" than we ever have been. This quest has made some nervous; it has made others hopeful. My pledge is to keep the Infallible Word of God as the foundation of all we do, and to keep reasoned, expository preaching as the ballast in the ship of our church as we lift our sails into the wind of the Spirit. Test all things and hold fast to what is good—that's our biblical motto. We are not imitators. But I also hope we are not so smug and independent that we cannot see the Spirit moving and learn of his ways.
- One of the evidences of this is the growing commitment to the ministry of prayer. It is evident in our small groups and the all-night of prayer, but most of all in the emergence of the prayer teams that are now available after each service to pray for people.
- The birth and growth and affirmation of the vision of 2000 by 2000 to set a pace for sending and harvesting through this decade.
- All three of these have resulted in a much wider and intentional engagement of our unbelieving friends and family members in conversations about Christ and invitations to church. Last year there were 21 reported professions of faith through your ministry of outreach. We hope by mid-decade to see that number coming to Christ every month.
- Since the beginning of 2000 by 2000 last year we have sent out 91 of our people in one way or another in the terms of this decade goal. And 60 people are in the nurture program preparing for vocational missionary service.
- As I analyzed the attendance patterns for the last several years I was encouraged to notice that in 1987 there were 9 Sundays with over 1000 in worship, in 1988 there were 18 Sundays over 1000, in 1989 there were 20 Sundays and last year 22 Sundays over 1000. The reason this is so encouraging is that we lost a lot of our parking this year and made it very hard for people to come, and I was gone four months out of this year. So the church does not appear to be excessively dependent on me or on parking.
- One of the great sources of hope and joy this past year has been the ministry of small groups. Over 600 of our people are in some form of small group and there have been deeply moving stories of how small groups met peoples' needs this year. There is every reason to see that ministry growing.
- The new sanctuary is an unmistakable sign to the city that we are here in Elliot Park Neighborhood to say. It will triple our seating capacity when we move in, some time in May or June (Lord willing). And not only will it open the way for more people to worship with us, but the expansive foyer will make room for the kind of interaction between services that is almost impossible in our jammed hallways now. A wonderful team of people are putting in place right now the plan for paying it off in three more years so that we have no long-term debt, and can pour more and more of our resources into 2000 by 2000.
- Last Sunday our new weekly Radio Program was started on KTIS AM at 3:30. What the Lord may do with this we do not know. We only know that it is the result of a long season of prayer and thought. And we believe it is part of the overall blessing God wants to bring to the Twin Cities through Bethlehem and all the other evangelical churches of the area.
- The church approved a change in governance structure that will gradually be put in place this year and will bring our structure more closely into line with the pattern we see in the New Testament by including elders and deacons as the two elected offices.
- This was the year that BBC broke out of the fortress during the summer in some new ventures of park ministry. We anticipate more of these public demonstrations of God's grace and power.
I rejoice over the camaraderie of our staff. It is a great honor and grace to serve you alongside Joan Lovestrand, Brad Nelson, David Michael, Dean Palermo, Dan Lehn, David Livingston, and Tom Steller. I could not do what I do without Shelley Solin, my Ministry Assistant. And the other staff feel the same way about Connie Kopischke, Deborah Schwarze, Tammy Bruinsma, and Annemarie Arent. Elsie Viren continues to fill us all with profound respect. She holds a unique place in my affection and admiration. I thank God for our ten years together.
We celebrated (with all our heart) the 15th anniversary of Leah Harding's ministry on the organ as the year turned over. And I thank God for Rollin Erickson—a brother, a father, and faithful visitor, along with his team, of our shut-in members. Thanks too to Dennis Smith, the chairman of our church whose wisdom from above is first pure then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, without partiality or hypocrisy. He represents the faith and love and stability that give this church so much of its depth and strength.
I plead for your forgiveness where I have failed any of you. I thank God for your kindness and patience. I look forward, God willing, to another decade of ministry with you. I have no dreams but Bethlehem, and what God may do in and through us to revive the churches, empower the saints, awaken the Cities, and reach the peoples to the glory of Jesus Christ. Please keep praying for me. I love you.