This is probably the last year I will give my report under that title. No, I don't plan to go anywhere (though I would try to be obedient if the Holy Spirit and the elders said "Go here!" Or "Go there!"). Rather what I mean is that we will try to bring our "labels" for pastors into conformity to what we believe about our callings and relative authority. All 19 elders are officially equal in authority. My vote carries no more than any other vote on the council. Nor am I ever the chairman. What makes my role different is that I am called to focus on preaching and shaping the vision. "Senior Pastor" is probably not the best "label" for that. Maybe "Associate for Preaching"—or something like that, since we vocational elders are all "Associates" in our full-time ministerial capacities.
28 of the 40 Sunday morning sermons that I preached in 2001 were from Romans 7 and the beginning of Romans 8. The other 12 were on various special focuses (prayer, word, racial harmony, pro-life, resurrection, missions, Christmas, etc.)
Average Attendance on Sunday Mornings
1997—1122; 1998—1314; 1999—1665; 2000—2035; 2001—2212
The doubling of attendance in the last five years has taken us to three services to make room for the people. This is blessing on the one hand and a less-than-ideal way to "do church" on the other hand. The rush in and out does not encourage the lingering over the word and prayer that we might hope for. The stress on the worship leaders is greater. The scheduling problems for Sunday School and for families is greater. But more people hear the expository exultation and meet the risen Christ in worship. Pray that God would give us wisdom how to be the church in this situation.
We entered 2001 with three pastoral searches approved. None of the positions was filled. We are on the brink of presenting a candidate as the Associate Pastor for Missions. God willing, Eric Hyatt will be on staff later this year to lead us into great new ventures in mission mobilizing and nurturing: getting people to the peoples and keeping them strong and joyful. The Associate for Counseling and a partner for David Livingston in overseeing the Outreach, Assimilation, and Pastoring of adults, will be with us, we pray, by mid year. Our earnest prayer and effort will be that one of these will be an African American.
Education for Exultation
We arrived at the critical point of pulling the trigger on the new building to replace the "old sanctuary." Half the money needed has been given and all the money has been pledged by the move-in date of (probably) July, 2003. This has been remarkable in a year with a 9% increase in our giving to the mission and ministry of the church (which ended with a significant surplus [over $150,000] that was given to E4E). At this point serious discussions are happening with neighborhood and city officials to work out mutually agreeable plans. Pray without ceasing.
Writing and Speaking Ministry
Three new books were published in 2001, The Hidden Smile of God, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, and The Dangerous Duty of Delight. I also just finished, as the new year turned, the lengthy response to Robert Gundry's rejection of the doctrine of the imputation of Christ's righteousness. This was an assignment to me from the elders because the doctrine of justification is precious to us and is at the heart of the gospel. I now write regularly for WORLD Magazine (about once a month) and am called impressively a "senior writer" (which probably has more meaning than I am aware of). I am deeply thankful for a church and elders who give me the freedom and the responsibility to write for the wider Christian world. (See the report from Desiring God Ministries for details of the speaking schedule and book sales.)
The impact of the events of this date was felt heavily during the last three months of the year. The silliness of most talk-radio and postmodern relativism took a serious hit. War and death and stark terror have a way of silencing empty banter and academic gamesmanship. It is hard to be silly when 10,000 children lose a parent in one hour. We tried to respond at three levels with three services of: Sorrow, Self-Humbling, and Steady Hope in Jesus Christ Our King. Some of our people have spent time at "ground zero" ministering face to face. We all feel more aware of our fragile place in life. Eternity is nearer. Christ is more precious. And the call for Christian courage to love our enemies and speak clearly about the supremacy of Christ crucified and risen is more urgent than ever. Questions of how religion relates to issues of political and international import are on our minds. Serious reflection continues.
Personal and Family
Benjamin married Melissa Barbosa in Fortaleza, Brazil in August. I love her more every time I talk to her. She is a deep and humble and wise young woman. Thank you Lord for this gift to my son and our family. Barnabas began at Wheaton College and is loving it— as he loves most everything that involves lots of people his age. He has settled into a church and is helping lead worship. Karsten was asked to be an elder in his church in Worthington, MN and felt catapulted into a new understanding of himself as a man of responsibility. He and Shelly also gave birth to our second granddaughter, Frances Rosalie. Abraham stepped back from his job at Impact Mailing to give all his time to music writing and singing. Talitha began Kindergarten and in the last few weeks has suddenly begun to read everything. Noël has more and more invitations to speak around the country. She will go to New York and San Francisco this year to speak at women's events. And she writes a regular column for Explore Magazine and other freelance pieces. The marriage is firm and happy. Our health is good (as far as we know). Our needs are met. And our hearts are in love with Jesus. It was a great year of more Bible memory than ever in my life, as well as reading through the Bible in the year.
For the supremacy of God in all things,