Year Two: What has already changed, what will not change, and what will change (Part 1)
It has been a little over two years since I came on board as English Pastor of CGF Manhattan. I am still amazed and humbled getting to do what I do and serve where I serve.
I understand there are many bumps and bruises that we will take, simply because of our relative youth as a church body and my naiveté as a young, unseasoned pastor. While to those outside of leadership, the vision and direction of this congregation may be vague (if not completely unknown), it is for that reason that I'd like to address, as best as a blog post can, the issue of the direction of our congregation. We will consider three things*:
What has changed over the past two years
What will never change over the coming years
*What will change over the coming years
What Has Changed
1. Recently, a number of the couples in our congregation have had (or are having) children; Lauren and I are blessed to be one of those couples. As of this writing Lauren is pregnant with our first child, Ezra; he is due in December. While our Savior is certainly concerned with spiritual birth, physical births are also something to rejoice. We are grateful that God is blessing our congregation in this way.
2. Over the last two years we were privileged to baptize five individuals. We praise God that these five souls have not only trusted in Christ for salvation, but have also "gone public" with their faith via believers' baptism.
3. Last month, the congregation brought on an intern to assist with various areas of ministry. Jason Nam will be assisting our church primarily in the areas of music and children/youth. Personally, it has been really nice to have another English congregation staff member to assist me with ministry, as well as better equip others for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). I am excited for what the Lord will accomplish through him in the coming year.
What Will Remain the Same
1. Expository preaching: The practice of expository preaching is something I am ferociously committed to as the pastor and primary teaching voice of this congregation.
Full disclosure~ I know full well that I am not the most engaging, funny, or rhetorically skilled public speaker you've ever encountered. However, what expository preaching accomplishes is that, regardless of the public speaking skills of the preacher, God's word is nevertheless lucidly taught to its hearers: It considers both the background of the text, as well as how this ancient text applies to God's people today. Even the apostle Paul believed that the message always trumps the skill of the messenger:
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
While I certainly desire to grow in my abilities as a communicator for the sake of better engaging you as a congregation, make no mistake: God's word being taught via expository preaching will always be something I practice.
2. Friday night bible study: Whereas Sunday preaching is a part of an entire worship service and sets the general vibe and tenor of a church, bible study is a more informal and interactive look at the bible. Not only do people get to study the bible in a more laid-back setting, but it also fosters deeper friendships as our people get to know each other beyond worship on Sundays.
3. Prayer meetings: There's no getting around it~ A healthy church is a praying church. A church that fails to pray is an arrogant church. Yes, it is good to pray at home, it is good to pray during the Sunday worship gathering; but corporate prayer meetings are devoted to lifting up the collective needs and concerns of the body.
If you consider CGF English Congregation your church home, I would like to invite you to come every first Friday of the month to Corporate Prayer. We sing, someone will occasionally share with the congregation ways in which the Lord has especially shown himself merciful in his or her life... but most importantly, we pray and pray a lot.
* I believe that "What WILL Change" deserves its own post, and so stayed tuned for "Year Two (Part 2)", which will be coming soon...