Hello! This is the basics of the talk I gave at our 2007 Annual Celebration. I think it will give you some unique insight into our church. Enjoy!
A Look Back:
Where have we been over the last year? In what state do we find our church?
A Grounded Church. We are finally out of transition. For the first time in several years, we had no staff farewell parties. We may be down in attendance some, but that's okay- we know who's with us. We have "arrived" in the sense that we can look around and say, "This is us!" Now let's start moving forward together.
A Generous Church- Even with lower attendance, our missions (GCF) giving is up, support of other missionaries is up, and overall giving was very strong compared to size of church. We paid off our ADF loan- over 16,000 of principle just last year! I salute all of you that were a part of this through the years!
We provided a place for Crystal Ewing, and now for Chuck and Jenny Rentz, to do ministry and to grow. We took a spur-of-the-moment type offering for Dana Brown and suddenly had several thousand dollars put together.
We have transitioned into an a new era at EHA. But the question is, what kind of church will be? Where exactly are we going?
I once heard a guest speaker tell a story about staying at Banff Park in Canada. While getting ready in the bathroom, he heard a loud thud against the sliding glass door. He stepped around the corner in time to see a bird staggering off of the balcony. Out of curiosity, the man stepped outside to see what may have caused the bird to fly into the door. As he slid the door shut, he saw reflected before him the beautiful panorama that could be seen from his balcony. The bird was flying forward, thinking it's past was it's future! It thought it's future was the same as its past- that where it had come from was where it was going.
While we honor the past, but it does not define our future. We are not destined to do the same things over and over and continue to be the same just because it's what we've always done.
So where are we flying?
A Look Forward:
Developing Community: We are together a body of believers, not a collection of customers. Staying after church is great, as many of you do, but how about coming early? Do we miss out on deeper community by sliding in 5 minutes late? We have prioritized our LifeGroups for several years, and I know some have grown weary in this system. I want to encourage you to move deeper into relationships. We are needing people to say, "I'd be willing to facilitate this- to make sure it happens." But we also need followers, saying, "I'm committed to growing in Christ with you." Six-week "series" are nice, but they do not foster lasting community. If you're saying "I'm too busy for LifeGroup" ask what you're really saying. To not be involved in community is not an option Jesus gave us. It may actually require more of our time and energy to discover true community, but it will be worth it!
High-Impact Weekend Services: We want to continue to be relevant for both believers and seekers, but always erring on the side of the seekers. That's part of why community is so important- the church service isn’t just for you. Because we're relevant to seekers, there are so levels of depth or intimacy we may not arrive at on Sunday morning! Our worship will continue to be relevant and meaningful. Our preaching will be applicable and accessible.
The leadership has begun to investigate another area, and that's to look at remodeling our Sanctuary. This space has a wonderful history of great ministry, but it is becoming an obstacle to the gospel. It is no longer keeping pace with the vitality and energy of our congregation. We also need a space that will be attractive to seekers.
Some Potential Changes:
Padded chairs: multiple seating arrangements, flexibility, comfort, and style.
Stage- expanded for better musical arrangement, drama, and mime.
Color schemes (paint) and carpet- needed to represent a modern church
Nothing has been decided or finalized yet, and nothing will be decided without your input and your decision. We've gotten some feedback from our members and the support to move forward with this project is overwhelming! If you'd like to see some proposed ideas for the changes, stop by the church office.
Externally-Focused Ministry: We will continue to plan, promote and put on events like Project Back to School (free back-packs for kids), Date Night for the community and other relevant and similar ideas. A soccer camp for kids is in the works for this summer. What else? What more? It's time to worry less about how many of us come here, and worry more about how many of us are going out there- living out the love of Jesus among our friends and neighbors.
WHY? Why put the effort into LifeGroups, and Sanctuary remodels and events that suck away our time, our energy, and our money? Why all this focus on others? What about me and my growth, we might ask? Wouldn't it be easier and better to just stay safe and happy with what we've got, to disciple the church we have? Yes, but I can't do that.
WHY? We called every single church in town this last year to ask them a question. How many people could sit in your church? We called Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Non-denominational and everything in between. We found out the amount of people that could sit in all the chairs and pews in Kelso and Longview on any given Sunday. (or Saturday, as the case may be!) And then we doubled it, because every church could have two services. And then we added several thousand just in case we had missed anyone. When we did this, we came to a grand total of roughly 30,000 people that could attend church in our city. Isn't that great? NO! Because over 47,000 people live in this city.
We can't sit idly by and say the job is done when 17,000 people don't even have a seat, let alone faith in Jesus Christ. You could fill up Kelso High School auditorium 42 times with the amount of people that couldn't even find a seat at church. And the sad reality is very few of our churches are even close to being at capacity at two services. Thousands and thousands of people right here in our community are separated from God and many of them are unaware that He even exists.
We're not here to do church. We're here to be the church. And if we are to be the church, we need everyone of you to give yourself completely to Christ. Why? Not for the benefit of East Hills, but for the benefit of those who don't yet know Jesus. Will you do that? Will you join wit us? Will you re-up for another year, better than the last? I hope you will.