There was never any doubt.  Use all the resources at our disposal to intersect with peoples’ lives in a way that brings healing — healing at the very core of their being, where their lives connect with the One Who breathes life into them and loves them powerfully enough to make them new every day, up to and including their last day.

The task was to assess the resources and become the catalyst for the energies of many gifted people combining to fulfill that purpose.  All the pieces were in place.  Pastor John before me had seen to that.  He steered the congregation through the years of national controversy, kept eyes clearly on the purpose.  He affirmed the strengths of those he served, encouraged them to grow and build ministries.  When it came time to let go of folks so that another location could serve still more people with the same singleness of purpose in a mission congregation, it happened with his blessing.  He led the way as the room made by those who left was filled again by others.  He led the congregation through a major building program that released a dimension of the worshiping community that had been limited by space.  A large open area provided space for people to connect and engage with one another, build each other up as they sought out those who were not yet connected with the healing power. 

My Call was to build on the groundwork that had been laid.  Pastor John had health issues that led him to conclude that it was time for someone else to build on what he had accomplished in almost thirty years of ministry.  It was a joy to follow someone so much respected.  It helps the person who follows, when there is a respect for the role.  The elements of the task had been made clear to me before I came: build a Staff to meet the needs of a congregation of that size, build on the relational style of ministry that the building project made possible, build the financial base so that the number of lives touched with healing could increase. 

As the years went by, we increased the options for worship from two morning services to three morning servics and one evening service.  Education time expanded from one session to two on Sunday morning, and soon after, a thriving Wednesday education program.  We moved from two Lead Staff to four Lead Staff.  The Support Staff of Sharon and Carolyn provided the infrastructure of the place, solid and competent and committed to the same singleness of purpose.  Linda M added remarkable gifts to the mix.  Rebecca could do anything and do it well.  Linda L. expanded the music ministry to the extent that it exceeded any reasonable expectations for choir, vocal and instrumental ensembles made up of Volunteers.  The average attendance grew from 450 in 1995 or 1996 to 650 in the year 2002.  While I am grateful to have been the Senior Pastor during that time, I do not take responsibility for the growth.  Hopefully, my ministry helped rather than hindered growth, but many other circumstances played into it.  Pastor John had left a healthy congregation of people who were willing take leadership, who said “Why not?” when new ideas emerged.  When I arrived, Director of Christian Education Jim was doing a yeoman’s job of keeping the congregation healthy.  He was recognized as one of the best in the nation serving in the role of DCE.  There was a state of the art Youth ministry.  Director of Children’s Ministry Marilyn moved into a full time position providing consistently high quality programming, bringing out the best in Volunteers.  There was a state of the art Children’s Ministry.  Pastor Nate brought a smile and a level of competence that impressed all of us from the moment he arrived.  He shaped the Contemporary worship and the small group ministry of the congregation.  Administrator Chris had such a remarkable combination of skills that it was almost scary.   Pastor Nate was followed by Pastor Dave who brought his gifts to the same singleminded purpose.  DCE Audrey came after Jim left, bringing with her a presence and a competence unparalleled anywhere in the nation.  Young added her Worship and Music leadership to the life of the congregation.  After Chris left, Don brought with him to the Administrative position the respect of everyone in the congregation, leadership in many arenas and the wisdom to handle all of it with grace, as well as a work ethic beyond belief. 

Three congregations grew in our effectiveness working together to provide a full, Kindergarten through Eighth Grade Parochial School.  Music and Sports and Academics were done exceedingly well, with the message of God’s healing love in Christ laced through it all.  Early childhood in a program connected with the school as well as a program at the church thrived.   

I could never have imagined that I would have the privilege of serving in such a remarkable place.  It has been a remarkable place not on account of anything other than that singleness of purpose.  The resource of the building was multiplied by using space more than once a week, for multiple purposes.  The Staff actually functioned as a team, not just in name.  We all stayed on the same page and supported one another, not simply working independently each in our silo, but working together to seek the common goal of bringing that deep healing to people very much in need of it. 

There were certainly struggles along the way.  Nothing is easy to do.  We were not afraid of the struggles.  We jumped right in and worked through whatever it was.  We always came out stronger on the other side.  We tended to deal with things rather than let them fester and wait until they boiled over.  I suppose I may just want to have been a part of an effective ministry, but by the Grace of God, it appeared to work. 

The next post on this blog will describe the morning that changed a nation, a morning that included a deeply personal loss to that congregation. 

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