[An open letter to Immanuel Bible Church on the day of our 2013 Annual Meeting]
Dear Immanuel Bible Church,
By God’s grace the state of Immanuel Bible Church is strong and getting stronger. Indeed, at the dawn of a new year I am delighted to see a community of saints growing “strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Eph. 6:10).
Annual meetings are a time to reflect on God’s past faithfulness even as we look with hope to the future. In 2012 God’s faithfulness was on display in countless ways including baptisms, welcoming new members, growing Bible studies and Sunday school classes, hymn sings, service projects, mission trips, retreats, new staff members, weddings, births, and funerals when dearly loved brothers and sisters in Christ went home to be with the Lord. These activities and events help make up our life together as we strive to “live . . . worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27). And so in the New Year we “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).
What does our faithful God have in store for us in 2013?
While the specifics are yet to be revealed, this much I know: “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28). All good, all the time. This is what God promises those who are in Christ Jesus. And because this promise was purchased with the very blood of God’s Son, it is sure and certain. “This cup that is poured out for you,” Jesus says, “is the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:20). Because of the cross we can sing with David “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Ps. 23:6). This, of course, does not mean a year absent trials. Suffering will come. But we know when we find ourselves in the valley of the shadow of death our faithful Lord will be with us, guiding our every step toward green pastures.
With this bedrock conviction we also know that God calls the church to make disciples. Our mission is set out clearly in our Lord’s parting words before His ascension: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20). What this means for Immanuel Bible Church is that all of our programs and activities should be feeding discipleship. Think of it this way: discipleship is the ocean that the river of our activities must be flowing toward.
The Elders are prayerfully working hard to ensure that we as a church are being faithful to this ultimate end of becoming more whole-hearted followers of Jesus Christ. And we are excited to add to our leadership teams in the New Year so we can do the work of discipleship still better. In His providence, over the last year God has been steadily bringing new families to Immanuel. It is a great joy to see all the children scamper down the aisles for children’s church, and to hear of the growing Sunday School and Awana attendance. And I trust the swelling attendance for Sunday morning worship is evidence of true spiritual growth at Immanuel. We long to be good stewards of the people God is entrusting us with in the faith. My prayer is that what was said by the Apostle Paul of the Thessalonian church would be true of us: “For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything” (1 Thess. 1:8).
By God’s grace this year will be a year when we, individually and as a church, grow in discipleship. But it won’t “just happen.” God is calling us to apply ourselves with a holy determination to this glorious “work of faith and labor of love” (1 Thess. 1:3). In the strength that God provides, will you join me?
With you in the gospel of Jesus Christ,