Special Hope Notes Letter from Pastor Mark – Mid Year Report

June 27, 2018

Hey Hopers!

Lois always does such an amazing job that I hesitate to step in. We are so thankful for her ministry to us each week and all the time she puts in to keep everyone up to date! We probably take it for granted that she sends out details and information each week on top of her powerful devotional. But it is a wonderful example of faithfully serving in a God-gifted way, and I’m sure we are all deeply grateful. But since we’re at the half-way point of our year, it seemed like a good time to do this.

I wanted to take a few minutes and write to all of you so I could share a few thoughts about what God has done and what’s ahead for us. So far, 2018 has been an amazing year for our church. I am so proud of our church family and so encouraged by your heart for people and for our Lord. In the middle of some very hard and personal struggles for many of our church families, you have been an encouragement and a source of strength just by being present, and by having such an evident heart to serve and share Jesus with one another. The warmth of our church family has been used by God in ways we cannot even calculate. And I love watching the Spirit move to restore, heal, and save through Hope.

If you’ve been around, you’ve seen firsthand what I’m talking about. So far this year, we’ve gone bowling with over 100 bowlers and it seemed like we had that many spectators from Hope joining us simply to hang out. We got together for a café and a worship night in March, which were both tremendous times of spiritual refreshment and community. Easter weekend was huge with 525 attending on Easter morning. Then we did our first ever Craft Fair in May and it was beyond anything we could imagine. Mother’s Day brought Tim Nelson from Hope for Justice who powerfully shared our opportunity to help end modern day slavery. In June, we collected for Seeds of Hope and got to hear from Bill and Brenda Antinore. It has been quite a busy and wonderful 6 months.

But we’re not done! We have a HUGE second half coming up. Our VBS is always the biggest week of our year, sharing Jesus with our kids and so many other children and families from the community. Make sure you leverage this chance to invite out friends and family so they can know Jesus! Our closing program is on 7/29 with our Church Picnic that evening (5 pm). If you’ve never been to our picnic, you don’t want to miss it! The following Sunday nights, we’ll host a Movie Night (with The Case for Christ playing in the auditorium and a kids movie in the youth room) complete with free snacks and drinks. The week after that will be our Summer Café which will feature ice cream sundaes for our treat! Then in the fall, we kick off small groups in September, and we’ll have a baptism service in October (on 10/3). Our Trunk or Treat will be on Saturday 10/27 and is always more fun than we can describe – but on top of that, we get to share the love of Jesus with well over 1000 people who come through our line. Of course, we close out our year with a ton of holiday stuff including our Thanksgiving Praise Service, our Christmas Cantata, our Kids Christmas program, and our candlelight Christmas Eve services. We have a lot to do, but we’re excited for the opportunity to serve our Lord together and enjoy Him with one another. And we’re thankful that nothing is too difficult for our great God.

But, some of you are missing out. Various pressures in life or other activities have pulled you away. So let me make an appeal: If you’ve been away from church, come back! Come to think of it, if you’re thinking you’ll check out of church for the summer for family or rest or whatever, please don’t. If you’ve found reasons to skip church, consider making a more healthy commitment to Sunday mornings. You need your church family, and your church family needs you.

Why? Well, for one, we work better together. Our cause is simply to share the hope that comes through faith in Jesus with people. This world has lots of people who need Jesus. Remember only 1 or 2 out of 10 Americans attended church last week. Most people you come across are trying to go it alone or simply live life without Jesus. While we each are called to individually share, we multiply our impact each week as we come together. Being at church and bringing others is a time-tested and powerful strategy for sharing Jesus. Your brothers and sisters in Christ add their gifts to yours and the Lord amplifies the effect as we gather. Please consider this calling and purpose as you think about coming out to church.

Also, your spiritual health depends on it. Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 12 that we are designed to serve one another. No one has all they need on their own – by design. Our kids, our teens, our young adults, our singles, our married couples, our moms and dads, our grandmoms and grandads need what the Lord does on Sunday for their souls. We can each study and learn as well as worship and praise on our own. But throughout the history of Christianity, believers have recognized that God works in our gatherings in a bigger and different way than when we’re on our own. Please think about this when you consider whether you and your family should be at church each week.

Before I talk about our opportunities and the corresponding challenges, I want to mention one more thing. Too often, believers think about a church service as ‘what happens on stage’. So they look at the topic or the speaker or the ‘theme’ for the day and they decide if they want to come or not. But the church is not on the stage – it is in the seats. If we can get this through our heads, then we understand that our purpose for going to church is not what we’ll SEE, but how the Lord might want to use us. We have hundreds of servants each week serving the Lord in formal roles (kids ministry, worship, greeting, coffee, etc). But so many more are used by God to make someone feel welcome, to feel wanted, and to help them know that God has hope for their lives. If you’re not there because ‘this service isn’t for you’, I just want to ask you to consider that the Lord may want to use you on a Sunday that you don’t think you need to go. And I ask you to be present and available so that someone’s eternity might be forever changed by the way the Lord used you.

To close this note, let’s talk challenges. As a growing church, we’ve always faced them, and every time, the Lord has seen us through. But we’re a family, so it is valuable for us to partner together on the battle fronts as we move forward for the Kingdom of God. Let me share a few of the places we need to collectively direct our efforts and our prayers.

First of all, we’ve had two services for the past 3 years, and we’ve seen a ton of growth by creating more room. There may come a time in the future when we need to add another service, but for now, we’re looking for God to show us how to help our second service grow and energize the way our first service has. There is no doubt that more people need the hope found only in Jesus, and we have the room to invite them in, so let’s ask the Lord to bring the harvest to our second service.

Secondly, with summer approaching, we are reminded that we have some holes in our ministries. Since we try to do everything possible as a team, we have lots of people serving, but we need each spot filled reliably so that the whole church is effective. In particular, we really need some more workers in our expanded nursery, in our toddlers and pre-school class, and we need all the help we can get for VBS. Contact Matt Russell right away if you are willing to commit to serving as a part of one of our teams for our kids. We’d rather not put up the sign saying ‘we don’t have a teacher today, so we don’t have class’. There are lots of other places to pitch in as well if kids ministry isn’t something God is prompting in your soul. We also are working hard to get our building team fully functional. Our projects teams are figuring out the best ways to do maintenance, repairs, and upgrades and they can use any expertise you have. And we have simple service roles like trash team and cleanup crew that serve each week for just minutes, but make a huge difference.

By the way, a huge study was done in 2004 on the difference between people who just attend church and those who serve on a regular basis. Did you know that those who serve regularly are “much more likely than non-volunteers to be satisfied with their church, with their spiritual lives, and in their relationship with God”? (from Friendship by D. Michael Lindsey). For people who are scared of serving (sometimes for good reason) this is a reminder that you need to serve as much as we need you to serve! Maybe the emptiness you’ve been feeling in your soul, or the sense of distance from the Lord is making a little more sense to you now. In any case, that study shows something that we too often miss. Followers of Jesus are made to serve others – and it starts with serving as a part of our church family. From there, we grow into serving others in all kinds of arenas in our life, but there is something foundational about volunteering to regularly serve in our own spiritual family.

Lastly, we are not a church that fixates on money, but we do have a financial challenge right now. Our current giving trend over the past three months is down. Through the first six months we’re right at budget, but now we face the summer months which is always a challenge. We need each person who is a part of Hope to be committed to giving to support what we do together. We are devoted to building a church where Jesus’ love is known and His name is made great. We believe that our church has a special place in God’s Kingdom work, and we want to have maximum effect in our calling. Part of that means we need the finances to sustain ministry and even grow ministry. In Israel, God asked them to give, but gave them a guideline to help them think BIGGER than they would on their own. He called them to give to their ‘church’ 10% of all that they earned. If you’ve never given before, or just given minimally, consider how much we could do if every person were committed to just this much. And at times, God blesses His people with financial prosperity and ability to give much more than that. So prayerfully and humbly consider making giving a priority so that our church family can thrive in the long term.

Thanks for being a part of Hope and for joining me in praying for God’s provision and direction for our church. I love being a part of Hope, and I’m glad that the Lord continues to bring new people each week. If Hope is your home church, even if you’re relatively new, we tackle these things together as a family. Whether you’ve been a part of Hope for 4 weeks, 4 years, or much longer, we must dedicate ourselves to the work that the Lord has given us and do all we can for His Kingdom!

For His Name’s Sake

Pastor Mark