Wednesday, January 21, 2004

January 21, 2004

1:25 PM E-mail alert: If you have tried to e-mail the church (office or staff) in the last week and haven’t gotten a response, it’s because our DSL service was out. For almost a week we could not send or receive e-mail from outside the building. The DSL service started working again about a half hour ago. You should receive a response to any e-mail you sent in the last week as soon as we can work through the backlog. Thanks for your patience. 12:25 PM Just arrived back home from the pastors’ retreat in McHenry. Turned out to be a very good time—we focused on Psalm 23 and each of us took turns leading a discussion on one verse. We had some rich times of sharing in the Word and in prayer together. Each man shared his vision and goals and dreams for the year, plus we talked about every aspect of Calvary’s ministry. And we tried to do a candid assessment of where we are strong and weak. Besides that, we ate a lot, talked a lot, Bob Boerman told a lot of stories (so did Howard Duncan), Bob said he had to sleep in a room by himself because he snores a lot (I was across the hall but I never heard him). We kept a fire going in the fireplace most of the time. And we ate together at several fine restaurants—my favorite being the Culver’s in McHenry. Several things stand out in my mind as I think about our time together: 1) The church belongs to God and not to us. “Us” being the pastors, the elders, the leaders, or even the congregation. The Lord is our shepherd—and that is a most comforting thought. Every promise of Psalm 23 applies to the church as a whole just as much as to any individual. 2) The pastors believe that the health of the church overall is good. We thank God for the continuing growth, the new families, the growing diversity, the many singles who attend, the many families from other countries, the single parents, the patience of our congregation through the renovation program, the sacrificial giving to the Legacy Campaign, the fact that ours is a “church of sacrifice” where even when we are crowded people have a cheerful people, the openness to try new ideas and new ministries, the growing desire to pray more, our commitment to the Word of God, and our vision of taking the gospel from Oak Park to the ends of the earth. 3) We observe that many of our people are very busy—and the rest are extremely busy. That fact figures in to everything we do. Because we are regional church, many people come long distances to worship with us. Many of those people will come once a week and not more than that. This impacts our planning in a huge way. 4) “As a church grows larger, it must grow smaller.” Craig Hammond. 5) A major need is to work on “connections” at Calvary. We have pockets of people who are well-connected … and hundreds more (the majority) who are not. Most new people find us a reasonably friendly church, but because we are large and have multiple services and people come from many places, it’s easy to blend in and never know or be known. It’s easy to fall through the cracks. 6) We believe it is vital to hire a Pastor of Outreach Ministries this year. 7) We also think the Upper Room Service that starts on March 21 will help us in many ways. 8) Adult Bible Fellowships must take on new importance if we are to make “connecting” people higher priority. We want to start new ABFs and we want to do much more caring and small group ministry through our ABFs in the future. 9) We plan to revamp the Wednesday night program by next fall so that we can offer a whole range of “intermediate level” discipleship classes that will provide intentional ways for people to grow in Christ. 10) As the congregation grows larger, it becomes more important for us to meet together as a whole congregation from time to time. We did that at Calvary in the Park in 2001 and under the big tent last June. We think the church body should come together at least twice a year—for worship and fellowship and enjoying spending time together. 11) Communication needs more attention in the days to come. We have no “magic answers” here but there are many avenues for communicating to the congregation—mail, newsletter, phone calls, the Internet, e-mail, personal contact, signs, banners, announcements, bulletin boards, to name only a few. Our church website will become even more important in the future. 12) We want our commitment to world missions to grow even stronger in the future. Our suggestion: That every pastor, elder, deacon, deaconess, and all other church leaders be asked to take a short-term missions trip in the next two or three years. Nothing changes the heart like actually going to the field and seeing the work of the gospel on the front lines. We also think that all future leaders should be asked to make that same commitment.

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