First, I want to thank everyone who saw value in attending our congregational budget meeting Thursday evening and for your participation. “Church work” is always difficult, no matter the situation or circumstance. Large “thriving” churches have their problems, too, just like small rural churches. The problems may be different but they are certainly no less challenging.
The Grasshopper Complex
What we have to guard against is the “grasshopper complex” of Numbers 13. It’s all a matter of faith. Those ancient Israelites were convinced they faced the insurmountable. Canaan, the “Promised Land,” was within their grasp, but they saw it as unattainable; “We can’t do it” became their mindset. The land was too heavily fortified and its inhabitants too big and strong.
How quickly they forgot that the God who delivered them from Egypt, who parted the waters of the sea, who provided them water from rocks and bread from heaven was the One who promised them the land. Faced with a hard thing, faithlessly their hearts melted, and they all died in the desert.
Here is our firm assurance from God: “[Do] not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6.9). The courage to remain faithful, especially in the face of a perceived lack of progress, is our divine challenge. Satan wants us to be discouraged, he wants us to think there is no progress, he wants us to quit and give up. “We’re so small we can’t really do anything, so we might as well not even try. “Nonsense!” is what I have to say to that!
Progress in Giving
Thursday evening we took a step in the right direction – forward. For the past year our weekly contribution has averaged $590 a week, an amount that barely and at times failed to cover our expenses. A budgetary goal of $680 per week was set for 2014, an increase of $90 a week. That’s a challenge, but it’s certainly attainable. It will require each of us to do a little personal evaluation.
Money is tight for us all, but I seem to recall someone we all revere once saying, “Where your heart is, there will your treasure be also.” Personally, I believe we’ll not only meet this challenge, we’ll surpass it. I think that’s progress.
Progress in Adding to the Kingdom
You want some more good news? Jason Borland has conveyed his desire to be baptized into Christ, and he wants that to happen in Holyoke with us. His baptism will occur on Thursday evening, December 12, at 6:00 here at the church building. Instead of our usual Thursday evening Bible class, we’ll have a special devotional service. God bless you, Jason.
Progress for Young Families
The new Sunday morning worship format is working well. Thanks to Jeff and Diana McCormick for introducing the idea of providing a worship service for our little ones. It’s hard for small children to sit through “church,” much of which they cannot begin to understand. This gives them an opportunity to be trained and taught on their level.
This has also resulted in better overall attendance at Sunday morning worship. It encourages families with small children to come because now there are better environments for worship and teaching for everyone, even the little ones. “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19.14). Isn’t that progress?
Progress in the Prison Ministry
The Holyoke Church of Christ Prison Ministry has received official recognition as a ministerial and chaplaincy organization by the Colorado Department of Corrections. Because of the work of Dan Kafka, this church has an unparalleled opportunity to fulfill one of our Lord’s specific commands – to teach and preach the Gospel to those in prison. Dan has won the trust and confidence of the prison authorities at the Sterling facility, which has enabled Bill Lewis to be appointed as a full-time chaplain.
The influence of this church and the simple Gospel message has never had the impact within the walls of the Sterling prison as it is having now. Forty offenders, criminals, convicts, murderers, rapists, thieves, thugs, gang members, you name it, FORTY of those men were baptized into Christ this year! There is a growing, thriving New Testament church behind the walls of the Sterling prison – men convicted of serious crimes, some of whom will never be released from prison, but who nonetheless now are our brothers in Christ and our fellow laborers in the Kingdom of God – and we, the church of Christ in Holyoke, have had a part in that. I know that’s progress!
Progress is a funny word and I, like many, fall prey to its peculiarities. Too often we tend to see progress only in terms of something big, noticeable, eye catching when maybe real progress is not all that discernible. Remember Galatians 6.9 – don’t ever get tired of doing what is right, even if it appears no one notices. Don’t quit, don’t give up. Because the One who really matters does notice, and He has promised our faithfulness and labor will not be in vain. And to God be the glory!