The following is the text from the Pastor’s Report, submitted as part of the church's Annual Report for the year 2014. Since United Baptist Church practices a congregational form of government, we hold a special business meeting every year to discuss larger issues of our life together. Among other items, we review the year that was (committee reports) and approve a funding plan for our ministry work for the coming year (commonly called a budget). As part of this the Pastor offers his reflections on the year. These are my thoughts on what kind of community United Baptist is.
Reflecting on the year 2014
I have had the privilege to serve as your pastor now for just about one year. Now, it’s time for me to write a report that is supposed to summarize this year at United Baptist from a pastoral perspective.
Most annual reports – including this one – are full of numbers. Numbers are good. Numbers can show us much about what we are doing and where we are going.
A Pastor, I think, needs to approach his report from a very different perspective. I want to hold the numbers in mind, but also look through them to discern the state of the heart behind them. In other words, the unique purpose of the Pastor’s report (to my way of thinking anyway) is to make observations about the condition of the church’s collective heart. Or to put it in different language, to point to what God is doing in our midst.
So let me present you with three pictures of the UBC that I have observed this year.
UBC is a Barn Raising
It used to be (and in some places it still happens) that when someone needed a new barn, the entire community would turn out. Everyone pitches in to do their part in semi-organized chaos. At the end of the day, a barn stands where before there was none. Alone, it was impossible. Together, it was a party.
UBC is a small community, but it seems like everyone pitches in. Many people are engaged in the various committees and boards. Others serve in ministries like choir or Scripture reading in worship. And it seems like every week I hear about someone paying a visit, making a call, praying together, fixing something that’s broken, or bringing someone a meal or a cup of coffee.
These are small quiet moments and just because they are not published or applauded does not mean they are not earth shaking events in God’s Kingdom. Moreover, this implicit ethos of serving seems to be just kind of how UBC rolls. It isn’t forced. It isn’t the result of haranguing from the pulpit. It has become a built-in way of thinking. I am so grateful for that and I see it as beautiful, holy, and healing. I pray that this would continue and that we are able to invite others to share as we work together to raise barns for God’s kingdom.
UBC Dances with a Limp
This year I have worked at getting to know many of you a little better, learning more about your stories and where you came from. I also learned a bit about the history of UBC, both the long past and the more recent history.
I have observed that almost everyone has come to UBC out of experiences that have deeply wounded them. Many of you have struggled through the church equivalent of hitting an Improvised Explosive Device. You still carry the spiritual shrapnel to prove it. Others have come through (or are still engaged in) personal tragedies or struggles that have left you bruised and tender. I won’t say that this is good, but I will say that we cannot underestimate how God uses our weakness to show His strength.
I see a community of people who love Jesus and who love to celebrate him together in spite of (and even because of) our broken places. When we get together to worship, to pray, to eat, or to serve, it feels a little like a bunch of kids when someone turns on the music. It’s time to dance and limp.
So in spite of your struggles and your bruises and the shrapnel you carry, UBC is basically a bunch of dancing fools for Jesus. I love that. I really do. I love it not even so much because of what it says about you, but even more because of what it says about our Lord Jesus Christ – who makes even the most halting steps beautiful through faith in him.
UBC is Rising Dough
UBC has been here long before I came along and it will be here long after we are all gone. It has experienced both times of vibrant growth and times of weary decline. Nevertheless, we must trust that God has always been working through us to build His kingdom. Always. I say this because UBC has been through a rough time over the past few years. We are left with a small congregation, an older congregation, and one that doesn’t look (from certain perspectives) like it is “keeping up with the times.”
Even so, I don’t think those appearances really matter all that much. As the angel said to Mary, “All things are possible with God.” It is only up to us to say, “Let it be with us just as you say.”
I see UBC as a lump of dough that has just gone through a kneading process and is looking small and flat right now. But inside of that unimpressive little lump, the Spirit of God is busy. If I read the words of Jesus right, this is how the Kingdom of God works. Yeast slowly turns dead flour and water into something completely new and living and nourishing. Just so the Spirit is turning us into a rich and flavorful loaf, His body, which we can share with the world.
I can’t point to evidence of it in any numbers. But I see it in the spirit of barn raising and the spirit of dancing that exists among us. And I believe that God is faithful, even when we are not, to work His will.
Finally, I don’t think this is happening because I have made it happen by my presence. I think God has been doing this all along, even through the years of transition from which we are emerging. I think He has called me to be a part of this transformation and to work with you and alongside you through this transformation. Thank you for trusting me, and for inviting me to join you in this journey. Let us continue to rely on God and trust in His provision for us through our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to finish His work in us together.
David T. Denis
United Baptist Church
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