The beginning of a new calendar year provides a good time to look back and consider what God has done, and also look forward and consider how to live out the calling and meet the opportunities God has given us as a church. God is always working, and He has graciously allowed us to be a part of His work in this community. And for this I am constantly amazed and thankful.

Looking back

Although we started gathering for public worship services in April of 2017, the work to plant Roots Church began more than two years before that. A small group of us began gathering in the fall of 2014 to consider the vision for Roots Church. For 2 ½ years we met in homes, while also attending our sending church, Communion Church in Mount Vernon, on Sundays.

At many points during those 2 ½ years, I struggled to see God working. I questioned whether this was really what God was calling us to. But each time, God would reaffirm my conviction (usually through my wife), and keep pushing us forward with the vision for Roots Church. We believed that there was a need in this community for a church like Roots.

Since April, that conviction has been confirmed over and over again. God has shown repeatedly that He is working in and through Roots Church. If I had to sum up the last year in a word, it would be provision. Among other things, God has provided…

People: I am so excited for each of you whom God has led to join Roots Church. God continues to amaze me with the various ways he leads people to connect with us. Some of you were living in different cities, and for various reasons, moved to Stanwood-Camano. Some of you were beginning to look for a church right about the time we started and found out about us. We even had a missionary family from Indonesia join us for most of the year! God seems to be reminding me that it will be Him building this church, and not anything in me.

But more important than numerical growth is the spiritual growth that God is doing among us. I see you bearing the fruit of true salvation. I see you finding joy in knowing God. I see you fighting against sin. I see you comforting one another in suffering and praying for one another. I see you sacrificing time, energy, and resources to support each other and the church. I am daily encouraged by you all and the ways God is working among you.

Meeting space: I can’t think of a better space for Sunday gatherings than what we have at Stanwood United Methodist Church. Many church plants start out in schools or community centers where they have to load equipment in and out each week, where there is no dedicated kids space, and where the monthly rent is 2-3 times what ours is. We are fortunate to have a warm and inviting room for our gatherings, a great kids space with additional rooms for growth, and a place to store all our equipment.

Additionally, we were able to land a great space for the church office and mid-week meetings. The Granary building space was not our first choice, and only became an option when another spot fell through. But it turned out to be the best space for our purposes in town, particularly in the visibility it gives us. I am regularly amazed and thankful for God directing us to this space.

Finances: God has provided for us financially, and in ways that clearly show his hand and grace. A year ago, we didn’t know how we’d be able to exist financially as a church. There wasn’t a clear path to being able to support a full-time pastor, and the idea that we’d be able to secure an office/meeting space would have seemed crazy. But through the support of the North American Baptist denomination, a couple other churches in our 3Strand Network, several unexpected gifts, and the regular giving of you all, we are in a very good spot financially. We are meeting our monthly budget (most months at least), and have a couple months’ worth of savings in the bank. Thank you all for your support!

Looking forward

This past week, Zach and I went to the annual 3Strand pastor/elders retreat, and had some time to consider what God would have us do as a church in 2018. There are always many things we could do. We want to be wise in discerning, first, what we must do as a church. That is, what are the primary things that God calls every church to be about. But then secondly, we want to be wise in narrowing down the list of things we could do and plan things that best help us to meet the needs and fulfill the calling that God has given us.

Things we must do in 2018: Much of what we do will stay the same year to year. We don’t take our cues from the latest trends or statistics, but from God’s vision of the church given in Scripture.

  1. We must preach the gospel. This is central to what it means to be a church. The gospel is not just something that saves us, but is the continuing “root” or foundation of who we are as believers and why we exist as a church.
  2. We must make disciples. In the great commission, Jesus calls us to “Go…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” (Mt. 28:19-20). In other words, our mission is to bring people in to the faith and build them up in the faith. And this isn’t just the calling of pastors; each believer is called to be a disciple-making disciple.
  3. We must love people. It goes without saying, but we are called to love one another with the sacrificial, other-centered love that God has for us. As we do, we will testify to the world that there is something different about us and that God is working among us.
  4. We must stay humble: God is doing a lot of exciting things in and through Roots Church. During these times, it is easy to become proud and think that it is because of our own greatness or faithfulness or vision or hipness (unlikely) that these things are happening. We must be continually diligent to remind ourselves that we exist for God’s glory, and that the real work of ministry is only possible by God’s power. We can’t change people’s hearts; we can’t cause faith to arise in people; we can’t cause people to live for God’s glory over their own. Only God can do these things, and we praise Him when they happen.

Things we plan to do in 2018, God willing:

  1. Men’s/women’s studies: The men of Roots will continue to meet Friday mornings to study theology, i.e. who God is and what that means for our lives. The women will begin a nine-week study of 1 Peter this spring.
  2. First annual Roots Church Family Camp: We are looking forward to this time of fellowship and fun on the Columbia River June 21-24.
  3. 3Strand Men’s Retreat: The 10 churches that make up the 3Strand Network are planning a joint men’s retreat this fall. More details to come.
  4. Roots 101 classes: We will continue to offer Roots 101 classes throughout the year to give as many people as possible the opportunity to learn about who we are and what it means to be a part of this church.
  5. Stanwood-Camano Chamber of Commerce events: This past year, we did a couple of events with the Chamber and had a great time being present in the community and interacting with lots of people. Through this experience, we realized that there is very little church involvement with the Chamber. This seems to be a great opportunity for us to connect with many outside the “walls” of our church, including many not connected to a church. To this end, we recently become a member of the Chamber and plan on taking part in several events this year.

This is a snapshot of our plans for this coming year. There will certainly be other opportunities for fellowship, growth, and mission as we go along. But we want to also be careful to not plan so many programs and events that you don’t have time to engage with those outside the church. God calls us to both love and serve one another AND be ambassadors for the gospel to those who have yet to receive it.

As I consider our plans and prayers for 2018, as well as all that God has done in the past year, I am both humbled and overjoyed. And I hope you are too. I pray that God continues to work in and through us in such a way that we see clearly His power and presence, see lives changed through the gospel and the Holy Spirit, and all the while stay trusting and rejoicing in Him, and not anything in ourselves. Excited to do the work of ministry for the glory of God with you all this year!

With love, pastor Derek Fekkes