Closing off one year and beginning a new year provides a good time for reflection. As I reflect on our life together as a church at this moment, there are so many things that come to mind. The story of a church is always a complex picture that includes the individual stories of all the people in the church–the joys and encouragement of deepening relationships; the fights against sin and temptation; the extending of grace and forgiveness to a spouse, co-worker or church member; the fight for the joy of the Lord in the midst of chaos; the weekly hearing of God’s word preached together, or the frustration of missing this due to the realities of 2020.
There are many ways that God is working in and through Roots Church. And there are many ways we long to see God work in and through Roots Church. Here are a few things I am thankful for at this point, and few prayers I have (and would ask you have) as we move forward.
Reasons for giving thanks to God.
- Give thanks that we have fought hard for unity, believing that our identity in “Christ and him crucified” is reason enough to stick together. 2020 presented numerous and serious tests to Christian unity. While the road has not been easy, while the pressure to put Christ on the back burner and find our unity around some other cultural or political movement has been strong, I have seen you all show incredible grace to one another, trusting that the unity in Chris,t and with his blood-bought people, is greater and worth fighting for.
- Give thanks that we have 10-15 students each in our Middles (ages 9-7th grade) and Youth Group (8th-12th grades) ministries. As a newer church, and one with a number of young families, it is encouraging to see so many 9-18 year olds in our church. Monday afternoon youth group has been a high point in my week, seeing this group of youth prioritize the knowledge of God, and have a lot of fun together. And the turnout for Middles by both students and parents wanting to help has been exciting.
- Give thanks that we had 55 people come to family camp this past June, and that we baptized one individual there.
- Give thanks that we have two men in the eldership process. After 3 ½ years being the only installed elder at Roots (though Communion’s elders have been a great support), I am super excited to have two godly, humble and wise men who love the flock that is Roots Church in the process.
- Give thank that we have this building with which to proclaim God’s grace and glory, make disciples, and be a visible and present witness in this community. Covid has limited our use of the building since March, but I am still overwhelmed at God’s gracious workings in providing this space for us.
Prayers for this new year:
- Pray for our collective and individual joy in the Lord. Fighting for a more consistent joy in the Lord is a personal goal of mine this year, and one that I also long to see among our church. In this, I have been affected greatly by a couple books, which have caused me to reflect anew on Scripture passages related to God’s goodness, love and joy. I intend to write more about this in the coming weeks. If you’d like to join me in this pursuit, I highly recommend Dane Ortland’s new book, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers. It is short and very accessible, but so good!
- Pray for a heart for evangelism. That God would grant us a greater sense of the weight and urgency of spreading the gospel message, the faith and courage to risk temporary discomfort or relational awkwardness in this, and a burden to pray for conversions. At a recent Sunday service, Carly prayed that we would see 10 people converted to Christ. This is a great prayer for us to take up, petitioning God to do what brings him glory, and us joy.
- For a renewed conviction of the value of regularly gathering together with the church. 2020 has presented numerous strains on our regular rhythms: health concerns, government mandates, lack of childcare, etc. As some of these strains are lifted (Lord willing), it will be tempting to continue in the habits that may have been necessary for a time, but are not ideal. It will be tempting to remain distant and disengaged, to merely be a consumer of what the church offers rather than an active participant. I pray we fight past these temptations, and seek to flesh out our membership in one another (“we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” –Romans 12:5:).
- Pray for us to be financially self-sufficient and sustainable. For the past three years, we have been graciously supported by the North American Baptist Association (NAB), as well as a few churches. While we are still receiving the support of a couple churches, the NAB grant has been completed as of December. Up until this point, God has graciously provided each time our outside support has decreased, and we have always had our needs met. We are close to being self-sufficient; pray that God would continue to provide over this next year, and beyond.
As always, I love you all and am thankful to be your pastor. It is my joy to shepherd you with God’s word and prayer. Looking forward to what God has planned for us in 2021.