Sunday, January 25, 2015

My 2015 Annual Report for Lanse Free Church

Lanse Evangelical Free Church exists to glorify God
by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ
through worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service.

The Annual Pastoral Report
Pastor Matt Mitchell
Year in Review: 2014

Dear Church Family,

I love being your pastor. Some people might say, “A bad day hunting is still better than a good day in the office,” but that’s not how it is for me. Aside from spending time with my own family, there isn’t much I enjoy more than serving my church family, and I know that is an unusual privilege. Thank you for being an unusual church!

Stretching Back Into 2014

Last year, I said that the key word for 2014 might be “stretching,” and I think that’s exactly how it turned out.

The Lord certainly stretched our Oaxaca Mission Team as a number of them had never been out of the country before, much less on a missions trip. They brought back lots of enthusiasm, some great stories, and some new perspectives. I’m glad that we are connected to Oaxaca now in a new way.

The 2014 Challenge Conference was a stretching experience for our youth ministry (new experiences, 20 hour drives, inner-city missions!), and also for me as I took on the challenge of speaking to over 1000 students about resisting gossip and also same-sex attraction. Thanks for praying for me!

In 2014, we finished the “Great Clean Out” and “Great Move Around” reorganization that began with the remodeling project we did in 2012. Soon, the upstairs will also be finished and we can use these new spaces to minister in new ways.

We were stretched as we reached out to our community through big events like the Wild Game Dinner, the Gray Havens concert, the Good News Cruise, Family Bible Week, the Durocher Family Concert, and the Good News Gospel Hour Concert. It seemed like we were trying something “big” every few weeks this year!

The Lord stretched our abilities to memorize with our Hide the Word verses for 2014. Psalm 139:23-24, 1 Peter 2:24, 2 Samuel 7:22, Acts 3:21, Romans 1:15, and Romans 3:23-24. Can you recite these passages from memory?

We were stretched to meet and enfold new people into our church family. While our average Sunday attendance stayed around 145 (the previous year was 149), we met lots of new people including several new families in the last month of the year. The highest attended service was Resurrection Sunday with 262 people. We also added a new member in Amy Jo Belko. And the Crumrine’s family stretched to four with the addition of Simon.

Each of our ministries stretched themselves to serve the church family and the community. Read their reports in the front of this document to see what God was up to!

Pastoral Ministry

I tend to summarize my pastoral role in three main areas: preaching, equipping, and shepherding.

Preach the Word

For most of 2014, we were in 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel with the twin sermon series, “A Heart for the Heart of God” and “The LORD is My Rock.” Then in the Fall, I began our current series “All Roads Lead to Romans.” I also got to speak about Resisting Gossip in several churches, seminars, and conferences, talk to the West Branch Bible Club a few times, open the Word at a West Branch Lenten luncheon, and preach at the Windy Hill Nursing Home.

We had more guest preachers than usual this year, many of which I got to be present to hear myself: Spencer Folmar, Cody Crumrine, Steve Sorenson, Sean O’Brien, Alex Ilease, Mark Carpenter, Kim Cone, and Taylor Thomas.

Equip the Saints

In some churches there is an “80-20 Rule” where 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people, but LEFC is an exception to that rule. We have so many people who volunteer to run the ministries, and it’s my joy to work alongside them as a coach to equip them for ministry (Eph 4:11). In any given month, I might attend as many has 5-10 committee or ministry leadership meetings. My favorite thing is when a ministry team takes off on their own and multiplies its effectiveness.

I continued to be heavily invested in the EFCA both in the Allegheny District and in the broader national ministry. My district ministries include serving on the District Board, heading the AD Constitutions and Credentials Board, coordinating the Stay Sharp Theology Conference, and leading a regional pastors group for Central PA. My national ministries include serving as the book review coordinator for EFCA Now and as a new member of the EFCA Spiritual Heritage Committee which works at maintaining the theological health of our association. In 2014, I was able to write an article for EFCA Now entitled “Whisperings,” and I got to attend the national phone conference that officially affirmed David Dockery as the new president of Trinity International University.

Shepherd the Flock

One of my favorite parts of my job is being in your lives. Thank you for welcoming me into your homes and at difficult places like a counseling room, a hospital bedside, and a funeral parlor. It is a high privilege to be with and pray with you.

It was a special joy to baptize five great young men on Resurrection Sunday, especially because three of them are my sons!  I got to baptize Isaac Mitchell, Peter Mitchell, Andrew Mitchell, Ben Schiefer, and Dalton Kristofits. Sadly, it was also big year for funerals, especially of some of our most faithful older saints. In 2014, I led services for Beatrice Johnson, Lloyd and Dora Hampton, Brenda Plisco, Tom Kerin, Dianna Moore, Barry Bonsall, and Walter Mucha.

Personal Highlights and Thanks

Last year, I was rejoicing in the release of Resisting Gossip, and that celebration really hasn’t ceased. I get regular notes from people who are reading the book and being helped by it. Resisting Gossip has now come out in Spanish (Resistiendo el Chisme) and will soon be translated into French, Korean, and Russian! This year, we also released a participant’s guide and Bible study called Resisting Gossip Together and produced a set of teaching videos that correspond to each chapter. Thank you for setting me free to create these resources for the broader body of Christ.

As I said last year, I’m enjoying being a published author (especially now that the hard work is all done!), but I enjoy simply being your pastor even more. Thank you for listening to me each week, following my leadership, and especially for loving my family. We found out this year that our daughter Robin has Celiac Disease. Thank you, all, for your support throughout this life-changing diagnosis and steep-learning curve of a diet. Thank you for praying for us. Thank you for paying me so generously and giving me time off. Thank you to our hard-working staff and faithful elder team for your faithful and loving service. I’ve been your pastor for nearly seventeen years, and I still love it and love you. It’s a joy to be your pastor.

Vision for 2015

The phrase I want to emphasize this coming year is “life-changing.”

Last month, we officially changed our church’s purpose statement to include those  words–“Lanse Evangelical Free Church exists to glorify God by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ through worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service.”

Our church has always been about that life-changing relationship, but now we’re even more specific in articulating it.

I see us trying to introduce people Christ in 2015 through large events like our “God’s Not Dead” movie night, upcoming Last Supper Drama, Family Bible Week, and Good News Cruise. Hopefully, we’ll be doing it in small but powerful ways in our every day lives, as well.

I’m hoping that our 2015 ministries of service such as the projected Pittsburgh Ministry Trip will also be life-changing for those  who participate. I expect our many discipleship ministries and worship gatherings to be life-changing as the Lord increasingly de-conforms us from the pull of the world and increasingly conforms us to the image of His Son (Romans 12:2, 8:29).

How are you praying for God to change your life this year?  How do you see yourself joining in what God is doing at Lanse Free Church in 2015?

May the Lord change our lives and use us to change others’ in 2015!

In His Grip,
Pastor Matt