Saturday, January 28, 2006

The State of the Church

The Annual Pastoral Report
Pastor Matt Mitchell
Year in Review: 2005

Dear Church Family,

I am thankful to be your pastor! God has graciously given us a joyful partnership in His glorious gospel, and it is a joy (not a burden!) to serve Him in serving you (Hebrews 13:17). I thank Him for you. I am thankful for your prayerful support (especially for the new Pastor Prayer Team), for your financial support (my family is well cared for by your generosity), and most of all, for your love of our Lord, His Gospel, and His church.

I am also thankful for the 2005 Leadership Board: Keith Folmar (chair), George Leathers, Wally Kephart, Blair Murray, Lloyd Riehl, Charlie Weaver, and Tom Hampton. These men have faithfully come alongside me in prayer, decision-making, vision-setting, accountability, and shared leadership.

Thanks are also in order for our 2005 ministry and support staff. Jessica Meyer ably served for the first four months as our Administrative Coordinator. Thankfully, when the Lord led Jessica on, He brought Donna Wolfmeyer right in to fill her shoes in a seamless transition! Donna has a genuine love for Jesus that shows through as she serves us in the office. Our custodian, Cindy Green, always has a pleasant word and a smile as she cleans up our messes! And I love working with Tom Fisch in ministry! Tom served us as our 2005 Summer Program Director and did a great job.

2005 in Retrospective

I am always overwhelmed when I look back through my calendar at the previous year to write this report. Too much went on to write it all out. It seems like too much went on to even summarize it adequately!

2005 was a year of growth and development for us. Our Lord was very gracious and poured out a number of blessings upon us. Probably the most visible blessing was the parking lot paving project, completed this July. Another very tangible blessing has been the addition of so many new families. We took on seven new members this year [Wilma Riehl, Brian & Holly Lockwood, Jeff & Becky Schiefer, and Pete & Donna Wolfmeyer], and many more new families joined us in worship attendance. Many other highlights from ministry can be found on every other page of this Annual Report! It’s been a big year.

2005 Vision Goals

Our Leadership Board set out 2005 to be a year of “intentional disciple-making” and set three goals for accomplishing it:

(1) Design a strategy, system, and process for intentionally discipling new believers and immature believers to maturity, unequipped believers for ministry, and leadership-gifted believers for leadership ministry.

(2) Engage all of our current leadership in active mentoring/discipling in this process.

(3) Provide opportunities for LEFC disciples to explore their giftedness and fit them into ministries at LEFC (and beyond) that fit their God-given gifts.

How did we do? We got a very good start on goal #1. We developed a “Description of a Disciple at LEFC” [attached at the end of this report]. This “snapshot” is a very helpful tool for us so that we know what a disciple “looks like” as we develop them. If you want to know what we want you to be, check out this description!

We also developed a strategy for launching Link Groups (quality small groups that are flexibly created and maintained) to foster disciple-making in biblical community. This initiative has seen a slow but promising start.

The big surprise in intentional disciplemaking has been the overwhelming success of the Basic Training program provided by our Men’s Ministry. About a dozen guys are intentionally developing as disciples of Jesus Christ through this program and we hope that its influence multiplies. However, a church-wide strategy that has the majority of people being discipled has not yet been achieved.

The second goal has also been elusive. We have a number of one-on-one mentoring discipleship relationships budding, but not all of our current leadership is involved.

The third goal was not a formal emphasis in 2005, though we have worked on various levels to help people connect with meaningful ministry for them.

2005 Pastoral Ministry

I like to define pastoral ministry in terms of my three primary pastoral activities:

Preach the Word

In 2005, we preached through the book of Exodus. What a rich time we had learning about our God in the story of the “Red Sea Rescue!” God’s providence, holiness, majesty, presence, redemption, election, preeminence, and holiness were all on awesome display. Hopefully, we will not soon forget it.

In the Fall, I preached two key theological series: The Local Church and FOREVER: Heaven, Hell, and Eternity. At the end of the year, we began studying the Gospel According to Mark. How gracious God is to reveal Himself in His Holy Word!

When I was away in 2005, the pulpit was ably filled by Matt Cox, Steve Miller, Tim McGill, Bruce Weatherly, and a group of our own board members on Fathers’s Day [Lloyd Riehl, Wally Kephart, Tom Hampton, and Blair Murray].

I had the privilege of representing you by preaching at the West Branch Baccalaureate Service this year. I titled my message “Don’t Waste Your Life” from Mark 8:36, and you gave each graduate a copy of the book by John Piper with the same name. I understand that this was the first time in almost 30 years that an LEFC pastor had this honor.

Equip the Saints

This is one of the biggest parts of my role, as your pastor, but one of the hardest to quantify and to report upon. I work hard to train your leaders to do the work of the ministry. I have taught in Sunday School, attended and led meetings of all kinds of committees and ministries, and tried to keep up with all of our leaders to produce the ministry that is reported on throughout the pages of this Annual Report. I continue to work at raising up and releasing leaders for ministry in Christ’s Church. I hope that I’m getting better at it.

Shepherd the Flock

It is a privilege to work with the Elders to shepherd the families within our church. 2005 was a rich year for relationships with people. Heather and I were both involved in a number of counseling encounters, I performed the wedding for the Hurleys, and attended the funerals of some of your beloved family members, including Jesse Benton and Esther Kolesar. One particular pleasure of mine is pastoral visitation. In 2005, I had opportunities to visit with many you in your homes, our home, in restaurants, in the hospital, and in nursing homes. While the circumstances are not always pleasant, I always appreciate the chance to share sweet fellowship with the flock under my care. I love you.

Blogging

One other significant thing that happened in 2005 was that I started a “blog.” A blog is short for “weblog” and is a online interactive journal that is regularly updated. My blog is called “Hot Orthodoxy” and is found at matt-mitchell.blogspot.com. I see it as an extension of my pastoral ministry. It’s a way of “broadcasting” my sermons, family news and pictures, and other things I feel like sharing. You are always invited to read it and post comments if you like. The point of the name is that Christianity calls for a passionate pursuit of the Truth. A cold orthodoxy (believing true things with no heart-passion) is dead. The opposite (content-less emotionalism) is just as bad. God calls us to love Him with both head and heart: Hot Orthodoxy. In 2006, we hope to refurbish our lansefree.org website and clearly connect it with my blog.

2006 in Prospective

More Disciple-Making

In the coming year, we must continue our present emphasis on Intentional Disciple-Making. We are called, as a church, to be disciples that make disciples that make disciples. We will continue to develop our ministries so that they are more effective at producing the kind of followers God wants us to be. The preaching ministry in the first quarter of 2006 will focus on discipleship in the Gospel of Mark. Our Link Group ministry will continue to be refined, and hopefully more groups launched as the year goes on. Basic Training will finish this round and hopefully both begin again and see some men go to the next level. We are hoping that 2006 will see the birth of a sustainable women’s ministry that is focused on making disciples of women. All of our ministries need to be reviewed in light of this core-mission of the church.

New Directions

In 2005, we began meetings with our sister church in State College to talk about the possibility of planting a church in the Philipsburg area. What could a healthy EFCA church that is committed to disciple-making, sound doctrine, life application, and loving outreach accomplish in our neighboring community? We need to pray that God would lead us in this area.

We also began to seriously discuss the need for additional ministry staff. We have developed a working job description for an Associate Pastor of Family Ministries [attached at the end of this report] who would serve us by equipping our family leaders to disciple our family members and our friends. We need to continue to pray for the development of this vision and the missing pieces things that are still needed to make it a reality.

Prayer Ministry

We’ve been learning about being a “Praying Church” for the last several years. This year, I will be attending a doctoral class on the Theology and Ministry of Prayer. I expect this will not only deepen my experience God, but broaden our ministry of prayer in 2006. I invite you to join me in reading The God Who Hears by Dr. Hunter and, more importantly, boldly approaching His throne.

2025 in Prospective!

When I came to LEFC in 1998, I set a goal of pastoring here for 10 years. That would beat Pastor Jack Kelly for the English-speaking-pastor-longevity-record (one of our Swedish Pastors was here for 11)! Last year, as I realized how close we were getting to that 10 year mark, I felt the need to recast my goals so that I could stay focused on a healthy pastoral ministry for LEFC for the years to come.

Heather and I talked about it and have set a goal of another 20 years, for a total goal of 27 if the Lord should lead and tarry so long. This is a goal, not a promise, but it is our current hope to see it fulfilled.

And I desire for the church to grow in quality, quantity, effectiveness, and influence because of that kind of pastoral longevity. I have tried to dream about what might be accomplished in the next 20 years, and this is my short-list of hopes:

- Church Planting
Philipsburg and Clearfield EFC?

- Several More Families and Singles Launched into World Missions
Who Will Follow the Forceys and the Weatherlys?

- New Leadership Structures
Biblical, Flexible, and Effective

- A Generation of New “Elders”
Developing of More Qualified and Competent Men to Lead the Church

- A Systematic Discipleship Curriculum for the Whole Church
Maybe Even the West Branch Bible Institute Someday?

- A Rich, Robust, Theological Community with a Good Feel for Relevant Application
Pervasive Sound & Healthy Doctrine, a Wisdom Community

- A Community-Blessing and Evangelistically Fruitful Church Family
West Branch People Coming to Know and Love the Lord

- God-centered Families Where Biblical Manhood, Womanhood, and Childhood Flourishes
A “Reformation” of the Family that Our Culture Desperately Needs

- New Healthy God-Centered, Bible-Saturated Ministries for All Ages/Life Cycles
What Might “Church” Look Like in 2025?

- A Biblical Counseling Center
So That We Are Seen in the Community as Possessing and Dispensing Wisdom

- Regional Pastors Mentored
So That No One Comes into a Church Out Here in Central PA and Has to Stand Alone (As I Sometimes Felt at First)

- A Wider Ministry Influence for Me
Perhaps Being Used Outside of Central PA in Preaching, Teaching, Missions, Mentoring, and Maybe Some Writing...But Not Leaving the Auspices, Authority, Accountability, and Centrality of the Local Church

Who knows the future? Only God does. Thankfully, we belong to Him through Jesus Christ. So we can expect good things from His gracious hand.

In His Grip,
Pastor Matt

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