This is the time of year for reflecting on what God has done in our lives. While I always advocate for reflecting on ALL the things (good AND bad) in our lives- this post will not include the bad. But trust me- I could easily write at least 10 moments that were extremely difficult/challenging in 2015!
Also, this order is from my perspective as the Pastor. Some of these moments, while rather personal- are still tied to the church in my view. So don’t take this list too seriously, and don’t get offended if one of your “moments” isn’t included! This list is by no means comprehensive! This is just meant to be fun and to remember some of the things God has done in our Church this year.
Enough disclaimers- let’s do this:
10. Thanksgiving Community Worship
This may seem strange to many of you- because there was only one Cornerstone member not named “Mott” at this community service. But we saw God show up in a very special way. Our friends at FBC Kountze joined us, and the music, message, and fellowship were like finding a stream in the desert! Even though it was not highly attended- this night was very important to our church and THE Church- all of us who call ourselves Christ followers in our community! Pray about joining us for these services in 2016!
9. Joint Board Meetings
We have always tried to have monthly meetings with our Elders and Deacons, but have not always been successful. But 2015 saw a change that helped us grow closer to each other- and it was the classic Baptist solution- FOOD!
Each month, dinner was prepared by one of our amazing wives, and we shared a meal and fellowship before tending to the business of the church. This was a highlight of the year for me, and a tradition we look forward to continuing in 2016.
8. Summer Preaching
This may seem personal- and it is to a certain extent. But the truth is- without Cornerstone, no one would be calling me to preach at special events. But this Summer, I preached 15 times in 13 days. It was an insane experience. But what made it even crazier is that I contracted a terrible case of poison ivy that was all over my face, legs, and stomach. It was an absolutely miserable experience. I itched terribly for the entire two weeks that I preached in the middle of Southeast Texas summer camps.
But I saw God work in a mighty way through my weakness. I am still in awe of what God did dispite my misery. Over 50 students gave their lives to Jesus during those two weeks. In light of eternity- that poison ivy was no big deal! And the Lord used it to teach me to rely on Him in a way I haven’t had to before! Hopefully, I’ve learned that lesson enough to not have it again in 2016!
It is a blessing to have a church that allows me to take our ministry beyond the walls of our church!
7. AWANA Opening Family Night
To close out our Spring AWANA season, we had an amazing family night/carnival. We saw more people than we expected, and made a lot of great connections with people. Our AWANA team decided to try a similar event to open our AWANA year- but we were not sure if people would turn out for it.
But they definitely did! We had a huge amount of parents, kids, and volunteers. We had bounce houses in the sanctuary (a personal highlight of my year!) and volunteers from all age ranges in our church. It was great to see youth/adults and even children serving those who were guests at our church that night. It helped jump start the highest attended AWANA year we have had to this point.
6. Vacation Bible School
VBS is always a crazy time at Cornerstone! But this year, something special happened. While on vacation in Australia, Mrs. Diane (our VBS director) met a gentlemen from Thailand (where the mission project for this year’s VBS was based). But that wasn’t his only connection. Our theme this year was “Everest,” and Dr. Gib had climbed to the base camp of Everest.
It took a lot of work for Dr. Gib and Mrs. Diane, but we were able to arrange a time to video conference and record a video to share with our kids that week. So we literally had a conversation with a gentlemen living in Thailand who had climbed part of Mt. Everest. And God set that up by having Mrs. Diane and Dr. Gib both travel to Australia and just happened to meet…….WOW! I don’t believe in random- I believe that God orchestrated this unique opportunity!
5. Washington Church Plant- Mountain Lakes Fellowship
This Summer, a pastor from Washington State called me and asked if he could come by our office. I reluctantly said yes, because he was a friend of a friend. It was a very busy season at the church and at home. In fact, we had Edda with us in the meeting!
But as Pastor David shared his heart for planting a church in Loon Lake, I asked how many his church (FBC Deer Park) ran in attendance- and was shocked at the number. (They have since seen significant growth as they reach people in Deer Park!) But I was surprised that a church smaller than ours was working to plant a church down the road.
After a time of prayer- our elders and deacons voted unanimously to help this church plant. In October, I had the chance to go to Washington to preach at the Inland Empire Association’s annual meeting. I got to spend time with several pastors in the area, and got to spend time with Pastor Jim and Mrs. Linda (the church planters) and their core team.
Mountain Lakes Fellowship officially started their weekly services in December! Continue to pray for them as they begin this new year!
4. Youth/Children’s Christmas Play
This night is still fresh on my mind! Our Chrildren and Youth worked very hard to put together a wonderful production. Written, directed, and produced (and whatever credits are available!) go to Kim Price and Jennifer Allien. Along with tons of volunteers, including many outstanding musicians, singers, and actors- they put together an incredible presentation. Our church was packed with members, guests, and first time visitors.
But after the play, the youth hosted everyone for a Christmas carnival. It was wonderful to see so many people serving and helping make this night special.
3. New Elder/Deacons
This may seem like a blip on the radar screen to most people. But this is one that in many ways helped save my ministry! Our new elder and deacons have been a breath of fresh air to our Joint Board. Not only has their fresh perspective been helpful, but their zeal for the work has helped refresh all of us. It took us a long time to go through the process of elder/Deacon selection- but it is certainly clear that God brought the right men to our church! Continue to pray for these men as they lead our church!
2. Getting Ready for Construction
Again, for many people, this is not a big deal. But behind the scenes, this process has taken almost as much time as preparing to preach in the last several months. The process of being offered the loan, accepting the loan, and then getting all of the paper work together for closing the loan was more than I could have ever expected. They don’t cover that type of stuff in seminary!
But a couple of weeks ago- our trustees officially signed the contract with the North American Mission Board. What a blessing to partner with them for this building project. In the years ahead- every penny of interest will go to fund North American Mission work. We get to advance the Kingdom in Kountze while helping advance the Kingdom across North America!
I know that there is still much to do as we look forward to breaking ground in early 2016- but I will never forget the work to get us to this point in 2015!
No list is complete without the reason we do all of these things. We didn’t grow as fast as have the last couple of years (in terms of membership). But a number I care far more about is growing the Kingdom of God! And we baptized more people in 2015 than we have before! Celebrating the changed lives in our community. And asking God to bring even more to His Kingdom in 2016!
So that’s my list- again, I know it’s not complete. What were some of your favorite moments that I missed? Share them in a comment on the Facebook link!