2019 marks the seventh calendar year of ministry together with me as your pastor. It doesn’t seem possible that it has been that long! What an exciting time it has been! In this year’s Annual Report, I want to reflect on what God has done for us and through us while looking ahead to our continuing mission (mission fulfillment), how we are preparing to better complete that mission (strategic outlook), and how we are positioned financially to fulfill that mission (financial outlook). The Lord is at work in our midst, and I pray that this report reminds us of His presence here.
Pastor Justin DuBose
Senior Pastor, MAC
Are we fulfilling our calling?
What is the calling of God on our church? The simplest answer is that we are to each be continually offering ourselves to God (Romans 6), led by His Spirit and full of His power (Acts 1:8), being active and alert disciple-makers (Matthew 28:19-20). This is the calling of God on each Christian and every church.
Every ministry of our church must be grounded in and geared toward disciple-making by Gospel-transformation. How are you personally fulfilling this calling? What are you personally doing to make disciples? Similarly, what are your ministries (the ministries in which you are involved) doing to fulfill this calling? What is the evidence that your ministries are making disciples? These are the most important questions we can reflect on before the Lord and one another.
In last year’s Annual Report, I noted that relationships must be foremost in completing our mission: our relationship with Christ and with one another. Recognizing that, the Governing Board set aside $15,000 in last year’s budget to hire an administrative assistant to help with the daily operation of the church. The purpose, as I mentioned last year, was to free up the pastor to “lead from the front” in developing new relationships. I give glory to God that Katlyn Blackwell was hired last summer and has been doing an extraordinary job in that role. Some of the fruit from this move is a Wednesday night small group I have been able to lead which involves 10-15 people. Several people in this group are younger people who are new to the church this year.
We must never forget that investing in Gospel-centered relationships is the very nature of following Christ and is essential to continual effectiveness in completing our mission. I want to acknowledge the Lord’s work in this area since my arrival in 2013, and highlight specific changes which have occurred just this past year.
Jamie Noble is currently serving on the Board as Assistant Treasurer. Nathan Moore is currently serving on the Board as Treasurer. Katlyn Blackwell is serving as Administrative Assistant. Brooks Blackwell has helped transform the Athletic Department at CCA and continues to build relationships with young men there. Hanna Edwards teaches 5th grade, leads a weekly Bible study, and leads on the worship team. Matt Edwards serves as our worship leader and does a terrific job, while Matthew Pridgen selflessly serves in the background, donating his own time and resources (notice the beautiful drums, which sound uh-mazing!) to enhance our weekly worship. These three people (Matthew, Matt, and Hanna) bring life and passion into our worship and fellowship. Scott Crabtree serves as our Discipleship Pastor, is a full-time student at Toccoa Falls College, and is in the process of ordination with The Alliance. Jennifer Noble serves as the church Bookkeeper as well as CCA Principal. She continues to positively influence and transform the culture of both church and school. Micaela Ward works in the preschool and is using her gifts as the Children’s Ministry Director of the church. Her creativity and heart are helping children love Christ and His Church. Axel & Jeanne McPherson are leading the high school youth each week and going above and beyond the call of duty in their service. Nathan & Allison Moore are leading the middle school youth and, like Axel & Jeanne, are pouring themselves into those kids. They also are an invaluable asset on the worship team. Carey Ann Smith is serving diligently in both the church and school, and her hard work and dedication are commendable. Bobby Phillips has been faithfully leading our weekly prayer meeting for a few years now. Without his continued willingness and faithfulness, I would not be able to develop these new relationships on Wednesday night. Sam Hinson faithfully and expertly teaches both in AWANA and Sunday School to lay a Gospel foundation for kids and youth. Rose McPherson started a Sunday School class which continues to grow, and which cause Gospel conversations to spill over into the Sunday morning service and beyond. Phil Honeycutt chairs the CCA school board (which continues to bear great fruit) and helps develop new relationships with our Wednesday night small group. David Kelly has been visiting church families when requested and blessing our church family with his unique gifts and presence. Vicky Ward & Barbara Morrison have both been doing an excellent job with our monthly mission’s breakfasts and reminding us of our missionaries who serve overseas and need our prayers and support.
I know there are many others I could add to this list who continue to serve faithfully, both visibly and behind the scenes. The names I mentioned above, however, each represent either a new role or a new person in our fellowship just in this past year. This is the fruit of Spirit-driven relationship. This is the fruit of the Gospel at work. This is the work of the Holy Spirit among us, and I am so incredibly thankful and humbled by each one of you. Just as Christ poured Himself out into His disciples and those around Him for the glory of God and the building up of the church, so must we. While we do many things, we do nothing of eternal value without pouring ourselves into those God has put around us.
So, God is at work in our midst and His Spirit is driving us to complete His mission for us. But, how can we do a better job at fulfilling our God-given calling?
How can we position ourselves to better fulfill our calling?
As important as identifying our calling is knowing how to fulfill that calling. If the first question is the theological question, this is the practical question. What can we do to better and more ably do what God has called us to?
I am convinced that Christ in His Providence has placed us at an important crossroads. We have an established, well-meshed group of Christians who have been here for many years. This group has lived life together for years and have long assumed ownership of the church and her ministries. They have labored, sacrificed, and prayed over this local work of Christ for most of their lives. This core group has provided much stability over the years, and much of what we have and who we are is a direct result of their faithfulness to the calling of God.
In these last few years, this core group has been joined by a newer and younger group of believers. Much of this group was mentioned in the previous section, and they are also now laboring, sacrificing, and praying over this local work of Christ and her ministries. They are an answer to prayer from the older core group that the work of this Church might continue to be effective beyond one or two generations.
Navigating this God-ordained crossroads of a multigenerational congregation is where many churches sputter and fail. The temptation for us is to err to one extreme or the other: either we will be a church for the older generation or the younger generation. However, God’s hand is on us here in that we still have the stability, wisdom and faithfulness of an older generation and the excitement, labor, and future of a younger generation. It is strategically imperative that we lose neither of these assets in the process. Christ has brought us together for such a time as this, and we must lean into Him and one another to better complete His mission and fulfill His calling.
So, what does this look like? Strategically speaking, 2019 is a needed and, I believe, God-ordained year of transition for Missionary Alliance. Our younger generation needs to be intentionally and relationally developed into leaders for today and not just tomorrow. Our leaders of yesterday can continue to lead most effectively today by allowing this younger generation to lead alongside them. This provides a gradual and seamless transition from one Christ-centered group to another, all the while honoring God and continuing to trust and follow Him.
This year, I and a group of our current leadership will be investing time and energy into a small group of men and families to prepare them to serve as leaders in the church. We will meet monthly with the stated purpose of gradually transitioning these men into church leadership while gradually permitting those who have served so faithfully for so long to transition out of leadership knowing that they have solid replacements. This is not an overnight transition, but one which will take place over a few years. This allows both generations to serve together for a period of transition with the aim of eventually filling most of the leadership positions with younger men who have been trained for and prepared to lead today and tomorrow.
What is your role in this? Firstly, we all need to support these men and their families, encourage them in their pursuit of God’s calling, and find others who you can pour yourself into for the present and future of the church. If you notice a “gap” in the church, then take the initiative and ask to walk alongside someone in order to fill the gap. Let us not recognize a need for the church and sit back and wait for someone else to fill it. The church needs you to be an active worker for the both the present and future of the church and to the glory of God. Without this Gospel-driven intentionality, we will find ourselves sterile and, eventually, dead. Lifeway recently conducted research on church closures and discovered that 100-200 churches in America close every week. When you extrapolate that out over a period of one year, that number is 6,000-10,000. May we not join their ranks!
Strategically speaking, we must invest in one another with the intended goal of reproducing and, ultimately, replacing ourselves. This was the goal of Christ with His disciples (John 14), the goal of Paul with his converts (2 Timothy 4:6; Philippians 2:17), and it must be our goal as well. The fact that younger men and women are here and expressing a desire to lead is both an answer to prayer and a gift from God. We must not neglect or squander such an incredible blessing.
Are we financially committed and healthy?
We have examined our mission and our strategic positioning to best fulfill it. What is included in that, and which we cannot ignore given our present circumstances, is the financial aspect of mission fulfillment. We are blessed to have so much ministry that takes place here almost every day of the week. We are also blessed to have more facility than anyone else in the county. Our capacity for ministry is unlimited…our finances, however, are not.
Our move to the Warrior Trail property placed a heavy burden of debt on a congregation as small as ours. While joyously and freely giving to the work of ministry is always a responsibility for the Christ-follower, our present debt load causes that need to be much more evident. While our average attendance has slightly increased over the past five years, our annual budget has actually shrunk.
Our 2018 budget was $145,000 based upon our 2017 giving figures. However, our preliminary 2019 budget has shrunk by almost $20,000 due to a significant decrease in giving. Actual giving decreased by almost $10,000 from 2017 to 2018. This decrease, of course, cuts into funds available for ministry, effectively crippling certain ministries for the coming year. Our fixed expenses related to facilities and maintenance are 71% of our preliminary 2019 budget. This is an astronomical percentage, and a significant increase from last year, again, due to the decrease in giving. Most concerning is that this leaves no (zero, zilch, nada) money allocated toward ministries of the church. This means that we have nothing to spend as a church on our children and youth, Sunday School, small groups, outreach, etc. Furthermore, these giving figures only address the giving to the General Fund of our church; perhaps even more concerning is the continual decline in giving to the Great Commission Fund. Similar to our General Fund giving, our Great Commission Fund giving is down almost $7,000 from 2017. These indicators should drive us to our knees in prayer and cause us to examine our hearts before God.
As your pastor, and as a fellow Christian who is committed to seeing the Lord move in a powerful way here, I must challenge each of us to evaluate our financial commitment to our church. In listening to the voice of God, is your personal commitment to this church and the work of God here in our community evident by what you give back financially to Him? If we were to assess your priorities based upon your spending, where would Christ and His Church fall?
As our corporate values communicate, our calling demands your full devotion and complete mobilization to the mission. This, of course, includes your financial commitment to the work and purposes of your Lord and King. We could each come up with a litany of reasons why we are “maxed out”, but we each know that we somehow find a way to spend money on what matters most to us.
In our human nature, it seems that too often we need a crisis in order to live in a manner that we should live regularly. For example, we don’t tend to change our diet and exercise patterns until a medical crisis necessitates it. We don’t tend to value the things that really matter until we have a near-death experience. The same is true of our finances: too often, we don’t tend to put ourselves in situations where we have to trust Jesus to provide until we…have to trust Jesus to provide. Our current financial circumstance provides an incredible opportunity to trust Jesus to provide.
In evaluating your current financial commitment, let 2019 be a year in which you trust Jesus to provide in a greater way than you have before. I would encourage you to give more and watch Christ provide more. Our mission not only demands that level of commitment, but it is a personal acknowledgement that God is my Provider and that I can trust Him completely in every way.
2019 is wonderfully fertile soil in which to plant seeds of faith and trust. Step out in faith and obedience in both your relationships with others and in your financial giving to the work of the Lord. When you look around and talk to people in the church, you will clearly recognize that God is at work. Let us not be the ones to hinder that work of the Spirit. Let us be the examples of faithfully listening to the voice of the Spirit, actively obeying and following where He leads, and serving the Church by pouring ourselves into others so that we can be more effective. God is sovereign and He controls the future, but He has called you to play an important role in shaping that future here. May 2019 be a year that we will look back on and see the hand of God in our discipleship of one another, passing the torch from one faithful generation to the next.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Justin DuBose
Just a man trying to save his thoughts and correspondence