2021 Annual Report
January 30, 2022
THE HIGHLIGHTS (for those who prefer the “condensed version” of this report):
The theme of this annual report is: “shift”. In line with that theme, I’ve broken it down into two sections: Discerning a shift (2021) and Preparing for shift (2022). The 2021 section looks at what God has done this past year. The 2022 section is largely “vision casting” and forecasting where we believe God is leading us this next year.
2021: DISCERNING A SHIFT
The idea of churches “shifting” is nothing new since March 2020. Like most other churches, we spent much of 2020 in triage and prayer. By 2021, we were sensing the leading of God’s Spirit in moving us toward something different than before. While we didn’t know what that was, the elders prayed together about it regularly. This past February, we got the first clue of what part of this shift might look like. Eddie DeJesus, the Church Multiplication DIrector for the Alliance South Central, put me in touch with David Washington.
The Arrival of the Washington’s
God providentially used Eddie to connect David and I in February. David was a local Baytown boy who felt called to church planting. As the elders (and later Admin Committee) prayed about this new possibility, I talked with Eddie about what this would mean for ABC. David coming as a future church planter would make us a “Greenhouse” church (more on this in the next section) and he would stay for a 2-3 year period before launching and planting his own church (with support from ABC). So, much prayer and discernment took place prior to their arrival in August. David has since been serving on staff (part-time) as our Outreach Pastor. David & Toya have now been here for 6 months and hit the ground running. I have been meeting with him every Sunday for one hour and he has become a valuable part of our staff, admin team, and elder team.
Stewardship of funds
God has graciously provided an abundance of funds for us over the course of the last few years. We are incredibly healthy and have a reserve set aside of 5-6 months of operating expenses. At one point we had even more than that, so we capped it at 6 months and set aside the “abundance” to use for ministry.
We were praying together about how to use these funds creatively. I had talked with the elders about bringing in a missionary couple to serve here for a short time before we send them out. In the midst of those conversations and prayers, God connected us with David Washington! We would be able to provide him with a small stipend from our abundance ($30,000 over two years, with $15,000 coming from us and $15,000 coming from the Alliance). Like my hypothetical “missionary couple”, David & Toya would be here for a season of 2-3 years before we launch them as church planters. The next section contains more information about our ongoing relationship and partnership with David and our continued stewardship of funds.
Launching Community Groups
As part of our “re-Launch” in September, we launched two Community Groups. Our Outreach Pastor, David Washington, helped provide the vision and structure for this ministry. Bill Allen & Wally Whitley led one group while David Washington & Dave Truncale led the other. We are meeting in homes over a meal, praying for one another and our community, and using the sermon as our discussion guide. While our initial goal was just to get them started and launched, our longer-term goal is to use these groups as the vehicles for outreach and benevolence. There will be more on our vision and plans for this in the following section.
2022: PREPARING FOR SHIFT
So, while in 2021 we sensed God shifting ABCBaytown from what we had been to something different, I believe this year (2022) is a year of God preparing us for this shift. He has done great things and simply asks that we follow Him in faith and obedience. This “vision casting” below is my attempt to trust and follow Him in this new area that He is so clearly leading. I’m inviting you to join me in this exciting new season.
In the last quarter of 2021, ABC was officially designated a “Greenhouse” church by the Alliance. This means that we sense God calling to be (and are now) a “church-planting church”. This is not just a designation on paper but one which influences even our mission and focus as a church. So, what does this mean for us?
We are partnering with David for a period of 2-3 years before he (with our guidance and support) plants a new Alliance church. We are providing him with a platform for mentorship and growth. Here, he has the opportunity to preach, lead in ministry efforts, join the admin and elder meetings, build a network of support, and receive prayer and guidance from the elders.
Part of this relationship and partnership includes an increasing focus on planting a new church. Accordingly, David and the elders will be shifting their focus to helping discern God’s heart and will for him and his ministry and helping him build a network of support and partnership. He will be simultaneously serving here while preparing to leave in the next 2-3 years. As a Greenhouse church, we sense this is God’s leading for us now: partnering with David and providing him a place to develop, experiment, minister, seek God, and grow his own network (which includes ABCBaytown) as he prepares to plant a new work and reach the harvest of Baytown, TX.
These shifts are not just organizational, but personal. They will require some level of shifting for each of us. For me, as part of this shift, I hear God telling me to shift the focus of my sermons for 2022. Rather than strictly preaching expositorily through a book of Scripture (which has been my practice for the past 16 years), I will be preaching a handful of topical sermon series. These will be aimed at helping us, all together, understand the biblical call to relational outreach and discipleship and move as one body into God’s will for us.
Please understand that this is challenging for me, but I am convinced it is God’s will for us in 2022. I’d appreciate your prayers. I am planning to preach a series on the Body of Christ and your role in it, spiritual gifts (followed by a spiritual gifts assessment for everyone), and two longer series on The Kingdom of God and the New Testament church. I am praying that these sermons help us hear what God is doing here (calling us to be a church-planting church) and how we are shifting to move with Him (reaching our community through our relationships).
Community Groups are a central part and emphasis of this shift. As we move into trying to impact our community and plant a new work here, I really want to use our Community Groups as the channel for both outreach & discipleship. As David continues to spearhead this effort, I am praying that we see new leaders brought up and new groups started this year. We have planned three sessions for training new community group leaders in our 2022 calendar. I am trusting and believing for God to stir some of us who are here to lead community groups and we grow, and to bring along others who are not yet a part of our family.
I am also praying that we see powerful Kingdom impact through our serving together and reaching to our community. I am praying that we grow not in numbers only (or even primarily), but in impact to our neighbors…and in desire and burden to reach our neighbors and community. I would love nothing more than to see our community groups double in number, only to take much of what we have gained and use these families to partner with David in his new plant. We are trusting and believing God for amazing fruit and abundant harvest!
I specifically want to resource (and as heavily as possible) our community groups to accomplish ministry. We are trusting the Holy Spirit to stir creativity through these groups and we want to use the resources (funds, building, people, etc.) God has given us to bring people into contact with Jesus.
Stewardship of Funds
At the end of last year, we had a joint meeting with the elders and admin team. We talked at length about our “abundance” that God has given us and how we can steward it more faithfully and impactfully. As a result, we have prayerfully, strategically, and intentionally set aside a portion of our excess reserves to be ready to minister in ways that we feel God is calling us. Rather than having a centralized committee decide how to use this money, I want to see these funds used for and by community groups. The idea is that community groups increasingly become the vehicle through which we accomplish relational impact. We have three outreach opportunities planned for the year, but are hoping for more as God burdens our hearts. Here is how it works:
Our community groups pray together about how to reach the neighborhoods and community where we live. Rather than through church-wide programs, we are hoping to accomplish this through the efforts of our community groups specifically. Community groups communicate their ministry ideas through the community group leader, who then communicates it to the admin committee. The admin committee decides and approves the funding for the idea. Once supported and empowered, our Community Groups can then carry out outreach and benevolence, seeing and realizing Kingdom impact in our community.
I am praying that through this vehicle of supported and empowered community groups, ABC can begin to see generational impact and harvest here in Baytown.
God is clearly moving in our midst, and moving in a specific direction. He is calling us to partner with David to reach the people in our city. He has provided for us, sent David to us, and opened the door to a mighty harvest. As we seek to shift to accomplish His will, I am calling each of us to consider how we can shift. Who is God calling me to reach this year? How can my community group make an impact? What can we do to be the hands and feet of Jesus together?
As the Holy Spirit speaks to each of us, I firmly believe that we are positioned for Kingdom impact. Let’s trust and obey together in 2022 and be in awe of what God does.
with you for His glory,
Lead Pastor, ABCBaytown
Just a man trying to save his thoughts and correspondence