In September 2007, I took a few deacons up to the mountains of Idyllwild on a Prayer and Strategic Planning Retreat. We had no elders at the time, so these men were essentially my partners as shepherds and overseers of the local church.
This was a difficult season for our church. Attendance had dwindled down to about 50 people, and we were running a $2,000 monthly deficit. Some were afraid the church would have to close its doors.
During our weekend sitting on those musty couches in the mountain air, we discussed ministry and prayed for the future of our church. We also used the SWOT method to do some strategic planning (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) and laid out a long-term vision for the ministry. It was too early to share some of these ambitious goals with the whole congregation, so early on, they were just desires of our heart, expressed through prayer.
I was going through some old files the other day, and came across the notes from that meeting. Now, exactly ten years later, I’m overwhelmed to see God’s goodness and the fruit of those prayers. With nearly every item on our list, the Lord either met or exceeded our expectations.
Goal: Be using present facility at full potential or already in new building across the street.
Ten Years Later: Our auditorium has reached full capacity, and we are in the process of renovations and expansions.
Goal: Deeper exposition of God’s Word at all levels, in all classes and worship services.
Ten Years Later: God has given our church a hunger for God’s word, and continues to grow me as an expositor. We have studied together the Gospel of John, 1 Corinthians, Titus, Ecclesiastes, 1 John, the Gospel of Mark, and now Romans. In addition to our online podcast, the Lord recently opened a door for us to broadcast our sermons on the local radio station Z107.7 every Sunday morning at 8:30.
Goal: Possible classical school.
Ten Years Later: This is the one item on our list that received very little attention. But we are blessed to see many more families and children attending our services.
Goal: Possible Bible institute of some kind, equipping pastors and lay people.
Ten Years Later: The Lord has given us a strategic partnership with California Baptist University to train up young men going into pastoral ministry. We also have a growing list of members who moved on to pursue seminary and vocational ministry.
Goal: That we would radiate Christ, His Gospel, His love, and His book; that there would be an energy, vitality, joy, and excitement, that would be noticeable to others.
Ten Years Later: We continue to be a work in progress, but many people have visited the church and say it is one of the most loving, friendly churches they have ever attended.
Goal: A growing influence on our Inland Empire Association, on other local churches, and on pastors.
Ten Years Later: By God’s grace, I have served on several denominational boards and committees, and was given the opportunity to preside over the Pastor’s Conference several years ago.
Goal: A plurality of elders providing leadership while still retaining some level of congregational involvement; begin to move toward biblical pattern of church polity.
Ten Years Later: In 2015, our church voted unanimously to adopt a biblical polity that involved a plurality of elders. These men are both good friends and wise counselors, and I cannot begin to measure their love for the body of Christ, or the joy of doing ministry together.
What will our ministry look ten years from now? Only the Lord knows! But may we never forget the power of prayer, or the vital role of patience in gospel ministry.