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Monday, September 29, 2014

Letter to the Church (10 Years at Abundant Life Tabernacle)

Pastor’s often wonder if they are really making a difference.  Week after week we preach, teach, counsel, console, guide, guard, hold accountable, seek God, study, pray... and so on, and each week we wonder if we are being fruitful. Sometimes months, then years, go by without much visible progress and frankly it is often disheartening.

I know it’s the same for you too sometimes, pastor or not.  If we truly are in pursuit of God, we all desire good fruit that is visible to others and we all want to see progress in our own walk with the Lord.  We don’t necessarily desire it be visible for prides sake, but for ‘measurable progress’s sake’.
My family and I have been at Abundant Life for ten years, this month.  If I look at where I thought we would be by now, I will be discouraged.  If I look at where I wish we were as a church, I might be discouraged.  If I look at where I feel God wants to take us together, and we are still not there by the way, I might be discouraged. I actually have battled discouragement numerous times.  However, I have to look at how far we’ve come and if we are still progressing.

So, how far have we come in ten years?  I think we’ve come a long way.  (Please understand as I share this, that I am bragging on God, not me or even us.) Ten years ago this church was hurting.  There had been a church split previously that had left lots of wounded people, many people not attending anywhere.  There were only a handful of people who were still faithful members at ALT.  From the stories and the attendance sheets of those days, probably only about 25 to 35 people were regularly in attendance, down from 400 or 500 at one point.  There was a mortgage for this ‘multi-million dollar facility’, that was extremely reasonable but still a huge burden on the few still here.  There was very little reserve in the account to support a pastor and his family. There was a small worship team and no musicians, so worship was done by soundtracks. The church had been without a pastor for around 15 months. And honestly, the name of the church seemed synonymous with the trouble of the past.

There was a great core group of people here though, and a real desire to endure even in hardship.  There was a greenhorn pastor, and family, who was willing to risk everything to step out on faith even though, we knew if God didn't meet us, we were in very big trouble. There had been great words spoken over the church about greatness still to come. Words like: “This house will be a ‘hospital’ for the hurting, where people will come and be healed and will go back out to minister” or “This place will be a place of great fruit and will be an example to the whole region” or “Worship will lead the way (into the move of God).”

Ten years after God called us here, things are still progressing.  We still have a long way to go, as a church, to reach our full potential, but those words are coming to pass. Consistently people are coming here, being healed and returning to ministry, albeit, often elsewhere.  Light Our City among other outreaches that began in this church, have impacted and united churches in our region, and are continuing to be the example to the body of Christ here and even overseas. Our worship, while constantly in spiritual warfare, has expanded to become a potential powerhouse, or perhaps a ‘powder keg’, just on the verge of a major spiritual breakthrough which has the potential to lead us far deeper into His presence.  It consists of passionate and talented worshipers and musicians who do all they do for His glory!

Many of those wounded people from years past have been, and still are being, healed. Our congregation has grown back up to about 200 members, with an average Sunday attendance of about 150. Most of that core group is still here, but the majority of the congregation are those who God has brought here within the last ten years.

Several years ago, we paid off that mortgage too and have done many updates to the facility including a new roof, repaired the parking lot, several newly replaced A/C units, and now we are upgrading our sound board and updating our look in several areas. We are sending the gospel of Jesus around the world on podcasts and in mission efforts.

Here though, is where it’s clear how much God has moved…  Instead of having a name that was once seemingly synonymous with ‘trouble’, we have become known as a church who loves, and forgives, and reaches after the heart of God and the souls of men.

On a personal note, don’t look at where you wish you were, but where you are now allowing God to take you. It’s a journey. Hang in there… be faithful! We are making a difference as a church, there is fruit for our labor, and you will see the same on a personal level, if you don’t give up. (See Gal. 6:9)  

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