Dear New Hope Chapel family and friends,
My role in the congregation
I wanted to take a moment and tell you about the vision and plans of the Elders in moving ahead, so you can get a sense of where we are going. When we learned of Gary’s leaving, the Elders decided not to pursue bringing in an interim pastor during the transition. Generally, interim pastors have a special gift. They know that their calling is to serve for a couple of years or however long it takes for the church to find a pastor and then move on once that happens. Our feeling is that New Hope Chapel is a very unique place with a very unique culture. Sometimes bringing in an interim pastor is fruitful, sometimes it is not. Instead, I was sensing God was calling me to step up more, and so I shared with the Elders my willingness to take on more responsibility during this transitional time. As Bruce mentioned Sunday, my role from “Worship Pastor” is changing, at least during this transitional time.
Plan for the Elders
Around the same time, what became very clear to us as a Leadership Team was that our focus needed to change. Because of some of the transitions in the church over the years, the Leadership Team was sort of like a Deacon/Trustee/Elder/Visionary board, and often times, we focused more on the maintenance needs of the church than the pastoring needs of the flock. Much of that was because we had a pastor who was our primary shepherd. But with him gone, we knew that we needed to change from being this broadly focused group of leaders to being Elders, specifically focused on the vision and ministry of the church and the congregation. In one sense, titles aren’t important. We certainly aren’t looking for the title of Elder as some sort of prestige status symbol. But in another sense, titles define and often limit a person’s understanding of responsibility. Many of the people serving on the Leadership Team were brought on for a specific role such as finance officer. When I was hired, I was told my job as a Worship Pastor was to lead the worship team and lead or train others to lead the worship. But when we realized the important need for pastoring the flock, we knew we needed to get in line with what the Bible teaches regarding Elders. As an interesting side note, the Bible doesn’t make a distinction between Elders, Pastors and Overseers. Those words are used interchangeably depending on what translation you are reading. We realized that we were not a flock without a shepherd. We were a flock with a group of shepherds who needed to focus more on shepherding the flock than hammering the pen and putting oil on the gate. Sunday, the membership voted to confirm that.
Last week, we began implementing a shepherding or family care model. In this plan, each Elder is assigned to shepherd and pastor specific families. Our desire in this plan was to make sure everyone’s needs are met and that no one in our church slips through the cracks. When someone is sick, we need to be there for them. When someone has a need, we need to address it. It may be the case that it will get the attention of more than one Elder. That’s great. Our concern was that at least one of us was there ministering to each person’s needs, and we felt dividing the congregation up and giving people specific families would ensure that no one slipped out of the cracks. Suddenly, we are seeing that God does not just have one pastor for our church but five. Though all five of us have full time jobs and other commitments, we will be holding each other accountable to make sure that we are ministering to all of you and taking the time to do that each week.
Future Decisions: Deacons & Membership
With that being said, we have some decisions to make in the near future. For one, we are going to be looking at bringing in a group of deacons who can take leadership of some of the other areas of the church so that we can focus on ministering to the body. This was the intention of Deacons to begin with, and it will free our meetings up to talk about the vision and direction of the church and free up our time to meet with the congregation throughout the week.
Secondly, another area that we will be discussing is membership. Membership has never been something we put a lot of emphasis on. I’ve had some conversations with people who have wanted to become members but didn’t know that process. The truth is that we need to make a process that is clear and available to anyone who would like to be members. We generally only have one meeting a year where members need to vote on the budget. However, we know that during this time of transition, we’re going to be making more decisions and are going to need members to vote. In one sense, it’s a legal requirement. On the other sense, it’s an opportunity for people to commit to each other in a covenant relationship – sort of on the lines of what I talked about Sunday.
Plan for Sunday Mornings
Let me address the plan for Sunday mornings. In the past, there were three different ministries that were not always in sync with each other. Karl and others would get up and do the opening message, I would lead worship, and Gary would speak. There were a few times where things coordinated well, but most of the time they were like three separate entities. In July, I sat down with Steve and Julie, and I said, “Let’s plan out the next six months and let’s come up with a plan that meets the needs of our congregation.” We decided that we would work ahead and be very intentional about the message and work everything around that message – the opening, the music, and now even the adult Sunday school is discussing the themes and Scripture from the previous week. First, we feel that this brings continuity to the congregation and a clear vision. Secondly, we didn’t want to switch speakers every week along with bringing in a hodgepodge of outsiders. We felt that this is not effective for speakers and the congregation and was not effective last year during Gary’s sabbatical. Thirdly, we don’t believe that the sermon is this 30 minutes chunk of time that has to necessarily be filled by someone random that has a random sermon in his back pocket. Rather it is a time for purposefully sharing the heart of God, with a purposeful message from the Lord, purposefully aimed for the congregation that is New Hope Chapel. We also feel that there may be Sundays where we would like to devote more of that time to corporate prayer, rather than necessarily having a sermon.
We are blessed by people in the congregation who have the gift of preaching and teaching. I know for myself and these others, we thrive on opportunities to share God’s Word. So many churches freak out during times without their pastor because they don’t have people with that gift. In fact, the church I used to pastor didn’t care what I did during the week as long as I preached each weekend. We, on the other hand, are different. We have many who are able to share God’s Word, and we also feel that breaking up the responsibilities by series rather than by Sunday, allows a person to plan and share more effectively and in a more coherent fashion. It also keeps us from getting overworked and burned out. I have so much enjoyed preaching this series on Joshua, and I delight in the fact that others are stepping up to preach and teach, so I can have time to focus on ministering to the congregation and prepare for the next series.
Some upcoming focuses of our church:
Oct. – Timothy – Individual Leadership – 2 weeks – Steve Coleman
Oct-Nov – Getting Rid of Guilt – 4 weeks – Julie Coleman
Nov-Dec – The 7 I AM Statements of Jesus from the Book of John – 7 weeks – Various speakers
Jan – Prayer – 4 weeks – Julie Coleman
Christianity is Jewish & Jewish Focus
We will continue to highlight our Jewish roots, just as we had the Sukkot out on Sunday. This will be done more in the opening devotional as well as the music, rather than necessarily being the focus of the main message that day. We will be making some decisions regarding Christianity is Jewish in the upcoming months. But we still see this as our ministry and are not abandoning it, though we have put the radio spots on hold for the time being.
New Look to the Website – www.newhopechapel.org
I’ve been working on a giving a new face to the website – something that will be better suited for us and something that is a new beginning for us – as we venture in this new beginning. Hopefully you will find it informative and easy to navigate. I am continuing to put stuff up there, so it’s not a finished product by any means. We’ll also be posting information regarding the search committee and the process. Chuck Markham has volunteered to take on some of the responsibility of keeping the website up to date, and so this is an awesome blessing to me, so that I can focus on some other things.
The Road Ahead
I have been so blessed to stand up on Sunday morning and see the faces of the congregation. On August 29th, the first Sunday Gary was gone, I thought, “I wonder if anyone will show up.” I am honored and humbled to be in such a loving and caring family. You all bless me tremendously. We aren’t a mega church, we don’t have a huge complex, and we don’t have hundreds of things you can do for entertainment. But what we do have is a family. a precious ministry, and a needy community… and there’s a lot of work… and a lot of blessing ahead.
Your servant in Christ,