Monday, January 3, 2011

This church is alive (a riot of freestyle digging)!

Dateline: BRANDON, FL - What a great way way to start the celebration of 1st Presbyterian's - - 50th anniversary! The first Sunday of 2011... the sanctuary full for worship... enthusiasm out the wazoo (can you say that about church?)... a festive atmosphere... our brass players leading the parade through the front doors and into the parking lot... scores of brightly decorated shovels... a few solemn moments... and then the en-masse turning of dirt as the entire congregation broke ground in a riot of freestyle digging.

The Vision Team co-chairs read the following verses from Jeremiah 29: "I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD.

Plans to give you hope and a future. As the Preacher's Husband, I like to step back at times like this and blend into the crowd. I'd rather soak up the experience from my perspective as church member than stand up front having my picture taken with the church leaders. I like to walk around the periphery, sometimes with my camera, and let the joy of a happy, healthy congregation wash over me.

And there was so much joy yesterday. And tears too. The tears were "I can't believe we've made it to this point after so much prayer and hard work" tears. The joy is "We are a part of God's awesome work in this world" joy.

Seven years ago First Brandon said "no" to an ambitious building project. It was the right decision. The congregation was growing, but at that time we were still carrying several hundred thousands dollars in debt from work completed well before Rebekah and I even moved to Brandon, plus we didn't have an associate pastor, plus the church sat on a small parcel of land with zero visibility.

Since that day we have retired the debt, acquired enough adjacent property to almost double the size of our campus, called the world's best associate pastor (Tim Black), and completed some extensive remodeling. In the past six years we have raised around $2,000,000 for capital improvements; we've spent approximately $1.5 million on land, site development and renovations; we have another $1/2 million in pledges; and the visioning team have negotiated amazingly favorable terms for a construction loan we can comfortably manage.

The project, which Rebekah refers to as "OUR NEW DISCIPLESHIP CENTER" is designed to accommodate and facilitate a focus in ministry that has been the heart of our vision for "being the church" since the day we first rolled into town.

Our mission statement at First Presbyterian of Brandon is this: To share the love of God by serving within our church, community and beyond; and to develop and empower passionate followers of Jesus Christ.

That's the point of being a church - wherever in the world we may be. As The Preacher's Husband, I'm so excited that we are putting our money where our mission statement is. I'm thrilled that we are constantly working to be a campus where people are both introduced to Jesus and trained as disciples.

Wow! What a great start to 2011!

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