Every once and a while, I look backwards and try to summarize what took place during the year at Good News Church. Here are some thoughts on 2021:
BIBLE TEACHING: We began this year with a 28-part series through the book of Proverbs, Way of Wisdom. It was one of my favorite series that we‘ve ever done here. It got us to talk about a lot of real-life issues and learn what the Bible says is wise for us as we live. Also, since we have the benefit of living in an era with the New Testament, we were able to see over and over again what the gospel of Jesus Christ has to do with all of these real-life issues. During that same portion of the year, we preached a very straightforward Easter series called, Life. Death. Resurrection. Ascension and we also got the chance to remind people about the vision of our church through the Intentional series.
After that, we did a series called How to Read the Bible, and judging by things like audience reaction, YouTube views, and comments made after church, it was one of the most well-received series we‘ve ever done. I was shocked at how excited you guys were about the Survey Through the Old Testament. It really makes me happy to know that, as a congregation, you all get excited about Bible content rather than Christian-y gimmicks. Lastly, we ended the year with a practical series on emotions, Hard Feelings, and the Christmas-themed, Planned and Unplanned Parenthood.
HIRING AN ASSOCIATE PASTOR: This year was the first year that Doug Davison was an employee of Good News Church. He came on board in February, and he and his family have gotten so “in” around here that it almost seems weird to announce their arrival like it‘s a new thing. However, he is new in the sense that this is his first year on staff. He is doing an excellent job, and it has been a pleasure having him on board.
POST-COVID CHURCH LIFE: These past 21 months have been weird and challenging for many pastors. For one thing, it‘s highly unusual to be pastoring a church of nearly 600 people, and then watch it become a church of less than 300 people over the course of a couple months. It‘s also weird for that church to eventually grow back to its old size (well, nearly) not because all of the people came back, but in many cases because tons of new people began to show up in their place (many of whom have just moved to Ocala this year.) It has been interesting to live through a church “reset” like this. And irony of ironies, it‘s crazy that this whole shake up began (for us) in the middle of a series that was titled, Reset. Wow, that sure turned out to be true!
(By the way, if you are new around here and would like to listen to some audio that explains what it is we are trying to accomplish as a church, here are some good ones to start with: Focused, Reset, Making Sense of Church, and Intentional.)
MINISTRIES WE SUPPORTED: Good News gives away 11% of all donations to help support other ministries who practice missions and mercy. (Missions is our word for ministries that spread the gospel, and mercy is our word for ministries that help the poor.) This past year we were able to give monthly support to Interfaith, Share the Love, Wear Gloves, Young Life, Unlimited Discipleship, Tampa Muslim Outreach, Barnabas Aid, Acts 29, Compassion International, as well as several one-time gifts to other ministries (like this past month when we gave to Samaritan‘s Purse as they work with Tornado victims in Kentucky.)
SHARE THE LOVE: This was the ninth summer that we have been the sponsor church for Share the Love Ocala, a ministry that puts on summer camps for kids who‘ve been abused, neglected, or abandoned. Though they did not host either camp (RFK is the one for elementary kids and TRAC is the one for middle school/high school) in 2020, they got back to business this past summer, and we had about 100 people from our church volunteer to help at one or both of those camps. Additionally, they began a year-round mentoring program (TRAClife) for the older-aged kids (they started it during Covid!) and it has already grown from two kids to seventeen kids.
COMMUNITY GROUPS: This year Good News helped facilitate 24 community groups, accountability groups, and Bible studies. These groups are the life-blood of our church in that we believe that church can easily become a religious show if the people within it do not meet together for the purposes of ministering to one another and spurring each other on to love and good deeds. (The initial isolation caused by the reaction to Covid made this truth extra obvious these past couple of years.)
TRAINING FOR STAFF AND ELDERS: Over the past year or so, both the elders and the staff read books together as a part of staff and elder training. The elders read and discussed Intentional Church by Randy Pope, and the staff discussed Analog Church, Sticky Teams, Care of Souls, and Lead. These discussions are a helpful for tool to keep us all on the same page.
LIFE CHANGE: Perhaps the most important things that happened this year cannot be accounted for easily in the report like this. After all, this is mostly a report about what Good News Church, the organization, did this year. This is not a report on what Good News Church, the people, did this year. If we could know what God did in the lives of all of the individuals this past year, I‘m sure we‘d be greatly encouraged, but alas, there is no effective way for hundreds of people to report the details about all the good things God has done in their lives to hundreds of other people. These encouraging stories are typically going to be things that get discussed in community groups and in personal relationships.
However, I will mention that I‘ve (fairly recently) heard of at least four stories about people in our church praying for friends and relatives to come to know the Lord Jesus and it happened. The mother of one of our KidZone workers. The friend of a couple that sits on the front row. A homeschool mom who has a relationship with some of the homeschool moms in our church. The boyfriend of a regular attender at Good News. I bet these stories are just a small percentage of the life change that has taken place over the past year. Praise God.