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2018 Annual Report

Presented at the 2018 Annual Business Meeting …


It is with a great deal of pride that I get to present the elders annual report on this our 15th anniversary of Providence Baptist Church. This coming Friday will mark the official date of the signing of the church covenant, but we held our celebration a little over a month ago in a warmer climate. On behalf of the elders, let me begin this report by offering a hearty thank you to Kim Vaughn and her fellow co-workers that organized the reception at Meadow Creek Farms. It was an outstanding day and one that we will cherish in our memories.

            I also want to thank those founding members that have been here since the beginning. You have blessed us with your faithfulness. God has used you to provide a church home for the rest of us. And yet, I am also certainly grateful for those who have come since the founding of the church. You have caught the vision of what God is doing here. We are very glad for the gifts and talents that you bring so that we might magnify the Lord Jesus even more. But I digress a bit, the purpose of the elders’ annual report is to give a review of the year 2018 and to speak of the plans, should the Lord tarry, for 2019. In some ways, this event has become a state of the church address. So let me provide a few of the blessings we should celebrate from this past year.

            In 2018 we had a remarkable expansion of ministry. Three areas really come to mind. The first of these is related to our children’s program. In the area of Sunday School over this past year, we have witnessed the fruit of Ric and Giselle Crook’s leadership in the children’s program. They began towards the end of 2017 to make incremental changes to our ministry. And the results are really paying off. We have an amazing group of teachers from the bed-babies to sixth grade, and Ric and Giselle have found ways to highlight those teachers’ skills. And in turn, the numbers in this area are growing. But its not just numerical growth. We are seeing spiritual growth especially as it relates to the kids’ progress in the New City Catechism. If you have not had an opportunity to hear the children recite their catechism, let me encourage you to do so. It is a tremendous blessing to hear them speak deep theological truths.

            We had another outstanding Vacation Bible School. Once again, our Super Sleuths were able to investigate the parables of Jesus. Pam Giles and Kim Lott worked diligently to organize the best VBS yet. We had over 50 kids this year, and they were able to raise $1,030.50 in their love offering for the Rose of Sharon. I want to personally express my gratefulness to each worker both youth and adult for loving our children so well. People are hearing about our VBS, and they want to send their kids to it because they know how much you care about their sons, daughters, and grandchildren.

Also in the children’s area, we now have children’s choir directors. Both Jackie Burton and Pam Clardy agreed to lead this important ministry. You saw it resurrected just a few Sundays ago as the platform could barely contain all the children. Let me note, if you are unaware, that music program has been incorporated into the Sunday School hour to maximize participation. Thank you, Jackie and Pam, for providing the gift of music to our kids.

In our efforts to make our families feel safe, we have enlisted the help of two sheriff’s deputies to do security for us. I know that I have been blessed not only with their protection but the friendship of Deputy Matt Wilson and Deputy Wes Jarrett. We are grateful for their friendliness, and we are also grateful for their service to our community. It has been wonderful to see how they have slipped seamlessly into our midst.

            But it’s not just the children that have benefited, but an older group of students as well. In 2018, we saw the expansion of our college and career ministry. It has now been officially split from the youth group. The college and career group will be doing their own separate activities and bible studies. Robert and Lindsey Smith have agreed to take over this important ministry.  They successfully conducted a well-attended Bible study in their home this past summer while Kgroup was on hiatus. This past fall this group helped serve at the Rose of Sharon ministry, and they have planned additional trips and mission opportunities in 2019. Thank you, Robert and Lindsey.

            The second area of expansion is with our aging population. In 2017, the elders told you that we saw a need to expand our care for senior adults in our church. In 2018, we began to offer the first daytime Kgroup to make it easier for our senior adults to attend.  Back in April, we hosted a conference featuring Dr. Howard Eyrich, from the Birmingham Theological Seminary. Dr. Eyrich is a key founder of the Biblical Counseling movement and brought a particular expertise to this subject. The theme of the conference was based upon the title of his book, The Art of Aging. He provided very able instruction both for Seniors and those that provide care for them.  This conference has stimulated our thinking about how we can best serve the aging in our congregation, and it is our desire to explore new ways we can do this.

            The third area of growth is related to Disaster Relief. In February Brian took a team to Orange, TX to hang drywall in homes that were flooded during Hurricane Harvey. The team had an excellent time and grew together serving one another. This new ministry had the powerful effect of seeing Jon Kerns come to faith in Christ. Jon was just baptized a few weeks ago. Since that time, members of our church have participated in disaster relief training and two months ago they went to Marianna, Florida on two separate occasions to serve those affected by Hurricane Michael. We have members who love this style of ministry and are good at it. So in the future, we want to continue this momentum and develop more opportunities where our church can participate in similar efforts.

            These are just some of the areas where God has proven His faithfulness to us through expansion. He has also been faithful to us in our current day-to-day ministries. Our choir and music ministry have been outstanding under the direction of Glen Harper. I am sure you have noticed, under the capable leadership of Mike Watson, our adult Sunday School classes have continued to grow. So much so that the rooms are feeling entirely too small. The teaching ministry team has had to recruit additional teachers to share the load. And you will be seeing them in the months ahead. Also in the area of discipleship, we had several members begin their training to become Biblical counselors. Many of them began attending weekend classes last March to become certified counselors through ACBC. We are hoping this group will increase our capacity to do one-on-one and family counseling to our church and community.

            Our pulpit ministry has remained strong. In January of this past year, we began our study of the book of Proverbs. We preached verse by verse through the first nine chapters of the book. And starting this past fall, we began to look at chapters 10 through 29 topically. Our study of Proverbs will continue well into the Spring of next year. To highlight our study of Godly wisdom, we used Psalm 1 as our Psalm of the year for 2018. During the summer prayer meetings, our elders gave their personal testimonies of how this Psalm intersected with their individual lives or families. Our commitment to preach only the Word of God remains strong at Providence.

            That faithfulness to the Word has manifested itself in much fruit by the numerous families visiting Providence. In 2018 we added eight new families to our church with the expectation that more soon will be forthcoming. You can assist in growing this ministry in four ways. #1- make yourself available and go out of your way to welcome those who are new. #2- invite them to your home to share your hospitality. #3- sit closer to the front and scoot to the center of the pews. Most newcomers arrive as soon as the church begins. By you leaving the spaces on the end, gives them the opportunity to sit beside you and be greeted. And #4- at some point in the next year, you might consider volunteering to become an official ambassador of the church as we begin a new greeter’s ministry. We are grateful to God for all the new faces attending Providence. And might I also add, we are grateful to Pamela Rigsby in organizing our nursery to see to the needs of all these new children. We have had to create an overflow plan for when the number of children exceed our capacity to contain them.

            We have had improvements to our church building. Our parking lot was repaved in May, and we have had several church work days where our members have come out to fellowship and enhance the beauty of the property.  We also had some major repairs made to our roof due to storm damage. It is at this point that the elders want to thank Chris Kramer for the past six years serving as team lead for the building and grounds team. Chris had to step down to devote more attention to his family and his work. That leadership baton has been passed to Larry Blackwell who has been working with Jeff Sandridge. Both have proved enthusiastic workers for the cause. It seems like I have seen one or the other up here at the building every day. Gentlemen, we thank you for serving our church in this capacity.

            Providence continues to be a blessing to our local community. As we have already shared, Providence is a major contributor to the ministry to the homeless at the Rose of Sharon. We support this organization, not only through our giving but also through volunteer help. Led by Monika Carroll, we still have a group that goes to the Valley View Nursing home each month. You heard in August from Mike Pettey, the school counselor at Legacy Elementary, how Providence is one of the strongest supporters of the Lunches of Love program. Also, at this school, members of Providence continue to lead a CEF Good News Club for the children on a weekly basis. (Next week, I have the blessed opportunity to share the gospel with the children through stories and song). Brian is part of the leadership of First Priority at Monrovia Middle School. Each month he helps lead an Evangelistic outreach in the morning prior to school hours. (It is my understanding that he trained 23 middle schoolers to share the gospel, who just this morning, turned around and shared it with 90 of their peers).  Our student ministry participated in Rocket City Mission during the summer where they installed vinyl siding on homes in the Terry Heights Neighborhood. And this was all in addition to the collections we had for the Madison County Sheriff’s Department Chaplains Corp, The Downtown Rescue Mission, and Operation Christmas Child. Providence continues to make the Lord’s presence known within our community.

            And we are not limited to our own community. We sent a group of eight men to Portland, Maine to assist our sister church, Christ Fellowship.  These men were able to do some painting, window replacement and minor repair to their church building. By doing so, the church was able to free up funds to call an additional part-time minister to serve alongside church planters, Scott and Julie Terry. Our youth ministry sent a team of students and leaders to Mt Vernon, Illinois. They were able to conduct a Vacation Bible School for Park Avenue Baptist Church where they ministered to over 50 kids. They also renovated the office space and a community center for a trailer park. And our church continues to support financially through our budget, Craig and Elizabeth Priestly, Church Planters in Chicago, Illinois, Wycliffe Bible Translators, and Choose Life, which is now the Huntsville Pregnancy Crisis Center.

            We are still working to glorify to our Lord, internationally. If you were at the Missions Banquet this past Sunday night you heard testimony from our missionaries in South Africa, Mongolia, and the Czech Republic. All are full-time missionaries supported by our church budget here at Providence. We fully funded short-term missionaries such as Monika Carroll to Ecuador and Olivia Watson to southeast Asia. You also sent an additional short-term team to the  Pacific Rim back in August. This group of men led business seminars to assist the community with economic development in order to keep the population from becoming dependent on the Islamic government. In 2018 we began our boarding house adoption program on the same island. Our church is financially supporting 40 students to live in the city where they receive free education, clothing, and health care. Altogether from the Lottie Moon offering of 2017 through this past month of November 2018, our membership has contributed $91,937.61 to missions and local ministry. That is an increase of $20,000 from last year. (Not bad for a church of just under 300, including children).

            But as wonderful a year as we had in 2018, we are looking forward to what God will do in 2019. At the September quarterly, you were introduced to the new building team. It is time to take steps to replace the portables. You heard me say a few years back, that I refuse to allow the church to go into more debt. I have since had to reconsider my position and to ‘eat my crow’ as they say. To rent the portables we spend just under $30,000 a year. To date, we have spent almost $357,000 on that temporary building, just in rent. I have become convinced that if we can put down a sizeable down payment that will allow our monthly payments to be consistent with what we are currently paying, then that is wisdom. This would be investing in a permanent building that we really want and need for our children and families. So for the sake of wisdom, I for one, am willing to change my mind. I may be eating crow, but at least I will be eating it sitting in the comfort of a new fellowship hall.

            To this end, Dwain Clardy and his team have been gathering information. They will soon present to the church a set of proposals about moving forward. In doing so, allow me to ask you to make their lives a blessing. I am personally familiar with each member of this team. All of them are extremely competent and approachable. If you have ideas about the new building project, might I suggest speaking to them. There will be opportunities to discuss this project as a gathered body. But I am sure they would want to hear your thoughts now. I also want to beg you to pray for this team. We all know there is no way they will be able to provide the perfect building where everyone is happy, but Lord willing they will be able to provide us with a space that will glorify our God.

            In addition to this, our missions’ team is expanding our opportunities to serve the Lord in the middle east. We are partnering with some local missionaries in that place to work with an unreached people group. You may ask why? Well, first the country has a population over 80 million people, and of that number only 4,000 are known to be evangelical Christians. The unreached group we desire to reach numbers is just over 4 million souls. And second, some of the work required can be done here on U.S. soil. The team is organizing an effort using computer specialists within our church to work on a translation of the Gospel of Luke in the language of this unreached people group.  That means 4 million people will be able to read a gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in their own tongue for the first time ever. And Providence gets to be a part of that. In addition to this work, there will also be more short-term opportunities to travel to this nation. Going there requires less travel time than a project in the Pacific. A trip can be done in 9 days or less as opposed 12.

            Spiritually, as a church body, we will continue working our way through the book of Proverbs in order to understand the fear of the Lord. We want to appropriate the wisdom of God so that we might glorify Him. With all the recent blessings of our church, I have chosen Psalm 50 to be our Psalm of the year. It is a song that reminds God’s people that He is the One that brings blessing - not us. He does not need anything from us, but He loves it when we allow Him to work through our weaknesses so that He might be glorified.

            On the Sunday of the 15th Anniversary, you heard in my sermon how our elders want to emphasize five areas of growth at Providence in the upcoming year. The first of these was a unity in our understanding of the gospel. It is the Gospel message of Jesus Christ coming into the world to save sinners that reveals that we (all) are fallen and in need of the atonement of Christ. It is what spurs us to seek the lost and proclaim this message of love. It is a unified understanding that apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ no one is saved - therefore in our desire to glorify God, we should seek to live by the gospel and declare the gospel.

            Second, we want to be a church led by the Holy Spirit, not ourselves. To that end, our elders have a desire to cultivate more prayer in the life of the church. We want to seek the Spirit, invoke the Spirit and listen to the Spirit through the Word of God. And when we have heard from Him, we want to obey making sure we are doing His bidding and not our own.

            That leads us to our third area of growth. We want to be obedient to God’s Word so that we might be conformed to the image of Christ. Therefore, we really want to emphasize discipleship. We need quality teaching at Providence, and we have quality teaching at Providence. But it must not become an academic exercise for knowledge sake. We need to become more like Christ, and only true discipleship can accomplish that task.

            Fourth, we want to love our community through the love of our Father in heaven. We don’t just want to love internally within our body, but we know our Father has sheep that are not of this fold. Therefore by his grace and for his glory, we want to be willing instruments to be used by Him so that those seeking Him might find and receive His love.

            And finally, we want to have a healthy understanding of what it means to persevere until the Lord returns. This world is not our home. And while there are vestiges of our Creator all around us that we can appreciate, IT IS a fallen world. Therefore, as His children, in this world, we will suffer. And we must persevere.  Perseverance implies sacrifice in order to reach a goal. We want our individual sacrifices to mean something. If we give up our creature comforts, let them be used for the glory of God.

            Unity in the gospel, led by Spirit, obedience in order to be conformed in the image of Christ, loving the world through the Father, and persevering together until the Lord returns or calls us home; these are the areas that your elders want to develop and promote within our congregation. Lord willing, we desire to produce a new vision document regarding this. When you hear that, don’t think that we need to replace our current vision of declaring the sovereign majesty of God, but that our new vision would come alongside what was previously there in order to provide a better vehicle and plan to declare our Lord’s sovereign majesty.

            There is much to be hopeful and rejoice as we look toward 2019. But let us not forget to celebrate and offer thanksgiving for what the Lord has done in 2018. Let us not be like the Israelites who saw every provision from the Lord in the wilderness and yet still had the temerity to grumble and scoff.  Let us not stand accused like Judah, when after Yahweh had blessed the nation, the prophet Malachi had to ask, will a man rob God?  Let us not be like the nine lepers who when they were healed did not return to thank Jesus. But let us truly rejoice and bring our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for what He has done in this place.