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2023 Elders’ Report

As we come to the end of the Annual Meeting, I would like to read our 2023 Psalm of the Year:

Psalm 8

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.

            [1] O LORD, our Lord,

                        how majestic is your name in all the earth!

            You have set your glory above the heavens.

            [2]       Out of the mouth of babies and infants,

            you have established strength because of your foes,

                        to still the enemy and the avenger.


            [3] When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

                        the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

            [4] what is man that you are mindful of him,

                        and the son of man that you care for him?


            [5] Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

                        and crowned him with glory and honor.

            [6] You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;

                        you have put all things under his feet,

            [7] all sheep and oxen,

                        and also the beasts of the field,

            [8] the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,

                        whatever passes along the paths of the seas.


            [9] O LORD, our Lord,

                        how majestic is your name in all the earth! (ESV)


The declaration of the lordship and glory of Yahweh that bookends Psalm 8 has been the constant cry of our heart here at PBC for the year 2023 and will certainly continue into 2024 and beyond.

If you are new to our fellowship and this is your first Annual Meeting, the elders like to take some time to look back over the year and remember God’s faithfulness and blessings upon our church family. We also look forward to the next year of faithful and fruitful ministry to each other, to our city, to our nation, and to the ends of the earth.

In last year’s report, Dennon made note that 2022 saw unprecedented growth with 26 new members joining us. Well, in 2023 God saw fit to continue - and even outpace - that growth. Within 2023, we have affirmed 28 new members into the Body with 2 more awaiting affirmation. To those of you within that category, we love you and are thrilled to have you be a part of our church family. We look forward to serving the Lord together with you for many years.

As you can tell from the written reports, a growing church means growing ministries, and nowhere is that felt more than our various children’s ministries. To put some perspective on that growth, in Children’s Sunday School we had 56 children on roster at the start of the 2022-2023 year, 75 at the beginning of the 2023/24 year, and currently (mid-2023/24) have 83 children on roster. This expansion has led to some needed logistical changes for this year, but also a continuing need for volunteers. Members, we consistently hear of this need and so I urge you to reach out to Ric and Giselle Crooks if you are willing to serve the children’s Sunday School or Kelly Nichols if you are willing to serve in the worship-care nursery.

Along these same lines, we had another great year of Vacation Bible School! Under the direction of Pam Giles and many others around her, I believe we, once again, had record-breaking numbers. We had 108 kids enrolled in VBS with an average of 97 each day.  Our high day was 101. We had 64 volunteers in total. The total offering collected for Next Step Farms was $1,548.49. 2024 will likely top even that because this next summer we will have 2 additional churches participating with us! Our church plant partners, Gracious Savior and Redeemer, will be participating together with us for VBS 2024. This is a wonderful picture of the unity the gospel brings as we fulfill the Great Commission call to be disciples of Christ who make disciples of Christ. On a bittersweet note, Pam has asked to begin handing off the reins as VBS Director. Kelly Nichols has agreed to transition into that role for 2024, of course with the support and consultation of Pam. Please begin praying for them and all of the volunteers and kids who attend!

Considering now our older students, the Youth Ministry has seen some significant changes this year. With Brian Milby gearing up for the launch of Gracious Savior, Blair stepped into leadership of that ministry several months ago. 2023 was full of fellowships and retreats, missions, and service projects. While we are immensely grateful for Blair’s willingness to step into that role temporarily, it is just that - temporary. The elders have already begun formulating a job description and search criteria for someone to fulfill the role of Student Minister. More on that later. Looking forward to some upcoming events, coming up a week from today (Dec 13) the youth will be caroling at the homes of our homebound members. They have graciously invited everyone to join them. If you are interested, contact Blair for more information. Thus far in 2024 the youth are planning to participate in a retreat in February - the topic of which is Peace & Anxiety. Also, in June, they will be joining a World Changers mission trip to Henderson, KY.

Our Adult Sunday School is continuing to thrive with a vast majority of member involvement (~90%). Even most visitors end up attending Sunday School classes and often cite the robust, biblical teaching as a reason they decide to apply for membership. A hardy “thank you” to the Adult Teaching Ministry Team and Mike Watson for his leadership. Your dedication to God’s Word is a testimony to the glory and supremacy of Christ over all things.

Outside of Sunday mornings, we continued to experience God’s blessing in the use of our facilities. We have enjoyed another year of having room for church-wide fellowships and were able to celebrate God’s faithfulness at our 20th Anniversary fellowship in October. Weddings and receptions, bridal and baby showers, banquets, birthday parties, and Bible studies have all been hosted within these walls and this will surely continue in 2024.

Related to this, we rejoice with our sister, Robin Kramer, that on Sept 30th of this year, after 19 months of hosting them at PBC, Next Step Farms was able to officially open their permanent facility! While our building is certainly quieter, the love, joy, energy, and enthusiasm of the NSF clients will be missed. Praise God for answered prayers and the countless hours of hard work from the many individuals that made NSF happen!

I would also like to point out that there are several other ministries in our community that our members are involved in. Child Evangelism Fellowship, or CEF, is one which engages in gospel education in the nearby Legacy Elementary. Several of our members have been faithfully ministering to those public-school students for many years now through CEF. If you have any questions or interest in also serving in that way, you can reach out to us, and we’ll get you connected with the right individuals.

Likewise, the Huntsville Pregnancy Resource Center is a ministry that supports and cares for women (and men) in crisis pregnancies. They provide pregnancy testing, education, and counseling all from a gospel-centered perspective. And again, many of our members are involved in supporting that ministry - if you want more info, reach out.

Each year Providence hosts a conference - alternating between a focus on history and theology. In lieu of that conference this year we held our 20th Anniversary celebration, so in 2024 we will be holding a history conference. The guest speaker and topic are to be determined because our original invitee had to decline due to health concerns. As soon as more details have been nailed down, we will share them with you!

This past Sunday evening we heard from our missionaries and church planters. As we step into 2024, I want to encourage you to continue to faithfully pray for and support them. Missionary work can often be isolating and lonely, so making sure they know they are valued and not forgotten is fundamental to a church’s support of those on the front line. As Pastor Sean emphasized at the Missions Banquet, the local church is the foundation for healthy, effective missions - may we be ever more mindful of the spread of the gospel in 2024. Blair mentioned the 2024 missionary/church planter directory and prayer guide will be available by the end of the year, so please keep an eye out for that.

While we have much to be thankful for and joyful over what God has done in 2023, we must also recognize that moments of grief and loss are a natural part of life. We continue to mourn with the Patterson family over the loss of Joanne Patterson, a dear church member. We grieve but not as those who have no hope. Our hope is that of eternal life with God accomplished on our behalf by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. While death is the ultimate reminder that the final consummation of redemption has yet to be fulfilled, we also see the reality of living in a fallen world as we struggle with health afflictions, emotional turmoil, and broken relationships. There are many members who are walking through these trials of various kinds - both publicly and privately. Please continue to love one another well and bear each other's burdens.

Well, so far, we have been considering the various ministries of the church and there is much more that I could say about each, but I will simply refer you to those written updates in your information packet. As a final note on this front, I would like to draw your attention to the ministry leadership page. With the launch of Gracious Savior Church, several ministry team lead positions will become vacant. The elders are thinking through and working on who could fill those roles, but we were reminded at the Missions Banquet that leadership in the church is recognized and called out primarily by the church. As we seek to fulfill the Great Commission by becoming “disciple-making disciples” we all must take responsibility and ownership of the ministry of the church. Please reach out to an elder if you have any interest in serving in these areas.

Speaking of church planting, this has been a major focus of our ministry in 2023 and you have just heard from our brother, Brian Milby, on the state of Gracious Savior Church and the plan for that launch in just a few short weeks. Also, earlier this year, a unique opportunity was presented to us to come alongside and partner with another local church planter. Zach Carter approached the elders early this year and asked that we advise and support him as he sought to plant a like-minded church in the Midcity area. As you all know, Redeemer Church constituted as a church in October and is faithfully preaching the gospel in that community. Our partnerships with Redeemer and Gracious Savior will only be strengthened in the coming months and years as we seek to grow the gospel witness in the Huntsville area.

Concerning our own gospel witness, the faithful preaching of God’s Word will remain central to life here at PBC. Blair has indicated he anticipates completing the exposition of Genesis in 2024 and will keep us updated on what is next for our preaching ministry.

Moving into 2024 the elders are, as always, seeking to grow in our ministry of the Word and prayer and equipping the saints for the work of ministry. Before saying more on that, allow me to point out some updates to the elder council itself. With the launch of GSC, Brian Milby and Tommy Hogue will no longer be elders at PBC, and Dennon will be stepping down as an elder as well. As we often do, I will remind you that if you have a nomination for someone that is gifted and qualified to be an elder, mention that to any elder.

With these changes, Providence really is stepping into a new season of life. Becoming a church-planting church has made us think deeply about what it means to establish healthy churches in our community, and how to be one ourselves! It has helped us reinforce meaningful church membership and that every member, having covenanted with one another, is called to be a disciple who makes disciples. The Scripture’s image of a properly functioning body calls us all to be committed to using our gifts, as they have been given to us, for the building up of one another. The heart of Baptist congregational policy is that each member, as a regenerate child of God, is called to love one another, build up the church, do the work of the ministry, and be the ambassadors of reconciliation to a broken world. We believe that the tweaks to the new member process will help to fortify that and display our conviction that we care for each other.

Intimately tied to this concept is the need to clean up our member roll. Inevitably, some members will leave our fellowship and not request a formal transfer of their letter, therefore their name remains on the roll. The reasons for this are myriad, but the fact remains: they are not functionally participating in the body. The elders are in the process of communicating with such individuals and in the first quarterly update, we will bring a list of names and updates to you for a vote. If you have any questions about that in the meantime, I or any other elder will be available to you. Plus, there will be a blog post or two published on the website that details the biblical reasons and historical precedent for this practice.

Paul also instructs Timothy to raise up leaders who develop others into leaders - who will in turn do the same, and so forth. We seek to do that by continually conforming to the biblical standards for both church offices, elders and deacons, and calling on our members to rise up and take ownership in meeting the needs in our church. With that said, I am pleased to announce that the elders have asked Nate Nichols to consider serving as the deacon of benevolence and he has agreed to begin that process. Over the next few months, we encourage you to speak with him about this calling, and at the first quarterly meeting of 2024 we will put him forward to be formally voted on by the church and installed as a deacon.

Related to this are our continual efforts to care for and protect our pastoral staff. This time last year we had Blair returning from his sabbatical and brought on Daniel as associate pastor, all while anticipating Brian launching out with Gracious Savior. This has led to many conversations about staffing at PBC: What are our staffing needs? How might they change in the coming season? How do we further develop and clarify the roles and responsibilities of each staff member? And in the midst of that, how do we properly care for each staff member in their physical, emotional, and spiritual life? I will not pretend we have figured out all the answers, but we are working on them. In the past several months a sub-team of elders has focused on building a robust compensation system for our staff. This work and more will transition to a Personnel Ministry Team that will consist of several lay elders and members. One of the first objectives of this team will be to begin the search for a student minister in earnest. As mentioned earlier, Blair directly leading that ministry is a temporary measure for an area that needs stability and permanency.  The goal in all this is to be faithful stewards of all things that God has entrusted to us - including our personnel.

In that spirit, I would like to take a moment as we look forward to the launch of a new gospel work and say a special thank you to our brother Brian Milby for 12 years of direct service to PBC. This is in no way a goodbye - he will still be around! - but really a beginning. So, thank you, brother. And many others have thanked you with cards and notes of appreciation.

To sum all this up, we might say that 2023 has been a challenging, but incredibly fruitful year. 2024 may prove to be more of the same, but I am certain of one thing: that God will be faithful to us in every way for His name’s sake. I echo the words of Paul when he says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

To conclude in much the same way that we began, I would like to introduce our 2024 Psalm of the year to you:

Psalm 104.

[1] Bless the LORD, O my soul!

                        O LORD my God, you are very great!

            You are clothed with splendor and majesty,

            [2]       covering yourself with light as with a garment,

                        stretching out the heavens like a tent.

            [3] He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;

            he makes the clouds his chariot;

                        he rides on the wings of the wind;

            [4] he makes his messengers winds,

                        his ministers a flaming fire.


            [5] He set the earth on its foundations,

                        so that it should never be moved.

            [6] You covered it with the deep as with a garment;

                        the waters stood above the mountains.

            [7] At your rebuke they fled;

                        at the sound of your thunder they took to flight.

            [8] The mountains rose, the valleys sank down

                        to the place that you appointed for them.

            [9] You set a boundary that they may not pass,

                        so that they might not again cover the earth.


            [10] You make springs gush forth in the valleys;

                        they flow between the hills;

            [11] they give drink to every beast of the field;

                        the wild donkeys quench their thirst.

            [12] Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell;

                        they sing among the branches.

            [13] From your lofty abode you water the mountains;

                        the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.


            [14] You cause the grass to grow for the livestock

                        and plants for man to cultivate,

            that he may bring forth food from the earth

            [15]     and wine to gladden the heart of man,

            oil to make his face shine

                        and bread to strengthen man’s heart.


            [16] The trees of the LORD are watered abundantly,

                        the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.

            [17] In them the birds build their nests;

                        the stork has her home in the fir trees.

            [18] The high mountains are for the wild goats;

                        the rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers.


            [19] He made the moon to mark the seasons;

                        the sun knows its time for setting.

            [20] You make darkness, and it is night,

                        when all the beasts of the forest creep about.

            [21] The young lions roar for their prey,

                        seeking their food from God.

            [22] When the sun rises, they steal away

                        and lie down in their dens.

            [23] Man goes out to his work

                        and to his labor until the evening.


            [24] O LORD, how manifold are your works!

                        In wisdom have you made them all;

                        the earth is full of your creatures.

            [25] Here is the sea, great and wide,

                        which teems with creatures innumerable,

                        living things both small and great.

            [26] There go the ships,

                        and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.


            [27] These all look to you,

                        to give them their food in due season.

            [28] When you give it to them, they gather it up;

                        when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.

            [29] When you hide your face, they are dismayed;

                        when you take away their breath, they die

                        and return to their dust.

            [30] When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,

                        and you renew the face of the ground.


            [31] May the glory of the LORD endure forever;

                        may the LORD rejoice in his works,

            [32] who looks on the earth and it trembles,

                        who touches the mountains and they smoke!

            [33] I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;

                        I will sing praise to my God while I have being.

            [34] May my meditation be pleasing to him,

                        for I rejoice in the LORD.

            [35] Let sinners be consumed from the earth,

                        and let the wicked be no more!

            Bless the LORD, O my soul!

            Praise the LORD! (ESV)