By Brandon Lemons
It is easy to focus on what is wrong – whether in the world, in our individual lives, or even in the church (whether the Christian church as a whole in America, or even at Friedens Church). There are always going to be challenges; it’s just a reality in our broken world. The last couple of years have particularly attuned us to see and focus on the bad – the things we don’t like, the things we wish were different.
Last Sunday, Friedens’ 2021 Annual Report was distributed. One of the things I love about each year’s annual report is that it reminds us of all the good things that happened during the past year. Sometimes, we just need some good news, so I’d like to take a few minutes to celebrate a handful of the good and glorious things Friedens Church experienced during the past year.
God’s Word was taught and preached every Sunday (and in other ways during week as well)! I love teaching the Bible, and I had fun in each of our sermon series during 2021. Yesterday morning in my personal devotions, I read 1 Timothy 4, where Paul told Timothy, who was a pastor: “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (4:13). This is a mark of a healthy church, and we should celebrate that God’s Word is faithfully taught each week at Friedens.
Friedens experience increased involvement! 2020 was hard on involvement. In 2021, in-person involvement grew significantly in all of our ministries. By the end of the year, worship service attendance matched pre-pandemic numbers when you count in-person and online participation. During a season when many churches struggled and faded, Friedens has continued to be stable.
God brought 41 new people into the Friedens Family! It has been wonderful to get to know all of the people who made Friedens their church home in 2021. I look forward to how God will work in and through them in the months and years to come!
God provided amazingly for Friedens’ Staff Team! Pastor Michael was a wonderful blessing during his two years at Friedens. The transition after he went to another church in mid-2021 could have been traumatic. By God’s grace, however, it was smoother than anyone could have imagined! God brought Matt Hampson (and Sydney & Hadley) to Friedens in a such a unique way that I’m still standing in awe and smiling about how it all worked out. Many churches struggle to find the right staff members. We breezed right through it, and even better, there was no drop-off in student involvement during the transition – which is a testament to Michael’s and Matt’s leadership, the volunteer leaders, and God’s provision.
God is always working through Friedens in our missions partnerships! While it is easy to focus on what is happening in and directly around Friedens Church, we must remember that we are partners with eleven missionary families throughout the world! So as we do our thing locally, God is also working through us and our missionary partners globally to bring people to faith in Jesus, disciple them in that faith, train indigenous pastors, care for children’s physical and medical needs, help after natural disasters, and more!
The financial generosity of the Friedens Family was inspiring! 2021 marked the highest level of financial contributions in Friedens’ 167-year history! We also topped 100% pledge fulfillment from the four-year capital campaign to help fund the building project! Wow! The financial numbers are encouraging, and I am even more encouraged because of the close connection between financial generosity and discipleship. As we trust God with our finances, we are growing closer to Him!
God is transforming people’s lives! I could tell you stories of people in 2021 who came to faith in Christ; who took a step of faith by praying aloud in a group for the first time; who developed a love and devotion for Scripture; who sacrificially cared for others in their need; who stepped out of their comfort zone in order to serve in ministry and then grew significantly in their confidence; who made important decisions in their life to prioritize their family and God; and who took significant steps forward as they worked through baggage from the past and lived out deeper levels of their identity in Christ! I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea – that God is transforming lives in and through Friedens!
This list could go on and on. I am enjoying writing these accounts! I hope you see that there are many, many reasons for joy and gratitude. Yes, there are difficult things in our world, and there are times when we even face challenging things in our church. But by intentionally turning our eyes to what is good and glorious, we can always find countless reasons to celebrate God’s goodness and faithfulness in our midst!
(If you would like to read Friedens’ Annual Report, please click here.)