Congratulations are in order for you church. You have done well on several counts.
First, I feel like you need to be congratulated on surviving my rookie year as a senior pastor. I came to you fresh out of seminary with lots of enthusiasm and not much experience. You have been gracious to me and to my family. You have welcomed us with open arms and open hearts, and I thank you.
Second, I want to congratulate you on gaining a better self-understanding. In the spring of 2005, the Advisory Council set out to find answers to the question: “Who are we?” We wanted to know who we are as a community.
Jean Johnson and Patricia Clark studied our church history. Two trends are clear in our history. First is the trend of increasing size. We have steadily grown from about 15 people (10 years ago) to over 60 people now. The second trend is increasing organization. In the beginning, what is now our church was more like a home Bible study. However, as our numbers grew, our need for organization also grew. In 2002, we established the Advisory Council and wrote a congregational constitution. Now, as our numbers continue to grow, we are also continuing the trend of increasing organization.
Part of our new self-understanding as a church is expressed in our new name: KNU International English Church. This is not just a name. It is a statement of who we are.
KNU: Not only are we located on the campus of KNU, but about 40% of our people are also employed by KNU or its sister institutions.
International: Sometimes I hear people refer to us as a 외국 church. That really frustrates me. About half of us are Korean almost every Sunday. We are not a weigook church, and we are certainly not an American church. Our people come from all around the world. We are an international church.
English: We are an English speaking church. We have two common bonds. We are all seeking God, and we all speak English. English and God bring us together.
Church: We have outgrown some old labels like: “English Service,” “English Chapel,” “Worship Service,” and “Congregation.” We are more like a church than ever before. So it is time to claim our name and to expect us to live like a church.
Third, I want to congratulate you on hosting two excellent new websites. Susan Kim and friends have developed a church site at: www.cheonanchurch.blogspot.com and a community site at: www.cheonancommunity.blogspot.com. I invite you to look at them and to tell your friends about them.
You also deserve to be congratulated on your giving as a church. If I am not mistaken, our total offerings for the year were higher than ever before. Let me tell you how we have invested the resources you have entrusted to us.
- We are giving over 10,000,000 won to KNU related causes (Annual gift – soon to be given, Taekwondo Missions Team, and housing scholarships).
- We will soon give over 5,000,000 won to Africa Nazarene University for scholarships for ministerial students.
- We gave over 11,000,000 won to NCM for disaster relief efforts (Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, Beslan bombing).
- We gave over 1,000,000 won to the district of Papua, Indonesia to support the work of the Church of the Nazarene there. We followed that gift with an additional 3,000,000 won to help a church in Papua buy land to build a church in a Muslim area before new laws might make that purchase illegal.
- We gave a total of 6,000,000 won to support missions work for North Korean refugees.
- We invested over 1,000,000 won in support of our Chinese exchange students.
- Through our Lenten sacrifices, we gave over 1,300,000 to the NCM child feeding program to feed 32 children for a full year.
Well done, church! God has used you to invest over 38,000,000 won in Kingdom work outside our local church and about 6,500,000 won in Kingdom work within our local church! Thank you for giving. Thank you for investing in the Kingdom of God through this local church. God has used you to impact the world. Students are going to school; children are eating; families are rebuilding after tragedy; churches are being built - all because of your faithful giving.
Next, congratulations and thank you for your increased involvement in our church. More and more people are “stepping up to the plate” (to use a baseball analogy) and getting involved in the life of the church. We have added greeters and monthly after church fellowships. We are adding now a few small groups and Bible studies. Our worship team has grown by leaps and bounds. Thank you for getting involved. You are really starting to be the body of Christ and to use your gifts!
A natural result of our increased involvement in ministry has been increased attendance. According to our records, our average attendance for 2004-2005 was 50 people. However, we increasingly have 60 or more in worship. This year we set a new attendance record of 79 on September 4, with 13 first time visitors. Our church is growing. God is using your involvement, your prayers, and your energy to build a strong international church in Cheonan and the first international Church of the Nazarene in Korea. Congratulations!
We have entered a new era as a church. Something within us is changing. We are moving forward and outward like never before. God has given us a fresh and new spirit as a church. We no longer feel constrained or held down by the past. We are gaining a vision of the beautiful future into which God is calling us.
One thing we discovered through writing our church history is that this fall is our 10th anniversary as a church. What is now KNU International English Church started in 1995 as a small worship service. We did not start as a church, but as God has moved among us and built us up to what we are today. So congratulations, church, on being 10 years old! 10 years old. We are growing up, church. We are entering the teen years. In a way, we are entering puberty as a church.
I remember when I entered puberty. I got zits (pimples). My voice started to crack. I got taller. I got moody and grouchy. I started to do more things on my own. I started mowing lawns to make my own money. It was exciting, scary, frustrating, and satisfying, sometimes all at the same time.
We will be going through similar transitions over the next few years. It is time for us to grow up as a church. It is time for us to “come into our own,” to mature. In this process, we will face some of the challenges of puberty. As we begin to speak with our own adult voice, sometimes our voice will crack, and we won’t sound or act exactly like we want. Our church body will change. We will get taller and develop muscles that were weak before. We will continue to take more and more responsibility for ourselves. We will even get some zits at times. There will be some parts of our life as a church that just don’t work right. That will happen. That is part of growing up. But we will grow up.
As we look toward this future of growth, let me tell you a story. A high school math teacher once showed his students a horror film with a giant fly. The fly was exactly like an ordinary house fly except that it was 12 feet (4 meters) tall. After careful calculations, the class found out that a fly this big was impossible. It would weigh so much that it would need legs like an elephant to hold it up, and it wouldn’t even be able to fly. The thin legs and wings of the fly only worked when the fly was small. This illustrates a basic biological principal: “When organisms change significantly in size, they must also change in form.”
As a church we are currently in the midst of a size transition. For about a decade we have been, what church experts call, a “family size church.” We had a small but regular group of people, and everyone knew almost everyone else. Now, however, as our average attendance climbs past 50, we are moving into what the experts call a “pastoral size church.” Pastoral size churches are more complicated with overlapping ministries, teams, and groups, which stay connected through the pastoral position. This coordination takes time, so pastoral size churches tend to make the move from part-time to full-time pastors.
(Pastor Hoom, our new associate pastor, will help fill in the gaps while I remain part-time. Congratulations on finding a great associate pastor!)
As we make this size transition, some of our structures are changing. One of the changing structures is the role of the Advisory Council. In the past, the Advisory Council was made up of the people who did most of the work in the church. They were more workers than leaders. However, now that is starting to change. We have too much work as a church for 7 people to do it all. The Advisory Council members now need to function as team leaders, guiding teams of ministry in their particular areas. That means we need you to join their teams and to help them lead the church in doing the work of the church.
Last year, our Advisory Council asked the question Who are we as a church? This year we will be asking ourselves two fundamental questions: Who is our neighbor? and What is God calling us to do or to be? We want to know who the people around us are. Where are they from? What are their needs? What do they like to do? What questions do they have about God? Then, after we know who we are and who our neighbor is, we will ask the question, what is our mission? Given our strengths and weaknesses and our neighbors’ needs and interests, in what direction is God sending us?
God has done a beautiful and amazing work in us in the past year. God has grown us and stretched us and healed us. God has inspired us and renewed us. God has used us to impact the world, and he has sent people to us from all around the world and all around the city. In the past year, God has started a new era in the life of this church.
This coming year promises to be a year of growth and challenge for us as a church. This is a year when we can begin to understand our place in this world, our place in this city. This is a year of searching, a year of exploration, a year of growth and development. This is a year of involvement, a year of participation, a year of commitment. But most of all, this is a year of vision. I hope and pray and expect that, at this time next year, we will have a similar celebration, and we will be able to say with clarity. “This is who we are. This is how we understand our world. This is how God is calling us to make a difference in our world.”
As we enter this year of vision, this is what we need from you. We need you to think with us, to question with us, to search with us, to dream with us, and to plan with us. Most of all, we need you to commit to us. You may not be here forever, but while you are here, we need you to jump in. We need you to join us with all your heart, to become part of the community, to offer your gifts in service of the Kingdom here. God is doing a good work here, and we want you to be part of it.