Across the Rubicon and Setting Up Camp
Annual Report 2005-2006
Pastor Josh Broward
In 49 BC Julius Caesar had a decision to make. He had spent the last few years serving in Gaul and extending the Roman rule across Europe. The Roman Senate now called him back to Rome, and they told him to come without his army. If Caesar had gone to Rome without his army, he would have lost power and possibly lost his life.
One little river served as the boundary line for Julius Caesar’s choice. It was the Rubicon. By Roman law, no Roman general was allowed to bring his army past the Rubicon.
If Julius Caesar crossed this stream, he would begin a civil war. As Caesar stood on the banks of the Rubicon, he looked at his companions and said, “Still we can retreat! But once we pass this little bridge, nothing is left but to fight it out!” This was the point of no return. This was the deciding moment.
Caesar and his troops crossed the Rubicon. Then, he tore his shirt off and gave a tearful speech. (Don’t worry – I’m not going to tear my shirt off!) Caesar’s speech included the famous words: “The die is cast.” This is referring to a game of dice: “The dice are already thrown.” In other words, the direction has been set. The decision has been made. There is no going back now. Caesar quickly took control of Italy and eventually gained control of the entire Empire. But all of this started with a few short steps across the Rubicon.
This year our church has “crossed the Rubicon.” Two little decisions stand as our Rubicon. The first decision was moving to Patch Hall in March of this year. This move has provided us with space to grow, access to technology, consistent temperatures, much-needed storage space, and convenient classrooms.
The second decision was much more important than the first. When we moved to Patch Hall, we also decided to change the time of our worship service from 9:00 am to 10:30 am. This was a HUGE decision for our church. There were two factors in our decision. First, we decided that we wanted to be a primary church, not a secondary church (a place people go before their “real church”). Second, we decided that we wanted to reach out to people who didn’t usually go to any church, and we felt they would be much more likely to join us at a later time. (Really, 9am is like the crack of dawn for a lot of people around here!) So in this one decision, we identified ourselves as a primary church deserving of primary commitment and as a church committed to outreach.
This was our Rubicon. We have declared our course for the future. In a sense, “The die is cast.” We have followed the Spirit and rolled the dice.
It has turned out to be a very good risk. This year God has blessed our church in such a variety of ways that we can only mention most of them.
- Our average attendance has steadily climbed this year. This semester we regularly have over 80 people.
- Many of these new people are not Christians or are new Christians. This year we had the joy of baptizing 4 new Christians.
- God is also sending us a fresh group of Christian workers who want to serve Christ in an international church.
- God has blessed our worship with a great spirit of joy and celebration.
- The winter was a difficult time for us, but over the past six months, God has healed most of our pains and conflicts as a church.
- Our worship team has survived a lot of changes, and we’ve finally found a long-term leader who is helping the team to really come together. (Glad to have you Mei-I.)
- Thanks to Pastor Hoom and Alfred, we now have a thriving youth Sunday School class. (Thanks for serving Alfred.)
- Thanks to Pastor Hoom, JeeMee, and Elena (and a lot of help from others), we now have a booming program for little kids.
- If you count the nursery, we now have 10 Bible studies and classes!
- Our fellowship dinners have continued to strengthen our community.
- Our church income is up 25% from last year.
- At the beginning of this church year we hosted the Thanksgiving Dinner in which we fed 220 people. Some of the people here tonight are here, in part, because of that dinner. To be honest, this dinner was really hard on the small group of leaders who were drafted for the job, but this year you as a church have proved your commitment and passion for outreach, and 45 of you have committed to helping in a revised Christmas Dinner! I really look forward to seeing how God blesses through this dinner.
This year our Advisory Council identified three issues as critical for our success and health as a church. 1) What is our vision? 2) How can we increase the passion and experience of God here? 3) How can we get more Koreans involved in leadership to produce long term stability?
God has helped us to deal with all three of these issues. More and more Koreans are becoming involved in service and leadership. A beautiful example is our after church snack time, which is totally led and operated by Koreans. Also, if you look at this year’s ballot for the Advisory Council, you will see that 60% of the people are Korean. That is a huge step.
We have already talked about how God has been increasing our passion and joy as a church. Some evidence of this is that many of you are starting to invite your friends and coworkers to church. Also, more and more of you are willing to get involved in service. These prove that you believe in what is happening here.
Finally, God has led us through the visioning process to a beautiful end. I believe God has helped our vision team come together on a simple but profound guide for our future. Fundamentally, we want to be a loving community that changes our world. Our mission is to be an international Christian community through worship, discipleship, and hospitality.
Next, I want to walk through our vision statement and talk about it step by step.
In this globalizing city – We live in a globalizing world, in a globalizing country, and in a globalizing city. South Korea has made internationalizing a key priority in its spending and policy making. Cheonan is a perfect example of this. Nearly 2% of the people of Cheonan are foreigners, and this number is increasing rapidly. Beyond that a very high percentage of Cheonan-ites have significant international experience.
We are uniquely positioned to show God’s grace to people who feel more comfortable in an international church. Foreigners naturally long for an international church, but more and more Koreans also want an international church. Many of them have lived in other countries and are now uncomfortable with the traditions or styles of most Korean churches. As a thoroughly international church, we have a unique opportunity to reach both groups of people in ways that other churches cannot.
Here we are all “outsiders,” but we are coming together to discover God in a diverse community. In this church, we are all weigooks. This multi-cultural church is nobody’s culture. We all feel a little uncomfortable sometimes, but we have made a decision together that we are going to move past these barriers to experience God together.
By God’s grace, we will – Let’s say it clearly and openly. This vision is too big for us alone. We can’t do this through special techniques or fancy programs. Our only hope is that God will pour out his grace and Spirit on us and enable us to do more together than any of us can do alone.
1) Worship God in spirit and truth with honesty and creativity. Leading multi-cultural worship is a real challenge. To gather all of us together to worship in Spirit and truth will require great creativity. Also, we don’t want to just play church. We want to be real. We want to be honest about the pains and joys of life so that we can hear God’s call to worship him all day every day.
2) Learn together how to follow Christ. This is what discipleship means. We aren’t just teaching others about the Bible. We are all learning together what it means to follow Jesus and to live life his way.
3) Practice hospitality with open hearts. For us, this hospitality includes evangelism, service, and missions. Hospitality is a way of life. Hospitality is reaching out the world with an open heart willing to help, willing to share, willing to love.
The overwhelming reward for living like this will be a joyful, loving community that changes our world. Let’s be honest – this will not be easy. Really living out this vision will require sacrifice and commitment. But look at the rewards! If we really live this, if we really open ourselves to God’s outpouring Spirit, then God will create among us a community that is filled with joy and love. We will experience that joy and love. Joy and love will overflow in us and beyond us and change the world around us. When we see all of this happening, we will gladly say that it has been worth it all. The sacrifice required from us (while it may look large at times) is in reality a small price to pay for the overwhelming reward of a heaven-on-earth loving community.
When Caesar crossed the Rubicon, the battle wasn’t over. It was just beginning. He had to work out that decision in a thousand ways in an thousand places.
We have also crossed the Rubicon, but the battle isn’t over. We have made a decision to be an international community through worship, discipleship, and hospitality. Now we have to work out this decision in a thousand ways in a thousand different places within and without our church.
If you’ve paid attention when I preach, you know I always ask: “What does this mean for us?” So what do all of these changes and this new vision mean for us as a church? What do we need from you to “set up camp” on the other side of our Rubicon? What can you do to help us fulfill our vision?
We need four basic things from you.
We need your commitment. Today you will have a chance to sign your name in personal commitment to our vision and mission as a church. If you do, please commit with your heart not just your pen.
We need your service. We need more and more of you to take up a job and start working. Right now, we especially need your help in music, sound, and set-up. You will notice later that no one was willing to serve as leaders of the Worship Preparation Team. We need your help to be the church that we all want to be.
We need your giving. As we grow as a church, our expenses go up. The ministries that we do to take care of our kids, to reach out to our friends, to help us all get organized for the kingdom, all take time and money. Some of us have grown lazy about giving because our church hasn’t needed your money. Well, let me be blunt. We need it now. We need you to be faithful in this area of Christian living.
Most of all, though, we need your hospitality. We need you to live with open hearts. Open your hearts to God’s love, and open your hearts toward each other. Love, and be loved. Give, and receive. Help people feel welcome here, and take the risks of relationship. I know we’ve all been hurt in the past, but let down your defenses and enter into genuine friendship with each other. Most of all, we need your hospitality and open hearts.
If we commit, give, serve, and show hospitality, we will open the doors for the Spirit to flow through us beyond our wildest dreams. We will see lives changed. We will be changed ourselves. We will grow in all of the ways that are most important, and as a community we will become more and more like Christ.