|Dedicating ShinHyuk Kim|
This fall we are 15 years old. (So how old are we in Korean years?) To get a feeling for how much we've grown, I thought it might be fun for us to look at some of our previous “firsts.”
The first baby born in our church (Jenny Mitchel's daughter 2001). (The next baby was Esther Kim in 2006.)
The first Advisory Council was elected in 2003. For our first 8 years before that, we were just a hodge-podge group that worshiped together.
Our first mission trip (Indonesia, 2004). We are now planning our fourth, and we're hoping to do one every year.
Our first year with regular heat in the winter (2005). That may not seem like such a big deal, but it's easier to worship when you don't have to wear gloves and a hat just to stay warm!
Our first store room – a tiny janitors closet, which we were forced to get because we bought a drum set (2005).
Our first assistant pastor - Hoom Jeong (2005)
Our first big attendance day: 79 (2005). We were really excited about 79 people back then!
More than 50% of our regular attenders from outside the KNU community (2005)
First after church snack time – started just once a month (2005). I remember our fellowship team feeling really concerned about trying to do it every week.
First website – a free blog that Susan Kim set up for us (2005)
First church members to get married (Anderson and Dianna Cheon, 2004)
First baptisms (2006)
First time to have organized children and youth activities (2006)
First time worshiping in Patch Hall and at a “normal” time (2006). Before this, our worship services began bright and early at 9 a.m.
First time to have more than one Korean on the Advisory Council (2006)
First time to have more than one returning Advisory Council member (2007)
First time to take in members and to be an official Church of the Nazarene (2007)
First church soccer team (2007)
Those were big moments for our church, but we are still growing and changing. We've added some new firsts this year.
This was the first time since we've had more than one pastor that we've kept the same team for a whole year.
This was our first year with a full-time pastor.
First year with average attendance over 100. This was also our first year when we didn't empty out over the summer. We actually averaged more than 100 during the summer months also.
We also had our first church funeral. We said goodbye to SoYoung. That was incredibly painful, but I think somehow our community matured through that process.
This year we also had our first Korean KNU professor and staff member become members.
We formed our first Long-Term Partnership. (Ron and Amanda will talk more about this later.)
For the first time ever, we had four women pregnant at the same time. What's in the water at the snack table anyway?
We had our first church soccer team win! (I'm very excited about that.)
Our Christian Education Team did a very good job in hosting our first workshops and seminars.
We developed our first welcome packets for people new to Cheonan.
And for the first time ever, we have a church budget before starting the next church year (2009-10). Way to go, Hal and Wiekie!
When I turned 15, I entered a whole new stage of life. I entered high school, and I felt God calling me to be a preacher. During high school, I began to become more of a man and less of a boy. I took more and more responsibility for myself. I slowly became a leader in school, in the church, and on my football team. I started to have real girlfriends, and we began to talk in terms of “love” instead of “like.” And one of the things I was most excited about – I learned to drive!
But turning 15 and growing up wasn't all fun and games. I also had a lot of conflict with my parents. I fought for my independence, and my mom fought to keep her little boy. I had to deal with new kinds of peer pressure and temptations. Eventually, I had to cope with the very strange reality that other people liked me. (This had something to do with me learning how not to be a jerk!) I also got lots of acne and a crackly voice, and I had to make big decisions like where to go to university and what to study.
What will it mean for us as we turn 15? In some ways, it really is like we are entering high school. We have learned the basic lessons about being a church. Now, it's time for us to move on to some of the more advanced subjects. We are called to be a loving community that changes our world, and it's time for us to “grow up” into that calling. We may find ourselves in the new position of being leaders in the international community of Cheonan. We are learning to take responsibility for ourselves, and part of that will probably include investing more money in our facilities in one way or another.
We'll have some fun times as we grow into our vision.
Many of us are really looking forward to starting our Long-Term Partnership with Bangladesh.
Our music team keeps getting better and better, and I know SuJin has some great plans to solidify the team next year.
We're working on revamping our website.
We are really learning how to be a multicultural community, and Matt wants to focus on helping us learn how to take care of each other and new people.
We'll be asking you to get more involved in small groups and service roles. (One of our priority goals is to increase total participation in service and groups by 20 percentage points.)
Samuel is developing our ministry to university students, and he'll need your help.
A whole team of leaders is starting a thriving youth ministry (one of our priority goals for the year), and that promises to be both fun and enriching for our church.
We'll probably have a lot more babies!
We might even be able to get a few more people married.
But one of our top priorities this year is investing in you as leaders. As we learn to have lots of people leading – not just me, that will take us to all kinds of new and fun places.
But growing up is never easy. There are always decisions and conflicts.
We are beginning to grow too large for one worship service. This is one of our Big Questions for the year, and our Worship Planning Team will spend time studying our options for a second worship service.
Over the next several months, our Advisory Council will spend a lot of time thinking, praying, and talking about another of our Big Questions - our relationship with KNU. Defining this relationship will be a huge step for our church.
And we'll probably have occasional conflicts within our church. There are two rules of church life. 1) You can't have growth without change. 2) You can't have change without conflict. We are learning how to handle conflict in healthy ways, but we're going to have to keep learning as we keep growing. Don't be surprised when conflict comes. Expect it. Name it. Talk about it. Be direct and honest and humble. We'll get through it. We always do.
This has been a good year – one of the best years in the history of our church. But I think all of us here expect us to just keep getting better and better. When we look back at some of our “old” firsts, they seem kind of funny because we have grown so much beyond them now. But know this: God continues to bless us and to grow us, and we have not reached the end of our “firsts.” We will have many new firsts.
There is an outdoor gear company called North Face, and sometimes I see people walking around town with a t-shirt with their motto: “Never stop exploring.” I like that. Never stop exploring.
In some ways, that is our calling for this next year. Yes, God has blessed us. Yes, we have grown to new levels of stability and size and successful programs. But we aren't finished. Never stop exploring. Never stop growing. Never stop searching for how God wants to use us more, how God wants to bless us more, how we can do what we do better, and how we can do new things. Never stop exploring. If we remain hungry for God and hungry for God's mission, then God will continue to bless us, and the firsts will never stop. Our church story will be one long story of firsts following firsts.