June 2019 marks my 30th anniversary as your pastor….30 years of praying and searching the heart of God and trying to hear his voice so that I give you the vision and the leadership that God asks of me. Hopefully those 30 years also give me some understanding and perspective as we look forward.
First, not a long history lesson, but how did we get here?
- Started in 1952 downtown in the old Trinity Lutheran building which is no longer there (left picture below).
- Moved to 14th and Custer in 1964 (middle picture below).
- My father came as pastor in 1979.
- With great sacrifice the congregation bought the property where we currently exist in 1980 for 12,500 an acre.
- We built the first building in 1984 – I was here as student ministry pastor (right picture below).
- I came back as pastor in 1989 and we paid off the debt we owed on that first building. Being debt free allowed us to grow and place our resources in ministry.
- And after a few years we reached 540 in 2005 and then stopped growing.
We were completely out of space so the congregation sought the Lord and believed that it would involve stepping out in faith and leveraging the assets that we had. God honored our obedience to him. The last 10 years we have seen God extend His Kingdom through us in wonderful ways.
THE LAST 10 YEARS
- Ten years ago our average attendance was 607; our highest average since then was 1050.
- Ten years ago our undesignated giving was $1,014,420, as of the end of 2018, it was $2,133,416
- Ten years ago our debt was $6.2m; as of June 2019, our debt is $4,445,218.
- We baptized 485 (through 12/31/18).
- We were/are significant partners in starting:
- Calvary Baptist Church, Laurel
- Crossroads Church, Bozeman
- Elevation Church, Billings Heights
- Great Plains Gathering, downtown Billings
- Redemption Church, Gillette WY
- Gracepoint Church, Billings Heights
- Ten years ago we were able to give $100,414 to missions annually, last year we gave $442,576 to mission causes.
- Over the last ten years, we also added the office wing, remodeled the Awana room, remodeled the Activity Center, remodeled the kitchen, added parking and outdoor lighting, put in the elevator, completed the HVAC project and many other projects that keep our campus looking great and functioning well.
The conclusion is that we were obedient to the voice of God. We were willing to step out in faith and take on this debt and God has blessed it. Let me say a word about debt. Nobody wants debt. But there are times when leveraging money is the smartest thing to do. Remember, it is not the church with the most money that is the most faithful—it is the church that obeys God and extends his Kingdom in preaching the Gospel. This is what we heard from the Lord. One time we paid off our debt and grew. One time we took on more debt and grew. What is the key? Being obedient to the voice of the Lord! But debt doesn’t just miraculously disappear because God blessed it. We must continue to be obedient.
Obedience isn’t just a one-time thing…it is a lifestyle!
What is God asking us to do now?
I believe we need to do all that we can to pay down as much of our debt as possible before the next growth wave hits us. It’s coming. And it is our privilege to put the next generations of Emmanuel in a position to do even more for the Kingdom of God than we have been able to do.
If we would experience the same level of giving that we had in 2016 for campus projects ($27k per month) would could pay down $550,000 in the next 20 months.
Therefore, our goal is to pay down $550,000 by the end of 2020. That would place our total debt below $3,600,000.
- This is good stewardship – saving interest.
- This allows us to put ourselves in a stronger position if there are times of financial uncertainty.
- This allows us the financial freedom to do whatever God may ask of us.
- This allows us to lay down a legacy for the next generation.
How can this be achieved? Ephesians 3:20-21 (CSB):
Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
The word in the Greek means beyond the beyond. Above and Beyond.
All that we ask or think according to the power of God. That is the power that is at work in us—the church – glory in the church. This promise is for all who will embrace it with obedience as a lifestyle.
This involves obedience in giving. The easiest single step that any Christian can make to see God work in your life is to start to put into practice the principles of giving and generosity.
If you will start to give your life away, God will give you more than you can possibly give away.
Beyond our sufferings . . . Beyond our successes . . . Beyond all that we can ask or imagine