Tomorrow, June 3, marks the one-year anniversary of the date Carrie-Anne and the girls and I began our full-time preaching ministry here at Legacy. We knew most of the people here off-and-on for ten months before we actually began. So in some ways we’ve been here much longer than a year. But in so many other ways, it seems like we just got here.
On that first official Sunday one year ago, I talked to the church family about church growth. I talked about how most people judge church growth according to the ABCs: attendance, buildings, and contribution. But that’s not church growth. Church growth is the formation of Christ Jesus in us. It’s the character of Jesus transforming us into his image.
Having said that, I did mention how, by June 3, 2008 we’d have more people, we’d have a bigger budget and larger contribution, and we’d be assembled in a brand new worship center.
Two out of three ain’t bad.
In the past 12 months at Legacy, 105 baptized believers have been added to the Body at Legacy, 146 if you count all the kids! We have 1,589 members now of our church family. Over the past year our Sunday morning attendance has averaged 930, an increase of 52 over the previous year’s average. As for Sunday nights, we’re averaging 478 over the past year, up 149 from the year before. And if you look at only the past five months, beginning in January with the start of Small Groups Church, we’re averaging 603, an increase of 274 from the year before.
Money-wise, our 2008 budget is about a quarter of a million dollars bigger than our 2007 budget. And in the past year our weekly contribution is more than $5,000 above the year before. The money keeps pouring in from Missions Sunday, past $130,000 now and counting. And Legacy has contributed over $16,000 total in disaster aid to send to Myanmar and China.
And I’ll be surprised if we’re not in the new worship center by the end of July.
But, again, none of that is church growth.
Those are all God’s blessings, to be sure. But church growth is how we use those blessings, how we live with and work with those blessings.
Church growth is when we minister to each other and serve and give ourselves selflessly and sacrificially to others. It’s when we consider others better than ourselves. It’s what’s happening in 36—soon to be 38—of our homes on Sunday nights. Church growth is measured in increased cooperation. Increased unity. Increased intergenerational interaction. It’s an increased desire to confess to one another, pray for one another, and encourage everybody. Church growth is realizing it’s not about me, it’s about you. It’s not about us, it’s about the people in our community who don’t live in a saving relationship with Christ Jesus.
And Legacy is growing in those ways. Being transformed into the gentle, selfless, sacrificing, and giving image of our Lord isn’t easy. It’s a difficult and painful process as we throw off the things that burden us and live into his eternal plans and purposes for our lives.
But it’s happening here at Legacy.
May we faithfully continue to submit to our God and serve one another and our communities with the love and grace of Christ.
“In the past 12 months at Legacy, 105 baptized believers have been added to the Body at Legacy, 146 if you count all the kids!” Why wouldn’t you count the kids?
Come on. It’s a weird deal. You know that!
Some people don’t count the unbaptized children of baptized believers on the official church roll. It goes back to ancient church history. The whole reason the church began baptizing infants was to get them on the church roll. The infant mortality rate was so high, families wanted the names there for history and for salvation in case the child got sick and died.
In the past couple of centuries, we’ve gone so far the other way that we don’t even count the kids as members of God’s Church until they’re baptized. Some congregations go so far as to actually put asterisks next to kids’ names in the pictorial directories.
None of this is to say it’s not a tricky deal. It is. Baptism, as a ritual for, among other things, initiation into the Church, needs to be upheld as such. So what do you do when you call the children members of the Lord’s Body for as long as they can remember and then one day you look up and the child is 19-years-old and has never submitted to the Lord in baptism?
Why don’t we allow our unbaptized children—I’m speaking here about the super young ones—to partake with us of the communion meal on Sunday? In light of that child’s membership in the Kingdom and the Scripture’s insistence that meal times, especially God-ordained sacred meal-times, are specifically intended to involve our children as a means for passing on the faith, it’s a legitimate question. But again, it gets tricky. What to do with the 21-year-old who’s communed with the church family around the table his whole life, but has never been baptized into the Savior?
Obviously, our children are members—vital members—of our church family. The Kingdom belongs to them. And to leave them out of the count does them a disservice and, I think, sends the wrong message. So I always try to do both, knowing it’s not an easy black-and-white issue, knowing it’s not perfect.
Actually, I didn’t know that. That’s why I asked the question. Thanks.
My bad. After a full year of BirdLover and Rob’s Dad and numerous others trying to stir things up and draw me offsides, I assumed you were purposely pointing out another obvious tension—or contradiction—in the ways we do church. Sorry. I’m not sure what would possibly drive me to lump you in with that motley group. I need a day off.
Scoreboard – I get you flagged for a false start without even trying…
I heard footsteps.
I would have slugged somebody in the helmet but it’s been outlawed.