Lake Baldwin Church has been telling the story of God’s grace for 13 years. When we gather for worship, we offer the good news of Jesus to believers and non-believers alike. As we experience God’s mercy, we extend that mercy in Baldwin Park, throughout the city, and around the world. Here is how we hope to pursue that vision in 2019.
After our annual church-wide assessment in November, our elders, deacons, and staff defined five top goals for the coming year:
1. Telling God’s Story: Evangelism
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. —Luke 19:10
I’ll never forget the baptism of Brittney Williams last year. God’s grace brought her out of a life of despair and into the family of God. We have seen many people come to faith over the years, and we long to celebrate more adult conversions and baptisms.
Over the years, we have discovered ways to build bridges with those who are outside the faith, in order that those who are prepared by the Holy Spirit can respond. Most of us (including me) do not have the gift of evangelism, but together we can see abundant fruit as part of a team effort. Here are some things we all can do this year:
Make friends with people who are far from God
Pray for friends and family members who are not yet believers
Bring a friend to church
2. Spiritual Growth
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. —2 Peter 3:18
Do you know the next step in your spiritual growth journey? Lake Baldwin Church offers a number of clear avenues for growth, such as weekly worship, community groups, classes, and serving. But you are the “CEO” of your growth journey. It’s up to you to engage.
We believe that the Holy Spirit changes and renews our hearts as we engage the means of grace: the Word, prayer, fellowship, and the sacraments. Neglect these, though, and our spiritual lives will dry up.
We want to challenge people to go deeper in their faith. While the modern American church has moved away from classes and a meatier spiritual diet, we want to push back on that. Look for more Sunday morning classes to be offered, with childcare provided.
3. Growth of the Church
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. —1 Corinthians 3:6
Did you know that LBC has grown from 108 active adult members in 2012 to 200 active adult members today? We plant and water, but God causes the growth. Often our growth is 3 steps forward and 2 steps back. Last year we lost close to 20 adult members and their children due to out-of-state moves. In today’s mobile culture, we have to grow just to stay even!
As God grows the church, we will have greater capacity to serve the city and engage in global missions. We’ll have a stronger volunteer base and a broader culture of generosity. We will be in a position to see more people come to faith in Christ.
In the past two years we have made some strategic chess moves to position our church for growth. We hired Joe White with a view toward the future, and today over 300 people call LBC their church home. We also hired Mark McKinney to lead our youth ministry, and momentum has shifted. Over 20 students come to youth group on Sundays, with 40 showing up for social events. We also see SPLASH as a major factor in our growth, so we have built up our staffing in SPLASH, with Heather Shiflett leading that ministry.
Quite often our members show up to church and ask, “Who are all these new people?” They are people God has brought our way, but we want to help them become enfolded into our community. The most common refrain we hear from newcomers at membership class is, “We were amazed at the welcome that we experienced at Lake Baldwin Church!”
To help newcomers feel part of our community, we want to expand our “connection plan.” One of our new elders, TJ Sellers, has offered to lead a new connection network. This network will include the greeters, guest services, and representatives from community groups. Over time we hope to see even more people attending the Welcome Lunch, visiting Community Groups, and participating in our community life as a church.
4. Broad-based Giving
But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in the grace of giving. —2 Corinthians 8:7
Recently I had a coffee with a couple who have been part of LBC from the beginning, and who love our church. They referred to a helpful discussion at one of their shepherding group dinners where they talked about tithing. They have adopted the practice of tithing, and they said to me, “We need to teach people to tithe.”
I was also encouraged by a conversation with one of our young adults, who said to me, “This is the first church where I have felt like an owner of the vision, and where I know that my giving is making a difference."
We saw a miracle of God’s financial provision in December of 2018. We received $237,000 in year-end gifts, covering December expenses and erasing a $144,000 deficit. Thanks to God’s grace and the generosity of many in our church, we completed 2018 $14,000 in the black. A big part of the story was the anonymous matching fund of $41,500, generating some $75,000 in special year-end gifts. To God be the glory!
While it’s common for most churches to see 25% of their giving happen in December, we don’t want to rely on urgent appeals. In fact, we believe that it’s spiritually healthier for all of us to have a rhythm of tithing (giving 10%) throughout the year. We have seen member participation in giving grow to 88%, which is a milestone to celebrate.
While many of us love to support great causes and organizations outside the church, there is no one who has the responsibility to support Lake Baldwin Church except for those who call this church their home.
This year, don’t rely on impulse to decide your giving. Begin now to give generously, purposefully, consistently, and joyfully. Let’s excel in this grace of giving!
5. Strengthen our Serving Culture (Volunteers)
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. —Galatians 5:18
David Walker has served on worship set-up for 10 years out of our 13 years as a church. That involved being part of the set-up team 10 times each year (we leave it set up in the summer and over Christmas). Recently he rotated off for a season, and I’m glad he got to do that! That happened because someone took his place.
Every Sunday since February 6, 2006, Glenridge Middle School has been transformed into a full-service church. While being a portable church is not always convenient, we’ve learned that it’s sustainable if everyone plays a small part. Many hands make light work! Our volunteer system is not only a miracle, it is one of the strengths of our church.
In some new churches, 20% of the people do 80% of the work. At LBC, it’s the opposite: 80% of the people participate in serving once/month.
Michael Ballenger is a deacon and our treasurer, and he has also served on Sunday morning set-up for many years. Michael sees his serving as an act of worship. It is in serving that we imitate the servant heart of Christ. It’s part of our discipleship.
We must give a special nod to SPLASH, where over 100 volunteers serve once/month. It’s a sacrifice, because those who teach give up being in the worship service once each month. Yet they serve willingly, out of love for our children and as an expression of their covenant vows.
SPLASH set-up was an area that we shored up this year. It had become onerous, due to rolling bins from the trailer to the hallway in the Florida heat. So we hired David Ruis to roll out the trailers and get the rooms ready each week. Now our volunteers work in the A/C, and the time required has been reduced.
If you’re not serving, will you consider joining a once/month team? We have some gaps in SPLASH and in set-up. As you step in for a season, you can help fill those gaps and even give others a chance to have a break.
This brings up one final topic. While some value and even prefer meeting in a public school, there are others who would like to have our own worship space. This would reduce our need for some volunteers, though it would not eliminate the need (you’ve probably found that all churches need volunteers!).
Given the price and availability of property in this part of the city, we don’t expect to have the capacity to purchase our own worship space until we grow to 600 people. So, while we are on that growth path, we will put the focus not on a building, but on healthy growth dynamics like evangelism and discipleship. Then we’ll see what more God might do as we remain faithful to the mission he has given us!
As we move forward in prayer and dependence on God, let’s remember his promise in Ephesians 3:20-21—Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations.