At FBC Rockport, we’ve experienced an awakening. Not the awakening we thought we would get, but we are awakened nonetheless.
When we first worshipped after the storm, we talked about how the process of moving from one understanding of God and his ways to a better understanding of God and his ways, the process of moving from being blind to truly seeing, the process of awakening, is not always fast, pleasant, and joyful. Jesus also works in ways that are frightening, confusing, difficult, painful, humiliating, and unpleasant. This has not been easy, but we are being awakened. I am seeing everything differently: myself, my family, my church, and my community.
Then we talked about the future. We have the opportunity to rebuild, to renovate, but what will that look like? What will be different? How will we be better and stronger? I think very little will ever be exactly like it was before the storm. I think making everything the way it was before Harvey is not Rockport Strong, it’s a missed opportunity given to us by God’s providence. If God has really opened my eyes, if I have experienced an awakening, then I must have the courage to face, name, and embrace what will be different, new, better, and stronger.
Right now our church building and property are in a state of dramatic transformation. I do not think God was at work through the events of Hurricane Harvey, and through the generosity of people and churches in the months since the storm, simply to transform our physical property and space. I believe we are to be transformed. If we are not going to be the same church we were before the storm, what, exactly, is going to be different about us?
I think our church is a work in progress right now. We are in a process of discovery, learning how and what kind of church God is making us into. The process is far from over. I think we will know much more by the fall of 2018. Until then, I ask for patience, courage, and commitment from all our members. Please join me in seeking the Lord concerning the answers to the following questions. I have included my thoughts as of right now, but nothing is final or written in stone.
Here are the seven questions I think are facing us as we enter 2018:
1. How will we be connected to one another?
2. What will our worship and weekly schedule look like over the course of a year?
3. How will we reach out to and serve our community?
4. How will new people be connected to our church and what will that mean for our space usage?
5. What kind of volunteer base and financial resources will be available to us as we plan for ministries, outreach, mission endeavors, personnel needs, and developing our physical space?
6. What kind of organization and expressions of church government allow us to best fulfill our mission?
7. How will we keep people safe and secure will on our church property?
Over the next few weeks I will share my thoughts on the answers to these questions. All of my answers will be available in my report to the church at the First Family Meeting at the end of January.
1. How will we be connected to one another?
Churches naturally divide as people look to their own interests. Now is our chance to develop better patterns. People say they join our church because of the music, Life Groups, children’s ministries, etc. What if none of that was here anymore? Are we connected strongly enough to one another and to our mission to let everything else go if necessary? I would ask every member of FBC Rockport to make a renewed commitment to the other members of our church and to the mission given to our church by God. This would also be an ideal time for people to join our church if they have not yet made that commitment. Can we count on you? Can we rally around one another and our mission instead of our preferences? The community needs us to rise above those things that are secondary and be united by God’s Spirit to accomplish the mission He has given to us.
2. What will worship and our weekly schedule look like over the course of a year?
The storm has made having a “regular” weekly schedule difficult. This is because of work being done to our building, the volunteer groups staying in our building, and the unavailability of some volunteers. By this summer the work on our building should be completed, including construction of the building to be used by Samaritan’s Purse. I know we will have volunteer groups through the summer, in addition to Samaritan’s Purse and Texas Baptist Men. At some point this summer I think we will be able to decide as a church about what our “regular” weekly schedule will be: what we will be able to offer and when. Until then we are trying some different things to get a better idea of the possibilities.
I think we will offer two different worship services for part of the year, and offer one blended service through the summer months. I like this idea because it addresses a variety of issues and concerns, including: parking, worship space, the need for unity, personal preferences for certain worship styles, etc.
If I am right, and we offer two different worship services on Sunday mornings for at least part of the year, which service will be offered at 8:30, and which service will be offered at 11:00? I think this is the key issue facing our church and has been since before I became your pastor. I do not think God will allow our church to move forward until we find a way to address this issue. I do not think this is the key issue because it is important. It’s not important and does not warrant the amount of emotion invested in it. I think this is the key issue precisely because many have invested so much emotion into this issue making it difficult to discuss, reflect upon, and adapt if we wanted. In my opinion, the issue at work here has more to do with question number one, mentioned above. Will the worship schedule provide opportunity to treat one another in a Christ-like way, and perhaps to serve and sacrifice for one another in a Christ-like way? Or, will the worship schedule provide opportunity for us to tear one another apart?
For example, three of the four members of my immediate family prefer attending the contemporary service at 8:30 a.m. They are opposed to making a change to this schedule. However, we have talked and prayed about this as a family. They have decided that they are willing to make any change called for with the hope that it will be a sacrifice benefitting someone else and/or will make a way to reach people in our community who might not be willing to come to our church at other times.
I have always thought we cannot decide what will be best for our church and for reaching our community unless we are willing to try some different things. This will give us the experience needed to make a better decision about what our regular schedule will be. Therefore, I have decided that on January 21 we will have Traditional Worship at 8:30, followed by Life Groups at 9:45, and then have Contemporary Worship at 11:00 on Sunday mornings. We will keep this temporary schedule until May at least. I think then we will go back to having one service through the summer. And, as I said, we will decide later what our “regular” schedule is going to be.