Word Tabernacle Church Office of the Senior Pastor James David Gailliard State of the Church Report Saturday, September1, 2019
Grace and peace be multiplied to each of you through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is with a grateful heart that I thank God for the gifts and the grace of each person who identifies themselves as a Word-ite. I am also thankful for the calling God has placed on my life to serve as Under-Shepherd and Pastor to this congregation. I must also express my personal gratitude to our staff, leadership, and congregation for how well everyone has accepted and adjusted to this new norm of a Pastor who also serves in political office. Time and occasion does not afford me the opportunity or platform to address this, but there has been clear evidence and indication of God’s will being followed as I learn to navigate these two different, yet complimentary worlds.
Dr. Edward C. Rosnow, formerly of Mayo Clinic, perhaps the greatest bacteriologist of his generation and whose research has greatly influenced infant paralysis, tells a story that I’d like to use to frame this report. Dr. Rosnow was asked how he came to give of himself to the often times boring, laborious, and lengthy periods spent in the laboratory doing research. He said it was because of the Lord and because of a lighted face. Edward Rosnow was brought up on a little farm in the backwoods of Wisconsin. At one point, his brother became critically ill. So, they called the rural doctor who came out to their home to examine his brother. Transparently, his parents thought perhaps his brother would die. When the doctor completed the examination, he looked into the faces of his parents and said, "He's going to be alright! He's going to recover. He's going to live." At that moment, Edward said, "I saw the light come on the faces of my parents; where there had been lines, darkness, worry, and fatigue. I saw their faces literally light up! Right then, I knew I wanted to give my life to the cause of lighting the faces of folks."
What a business. Lighting the faces of folks. In a very real way, I believe this is our business as well. In the midst of what has been the most difficult and demanding schedule of my life, I have managed to spend a small amount of time imagining. I encourage everyone to try it sometimes. Imagination is a powerful asset. It allows us to see life from the lenses of “what could be” and “what should be.” It relentlessly challenges us to go beyond our current reality to something greater, more noble, and more challenging.
I have been imagining our region genuinely transformed in part because of our church.
I have been imagining city, state and national leaders welcoming the faith community to every conversation on human, economic, and community development, race relations, public education, housing, substance abuse, health, workforce development, and any other topic germane to the lives of people.
I have been imagining revitalized neighborhoods around our church and around where our members live.
I have been imagining larger numbers of our members who are passionate about God, actively engaged in community service, and giving financially.
I have been imagining a fully developed complex both here and at Impact Pointe that serves as a gathering place for people of all backgrounds, ages, and races to meet the real and felt needs of people.
I have been imagining the cynics, critics, and those hostile to Christianity experiencing revival.
As these visions saturate my heart and mind, the “why nots” incessantly stir within me. I believe we are not yet that church, but God’s call on us is to be that church. All of this has served to further define for me what it means to Thrive. Afterall, if I am thriving, but my children are not, then am I thriving? If Word Tabernacle is thriving, but the communities around us are not, then are we thriving? If you are thriving, yet the people you love most are not, then are you thriving?
The task before us is internally mobilizing and energizing the thousands of people that identify as Word-ites and then releasing them to be the salt and light on the earth that God has called us to be. We must reconnect with the needs and the people of our communities as salt and light. We must reconnect with what has often been a neglected part of our Christianity; the part that believes the Great Commandment in Matthew 22:39 of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Also, the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 co-exist as an essential aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is my desire that we are able to reconnect with the community in such a way that makes the church relevant and reachable to everyone around us.
The challenge before us is not exclusive to Word Tabernacle Church, but rather it is contextual to the culture that all churches currently find themselves. Today, numerous studies confirm that the public, especially media, academia, and government do not see Christianity as a dominant social force. Instead, 6 out of 10 people see the church as irrelevant and outdated. It is not talked about much, but the United States is one of the most unchurched nations in the world. It is actually the 3rd largest mission field in the world. As much as I embrace international missions, we must remain mindful that there are great opportunities within walking and driving distance of where we sit at this moment.
This may seem strange to raise since our growth continues to be one of the most robust of any church. As I write this report, I am reflecting on the 201 decisions and 40 baptisms so far this year, both which is pacing us to exceed last year. Our membership continues to be diverse in regard to age, gender, and socio-economics. God continues to allow His favor to rest upon us. Yet, we do have an ever-widening gap before us:
Between the authority of the scriptures and a post-modern skepticism.
Between the proclamation of God’s love and the demonstration of God’s love.
Between those who believe and those who do not.
Between those who create and those who consume.
However, we can span this divide. Spanning this divide will require more than cultural relevance, expository preaching, and great programs. In as much as we must continue to take seriously our responsibility to “equip the saints” which is significantly about helping people discern their gifts; build skills and confidence; increase knowledge; and develop spiritual and personal authenticity, it must go beyond that. In all openness and transparency, I believe we may have missed a crucial piece of the puzzle. People ARE being equipped, but equipped for what? I want to focus over the next several months on ensuring that not only is every member being equipped, but with a very clear understanding that we must DO something with those tools.
My two favorite questions that always result in great conversations are: “What are you currently reading?” and “What breaks your heart?” I won’t answer the first, but the second I will. My heart is broken over the thousands of people in our region who have lost hope in today and in tomorrow. My heart is broken over the thought that our average member probably feels unchallenged and stifled. I believe God has called us to do something about that. In order to respond to what God is calling us to do, we must address the four quadrants of our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats regarding the ministry. To ensure that we can indeed equip people and challenge them toward a greater calling and purpose, we assessed our ministry and these were the results:
Strong, consistent teaching and preaching which is respected in the community
Layout of THRIVE Vision - easily able to communicate to members and community partners
Relationships and partnerships internally and externally build trust and familiarity
Programming content: curriculum and experiences are unique and typically go above expectations
10% of people doing 90% of the work
Lack of promotion and marketing of programs and activity
Communication, clarity on what falls under each Center and program area
Easy flow of communication o People fully understanding o People getting all information in enough detail that doesn't leave them wondering about any aspects
Starting programs and sharing visions without having the full system laid out and ready for implementation
Thinking people are ready to take the "next steps" when they actually need more follow up and preparation
Ongoing construction of Centers, increasing community partnerships
Newly developed small group discipleship model
Training and equipping people to do things well within their skill sets and gifts
Empowering and effective Project Management Systems and habits
Location and facility
Aging ministry leaders & younger leadership not in place to replace them
Low staff and leadership morale
Community among those who serve in the various ministries. The lack of community makes it easier for them to transition into other spaces
While people need consistency in foundational ministries, a lack of "invigorating" restarts can make teams feel like they are still drudging through the mundane
Compassion fatigue (staff & key volunteers)
Lack of follow up on emails/requests in a timely manner
Lack of policies and procedures (inconsistent delivery of services)
Lack of Customer Service (perceived and actual)
Simply communicated, we do things well and others not so well. Still, others we must start and/or stop doing. With this reality, there is still the clear evidence of God’s purposes being realized among us. It is evident in the success stories, the relationships, the programming, the facility, the energy, and so much more. As we move forward as a ministry and specifically as members, we must seek to answer both individually and corporately:
What kind of impact are we having on the culture?
Does the region feel a positive connection with us?
What tangible and measurable influence are we having?
What communities are we still strangers to?
What is the spiritual purpose of my life?
Where has God designed me to serve?
For over 100 years now the church has stood as a house divided:
Liberal versus conservative
Social justice versus spiritual justification
Tolerance versus repentance
Inclusive versus exclusive
A house divided cannot stand. I believe our Kingdom assignment is to bridge these extreme positions. God has uniquely positioned us in this time and in this place to be an agent of spiritual and social transformation in our region. My appeal is that each and every member will embrace this call from God and commit to being equipped with a unique assignment in sight. We cannot rest until each of us has experienced the fruit of this higher calling in Christ.
That All May Thrive,
Pastor James D. Gailliard