At the core. It was more than splendid. It was a magnificent live oak towering and spreading across Forsyth Park in historic Savannah, Georgia. Admired for decades if not centuries, it seemed to be an eternal component of the park’s landscape with its enormous leafy limbs spreading like an enormous octopus and providing a thrilling climb for energetic children. As the sun rose one summer morning it revealed this beloved fixture split from the ground level upwards and branches were shattered all over the lawn. Only then was the truth revealed about this imposing giant and its response to some unseen stresses. It was diseased for some time and from outward appearances no-one was the wiser. It had looked so healthy.
Organizations, even churches, experience stresses and crises which challenge their health and inner resolve. New Life has weathered challenge this year, and I want to take a moment at year’s end to address my admiration for our church and my appreciation to Christ who ultimately holds us together. Being in a vantage point where I might be seeing the bigger picture I want to share this perspective with you. I believe it is a tribute to a church and its family to pull together in difficult times rather than fracture as some churches do. Three years ago New Life experienced an “interim” period when our Founding Pastor retired. Very few in our church family saw that as a reason to worship elsewhere, despite there being an undetermined period ahead (without a Lead Pastor) which took about 18 months to fill. Giving remained constant. Volunteers remained faithful. Many in our church stepped up to assume new or even greater responsibilities. Morale remained unquestionably high.
Our unfortunate setback in mid-2016 came uncomfortably close on the heels of this previous “interim” period. This was certainly a heartbreaking and troubling event. The church had grown considerably and the “core,” the “heart” of New Life rose even higher to enlist staff and volunteers in order to accommodate this new growth which stretched our ministry capabilities. Weekly giving remained more than sufficient to address the increased needs we were experiencing. When the Summer “setback” occurred, many if not most of the newest attenders left just as they came. It was unfortunate that they did not remain long enough to enjoy the benefits that our closer connections and relationships provide. And yet our staff, our volunteers and our giving levels were not adversely impacted. The scope of this is really immense. By the grace, protection and provision of God, we are strong spiritually, emotionally and financially because of Christ and the people He has given us to comprise our “core.”
As we await the opportunity to elect and install a new Lead Pastor, I am proud (in a good way) of the gracious and sacrificial people who sustain our church and honor God by their presence, service and giving. My prayer for all of us as we see a new year ahead is that we will take stock of what a blessed church we are a part of, continually giving thanks to God. And that all of us will commit even further to give of ourselves by doing our part somewhere to seek areas in which we might serve. Ask, don’t wait to be asked. New Life is not a church known for people with “deep pockets” but more-so just “regular folks” who give from generosity. I pray we will continue to give generously financially to support the noble efforts our church provides and provides for others locally and across the world. We could not dream of such things if we were not healthy at the core and deeply anchored to Christ. I am thankful for you.