Dear Members and Friends of Prairie Flower Baptist Church,
The year 2020 has hurled us into a brand-new reality. As we survey the broken pieces of such a chaotic year, our hearts hurt with the destruction that was unleashed all year long. From the global pandemic that touched our country in March, to the race riots that erupted throughout our nation in May, to Iowa’s derecho in August that crumbled crops, homes, and businesses with hurricane force winds, this year has been unpredictable and turbulent.
BUT GOD – “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). BUT GOD – “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us…” (2 Cor. 7:6a). BUT GOD – “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive…” (Eph. 2:4-5a). Yes, despite the wonkiness and wickedness of 2020, our God intervened into our church family with his love, comfort, and mercy. So, despite a hurting heart, I rejoice; and so should you.
The love, comfort, and mercy of God has been so evident in the life and history of our church. Simply put, our sovereign God has been faithful to our church family in every season of life. From the bloodshed of the Civil War, to the destruction of two World Wars, to the riots of the Vietnam era, to the smashing of civilian aircraft into our beloved infrastructures on Sept. 11, 2001, to our present evil unrest, our God’s hand of protection and faithfulness has sustained us and grown us. Yes, from our beginnings as Richmond Baptist Church in Richmond, IA to our present-day location at Prairie Flower Baptist Church here in Washington, IA, our God has been faithful – faithful to us for 167 years! And make no mistake about it, God will remain faithful to us for he cannot deny his perfect character.
Unmerited Favor Amidst Chaos…
It is nearly breathtaking to survey all the good things that our great God allowed us to accomplish this past year. Indeed, in a year when we were given a free pass by the world to lock it all down, shelter in place, and go into survival mode, we graciously, and with full submission to our governing authorities, pressed forward and saw God work in wondrous ways. Below are the most important stats we experienced (by God’s unmerited favor) this past year:
- Salvations – 5
- Baptisms – 1
- Members – 8
Praise the Lord for these numbers! Yes, all the praise, honor, and glory go to our great God who redeemed these dead souls, caused their heartfelt obedience in the form of believer’s baptism, and motivated them to join us in our mission “to be a strong church that makes disciples for the glory of God.” It is my prayer that we continue to see new and better disciples becoming a part of God’s great work out here on the prairie and beyond.
This year also brought us some great improvements in the form of a new Pavilion for fellowship, a new Playground set for our young people, and a completely renovated Sanctuary for beautiful praise and worship. My heartfelt thanks and appreciation go to my fellow laborer in the Lord, Pastor O’Tool, who administrated these projects with timeliness and great attention to detail. Also, a very hearty shout out to all of you who dedicated your time, talents, and treasure to the completion of these wonderful building projects!
A Cause For Pause…
Before continuing with the rest of my report, I do believe there is a cause for pause as we reflect upon the lives we lost in 2020. Yes, this past year with all of its unexpected growth and improvements was also a time of great loss and sadness for some of our families here at Prairie Flower. This past year, the following individuals were promoted to Heaven: Maryhelen Gates, Kenny Schipper, and Carl Benson. These folks are dearly loved and missed. Please keep the families of these precious individuals in your thoughts and prayers.
Pastoring During A Pandemic…
Pastoring during a pandemic has proven to be quite challenging. From contemplating covid protocols that will ensure the safety of our people while simultaneously facilitating our need for corporate worship, to navigating the challenges of various building projects around the church has made for one great year of personal growth and development. In many ways, I am grateful for this past year as I was able to grow in my leadership and administrative capabilities. Indeed, my tolerance for chaos and unpredictability has increased, and I’m grateful for that, but also slightly nervous at what God is gearing us up for.
Pastoring during a pandemic was also remarkably easy. Why would I say that? Because of the fantastic team of leaders and servants we have out here on the prairie. From our Associate Pastor, to our incredible deacons, to all of you who serve and care for our church family in a variety of ways, I say THANK YOU! I do not take any of you for granted. You are seen, appreciated, needed, and loved. THANK YOU for making my job as one of your pastors a great joy.
Pastoring during a pandemic was also very unique in many ways. For instance, my preaching and teaching ministry went online via YouTube and our Livestream, increasing our reach and impact of people with the Gospel message. My duties as a Council of 10 member with our State Fellowship went virtual through multiple online Zoom meetings, allowing us to continue to help struggling churches in our State Association. My duties with the Camp Board at Iowa Regular Baptist Camp wrapped up in October, but we were still able to accomplish the initiation of the Rock Project (i.e., a new gym) as we met virtually and in-person to plan for this big project. As for pastoral care, that is probably the biggest impact of the pandemic to my overall ministry as my counseling and hospital visits came to a complete halt. Please pray that these vital areas of my ministry are reopened soon. Also, despite the turbulence of this past year, I continued my community outreach through our local Kiwanis group, joined the local American Legion, and continued to accept speaking invitations to various churches and camps. I was also able to join in marriage our very own Gary and Janine Mellinger…What a great day that was! Please pray that God continues to give me strength, passion, humility, and gratefulness as I serve you as one of your pastors.
Planning Under God’s Sovereignty…
If 2020 has taught us nothing else, it should be that God is sovereign and he does whatever he pleases. Yet, we have a responsibility to plan and steward our lives and ministries under his gracious sovereignty. May God’s will be done as we endeavor to accomplish the following goals this year…
- Wrap Up Matthew – We are currently in Matthew chapter 18. We only have 10 more chapters to go in our “Jesus In The Manuscript Of Matthew” series. I would love to wrap this series up this year. Can I do it? I don’t know, but I’m going to try.
- Finalize Our Constitution – We’ve been talking about this for years. After successfully revising our Articles of Faith (2016) and our Biblical Principles of Church Membership (2018), it is time to revise our Church Constitution (2021?). After January’s strategic sermon series on the church, our revised Church Constitution will be presented to the Constitution Review Team. The desire is to have them review this document and give it back to the Leadership Team by April. We will then have another strategic sermon series in May that will help all of us understand the proposed constitutional improvements, and then the congregation will be presented with the Church Constitution for review in June. If all goes as planned, we will vote on this new document in our July Quarterly Meeting.
- Install Lay Pastors – A large part of our constitutional revisions surrounds the concept of staff and lay pastors. Staff pastors are full-time and paid by the church, and they focus on the day-to-day operations of the church. Lay pastors are part-time and unpaid by the church, and they focus on the week-to-week operations of the church. As we envision growth in the future, installing new lay pastors will be a key element to successfully stewarding that growth.
May God be glorified as we enter this new year. I don’t know what this year holds for us, but God does. And I rest in his sovereign, wise, loving hands; and so should you.
With Measured Excitement For The Future,
Lead Pastor, PFBC