Watch the video or the read the update below. You can find the audio download by clicking HERE.
WHAT A FIRST 6 MONTHS!
We entered 2020 as the year of VISION. Using some of the best one-liners we could find, many people played off “2020” and “perfect vision” to inspire us to take on the challenges of life with a renewed level of focus. Little did we know the first half of this year would require more focus and soul-searching than we ever could have anticipated. No one had a worldwide pandemic on their radar that would restrict travel, confine us to our homes, close schools, and prevent us from gathering as a church. The first half of 2020 has come and gone, but its impact is far from over.
All of this to say, perhaps vision wasn’t lost in these first six months. If anything, when our sense of normalcy and routine vanish, then we are left to discover what really fuels our lives and seek fresh vision. These unexpected twists and turns have given us all the opportunity to consider what matters most and what it truly means to have faith in Jesus.
GROWTH & OPPORTUNITY
These unusual first six months didn’t stop us from celebrating two baptisms and seeing new people connect with our church! This year began with continued growth in January and February. In January, we averaged 189 as compared to 168 in January 2019. February was even higher with us averaging 211 compared to 172 in 2020. As we rolled into March, plans were being finalized for two Sunday services to begin in April, and then Covid-19 showed up. However, as I mentioned above, the removal of our plans creates opportunity for something else.
Instead of throwing in the towel when we couldn’t gather and defaulting to only doing online services, we decided to take our next step as a church. We’ve said for years that we are called to “Be the church where we live, work, and play.” We saw the pandemic and shutdown as an opportunity to strengthen the core of our church, so we brought people together over Zoom by creating virtual church groups (Scattered Together Groups). Thanks to our leadership and many people stepping up, we went from having 5 groups pre-Covid to navigating the Covid lockdown with 12 groups. This means more people became further connected to the core of our church even though we couldn’t gather as the church in our building. Many of these groups are continuing forward together and will serve as building blocks for launching us into the next season of our church life as The Grove.
Additionally, last month in June, we started a short-term class called UNDIVIDED, which challenges us to take a gospel-centered perspective on this issue of race and racial injustice that’s come to the forefront of our nation. Over a dozen people have been gathering to pray, learn, and listen about how the church should be responding. I’m thankful for those who are willing to have Spirit-led conversations about such a difficult topic. With the election approaching in November, we’ll be having similar discussions on how our faith should inform our politics, so be looking for more info on how you can participate in this class later this fall.
YOU HAVE BEEN GENEROUS EVEN IN THE DIFFICULTY
In a season when many jobs were negatively impacted and financial security quickly became cloudy at best, you, as The Grove, continued to respond with a generous heart. As the year began, we challenged you with our generosity vision of “10-20 increase in 2020.” With this, we asked you to consider this from one of two perspectives…
- If in 2019 you didn’t give or your giving was sporadic, then we challenged you to pray and see if God would lead you to give $10-20 per week (on average) in 2020.
- If you gave a consistent amount on a monthly basis in 2019, then the challenge was for you to consider if and how you could increase your monthly amount by 10-20%.
You have responded to that challenge well. Giving in our first six months has increased almost $15,000 when compared to the same time period of 2019 ($109,500 vs $94,700)! Praise God and “Thank You” for embracing this generosity challenge. While our expenses are still ahead of our income by about $6,000 for the year, we are in a much better position this year as compared to last year, so let’s generously continue forward for the rest of 2020. If you haven’t yet embraced our generosity challenge for this year, then consider doing so for the remainder of 2020. Remember, when you give generously and with joy you are declaring your confidence in God as your provider.
LOOKING AHEAD WITH GREAT ANTICIPATION
I’ve been asked when I think we will get back to normal. Honestly, I think we need to consider what the “new normal” will look like moving forward. Research shows most churches are seeing only between 10-40% of the pre-covid participation in the Sunday services. So far, we’ve been blessed to see around 50% of people reconnect, and we know many are still with us via online streams and ST-Groups. We just resumed Grove Kids, which makes it easier for our families with kids to resume gathering with us on Sundays.
I believe the future will become clearer in the months ahead. I’ve really missed being able to serve our community through the summer sports camp, For the City Sundays, and other partnerships. I know you’ve missed these as well. While our Food Market has continued to meet needs each month along with us taking some intentional steps to target unique needs in our community, our opportunities for church outreach have been limited when compared to normal.
Because of this, I challenge you to not wait until the formal, larger, planned opportunities can resume before you take action. I challenged you with the BLESS acronym back in May, so I will remind you of that again.
- Begin with prayer
- Listen to a friend
- Eat with a friend
- Serve a friend
- Share your story
These are steps of action we can all take as God prompts us, so begin with prayer. God wants to work through you to make an impact and bless others. He will also work through your ST-Group to identify opportunities to serve and bless people in need. These opportunities may be to care for each other or to reach out to someone disconnected from God and His church. Regardless of the situation, seize the moment, let’s continue to seek God’s heart, and don’t stop being the church as you live, work, and play.
This fall, we’ll focus heavily on what it means to truly follow Jesus. Our Sunday gatherings will serve as times of celebration yet challenge us to better discover what the life of a disciple of Jesus should look like. Now more than ever, we need to know what it means to truly be the church of Jesus. Throughout the rest of this year, we will help you to better…
- Know your spiritual story
- Understand your identity in Christ
- See the world with a Jesus-centered perspective
- Make an impact for His Kingdom.
We will be providing opportunities beyond Sunday mornings to help you dive deep into these concepts and learn how to share these concepts with others.
Even in the face of uncertainty, let’s take our next steps of faith in Jesus together as The Grove. We must be wise of our surroundings yet consistently choosing authentic connection and community over a convenient variation of our faith. Know your personal health risks and be safe, but if you aren’t in the most vulnerable population, live life and don’t waste these days away. Perhaps even ask God to show you ways to serve those who are most vulnerable, and let’s seize these next few months to make the name of Jesus more famous where we live, work, and play!
Prioritize your faith on Sunday and every day. Remember, seven days with Jesus are better than just one day. Difficult moments give us the opportunity to decide how much our faith means to us. Our kids and grandkids are watching how we respond and what we choose to do and not do. Our actions are informing their perspective on what our faith means. This reality is magnified in this season, so I’ll leave you with these words found in Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”