Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Pastor’s Annual Report
2003 Congregational Meeting
Rev. Jeff Gill

As you read through the various reports and accounts of our life as a congregation found here, manifested in classes and choirs, groups and gatherings, you will read many different names (some repeated, certainly!), a variety of numbers, and hear stories told. Any one soul is precious, and the tale of any of our days would necessarily have to be either too brief to do it justice, or tediously overdetailed. That’s just as true for a community of faith, made up as we are not only of many different persons, but of all the complications growing from our interactions, one to one, two by two, and even the differences in each Sunday’s congregation at worship.

But we also are called to good stewardship of the time and talents, the gifts and graces God has given us both separately and together, and that means we have to have some way of measuring the past and planning for the future. In church life, we tend to judge the past by the quality of our fellowship (“everyone had a great time” being a common phrase for that), and we usually assess our future in broad and general terms (“we hope to continue and grow”).

Concrete measures tend to be limited to attendance figures and giving gauged against income versus outgo. By those standards, Hebron Christian Church has had a good year – see elsewhere in this annual meeting report! -- and our hopes for the future can be shown in the not quite 5 percent increase planned for in the budget.

Do these numbers, though, do justice to our sense of calling and vision as a body of believers called into being by Jesus Christ himself? Are there other ways for us to test our faithfulness and follow God’s call?

Every church that considers itself faithful to the New Testament model has certain tasks it must be doing:
bringing the Good News (Lk. 9:6, II Thess. 3:1-5),
making disciples (both nearby, and of all nations! Mt. 28:19),
equipping the saints for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:12), and
to be kind and forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven us (Eph. 4:32).

For each of those high callings, worship attendance and general fund giving is a tool in ministry: not ends themselves, but tools to accomplish the ends God has established. But we run no less a hazard by avoiding a full accounting in settling for vague and general feelings of “that’s fine,” “I like that,” and of course the always risky “We’ve never done it that way before.” Can we come up with measurable and observable goals for our Christian community? One way we’ve done that recently is to take the perfectly good hope of “more people should read the Bible” and convert it into signed commitments to read the New Testament through Lent, which gave over half of our worshiping congregation a specific goal of their own from Ash Wednesday to Easter.

Getting to the heart of the title “disciple” is the concept of discipline, which we’re probably more familiar with as a practice than with what it means to “be a disciple.” But that’s just it! Being a disciple of Christ means that we are called to a more disciplined witness than, “yeah, I think that’s true, but that’s just my opinion;” to a more disciplined spirituality than “you can worship God anywhere, y’know;” to a sense of mission more disciplined than $5 in the offering plate when you won’t really miss it! Disciplining our faithfulness means being accountable to one another, being responsible for one another, and loving one another, both within these walls and to all those Christ died for.

How will we do this? Each element of church life will have to consider what is their own measurable and observable result of their ministry. The elders with their spiritual oversight and special responsibility for worship will look closely at Sunday attendance, but perhaps also at the rate and frequency of visitors who were personally invited to worship by a member. The trustees are responsible for the tool in ministry that is our church building, and can set goals about physical changes that increase accessibility and welcoming-ness of the layout (signage outside and in, for instance). The board, with its particular obligations as to fiscal stewardship, may want to look at how and when the congregation responds to special day offerings and other giving opportunities and how we can help connect mission and ministry. The Christian Education department has already met to review the year month by month to see where we are providing opportunities for spiritual growth.

I look forward to this new year, and the new life in Christ that Hebron Christian Church will share with so many through the months ahead. Disciplining our witness will allow so much more to happen in ministry, and in a time when so many are waiting to hear the Good News we’ve been entrusted with;

In Grace and Peace,
Pastor Jeff

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Outreach and Ohio Disciples’ Outreach update

The beginning of 2003 marks the start of a small change in wording and an acronym that may herald some large changes in how the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) does mission and manages your giving to mission causes.

We’ve had a quarter century to get used to – and get complacent about! – BMF, or “Basic Mission Finance.” That is the “central bank account” for what was called before that “Unified Promotion,” one of the steps that led to the re-structure of our denomination in the 1960’s. This “common pot of money” was convenient for book keeping, but said little to people wanting more “transparency and accountability” in where their dollars went.

The General Board of the Christian Church has adopted a sweeping set of changes to BMF, but some of them are a bit subtle: like the name “Disciples Mission Fund,” or DMF for short. The real difference is how the giving of churches and individuals is managed, and to outline these, here is a Q&A page from www.disciples.org, which you can can find by clicking the DMF logo over the words “Giving changes lives.” You can also see a version of it with links below “What’s New” at our web site, http://go.to/Hebron_Christian.

Questions and Answers about the new funding system

How will the fund be divided?
Receipts will be divided: 2003 through 2008
For Regional Ministries* 45% to 50%
For General Ministries 45% to 40%
For Higher Education Institutions 10% to 10%
*Note: allocations for Regional Ministries will increase one percent each year so that in 2008 the division will be 50 percent Regional Ministries, 40 percent General Ministries, and 10 percent Higher Education Institutions.

Who will determine funding allocations?
Each of the three ministries groups will recommend how funds will be divided. The General Board will give final approval. Regions have appointed a committee of five regional ministers and two lay regional moderators who will make allocation recommendations based on criteria developed by the regions in consultation with each other. The Council on Theological Education and the Council of Colleges and Universities will make allocation recommendations for institutions of higher education. General Ministries will develop allocation recommendations through an accountability process using an external review panel.

How will regional funding allocations be determined?
Proposed allocations for the regions have been submitted to the General Board for approval. For 2003 those allocations are based upon the percentage of Basic Mission Finance dollars that regions received in 2001. This recommendation should result in an increase in 2003 funds compared to 2001 funds for all but six regions. Those regions not receiving an increase may apply for assistance from the emergency fund established for regions. The 2004 allocations will be based upon criteria for regional ministry to be approved by the regions and the General Board in 2003.

How will a region's receipts be based?
A region's receipts will be based on a percentage of Disciples Mission Fund contributions from congregations across the whole church.

Where will the four Special Offerings go?
Special Offerings will be received for particular ministries:
Easter for general ministries implementation of Disciples Imperative to strengthen congregational life,
Pentecost for new church development (divided equally between the region in which it is contributed and general New Church Ministry),
Thanksgiving for higher education institutions, and
Christmas for regional ministries in the region where the funds are contributed for implementation of the church's Imperative.
In addition to these offerings, Week of Compassion and Reconciliation offerings will be received to fund specified Disciples ministries for disaster relief and the Reconciliation Mission.

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Friendly Class Report

Our one adult class on Sunday mornings has begun meeting downstairs in Fellowship Hall, where we are a bit more visible and accessible, allowing the choir to prepare for the service, and letting us have coffee and bite to eat along with the lesson! We have used both the Int’l Sunday School Lessons resources, as well as some videos and outlines from Pastor Jeff.

We invite all adults to join us for assembly in the sanctuary at 9:30 am, and then downstairs for our class. The discussions and insights have been great, and we look forward to inviting more of you to join us in 2003.
Hebron Crossroads 1-26-03
By Jeff Gill

“Souper Bowl” Sunday is an ongoing effort on the part of many youth organizations, churches, and similar groups to remind people of the ongoing needs of area food pantries. Christmas is a great time for giving, but that’s also a prime time for pantries to give, too.
With the shelves often quite bare at the end of January, the Super Bowl is an occasion when folks are out shopping anyhow, and the suggestion is that we buy a can of food to donate for every item of snack food we’re indulging in for the big game. And since soup is one canned good that is always useful for families in need, hence the name “Souper Bowl” for this promotion.

Many area churches and their youth groups are asking their members to bring food pantry items on this Sunday, and we’re happy to remind folks at the Hebron Crossroads about it; LEADS at Buckeye Lake does great work on our behalf, but when they see more plywood than can lids, this kind of extra effort to stock the shelves is really appreciated.

Another program supported by many area churches and civic groups is “Heartbeats of Licking County,” which provides crisis pregnancy counseling, support for new mothers, and promotion of adoption as a loving alternative for unplanned pregnancies.

Merridy Hoover, who stepped down not long ago as the executive director, is still working with Heartbeats with a focus on adoption, and has put together a video on the subject, sharing accurate information and pointing out myths about adoption and adoptive children. This locally made video has gotten a great deal of attention around the country, from coast to coast, and has been used in a variety of school programs far beyond Licking County where it was originally intended for use, including Lakewood schools. There is also a version of the video made for churches and faith-based groups.

Rindy Brooks, who was brave enough to step into Merridy’s very large shoes, is getting better known, as is the new location for Heartbeats at 336 East Main St. in Newark (their phone number is 349-7558). Rindy says, “When I run into people at the store, or out on the street, because of our abstinence-based teaching, they say, ‘Oh, that’s right, you’re the ‘No Sex Lady,’ and I’m trying to find the right way to tell them, ‘No, I’m pro-sex; I’m trying to help you have great sex, which is through a marriage with someone you waited for and that you’re so glad you’re with.”

Whether she becomes better known as the ‘No Sex’ lady or the ‘Great Sex’ lady, this lady has plenty of work to do, and she’s trying to figure out how to do more. With the counseling they do out of their office, Rindy points out that only 25 percent of their clients (averaging 19 to 25) turn out to be pregnant. “We want to reach out more effectively to that other 75 percent who say ‘whew’ and walk away, but came in worried. Heartbeats wants to address to source of those worries, and how they can eliminate those problems to start with.”
She also adds that their volunteer needs aren’t just for people who are comfortable doing crisis counseling, but also for women who are able to teach “how to be a mom,” folks willing to talk to teen and parent groups, or even have skills to share on basic home management.

With 40 million abortions in the US since 1973, there are tens of millions of women who have experienced the lasting after-effects of that choice, and Heartbeats’ program “Healing the Effects of Abortion Related Trauma,” or HEART, has been a real support for women who have taken the seven week group experience. New groups start whenever there are another six or seven women who want the course, which is led by women who have been through the course themselves. “No one is in the room who hasn’t been through an abortion themselves, and that can be very freeing for sharing and discussion in a non-judging atmosphere,” says Stephanie, a group leader.

Heartbeats has always had involvements in the Lakewood area, and while their “office” is a ways up the road, they’re just a phone call away, and as more volunteers and interest comes from groups around Hebron and Buckeye Lake, the more chance they’ll have of a visible presence in our end of the county. Dave Mason, pastor of Heath Church of Christ, and I agreed that Heartbeats is one of the most effective volunteer organizations in Licking County.