Romans 12:1-2 "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
2016 Annual Review
This past year, we held onto John 12:24: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Our prayer was that each member would grow in thinking outward as a result of imitating Jesus, that we would learn the joy of laying down our lives in practical ways so that others may know Jesus and have life.
God was faithful to us, feeding us richly through John’s gospel, Galatians, and Acts. John’s gospel helped us focus on Jesus and putting our faith in him and believing him for all that he is. Galatians helped us focus on the gospel and living out gospel faith. It was a good time of calibration for us. And Acts helped us grow in vision and missional identity and dependence on the work of the Spirit.
2016 proved to be a trying and purifying year. Many friends who had been faithfully fellowshipping moved on to other states; and in once case, a different church in the city. We knew that his was to be expected - with the ebb and flow of life. But with the majority of our friends leaving over one summer, we became rather deflated. But this summer was fruitful in the sense that we became more sharply focused on the goals of our ministry: discipleship. Our sense of disappointment that lasted a little while also was a reminder of our small view of the church and God’s calling for us. So we repented. We repented of not seeing the universal church of God; we repented of not seeing the sovereignty of God; we mostly repented of not valuing the precious few who were still fellowshipping with us.
We held a new year’s retreat in January, where we focused on reflecting on 2015 and choosing a verse for 2016. We also studied John 12, where, as a body of Christ, we found our direction of the year. It was a very meaningful time, opening our hearts to each other. We also got to cook and eat together, play games and sports together.
Starting in the beginning of 2016, some high school students started to come on Sundays through a Bible club held on their campus. Then when they entered college in the fall, became the core members to start a group Bible study at UT. The group Bible studies followed the Sunday passage and helped the students to discuss and digest the word of God before coming on Sunday.
We held a joint Good Friday service with some other churches in East Austin. We thought about Jesus’ crucifixion from Luke’s gospel. This relationship with local churches and pastors have been a great blessing for us. We meet once a month or so to eat and pray. This meeting has become a place where we share victories together and praise God together. In times of difficulty, we share our sorrows and pray for each other. This camaraderie among fellow church planters and pastors have been so encouraging.
We moved to a new location in March - a small studio space that we rent out, with a children’s space not too far from it. We had to move because the place where we had been renting was no longer available. The space is still pretty central, close to downtown and not too far from campus. We have a rotation among leaders for leading Sunday school while the adult Sunday worship service is going on. One college student consistently brings his little sister on Sundays.
This year, our modes of ministry included Wednesday night group Bible study at one of the pastors’ homes where we shared reflections and studied the next Sunday’s passage, one to one Bible studies at cafes, and group Bible study on campus.
We ended the year with a new year’s eve service, where one student got baptized. She joined the army after high school. While there, she started to read the Bible and came to faith in Jesus. We helped her prepare for baptism, and right at the turn of the year, she was immersed in water (in a horse trough) and declared her faith in Jesus publicly.
We’re thankful for the privilege to serve Jesus. We’re thankful to be used by God as he builds his kingdom. We’re thankful to be involved in the lives of Austinites who are growing Jesus. We’re thankful for the Spirit’s guidance and shepherding us through the ups and downs of life and ministry. We’re thankful that God has always provided enough for our families. He has always given us a location to worship in. We’re thankful for our many friends around the country that pray together with us for Austin. We’re thankful for the privilege of supporting a local pastor in Austin financially as he is trying to get his church off the ground. We’re thankful for the privilege to support a missionary family in Japan and Lebanon. We’re thankful for Jesus, our faithful Lord, Savior and friend. As the year finishes, we are convinced more than ever that Jesus is the best; life with him is the most meaningful life; life spent to know Jesus and to help others know Jesus is the most worthy way to live.
2017 Vision and Strategy
We recently finished up Acts and will be studying Luke’s gospel for the foreseeable future. When we are finished with Acts, we want to study an Old Testament book, perhaps Hosea.
Starting in the new year, we will have just one group Bible study - at the campus instead of at one of our homes. The campus is a more central location for our members - especially our college students.
Over spring break, we will invite students who show interest in growing as a leader to daily 1 Timothy Bible study.
We will again have a Joint Good Friday service with other east Austin churches, and the focus will be outreach. We pray that the Lord may bless this kind of coworking with other churches and be glorified in our unity and our united efforts to reach the lost in Austin. We will also do a joint Christmas Eve service with the same group of churches.
We plan to do some sort of meaningful trip this summer with the church - perhaps a camping trip. A couple of years ago, we took a trip to Big Bend national park and thought about the God of Abraham as we looked into the sky filled with stars. Perhaps, this year, we can do something similar.
Our verses for the new year are from Romans 12:1-2: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Our prayer is that we can help everyone that comes to our church to grow as Jesus’ disciples - namely, more and more of themselves, inside and out, surrendered to Jesus. We want to really focus all of our efforts on discipleship - that is, everything we do, we want to do because we know it will help us/others grow in Jesus. We know that this is not a matter of human effort but of God’s grace and work through the Holy Spirit. We know this means we have to pray much, depending on God. We need to grow in this area. May 2017 be a year when we experience much victory and miracles through prayer.