Donate to Support

Support the church that supports this blog. Donate at - Click the donate button in the upper righthand corner.
Showing posts with label Exodus 18:14-26. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Exodus 18:14-26. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

2023 State of the Communion Address

It is our tradition at Pleasant Grove at the beginning of each new year, to have a State of the Communion Address where we look back at the accomplishments of the previous year and look forward to some goals and initiatives for the coming year. Before we get into those details, let us hear God’s Word.

Exodus 18:14-26
When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, “What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?”

15 Moses replied, “Because the people come to me to get a ruling from God. 16 When a dispute arises, they come to me, and I am the one who settles the case between the quarreling parties. I inform the people of God’s decrees and give them his instructions.”

17 “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. 18 “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. 19 Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him. 20 Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. 21 But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. 22 They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. 23 If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.”

24 Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions. 25 He chose capable men from all over Israel and appointed them as leaders over the people. He put them in charge of groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. 26 These men were always available to solve the people’s common disputes. They brought the major cases to Moses, but they took care of the smaller matters themselves.

Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
Moses had a heavy burden—to lead the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land.  These were a people who had lived as subjects and slaves of the Egyptian empire for 400 years.  They had always had slave masters to tell them exactly what to do.  And if they stepped out of line, there was surely a whip ready to snap them back into line.  Now they were a free people, but they had still to learn how to live as free people.

Moses’ Father-in-law, Jethro, saw how hard Moses was working and knew this was too much for one man to bear.  His wise advice was that he should delegate the administrative tasks to capable leaders among the people.  Moses should concentrate on being “the people’s representative before God” and teaching “them God’s decrees” and showing “them how to conduct their lives.
But Jethro advised Moses to delegate the day to day tasks of managing the community to capable and honest community leaders.

The Methodist Way
This is wise biblical advice for any church or large organization.  This is the model that built the Methodist Church.  It’s where we get our name:  Methodist—because we follow a methodical process for governing the church and doing Christ's work.

Rather than one person making all the decisions—whether it be the pastor or someone—the work of the church is divided up among various committees.
We have a Trustees Committee to oversee and make decisions about the property of the church.  We have a Finance Committee to oversee finances.  There is the HR Committee (Human Resources, usually called SPRC) that oversees the paid staff of the church.  The Nominations Committee recommends people for the various jobs in the church and all the committees and ministries report to the Church Council, who is the main decision making body of the church that oversees everything.

Sometime people complain that we have too many committees.  I understand.  no one likes sitting in a boring committee meeting.  However, have you ever thought of the alternative?  The alternative is to give just one person or maybe a small handful of people all the power to make decisions.  That may be easier, but it can also be very dangerous.  Some churches have succeeded that way, but the overwhelming majority get into serious trouble when they invest that much power in the pastor or a small board of directors.  Power corrupts and ultimate power corrupts ultimately.

Using various committees as we do give everyone a say in what happens in the church and maintains proper checks and balances.  Plus, it is actually a method of discipleship.  It may be more pleasant to confine your interaction in church to just sitting in a pew singing pretty hymns and listening to sermons.  But actually doing the business of the church making important (and sometimes even uncomfortable) decisions is a much better way to grow closer to Christ as you oversee the work of His Church.

Some Highlights from 2023

Let’s take a minute to remember some of the things we did last year as a church.

In February, Coach Matt Land was our guest speaker for Souper Bowl Sunday.  It was well attended and included many people who would not regularly attend a church service.  They came to here a football hero speak, but he spoke about the Greatest Hero--Jesus Christ--and the good news that we can be saved from our sins if we repent and put our faith in Jesus.

In February, we also resumed our Valentines Sweetheart Banquet, which we discontinued during the COVID-19 pandemic.  It was great to resume this activity.  And I want you to notice that even though it has been nearly 3 years since the onset of the pandemic, we are still recovering from the negative effects it had on our church's ministries.  

In March we had our first ever Car Show/Cruise-in.  our main parking lot was full of classic cars and visitors roaming the lot to see them all.  And our members were out there mid=gling and our showing Jesus' hospitality.  And again, this was a victory because it was originally scheduled for 2020 and had to be canceled for COVID-19.  SO just having the event meant were we getting thing going again.

Children’s ministry has struggled since the pandemic began.  Of course, we had to cancel many of the usual events because it wasn't safe for kids to gather together.  However, the biggest obstacle has been the loss of so many regular volunteers who are now out of the habit of helping with children's ministry.  Even so, we did have some things to celebrate in 2022.  

We had our first Community Easter Egg Hunt since

COVID began with about 40 people attending.  We also resumed VBS for the first time since COVID began--with about 30-40 kids attending each night.  And we also resumed a Walk-thru Trunk or Treat that well attended and appreciated by around 500 people from our community.  We started Trunk or Treat over 10 years ago and we managed to continue it through the pandemic, but we had done it as a drive-thru event in 2020 and 2021.  In 2022, we resumed the walk-thru method.  Another victory for the return to normalcy.

Our Youth Group for middle and high school students is going strong on the wise, and capable leadership of Amy Harris.  They met weekly on Wednesday nights and had some extra meetings on Sunday evenings as well.  They took several trips including the summer extreme beach trip, a Halloween trip to Hell's Gate Christian Haunted House, Six Flags, as well as others.  Furthermore, they volunteered to help clean up a church members yard, and served as volunteers at the Miracle Field of Whitfield County to help disabled people play baseball.

The Girl Scout troop that has met at Pleasant Grove for numerous years, offered to build a community raised bed garden for our church.  With the help of several church volunteers, they installed 6 raised beds and we had a garden this season!

The Boy Scouts program exploded with over 40 boys attending.  This year, they outgrew the Scout Hut on our property and started also meeting weekly in the Promise Building.  A big thank you to Frank Fetzer and the many volunteers that help run the Boy Scouts program at Pleasant Grove.

On Wednesday nights, we had a first century Roman soldier visit and teach about what life was like for soldiers in Judea when Jesus carried out his earthly ministry.  We also watched seasons one and two of the Chosen Series, about the ministry of Jesus and the Disciples.  (We started Season Three this past week.)

We also had a number of leaders from our community share about their faith in Jesus and how it guides them to serve the Lord in our community in a variety of ways such as teaching, government, business, social work.  Speakers included Senator Chuck Payne, Kelsey Ikerd, Jason Denson, Sherry Dickson, and others.

In July, we had an important Town Hall Meeting to consider developments in the United Methodist denomination and how these may affect our congregation relationship with the UMC.  An anonymous survey indicated the congregation overwhelmingly wishes to pursue disaffiliation from the UMC.  According, our church council voted to request a Church Conference by the District Superintendent to vote on disaffiliation under provisions in the Book of Discipline.   We also created to teams to help, one to handle the work of disaffiliation (the D-Team) and another team to study future affilation options if we disaffiliate (the A-Team).

In November, we had Homecoming and Revival services lead by Tom Atkins.  It was an important time of healing and revival as we drew closer to God.

Becky Haley led our church to collect 148 boxes for Operation Christmas Child--the most we've ever collected since we started participating a decade ago.

In 2022, our music minister, David Crawford, created and directed an original production with volunteers from our congregation acting out the Christmas story with music by our chancel choir.  It was a beautiful presentation that involved so many people.  Then, we ended the year with 68 people attending our Christmas Eve service.  It was such a special time for our church family.

Sack lunches have been packed throughout the pandemic and continue to be an important part of Pleasant Grove's ministries.  In 2022, 17 faithful volunteers met and packed 65 sack packs a week for around 36 weeks, totaling around 2,340 sack lunches to help needy children at Pleasant Grove Elementary School. Plus, another 40 sack packs were packed per month to help at risk children visiting White's Pediatrics, bring the total to around 2,700 sack lunches. This was over 9,000 pounds of food!  In addition, we gave supplies to the nurse at Pleasant Grove Elementary, along with other essential help.

Through our Operation Mercy Drops grant program, Pleasant Grove awarded 12 grants totaling $12,000.  There were 6 hardship awards to help people in need, 2 merit awards to honor people who are doing admirable things in our community, and 4 service awards to help special community organizations continue their good work to help people in our community.  

Looking Forward to 2023

I believe God has great things in store for our church in the coming year.  We are privileged to be the hands and feet and heart of Jesus Christ to our community.  I want to mention a few things that we can expect for 2023.

One Morning Worship Service
First of all, we will combine our two morning worship services back into one starting next Sunday.  We will continue to have our live, online service at 10:55 AM but we will only have one in-person service, which will be at 10:55 AM.  I believe this will bring more unity to our congregation, as we all meet together again in one service for worship.

Easter Program
Second, we will have an Easter Cantata patterned after the Christmas cantata which was so successful.  Families from our congregation will tell the Easter story from Scripture in cooperation with the beautiful music of our choir.  

Children's Ministry
Third and very important, we will focus on children’s ministries in 2023.  I am excited about the idea David and Amy Crawford have to start a puppet ministry.  They had so much fun using puppets for our summer VBS, they took the initiative to build a set in a class upstairs above our fellowship hall that they plan to use regularly during the children's church time to have a puppet program for kids.

But we must also do more to invite more families with kids into our church for regular meetings.  The HR team is already considering how to get some training for our church about how to revamp and invigorate our children’s program and bring in more families and kids.  This is critical to our calling from Christ to make disciples.  We have an important opportunity with children that we cannot pass up.  We have to do better than we've been doing.  

We are also going to need more volunteers to help with children in the puppet ministry, in Sunday school, on Wednesday nights, and in children’s church.  Could you help?

We believe our church wants to vote about disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church over issues related to Scripture and human sexuality.  We have been working through that process and will continue to work through it in 2023.  Unfortunately, the out going Bishop of the North Georgia Conference announced a "pause" on December 28th (a few days before she left our conference to be reappoint Bishop of the Virginia Conference).  This "edict" has disrupted our disaffiliation process (along with hundreds of other faithful congregations across our conference).  We are in communication with other churches and conference leaders to decide what will be our response.  We hope that the conference will be open to cooperate with churches who are faithfully following the process that was approved by General Conference and our own annual conference and conference board of trustees.  We will do whatever we can to ensure that our congregation has a fair chance to voice your desires to either remain in the UMC or to disaffiliate from the denomination.

I am calling on everyone in our congregation to join with hundreds of other faithful Methodists across our state who are praying and fasting to prepare for the difficult road ahead.  I invite you to choose one day each week to pray and fast from sundown to sundown.  For example, I am taking Tuesdays, to pray and fast.  I will eat dinner Tuesday before 6 PM and then only have water, juice, or coffee until Wednesday night at 6 PM.  During the fast, you are asked to pray that our hearts will be right with God, our attitude and motives will be pure, and that the conference will cooperate with churches discerning a path forward that leads them away from the UMC, and that God will make a way for His Methodist people to walk faithfully with Him--whether inside or outside the UMC.

Pray for New Church Leaders

Finally, I call on you to pray for all the church leaders from our congregation who have been elected to serve in 2023.  Here are the names of those who have been elected:  


Chairperson of the Church Council – Tom Dickson

Vice Chairperson – Mike Wilson

Secretary – Amy Harris

Treasurer – Jeff McDonald

Finance Chairperson – Kevin Roberts

HR (SPRC) Chairperson – Elaine McDonald 

Board of Trustees Chairperson – Marcus Blalock

Pastor – Rev. Chris Mullis

Lay Leader – Jason Denson

Assistant Lay Leader – Bill Caylor

Lay Delegate to Annual Conference – Mike Wilson 

Marketing Specialist – Donna Phillips

Youth Ministers – Amy Harris

Music Minister – David Crawford 

Children’s Minister – Tiffany Tankersley

Sunday School Superintendent – Debra Sloan

Church Council Members at Large: Harry Kelly, Dianne Caylor, and Mara Cobble


Lay Delegate to Annual Conference – Mike Wilson

Lay Leader – Jason Denson

John Denson, Elaine McDonald (Chair), Jason Childers, Jimmy Brooker, Danny Cobble, and Diane O’Brien


Pastor – Rev. Chris Mullis (Chair)

Lay Leader – Jason Denson

Scott Ward, Bill Caylor, Sherry Dickson, Sallie Thomas, Amy Crawford, and Angel Kirk


Maribeth Reno, Jean Coker, Marcus Blalock (Chair), Becky Haley, Jon Adams, Lori Roberts, Mike Kirk, Kyle Marlow, and Scott Denson


Chairman – Kevin Roberts

Lay Member to Annual Conference – Mike Wilson

Chairman of Church Council – Tom Dickson

Human Resources Chair – Elaine McDonald

Lay Leader – Jason Denson

Chairman of Trustees – Marcus Blalock

Treasurers – Jeff McDonald, Donna Phillips

Financial Secretaries – Jean Coker, Teresa Marlow, & Debra Sloan

Finance Committee Members at Large:  Becky Ward, Bob Brooker, and Steven Weed

Operation Mercy Drops Committee

Mike Wilson, Salena Weed (Chair), Kelly Scruggs, and Andrea Adams


Vice Treasurer – Donna Phillips

Altar Guild – Kaye Fetzer

Church Historian – Rita Wagers

Librarian – Becky Ward

Nursery Coordinator – Laurie Wilson                    

Coordinator of Ushers – Mike Marlow

Sunday School Secretaries – Ron Phillips, Johnny Denson

Coordinator of Special Events – Marie Jordan, Angel Kirk, and Debra Sloan

Coordinator of Family Night Suppers – Angela Kirk

Prayer Coordinator – Sherry Dickson

Alternate Lay Delegate to Annual Conference – Laurie Wilson

Memorial Garden Committee – Elaine McDonald, Kaye Denson, and Jimmy Brooker

Coordinator of Scouting Ministries – Frank Fetzer

Affiliation Study Team (The A Team)

Debra Sloan, Elaine McDonald, Harold Brooker, Kay Denson, Kevin Roberts, Kyle Marlow, Mike Wilson, Salena Weed (Recorder), and Tom Dickson (Chair)

Disaffiliation Study Team (The D Team)

Bill Caylor (Chair), Jason Denson, Marcus Blalock, Maribeth Reno, and Rita Wagers