Happy New Year! This year we had the privilege of celebrating the 125th birthday of Zion! Every new year is a chance to take stock of where we have come from, where we are going, and where we are right now.
Where have we come from?
Zion has had a busy year! Between buying one parsonage and selling another one, remodeling work at both parsonages, a new boiler in the education wing, wrapping up the demolition of the 3 lots on the north side of the church, and making significant progress on the building expansion project, we’ve certainly been busy with the “things of this world.” Great job, trustees and members of Zion! Your dedication and diligence certainly shows your concern for our Lord and His Church on earth!
Regarding spiritual care, it’s been a busy year there, too. Our Elders have been busy working with the pastors to work through our membership list and trying to make certain that we are not neglecting our task of providing spiritual care for everyone. We’ve made contact with many people who moved from our community years ago, or have for one reason or another started attending another congregation. Our spiritual care list has never been more accurate!
Not that all of our work has gone into trimming our list. Did you know that there were 18 people baptized at Zion in 2017? And we confirmed 16 more – 5 of which are adults. We were also a part of 6 weddings and 10 funerals. Meanwhile, we were active this year making ourselves available to other congregations in our area who are in need. Since July, our pastors have been serving Emmaus Lutheran in Tripp during their vacancy. Thanks be to God that He has sent them a new Shepherd of their own!
Did you know that we have 362 member households at Zion? That’s 15 more than a year ago! Of those households, 313 attended (and filled out a card) in 2017. Month by month, we’re seeing a measurable increase in attendance over last year. Thanks be to God!
Where are we going?
With so much going on around us, it’s easy to lose sight of the most important things. That is just as true in the church as it is anywhere else in life.
Zion continues to grow by God’s grace. Some of it is due to demographics, but all of it is thanks to the mercy and graciousness of our Lord. If you think about it, what we do at Zion isn’t supposed to work. The world tells us we need to continue to twist and bend to the whims of our world. The world says that to grow we need to not just be forgiving of sexual immorality, but affirming of it. The world says that to grow we need to focus less on historic Christianity and more on insights into sociology.
We don’t do that. And yet by almost every metric, we continue to grow.
Here is why I think that is true: Zion is the largest non-Roman Catholic church in town that is dedicated to confessional, traditional worship and teaching. I believe that – more than anything – this is our biggest strength. Our identity is found in Jesus, not in the cool fad of the day. Our teachings come from the Word of God, not the words of the world. Our style of worship and education is timeless. It has truly stood the test of many centuries of time.
The great temptation of a church today is to bend to the will of the world, and to give itching ears what they want to hear. The temptation is there because the devil is also there, telling church leaders that such “flexibility” will bring in the numbers. But according to demographic research, the more flexible, loose, and liberal a denomination’s teachings, the faster their decline. Sure, there are anecdotal examples of individual congregations that beat the odds for a while. Usually, that involves a cult of personality – and when the personality leading the church leaves, so do the people. It is churches like ours that are not built on personalities, but on the solid, unchanging Word of God that have stood and will continue to stand the test of time.
How will we get there?
There is one metric that does not show significant, measured growth: financial giving. While we continue to hold our own, our offerings are not keeping pace with our membership growth.
Let me first say I am incredibly humbled by the generosity of so many people! And yet we have room for improvement.
If we all increase our giving by even a small amount, it will pay off in a huge way in our budget. If you gave nothing in 2017, shoot for even $10/week. If you are giving less than 10% of your income, consider increasing your support by even a little bit. If you are already giving 10%, then please accept our big-hearted thanks for your incredible generosity!
The last couple of years we have been the thankful beneficiaries of several generous large gifts. Most recently, we have been given a large gift by a member of Zion who entered into eternal glory this year. Although nothing has been decided, it seems likely that those funds will go towards our future building expansion project. If that project is to become a reality, it will be because of even more people generously supporting Zion. If you’d like information on how to support Zion through electronic giving, bequests, or even from your IRA, please talk to Doug Nelson, one of the pastors, or the church office.
Where are we right now?
As we give thanks to God for 125 years of ministry at Zion, humanly speaking, we are blessed to trust that we have many years ahead of us. But whatever happens, we know how the story ends. Christ has already won the victory. We literally can’t lose! Happy New Year!