“And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.’” (Luke 14:23–24)
Dear New Life in Christ Church Family,
Jesus shows the heart of His Father though a parable in Luke 14. It tells of a king who plans a giant banquet but none of the invitees plan to attend. So the king sends his servants out to invite other people in: common people, the sick, and disabled. The king wants a full banquet hall to celebrate with his subjects. Many came and celebrated.
The parable reminds us that God has set out a spiritual banquet in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through faith, we enjoy the forgiveness of sin, new power for living, eternal life, and communion with God. This banquet feast reminds us of God's love, brings joy into our lives and directs us to our ultimate purposes of knowing and enjoying God.
The parable also shows that there are many people who would come to a banquet if they were just invited.
This parable gives a little context to why we think we should build a balcony. The Lord has laid out his banquet feast in the gospel of Jesus Christ and He wants his dining halls to be full. He calls us to invite others to come and join the feast.
(* In case you didn't know, we are building a plan to convert our second-floor classrooms into a balcony to add 147 seats to our sanctuary. If you have not received one of our packets in the mail, please let Larry Root know and we will get you one.)
The vision of Luke 14 inspires our "Rising Up, Reaching Out, Welcoming In" capital campaign and our balcony project. As those who have experienced the love of God, we rise up in worship and in the call to serve, we reach out to our community, and we welcome in worshippers to our congregation.
Our region is expanding quickly, giving us new opportunities to help others. We want more people to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, to become disciples, and to join in God's work in His church. And, we believe we have a unique and important place in our community. Through the ministry of God's Word, the testimony of His sovereign grace, our missions outreach, our music ministry, our arts ministries, and our children's ministries, we have a unique place in our community. We want to build these for the future.
In this letter, I will share some of the reasons I think the balcony is an excellent idea, even if it makes this letter longer than most. This will be available online if you'd rather read it there. We have a congregational meeting on Friday, February 10 (more on that below), and this will help understand some of our thinking in the project. It may be a bit more than you have heard to this point.
1. Why this project? Because we love our community. This is a stewardship and an opportunity. We are called to rise up, reach out and welcome in. Every person you see on the street is an eternal soul. So many are lost in sin, in guilt, and separation from God. The people around us are experiencing a loss of identity and hope. They are sucked into a world that is at enmity with God. We have a message for each and every person in Fredericksburg and the surrounding counties.
2. Why this project? Because we want to build a church for the generations. One of the things we love about our congregation is that we are multi-generational. We have seniors, empty nesters, families, young families, couples, singles, youth, children and infants. Not all churches have this wide representation of ages. This is something to rejoice in.
At the same time, we are an aging congregation. Every congregation ages. It's a good thing. But there has to be intentionality to include new people.
Where will the space come for another generation to come in, worship, and take on our mission to the world? For the continuing mission of our church, it is really important to make space for new worshippers to come, connect, and grow in the church. Our older generations have invested a lot in New Life in Christ Church and they want to know that the church has a long future ahead.
During COVID we saw new people coming and worshipping with us, especially as we started a second service. As we have gone to two services since Septembers, we have seen visitors joining us as well. We are just 3 weeks in, but our attendance has jumped significantly through the beginning of 2023. As we have made space for people to worship, we are glad to see new faces coming and staying.
3. Why this project? Because our ministries are valuable to our community and we want to see renewal and growth. For example, our choirs and orchestra have a special place in both our church and our community. Not many churches can do this. Many of the churches who used to do this have shrunk so that the beauty of church music is not possible or sought after. They have abandoned the gospel and grown older and it has decimated the churches. Other, newer churches, are too small for such events and they don't always have a vision for it.
Consider also our community-wide VBS, our baseball outreach, and our missions program. These ministries and others benefit from new engagement and new and younger leadership. In increasing space for worshippers, we invite people to enjoy and eventually participate in these.
The testimony of Caleb Reed made this point also. We help make important connections for our community.
It's worth building for the sustainment and growth of these programs. It provides new volunteers and the possibility of additional staff. We believe this is a way to enhance the ministry of New Life in Christ Church.
4. Why this project? So we will be more ready to host and invite others to big events. Adding 147 seats will certainly help with "stretch days" when attendance swells. I've spoken to people who couldn’t find parking spots and they left. I've spoken to people who saw a full sanctuary and decided to leave. I've spoken to people who were asked to move seats to make room for a big family. I've spoken to families who came to church, but had to sit on opposite ends of the sanctuary because we were so full. Adding chairs will help with this, for sure. I wonder, if a late visitor comes, would they rather turn around than walk to the front of the church?
The balcony and the extra space will allow us to host people better.
The great drama of history is the way God builds His church from all kinds of people. He is building His church internationally and He is building His church in Fredericksburg.
5. Why this project? It is an investment for missions. This balcony project does not replace our missions focus, it is an aid our missions focus. Our heartbeat is missions and we want to include new people in this.
The balcony is an investment in our local church so we can continue to grow our mission participation, involvement, and giving. Sometimes churches put their own growth ahead of missions growth. Sometimes they put missions ahead of their own ministry. As our Expansion Committee has planned this project, they are convinced that we can add a balcony without any compromise to our missions program. And, before too long, it'll help the missions program grow beyond any investment we make now.
We've seen similar fruit through the "Franklin House", purchased a number of years ago to support our college ministry. Through the years we have been able to connect with many college disciples, gather together in worship, and help them grow in their relationship with the Lord. The investment we made then is small in comparison to the fruit we have seen grow.
Regarding church planting, I recently spoke with a church planter who suggested that our addition of seats would better position us to support local church planting as a sending church. Adding a few members allows us to send off small groups to start new churches and continue to support those new churches even as we focus on our own mission as a church.
6. Why this project? It better positions us be a resource to Reformed churches in our region. We are the largest Reformed church in the area, which allows us to support certain efforts with the other churches in our Presbytery. It's allowed us to host our regional Reformation services. We have ongoing, prayerful, connections with local churches. We want to be a resource for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be boldly and clearly set forth, for the glory of God and the well-being of our community.
7. Why this project? This is the long-term vision of our leadership. As Robert Williams said a few weeks ago, this project has been a possibility since 1992. It's not a new idea. We have underutilized space. It helps with some challenges we have been facing, and it helps us move into the future.
Your elders and deacons have come up with this idea and they have enthusiastically offered to financially support much of the project. The financial commitments we have already received blow me away. Our officers believe in what we are doing here, and they want to see the ministry of New Life in Christ church continue to grow and bless our community and world. If you could see the amount of work our Expansion Team is putting in, you would be so encouraged. They have joyfully committed their whole selves to this project.
Just talking about this has also ignited and encouraged our leadership in thinking about our future vision and mission to the world.
Okay, that's seven reasons. If you talk to me about this, I can go through these ideas, and others, for a long time. I hope it’s helpful. I hope I have been able to share my thinking on a number of items. Thanks for taking the time to read it.
On Friday, February 10 at 7 PM we will have a coffee and dessert meeting to share the vision of the project again and to ask for your support. Please come and hear the plans. Pray for wisdom and vision of our elders and deacons. Even if you cannot financially support the project at this time, we would just like to have you join us as we discuss the project.
At the end of the coffee and dessert, we will enter into a congregational meeting where we will vote on the project. The vote should be to “Approve the recommendation of the Session to build a balcony and any other associated items in the plans presented. And further, that the congregation authorize the trustees to secure a loan, up to $750,000, to cover the construction costs of this project.” Your participation is needed and greatly appreciated.
Pray for us as we enter February and the final push in our Rising Up … Reaching Out … Welcoming In … capital campaign for the building.