You are receiving this letter because you have contributed to Midtown Community Church in 2020. It takes a community to raise a church, and I would like to thank you for being part of that community who has helped to grow this church in the city of Raleigh. To echo the words of the Apostle Paul to the church in Philippi,“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”
As a reminder in the new year, Midtown will need to continue to see a growth in regular monthly giving to meet our budget goals in 2021. Some of you are not able to give monthly due to your personal financial rhythm. However, when or if it is possible, regular monthly giving helps us to more accurately set and maintain budget goals throughout the year for the benefit of our church and the ministries we support.
I would like to take a moment to reflect back on how this particular branch of Jesus’ church has weathered the year 2020. In February of last year we had our annual church potluck, which we affectionately call “Family Table.” This is a night where we tell stories of God’s faithfulness, and the leadership shares our hopes for what God might do in and through our community for the coming year. A few weeks later the pandemic hit home for us Americans, culminating in the closure of in-person worship on March 15th. Worship and community life has never been the same since that moment.
However, I have never been more proud of how we responded to this new reality. We demonstrated a level of resilience and creativity that was frankly inspiring to me as a pastor. We immediately began video recording our worship services every Sunday through the help of a small team of dedicated volunteers and staff. We never failed to worship faithfully every week, though we were scattered among various living rooms around the Raleigh area. When summer arrived, we moved to worshipping outdoors on the lawn of our church grounds. Though words like “masks,” “socially-distant,” and “sanitizer” became common vernacular each Sunday, we continued doing what the church has always persisted in over the past 2000 years: we worshipped, we baptized, we celebrated communion, and we tearfully sang hymns. We also moved to live-streaming our worship services each week on YouTube (I swore I would never become a televangelist, but I sure ate those words). In November we returned to worship inside the sanctuary, albeit with all the aforementioned words in full force. While the pandemic has hit a number of folks personally, I am thankful that the combination of God’s grace and our faithfulness in taking the pandemic seriously has, to our knowledge, resulted in zero instances of transmission of Covid-19 in our church gatherings. As of today, we continue to gather in-person and virtually each Sunday as we offer up the hope of the gospel in the person of Jesus Christ.
In spite of the challenges of this past year, I’m encouraged by how we have grown our church community. Our community groups continued to meet in a variety of formats over this year. Spiritually, one of our goals for 2020 was to engage more directly in complex topics facing our society. Over the summer we held a book club focusing on the topic of race in our country. Additionally we hosted a number of Zoom seminars on topics like anxiety, parenting in a pandemic, and masculinity. We found other ways of connecting meaningfully through regular prayer meetings, and bible studies for men and women. We hosted our first Fall Festival for families in the area, which was a rousing success. On the staffing front, Kyle Doss dropped the interim label and became our permanent youth director. The biggest news on the staffing front is that we hired a new Assistant Pastor in Duane Davis, who is focusing on discipleship and spiritual formation. He and his family have been a welcome addition to our church family. We also added two new members to our Women’s Shepherding Team, as well as ordained two deacons and one elder. Over the past three months we had approximately 20 adults attend our prospective members class.
Part of the mission statement of our church is to “send people out to renew and create communities locally and globally.” Admittedly, a global pandemic has made this difficult. However, as we have always done, we continued to give 10% of our income to supporting local and global ministries. Additionally, in the spring we worked with Refugee Hope Partners to launch a “Love Your Neighbor Campaign” intended to assist refugee families in the Raleigh area who were hard hit by the pandemic. This became a great way for our church to serve the local refugee community. We also used the government stimulus checks as a way to encourage our church community to bless others. Through this “Coronavirus Relief Fund” we were able to give extra money to Refugee Hope Partners. In addition, the deacons recently decided to use some of these funds to support a ministry named “Called To Peace,” which seeks to bring hope and healing to victims of domestic abuse.
I would like to be clear that this has not been an easy year. People are struggling inside our church and in the cities we serve. But I’m also reminded of Proverbs 24:16, “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.” Midtown Community Church has continued to be a community of Jesus followers where fallen people have the opportunity to rise again. Over the course of this pandemic, many organizations have closed their doors. However, I am thankful that the church continues to be a fulfillment of Jesus’ words, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Bottom line…God has always intended for the church to be at its best when the world is at its worst.
We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for your generous donations and tithes. We are deeply grateful for the ways in which you have lived out the command that Paul gave to the church in Corinth, “But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” Thank you for excelling in this grace towards us. Our prayer is that you continue to experience the joy of supporting the work of Jesus Christ by growing in the grace of giving.
For His Kingdom,