Chattanooga First Nazarene Family
From: Pastor Eric
Re.: Annual Report to the Congregation
One of my favorite Psalms begins with this challenge: Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits (Ps. 103:2). The Psalmist goes on to list the many ways God saves and provides. God is quick to forgive and acts with compassion, but he also corrects those he loves. God doesn’t observe from a distance. He works through his people to bring justice and help to those in need. The picture that’s painted is that of a good God who is living and active in the world.
What a great truth… and we’ve certainly experienced the goodness of God this year! Let’s take a few minutes to praise the Lord.
This has been a good year for spiritual growth. In spite of the stress of COVID-19, we found a way to worship and study and grow with God. Be sure to give Alex Jennings and our tech team a big thanks for bringing us up to speed with live streaming and Zoom connections.
- We baptized six this year.
- Our Sunday school and several of our discipleship groups continued without interruption. Ten of our members discerned their spiritual gifts and are excited about future ministry.
- Liz Kline led a weekly chapel talk for Hamilton Heights Christian Academy. It’s a privilege to tell these students about Jesus!
- Titi Miller led a weekly prayer group (Saturday’s at 9:30), connected us to a national prayer event, and is facilitating quarterly prayer gatherings (the next gathering is July 31).
- Our worship services have been very sweet with times of spontaneous testimony, times of reconciliation, and joy in the Lord. We ended the year at about 90% of our pre-pandemic average. Several others participate from home.
- Three of our members have answered a call to pastoral ministry and received a local minister’s license.
As we move into the new “church year”, what will you do to draw near to God? Will you return to Sunday school or join one of our other discipleship groups? Will you devote yourself to prayer and help us discern “next steps” for the Church? Will you say “yes” to whatever God has placed on your heart?
Praise the Lord, for working in us to make us more like Jesus!
We didn’t plan for any of the new ministries that sprung up this year. We simply said “yes” to whatever we sensed would please the Lord.
- The first unexpected ministry came through Family Promise. We were hosting three homeless families in our facility when the first shelter-in-place order came. We weren’t willing to put our guests out on the street, so we stretched a little, some of you cooked a little more food, and we helped them get into homes. The program shut down for about six weeks while Steve Russell led a remodel of the upstairs youth department. David Winfield volunteered as the overnight host. Caroyl Padget and Jonathan McKenzie cleaned a little more. In the end, your faithfulness helped nine families avoid great loss and get into stable homes.
- The stress of the shelter-in-place was compounded by the tornado. We became “home base” for the East Tennessee District Disaster Response Team. Rev. David Smith of Lenoir City First led teams for close to a month as we helped clear roads, remove fallen trees from yards, and comforted those who were devasted by the storm. Our District friends even put a new roof on the Gilbert’s house. Thank you to all of the CFN volunteers who came out to help. Thank you, also, to everyone who donated money, furniture, and clothes to help the Mitchel family recover from their fire.
- In the middle of the pandemic, Pastor Nohemi Alonzo decided to begin a Hispanic worship service! We have 2-3 families worshiping in the Fireside Room on Sundays, but others are joining online. Pray with the Alonzo’s as they seek the “person of peace” who will open a relational door to our Hispanic neighbors.
- We consistently ask, “What more would God do through us?” Nakia Mathis, Lisa Stevenson, and Lesa York answered this question by offering a summer day camp that gave 20 kids a healthy place to spend their weeks. This camp rolled into a homeschool co-op for church kids with over a dozen kids in attendance.
- Our Good Neighbor Project (feeding the neighbors who live in local “tent communities”) stumbled for a few months. It took a new direction as Jackie Prosser and Lisa Stevenson partnered with Chattanooga Rescue Mission to feed the homeless at their shelter. We’re now returning to the streets with care bags and food. Talk with Jackie Prosser about how YOU can help!
- Narcotics Anonymous is on the front line in helping people overcome drug addiction. Unfortunately, most of the places where they used to meet shut down. The church board considered the need and created practices that opened our doors to our neighbors. We now have N.A. groups meeting every night of the week. They want to know, “Is there more we can do together?” Let’s pray for a good answer to that question. Thank you to Jonathan McKenzie for watching the front desk and helping us serve our neighbors!
- Several churches were damaged by the tornado. Like others, we asked, “How can we help?” The answer became, “Let’s move the nursery to the West wing and create a chapel for one of the displaced congregations.” Pastor M.C. Tolbert and the Faith Community Wesleyan Church joined us in July. It’s been such a privilege to pray with brother M.C. and to share in joint worship services. We even had the privilege of hosting their District ordination service. Faith Community has invited us to their open house on June 5. Their new “home” is at 2330 Hickory Valley Rd., Chattanooga.
- Hamilton Heights Christian Academy reached out to us in June to say, “We’re losing our old facility. Do you have room for a Christian school?” This was a big stretch for us. It meant sharing classrooms and dealing with added wear and tear on the building. But half of these students are from foreign lands. They need someone to open the door to a better life AND to introduce them to Jesus. We, again, rolled up our sleeves and got to work. The central wing looks great and “sharing” hasn’t been a problem. Eleven students are graduating this year and ten of them already have a full-ride scholarship to college! Thank you to Rick and Chun Levin for underwriting the school expenses and making this “new life” possible for so many students. Pray for HHCA… several government-mandated updates have to be made to the building if they’re to continue in partnership with us. Pray also for the borders to open so more students can join us in Chattanooga!
God challenges us to “Love your neighbors as yourself”. How will YOU share the love (and help) of Jesus this coming “year”? Join me in praying about the “new thing” God would do through us next.
Other Really Neat Stuff
- Pastor Eric started a small remodel project last April. I just wanted to get rid of some stained ceiling tiles. The Derryberrys joined in and we ended up remodeling the entire entrance area. Then Tonya called to say, “One of the churches that was hit by the tornado is selling their sanctuary chairs.” We bought enough chairs to replace the sanctuary pews (thanks to everyone who helped to pick up the chairs and remove the old pews!) Steve Russell stepped up to create some neat accents in the sanctuary and he’s planning to do more to seal the sanctuary windows (and make things look even better). We’ve replaced ceiling tiles and lights in the West hallway, power washed the front of the church, and made lots of other improvements. The building is looking great!
- We’ve upgraded our website and linked it to an app… download “Faithlife” and follow “ChattanoogaNazarene” (you can also join at www.ChattanoogaNazarene.org). We’re going to use this suite of tools to better communicate, provide a comprehensive calendar, and streamline giving. Faithlife also has great training videos, Bible studies, and Christian TV shows. All of this is free to members of our church. Titi Miller and Alex Jennings are becoming experts with this new technology and will provide training in the near future.
- In the middle of the pandemic, you chose to give, raising a total of $230,182. An additional $30,000 was received through building use contributions. This is the best giving year we’ve had in years! Always remember that your tithes and offerings matter. We wouldn’t be able to do half of what we do with God without your faithful giving.
- We ended December 2020 with $200 in the bank. We end this fiscal year (just four months later) with $20,896 in the bank, with all budgets and bills paid in full!
- We gave $17,700 for missions including the direct support of missionaries Justin and Stephanie Miller.
- You gave an extra $5,800 this year for the pastoral salary. The board increased my weekly check by $100, provided a generous Christmas bonus for me and the other “staff”, and saved the balance for another mid-year bonus. Thank you for taking such good care of my family!
- We purchased a new soundboard and funded all the building improvements I’ve mentioned above.
- Over $2,000 was given for Family Promise with another $457 for the “Good Neighbors” project.
- Our mortgage is down to $97,441.
God has born a lot of “good fruit” through us in recent years, but it’s time to ask, “What’s next”. I plan to take the church board through a thorough mission and vision review this summer… pray with us as we evaluate our purpose as a church.
- Do we need to do more to help the homeless? Maybe address another point of need in our community?
- Is it time to plant a church? Perhaps build a church building on the mission field?
- Should we replace the foyer roof or try to repair it again?
- What about calling a children/youth pastor?
The temptation is to do what we want or what we think we can afford. I hope this last year has proven that God will provide whatever is lacking… that our real job is to find our place in what God wants to do.
We also have several new ministry directors. When they ask for help, give it. Decide now to get involved so what God dreams for our fellowship can become reality.
Thanks for another good year. God is moving. His influence is increasing. We are very blessed.