The Session (which is what we call the elder team here) has conducted a comprehensive review of New Life’s historical and current financial position.
As I reminded you in the past, our Lord Jesus himself said that “every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” New Life is a church that has borne remarkable fruit, and New Life has also been pruned – so that we will bear even more fruit in the months and years ahead. Jesus said it – we believe it.
As a result of the Lord’s pruning, we’ve seen our attendance and giving patterns change over the past three years – as costs have continued to increase. We’re in a different and smaller place than we were three years ago. That process, thankfully, seems to have, more or less, stabilized. We are encouraged by the recent giving and attendance trends for this year, and we are so thankful for everyone’s faithful and generous giving.
So, in this post-pruning context, in order to be responsible stewards of what you’re giving and to position ourselves for the new growth that is already starting, the Session has made some important decisions. First, as you know, we did not hire a new Youth Pastor, but moved Pastor James into that position, so that he is now doing double-duty, handling both our youth ministry and our worship. Second, we have reviewed the budget line-by-line and sharpened our pencils so that the new budget, which the Session has not yet finally approved, will reflect responsible cost cuts across the board. Third, we are in the process of “going solar” here at New Life, which will result in significant savings in our future utility costs. Finally, fourth, and most significantly, the Session made the very difficult decision to dissolve Brian Frick’s call as our Congregational Care Pastor.
I won’t lie to you — this is the one that really hurts. This decision was based on our post-pruning financial position and the Session’s judgment about our various ministry priorities. It does not reflect our judgment on Brian’s performance. I am so proud of Brian and what he has accomplished personally and as a minister of the gospel. He is not only a valued colleague but a good friend, and I, for one, will continue to backpack with him every summer!
Since Brian passed his ordination exams and became an ordained minister, I’ve been quietly concerned that Brian has been under-used here – that his gifts needed more room to be stretched and exercised. I know that when Brian and Heather came to New Life over a decade ago now, his desire was to serve in a church with Heather where they could really know and invest in the lives of all the people — and where Brian would be their pastor. If you’ve ever witnessed Brian ministering to our Evergreen group or to the men at a Theology on Tap event, you know he can do that and will be good at it. I believe that God is going to use this difficult decision — that nobody wanted to make — to maneuver Brian into a position where he is going to be an even greater blessing and asset to the Church of Jesus Christ. It’s kind of how God works!
Brian has been a champ. He’s been understanding and supportive. No surprise to anyone. I asked Brian to write down some thoughts about this transition. I want you to hear Brian’s own words. Let me just read to you some of what Brian wrote:
When Heather and I came out here 11 years ago, we both believed it was God calling me to seminary, but what we come to realize is that God was moving us to also guide Heather on the path he had for her. She has now graduated from Westminster, Alliant, and is finishing a doctoral fellowship. This was not on our radar when we came out here, but when you plan for 4 years and raise it to the power of God, 4 years = 11 years. As we were reminded during last Friday’s men’s Bible study; we often forget that God is not a character in our story, he does not simply play a supporting role in our lives, for, “In him we live and move and have our being.” This means we are his beloved characters in his story. He created us, he cares for us, he pursues us, and gave himself up for us to reconcile us back unto himself through his only Son, Jesus Christ.
And so many great things have come out of our time here: great friendships, being part of and serving this community of believers, great education, but most of all, spiritual growth individually and as husband and wife.
Heather and I had talked about what next steps would be after she graduated and finished her fellowship in Chicago, and just as he did in bringing us out here, God has plans for us and we look forward to seeing played out. In the short term, we will move back to Michigan and look for work and opportunities to serve Christ’s church. Beyond that, we do not know. Pastor Ted put it in kingdom terms when he said, “You know, there is a church out there who is right now praying for a pastor and that pastor is you…Lord willing.”
It has been an honor to serve here and have been blessed by the relationships we have developed with you all. We are sad to be leaving and will continue to keep you all in our prayers.
We, of course, will do what is necessary to continue the various ministries that Brian has been leading. This is a good time for me to remind you we will need all of our members — to please pray about how you can step up and serve in important ways. In this season of our ministry, volunteers are going to be really important.
Brian and Heather will be leaving on June 25. We’ll be having some sort of farewell ceremony – we’ll keep you posted. Once the Session has approved the FY 23/24 budget, we’ll have a congregational meeting to go over it with you. One of the priorities in the budget that I’m particularly excited about is retiring the debt on the New Life House – hopefully in the next 2 or 3 years — so we will be debt-free once again and more able to invest in future ministry. Listen, God is with us. He’s with us in the good times. He is with us in the challenging times. God is the author of the challenging times – and will use them for his glory and the growth of his kingdom. We’re going to be a part of that. We haven’t been pruned for no reason. We’ve been pruned for future growth and fruitfulness.