Dear Church Family & Friends,
Greetings from Saint Simon, Georgia! Carol and I are at our annual RNI Pastors gathering. Every year we gather together to minister to one another and discuss the future vision of the churches in the network. It has been a wonderful privilege to share what God is doing among us with other leaders. Because of this sharing and prayer ministry, God has been giving us insights to bring home and share.
This past Sunday we had a family meeting following our monthly fellowship meal. During the family meeting we discussed the future of RCC. It was the continuation of a discussion that we began at our family meeting in January. I would like to share with you the content of our discussion from my notes and from what others wrote down about the meeting. Here are the highlights:
In January, we discussed the plan to change the shape of our fellowship. We talked about meeting as a house fellowship or meeting in small groups. The reason for this discussion was primarily because of our ongoing budget deficit and small size. Each month we have been receiving less in tithes and offerings than our basic expenses. Those expenses include ½ time salary for a pastor, rent for the building and utilities. At that time we had surplus funds of over $20,000.00
Based on the information before us, we decided (in January) to continue meeting as we have been for an additional 6 months using the surplus monies to cover our expenses with prayerful hope that our financial and attendance situation would improve. During this past 6 months Arlin Martin who owns the building and serves as our church treasurer has graciously waved rent of the building. During this same time we have received generous monthly support from Dr. Ayotunde Dokun. We have been grateful for this added support. This support has enabled us to function as a public local church for the past 6 months.
At this time we have have determined and discerned that RCC cannot continue to pay a 1/2 time salary and rent on the building on the long-term. If we are to continue to meet together for encounter with God and fellowship with one another it will be necessary to meet in some other place. It also may be necessary to employ a different leadership structure.
This means that after Sunday, August 25th we will not be meeting in the building located at 470 Twinkling Springs Road, Crozet. After August 25th, we will be functioning as many churches around the world function. We will be operating as a house church or in small groups with lay leadership.
The doors of the building may be closing, but the church is not a building.
We are the church of Jesus Christ. We are members one of another. God has placed us in fellowship together. The church is not a Sunday morning meeting. We are members of the Body of Christ and members one of another. We meet regularly not for ourselves but to worship God and encourage one another.
Carol and I are committed as members of the body of Christ. We are committed to the long-term relationships that we enjoy as well as continuing to meet weekly to worship, fellowship and encounter God. In fact, I believe that God is leading us to function in the form of small groups. The “Being Church” series was very impactful for us as a congregation. The Bible describes how the first church met:
(Acts 2:42, 46) “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,”
I believe that meeting in homes will be quite conducive to loving God, mutual ministry and the close fellowship described in the Bible. Instead of “going to church” we will have a great opportunity to “be the church.” Instead of going to receive, I believe that this new format of “being church” will enable all of us to engage in more active love expressions to God (worship) and in loving service to others.
Between now and the end of August we will be in discussion about what this house church or cluster of house churches will look like. We have a variety of options to discuss and discern. We have the option of meeting in small groups like Francis Chan describes in his book: “Letters to the Church.” We also are looking at a resource from “Pastor’s Coach” (from BSSM.) It is a 12 week series to empower every member to participate meaningfully in small groups. Over the next 6 weeks we will be discussing these options.
We will be meeting in 2 weeks on Sunday, July 21st to discuss and discern what God is calling us to do in terms of transition. We also will be meeting on August 4th again to further discuss and make decisions about the vision and direction of our congregation.
Closing the doors of the building is truly a loss. I agree that the vision that we once had as the Cornerstone Church of Albemarle is over. We have to acknowledge and mourn this loss. This will not be easy. People may speculate about why we had to close the doors of the building at RCC. I don’ think that it’s possible to avoid speculation during this time of loss. With this in mind, as the pastor of RCC, I accept responsibility for the decision to close the doors at RCC. Please direct any concerns, feedback or suggestions to me. I want this transition to be done in a spirit of love and with full transparency.
Arlin, Clayton and I have been meeting as a financial advisory team. Arlin will be serving as the chair for making decisions about the material assets in the building. Please do not remove anything from the building without permission from the Financial Advisory team. I am saying this because I have already received several suggestions or requests about materials in the building.
In this time of loss and also preparation for the future I am praying that we would continue to do first things first. As the Body of Christ, we are called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as we love ourself! This will guide this process. I am grateful to be your pastor.
See you on Sunday,