I am truly grateful for the wonderful staff God has provided me to work with as partners in ministry. As we embark on a new year, let me share several changes to our staff structure that should enable us to be an even more fruitful congregation for Christ.
Effective January 1, Rev. Rudy Olivo will become our Fusion Campus Pastor in a full-time capacity. Over the past six months he has split time between his work with us and his service as an Air National Guard chaplain. He will now work full-time on our staff and oversee all ministries at the Fusion campus. I believe this arrangement will help us better integrate what goes on during the week at Fusion Fitness with the Fusion worshiping community. Rudy will still be a member of the Air National Guard and his service at Tyndall AFB will keep our congregation connected with the military community.
Dr. Jim Luther has faithfully served our church as Congregational Care Pastor for more than 12 years. In this capacity, he has fulfilled virtually every pastoral role imaginable – preacher, teacher, counselor, leader, administrator, and shepherd. Starting in January, Jim will “retire” from full-time service, but will continue part time, working approximately 20 hours per week. He will focus his time and energy on visitation and pastoral care, while being relieved of regular office hours and administrative duties. I am thankful to God for Jim and what he has meant and continues to mean to me personally and to our entire congregation. A retirement reception to celebrate his transition to part-time status will be held in the Transmitter Fellowship Hall on Sunday, January 22, at 12:15 pm. Watch for more details and plan to express your love and appreciation to Pastor Jim.
Our middle school minister, Hunter Dennison, has taken a job at a church in Tallahassee. As a result of his departure, Neal McGee will now serve as the Student Minister for grades 6 – 12 and will oversee all student ministries. In addition, we plan to hire a part-time Youth Assistant to provide administrative support and a Youth Intern who will work part-time during the school year and full-time in the summer. Since Neal has been giving leadership to our mission endeavors, the Staff Parish Relations Committee has recommended a part-time staff position to coordinate our local and global risk-taking mission and service projects.
The New Testament commonly refers to the church as the Body of Christ. So each of us is a member of it and has a particular role to play. I’m grateful to be a part of a Body that consists of both paid and unpaid servants who faithfully fulfill their purpose and serve the Lord with gladness. I see God at work in putting together the necessary pieces to do His work in our community and world and I joyfully anticipate who or what is coming next.
To God be the glory!
Lead Pastor, Lynn Haven UMC
For 2000 years the story of Christ’s birth has been a story of promise, hope, and the unfathomable love of God for His people. But then our American culture got hold of it and what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of the Savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, shopping, and overwhelming to do lists. And when it’s all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and an empty feeling of missed purpose. Is this what we really want out of the holiday season? What if Christmas became a worldchanging event again? Our congregation believes the news of Christ’s birth can still change the world and is once again holding an Advent Conspiracy to celebrate Christmas by spending less, giving more, worshiping fully, and loving all this season. Rather than giving a gift out of obligation, let us be committed to giving gifts that really will change the world – like quality time, caring for people in need, and looking for ways to be more loving. It’s not just about saving money or about the economy; it’s about remembering that when we give presence instead of presents, we restore the true meaning of Christmas.
The Advent Conspiracy began in 2006 among five congregations, but it has now become a world-wide movement embraced by thousands of churches. You can learn more about this exciting endeavor at www.adventconspiracy.org. Our involvement in the Advent Conspiracy started last year and we raised nearly $30,000 for local and global missions. This year we will once again receive a special offering. If you and your family resolve to “spend less” this holiday season, you will be able to “give more” to three worthwhile causes. On a local level, we will support the Anchorage Children’s Home that serves and protects children right here in Bay County. Regionally, we will contribute to the work of the United Methodist Children’s Home which ministers to atrisk children and their families throughout Central Alabama and Northwest Florida. Our global project is a continuing partnership with our friend, Rev. Isaac Kyambadde in Africa. We hope to build another church building in Uganda in 2017 that will become home to a United Methodist congregation. This year’s Advent Conspiracy offering will be evenly split among these three mission projects and we hope to exceed last year’s total. Please consider giving at least a tithe (10%) or more of what you spend on Christmas. Special offering envelopes will be distributed or you can simply designate your gift, “Advent Conspiracy.” Please remember this is an “over and above” offering that is in addition to your regular tithes and contributions to the ministry budget. You can also embrace the spirit of the Advent Conspiracy when you “worship fully.” Our Sunday morning sermon series this month is entitled, The Christmas Story.
Each week we will use scenes from the movie, A Christmas Story, to illustrate truths found in the biblical narratives of Christ’s birth. We also have a Christmas cantata scheduled for December 4 and modern Christmas musicals planned for December 17-18, all starting at 6:30 pm. Of course, our annual Christmas Eve Services of Communion and Candlelighting will take place on December 24 – 2:30, 4:00, and 5:30 pm at Transmitter, and 4:00 pm at Fusion. You can certainly “love all” by inviting a friend, co-worker, or family member to join you for any or all of these worship experiences. Be a part of the conspiracy – be revolutionary and celebrate Christmas the way it was intended to be celebrated. Spend less, give more, worship fully, and love all. These are all things I’m sure would please Jesus on His birthday!
Craig Carter Lead Pastor, Lynn Haven UMC
In our cur rent sermon series, Margin, we have observed that we live in a society that gives us more and more of everything at a faster and faster pace. As a result, we feel overwhelmed and overloaded and are left with little room, or margin, in which to operate. We have explored what the Bible has to say about the dangers of living on the edge and how God’s Word provides relief. Along the way, we have noted that many people in our world lack any financial margin in their lives as they live paycheck to paycheck and face enormous amounts of debt. In November we will talk ab o u t h ow c o n t e n t m e n t and simplicity enable us to achieve and maintain financial security and give us the margin we need to become generous givers. It will serve as our annual stewardship emphasis and on Sunday, November 13, ever yone will be asked to make commitments toward our 2017 ministries. As always, we will focus on the need of each person to give in response to God’s goodness rather than on the church’s need to receive. Next year’s ministry budget has not yet been set and will not be determined until we calculate our anticipated income based on cur rent giving patterns and pledges received. So, as an act of faith and obedience, each person is invited to give their time, talents, and treasures in ser vice to God and His Church by volunteering for one or more areas of service and by making a financial commitment for the coming year. In addition, we hope many individuals and families will decide to contribute to our Dollar-aDay initiative that is being used to create financial margin for our congregation as we pay down the debt. So far in 2016, we have received over $65,000 and every penny has been applied to reduce the principal on our church’s mortgage, thus significantly shortening our payment schedule. Over the next few weeks, please plan to join us in worship each Sunday morning as we learn how to live a lifestyle that provides us some margin, or breathing room, in our lives. Then be prepared to respond on November 13, when we make our commitments to give and serve in 2017. While we all have limits to what we can do and accomplish, we worship a God that knows no bounds so He operates well beyond the margins of our human experience.
To Him be the glory!
In September, we welcomed a new episcopal leader for the Alabama-West Florida Conference, Bishop David Graves. As our resident bishop, he provides spiritual leadership and general oversight to the 600+ churches in our area. One of his responsibilities is to assign pastors to serve the various congregations each year. Bishop Graves was elected to the episcopacy this past summer by lay and clergy representatives from the annual conferences that make up the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church. Previously, he served as a pastor and district superintendent in the Holston (Tennessee) Conference. Bishop Graves’ passion is sharing Jesus, seeing the overlooked, joining God in transforming lives, and changing the world one person at a time. He has a heart and hands for missions and has led several short-term (local, national, and international) mission teams. Bishop Graves is a native of Knoxville, Tennessee, and graduated from the University of Tennessee and Candler School of Theology, at Emory University. He has shared 35 years of marriage with his wife, Nancy, and they have two adult children, Casey and Gregg. I had the privilege of meeting Bishop Graves and hearing him preach recently at a welcoming service held in Niceville, which I attended along with our other pastors, Terry and Rudy. We returned to Lynn Haven excited about our new leader and eager to see how and where he is going to lead our conference in the days to come. Bishop Graves is a godly man who clearly has a passion for reaching people for Christ and wants to empower and equip local congregations to do so effectively. I am truly grateful for the spiritual leaders God has appointed over me (and I say that not just because they hold my destiny in their hands). Our primary overseer is the Marianna-Panama City District Superintendent, Rev. Dr. Doug Pennington. Most of you are very familiar with him as he is my predecessor and served this congregation for 19 years. In his current role, Doug oversees the ministries of 70 congregations, supervises the pastors, and assists the bishop in the appointment-making process. He preached at the Transmitter campus in July and will be with us on November 29 to conduct our annual business session called the charge conference. In his first letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul says, “I ask you to pray for everyone. Ask God to help and bless them all, and tell God how thankful you are for each of them. Pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honor God” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 CEV). Those in power and authority over us include our bishop and district superintendent. Please join me in asking God to help and bless Bishop Graves and Doug, and at the same time, let’s tell the Lord how thankful we are for them. Together, we will continue to worship and honor God in all we do.