by Pastors Kent Carlson & Mike Lueken
THANKFUL FOR A VERY DIFFICULT, YET WONDERFUL YEAR
There are times in all of our lives where we are called to hold in tension in our hearts and minds, very conflicting and almost oppostional truths. 2011, in many ways, has been one of those years. On the one hand, this past year has been perhaps the saddest and most grief-filled year in our church’s existence as we have lost several long term Oak Hillians to tragically early deaths. In fact, even as we write this, our church is dealing with another devastating loss in a family who is precious to us. On the other hand, this has been a year of strengthening and maturing as a church. It feels as though this past tumultuous decade of change is behind us and God has smiled upon us and we are in a season of great unity and excitement about the future. Even this time of grief has been responded to with tender love and affection throughout the church family. Our recent Sunday series on “Being Together” was a great encouragement and source of strength and healing for many of us.
As your senior pastors, we want to take this opportunity during this Advent season to express our gratefulness for our church family and to affirm you all for your tender hearts towards God and your rigorous and faithful pursuit of life in the Kingdom of God. Most of us know that these past ten years have been difficult ones here at Oak Hills. We have gone through a lot together. But it truly seems to us that we have closed that chapter of our church’s story and we are now in a new and exciting chapter with many opportunities to reach our community with the wonderful news of life in Christ. And so, as we prepare ourselves and our church this Advent season, for the coming of Christ, we do so with gratefulness and joy. It is good to be together in this local expression of the universal body of Christ. We look forward to many wonderful years to come as we serve our God together.
May the Christ of Christmas continue to shine His light into all of our homes, and may we, as a church family, by His grace, be used by Him to love this world of His.
As many of you know, for a number of years we have been working hard to make sure that our income meets our expenses. Over this past decade we have cut our staff in half and drastically reduced our operating expenses. In addition, we have prayed diligently for God’s provision and He has provided for us in many unexpected ways. All this prayer, and hard work, and God’s faithfulness has brought us to the moment today where our 2012 budget will be very close to the amount we project will come in through our weekly offerings. We are deeply grateful to God for this. And we are also deeply grateful to the staff, our Elder Board and Administrative Council and most especially to all of you for your dedicated support for this ministry. It feels good, in these uncertain economic times, to be moving into a season of financial stability and strength.
In light of all this, we want to ask our church family to sacrificially get behind our 2011 year-end offering. Several years ago, our Elder Board and Administrative Council established our Reserve Fund in order to make sure that we are operating in a financially responsible way. This is essentially an emergency fund that can be drawn upon in lean economic times. The steps we have taken over the past several years to reduce staff and to reduce our expenses has caused us to have to dip into this fund and it is necessary now to replenish it. Therefore our year-end offering for 2011 will go towards our Reserve Fund. Our goal is $100,000 and we believe that if we all sacrifice together, we can meet this goal. The official date of the year-end offering will be December 18, 2011, but you can, of course, give at any time between now and the end of the year. This is an “over-and-above” offering, which means that it is intended to be in addition to our regular giving to our church’s general fund. As usual, 10% of this offering will be given to one of our ministry partners. This year, those funds will go to the Nehemiah Project, which works with HIV/AIDS patients in Manipur, India. Simply indicate on your check that it is for the year-end offering. If you have any questions about this offering, feel free to contact us (Pastors Kent or Mike) or any member of the Elder Board or the Administrative Council.