In July, we enjoyed an abundance of blessings in the Lynn Haven United Methodist Church. We began the month by receiving a new Fusion campus pastor, Chris Ackerman. We also welcomed several new members into our fellowship and baptized three infants into the household of faith. Vacation Bible School was a tremendous success as we had more than 400 children and 150 servants participate. During that week, we received more than $3500 for our mission team that, later in the month, took the “Shipwrecked” VBS to hundreds of kids in Honduras. Most importantly, 40 children gave their lives to Christ and will soon be baptized. July concluded with our annual Youth Week that impacted the lives of hundreds of students. On top of it all, we saw a 15% increase in our Sunday morning worship attendance for the month over the same period last year. Praise the Lord for His goodness!
One of the greatest blessings I received last month came at an unexpected time and place. Most folks would consider attending a finance committee meeting about as enjoyable as having a root canal. While that is sometimes the case, it certainly wasn’t true for our most recent meeting. Since most of you weren’t there, let me share the good news.
At the halfway point of our church’s fiscal year, our ministry budget revenue has exceeded our expenditures by $1500. While that may not sound like much, it is extremely rare for us to be in the “black” at this point in time. Even when we end the year in a positive fashion, we are usually behind until December when we make up the difference. On some occasions, we have been as much as $75,000 in the “red” during the summer months. But due to some belt tightening measures combined with increased giving, we find ourselves in our current situation. This is extremely good news as it proves God’s faithfulness and demonstrates our members’ commitment to the cause of Christ. It is a wonderful blessing to me as your pastor as it shows me that God’s people at LHUMC “get it” and it also helps me sleep better as well.
As a result of your generous support of our ministry budget, the Staff-Parish Relations Committee (which oversees our church employees) has recommended and the Finance Committee has approved a mid-year bonus for our full- and part-time salaried staff members. Due to budget constraints, they have not received a pay raise for several years, not even a cost-of-living adjustment. So this extra compensation makes up some of the difference and expresses our appreciation to them for their hard work and dedication. Of course, it is a “step of faith” being taken by our church leadership since there are no guarantees the increased giving will continue. But we are confident it will and so, I thank you for what you’ve already done and encourage you to keep keepin’ on so we can support and expand God’s work through our ministry and mission efforts.
A second dose of good news reported at our July finance committee meeting was that Fusion Fitness turned a profit in both May and June. Hallelujah! This is the reversal of a trend that has continued since we first began operating Fusion in 2012 as we have lost money almost every month. It appears that our relationship with our management partner, EMS, is providing dividends. We have dramatically increased both our revenue and the number of folks using the facility. That means financial stability for us along with more opportunities to share the gospel with the children and adults involved in our programs. If you haven’t been to Fusion in awhile, stop by and see the good things that are happening. I am truly grateful for the outstanding leadership of our EMS partner, Shawn Walker, and the capable staff he has assembled at Fusion. Also, I thank God for the sacrifice of some of our church members who made “over and above” gifts to enhance the facility (especially through air conditioning upgrades) through our Kingdom Investor initiative last year. We are reaping the benefits of those investments both financially and spiritually.
Needless to say, I enter August feeling very blessed. That really shouldn’t be a surprise since we serve a great and mighty God who loves to shower His blessings on His people. That is definitely the case right now so I hope you will join me in giving the Lord our thanks and praise. At the same time, let’s anticipate even bigger and better blessings as we ask God to open up the heavens over our church, our community, and our world. To Him be the glory!
In Christ,Craig CarterLead Pastor, LHUMC
Several years ago, our church adopted a 2020 Vision plan that provides our congregation with a roadmap for fulfilling our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. The primary goal established is to claim 2020 professions of faith by the year 2020 and so far, we are about 25% of the way there. Thanks be to God! Also, other goals were set that aligned with our core values based on the Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations – Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission and Service, and Extravagant Generosity.
One of the associated goals is to have 2020 people in worship and to offer ten weekly services. Currently, we see a little less than 800 worshipers in our three services. So our Passionate Worship Team and Five Practices Council has considered ways to incorporate more people into our worshiping community. The first action we are going to undertake is to offer a new 8:00 am service in the Transmitter Sanctuary, beginning September 9th. It will be similar in content to the current 9:30 contemporary service with the same band playing at both services. But the musical and visual elements will be less produced with a more “acoustic” style at the earlier hour. Of course, the preaching will still meet our normal mediocre standards since I’ll be the primary speaker. ☺
In recent months, we have seen significant growth at 9:30 with the sanctuary now consistently at or above 75% of capacity on most Sundays. Most church experts agree that when more than 80% of the available seats are filled, it prohibits growth due to a “full” feel. The past two Easters we have offered an additional 8:00 am contemporary service and it has been well-received. In addition, since we moved traditional worship to its current 11:00 time slot two years ago, many persons have expressed a desire for an early service. So we believe the time is right to launch this new service. Initially, there will be nursery care but no Treasure Kids children’s church at this 8:00 am service. However, we are exploring ideas to incorporate kid-friendly elements into the format as we think it will be enticing to families who have children engaged in other activities later in the day on Sunday.
I am convinced this new arrangement will give us a wonderful mix of worship styles, times, and locations that will enable us to reach a wider audience and get us closer to our 2020 goals. I am pleased with the quality of worship experiences we offer and believe each and every one of them meets our definition of passionate worship by helping people “experience the life-changing presence of God in the presence of others.” I sometimes wonder why we have not seen more growth in attendance in recent years. While there may be a variety of reasons, I believe a major factor is our failure to “get the word out” about what is happening in our Lynn Haven UMC worship services.
For that reason, we are launching an intentional promotional campaign that highlights our worship service offerings through a variety of means. One of the first things we are going to do is sponsor three billboards along the Highway 77 corridor advertising our 11:00 am traditional worship service. We moved it to this time slot because it is considered the prime time for traditional worship in our nation, especially in the South. With many congregations no longer offering traditional style services, I believe there are many folks, both young and old, non-believers and believers, who would greatly benefit from what we have to offer. So hopefully some of them will see the billboards and give Lynn Haven UMC traditional worship a try.
In addition to the publicity we send out, we need each and every one of you to let others know what they are missing. The best advertising is “word of mouth,” so if you are being blessed by our worship services at either Transmitter or Fusion, tell someone. Invite an unchurched friend, neighbor, co-worker, or family member to “come and see” what the Lord is doing in this place.
I personally am thankful for the opportunity I am given each week to worship with the people called Methodists at Lynn Haven. Starting in September, I will have to get up a little earlier but I know it will be worth it as I will then get to experience God’s power and presence three times on a typical Sunday morning. I hope you will renew your commitment to be in worship each and every week, whether it is at Fusion or Transmitter, contemporary or traditional, 9:30 or 11:00 am, and soon to be 8:00 am as well. But you don’t have to wait until September! Please join me in praying that God will be honored and that many persons will become a part of God’s family through our passionate worship services that serve as entry points into our fellowship. To God be the glory! In Christ,Craig CarterLead Pastor, LHUMC
Last Monday, we celebrated Memorial Day. Most of us observed the holiday by having a cookout, by shopping the sales at our favorite stores, or by getting away for a long weekend. Memorial Day serves as the official start of summer for most Americans, and for many of us who live in Bay County, it marks the last time we will cross the Hathaway Bridge until Labor Day!
While Memorial Day means many things to us, since 1971, the final Monday in May has been declared a national holiday for one purpose: to honor the men and women who have given their lives in service to their country during times of war. It was first commemorated in the years following the Civil War to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers from that tragic conflict. Originally called Decoration Day, residents in communities placed flowers on the graves of those who had given their lives in military service. I distinctly remember as a child making the rounds with my parents to the local cemeteries to decorate the graves, not just of deceased soldiers and sailors, but of dearly departed family members as well.
Sadly, in the present, most of us give little more than a cursory thought to the real meaning of Memorial Day. It’s fairly safe to say that few of us spent any significant time remembering the price others have paid for our freedom last weekend. If that was the case, I encourage you to pause and give thanks to God for the sacrifice others have made on our behalf. It would also be a good time to pray for the brave men and women who now serve our country, asking the Lord to protect them from harm and to keep them safe so they don’t have to pay the ultimate price.
If we’re not careful, this tendency to lose sight of the real meaning of a memorial observance can spill over into our spiritual lives as well. Our Methodist founder, John Wesley, commonly referred to the Lord’s Supper as a “memorial meal.” The dictionary defines memorial as “something designed to preserve the memory of a person, event, etc. as a monument or a periodic observance.” Holy Communion is a periodic observance designed to preserve the memory of both a person and an event. It helps us remember Jesus and the last supper He shared with His disciples. On the night before His death, He told them and all of His would-followers, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Like what happens with our observances of Memorial Day, we must make sure we don’t get so caught up in the outward forms of the ritual itself that we forget the real meaning and purpose of the commemoration. Jesus truly “paid it all” so that you and I might experience freedom from sin and become recipients of eternal life.
Typically, we gather on the first Sunday of each month to remember the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through the sacrament of Holy Communion. I hope you’ll join us as we do so on June 3rd as we kick off a new series called, “The Incredibles.” The sequel to the Disney animated movie with that title will be released later this month. Drawing on that theme, we’re going to look at the “incredible” life that is to be lived by Jesus’ followers as evidenced by the story of the first believers told in the Book of Acts.
Also, on June 3rd we will celebrate the other sacrament we recognize as United Methodist Christians: Holy Baptism. Between services at the Transmitter campus, we will baptize several new believers outside near the fountain. You’ll want to join us as we celebrate their new life in Christ and “remember” our own baptism into the faith.
The national holiday called Memorial Day has passed for this year, but we still have lots of opportunities to remember the sacrifice of the One who gave His life as a ransom for many – our Savior Jesus. Let’s not get lax in our attendance this summer, but instead, let’s celebrate each week in worship the freedom we’ve been given through Christ.
In His Name,
Craig CarterLead Pastor, LHUMC
“Hi I’m Craig Carter of the Lynn Haven United Methodist Church and I’m joined by my fellow pastor Rudy Olivo, who leads our ministries at the Fusion Campus. One of the things I’ve learned about the Christian faith over the years, both from scripture and my own experience, is that it is a journey. We serve a God who is always on the move and if we want to walk in step with Him, we too have to move and change. Rudy is going to share a little bit about a change that’s coming in his life and how it affects our ministries here at the Lynn Haven United Methodist Church.”
Rudy: “Thanks Craig. Since 2015 my family and I have called Lynn Haven Methodist home. We love this church and have been proud to be here. We came to this church when I was on an active duty order at Tyndall and we worshiped here as part of the community. When that order came to an end, July 1, 2016, I was thrilled when the bishop appointed me to be the Fusion campus pastor. During the last two years as the Fusion campus pastor, I’ve seen God do incredible things through our church, especially at our little outpost that is Fusion. I’ve seen people come to faith in Christ, I’ve seen increase in discipleship, we’ve seen our number grow on Sunday mornings and I’ve also been really honored to be part of the team that has transitioned the way that we’re doing our whole recreation enterprise, so that we can be financially healthy and also connect for kingdom growth to the worshiping body. And as much as I’ve loved all of that time at Fusion, I’ve also been actively working at Tyndall Air Force Base as a member of the National Guard. On a normal week I’d work one to two days at Tyndall and go back and forth between both places. Several months ago while I was working at Tyndall I was extended an opportunity to return to active duty work at Tyndall Air Force Base. After prayer and consideration, my family and I decided that it was not the time and God was not calling us there. Recently, however, in April, I was extended a second opportunity to consider yet another job at Tyndall. After prayer, consideration and earnest deliberation, we came to the point where we really believed that God is calling us to make that move. And because we believe God is in this, and because we do want to follow Him in this journey of life, we have decided to take the next step and return to full time Air Force ministry July 1st. Now here’s the deal about following God, anytime you do it amazing things are going to happen but it doesn’t always mean you’re never going to have life without a heavy heart. So it is with a heavy heart that I am aware that my days as the Fusion Campus Pastor are coming to an end and I wanted to let you know that this was not an easy decision because of the special place that we have in our hearts for all of the ministries of Lynn Haven Methodist Church. Now while that heaviness is there, I’m also happy to report that my Air Force assignment will have me here at Tyndall, which means my family and I will continue to get to worship as a part of Lynn Haven Methodist Church, although most Sunday mornings you’ll see us over here at the Transmitter Campus. Now we know transitions come from God and we don’t always know what the future will hold, but what I do believe is that this is the right place to be in mission and ministry. I look forward to continuing in mission and ministry with you in this new role and living into God’s truth that the best is yet to come.
Craig: “Well Rudy, first of all, I am truly grateful for the incredible leadership you’ve given to our Fusion campus over the last two years I’m especially thankful that you and your family are going to continue to be a part of the Lynn Haven church family. We look forward to your participation in the life of our congregation and, in particular, Rudy you’ve made some great connections with the military community here and those are going to continue to grow. We look forward to shared ministry as we seek at the Lynn Haven Church and the Fusion Campus to minister to our military community at Tyndall and the Naval Base. Now with this change of Rudy going to full time chaplaincy, it means that we’re looking for a new leader for our Fusion Campus. As a United Methodist Church, we do not hire our own pastors and I’m also thankful to report that we don’t get to fire our pastors either, praise the Lord for that. Instead, our resident bishop appoints the pastoral leadership of each local United Methodist Church. So, when we received the news of this change coming in Rudy’s life and ministry, he and I went to our District Superintendent and former pastor of this church, Doug Pennington. We told him about the move that was coming and also made some suggestions about a suitable replacement. He in turn took this matter to Bishop Graves and his fellow cabinet members and I am happy to report that effective July 1st, Chris Ackerman is going to be appointed to the Lynn Haven United Methodist Church staff as our Fusion Campus Pastor. Chris has a variety of experiences in the local church as a youth director, a coordinator of discipleship ministries, and he’s presently serving two United Methodist congregations in Jackson County. Chris is finishing up his theological studies at Asbury Seminary and he already lives with his family right here in Lynn Haven. So, Chris, welcome to the Lynn Haven United Methodist Church staff and we look forward to your ministry as our Fusion Campus Pastor.”
Chris: “Well thank you Craig. I can’t begin to tell you how excited my family and I are. My wife, Angie, our daughters, Bethany and Grace, are ready to meet everybody and get to know everyone and continue the ministry that’s been started by those like Rudy and those who have gone before him. We’re just excited as can be to be a part of the family. It’s such a blessing for us from God. Like you said, we live right here in Lynn Haven. We’ve been here for close to ten years now so this is a perfect fit and feels like a God ordained thing for us. We’re excited about it.”
Craig: “Well I know that is surprising news for all of you. It’s surprising news for the three of us as well because the scenario we just described has unfolded just over the past few weeks. But as both Rudy and Chris have said, we believe that God is in this and that God is going to use this to advance His kingdom’s work in a variety of different places. So, in the coming days you’re going to hear more about the transition but for right now I want to invite you in join me in praying that God’s will might be done for the Lynn Haven United Methodist Church, for the Fusion campus, for both Chris and Rudy and their families and ministries and all parties concerned. Let’s pray…
Dear God, our Heavenly Father, we are thankful for all that you have done up to this point and all that you continue to do through our lives and our shared ministry together. Lord, as we go through this time of transition we pray your blessings upon every person that’s involved. I pray for Rudy and his family as they transition back into full time chaplaincy. I pray for Chris and his family as they join us here at the Lynn Haven United Methodist Church and at the Fusion campus. I pray for the churches that Chris currently serves, Shady Grove and Grand Ridge. Lord, I pray that your kingdom’s purposes will be served in all places and at all times. Lord, we entrust our lives into your care and pray that your kingdom would come and that your will would be done. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. “