|A GREAT CROWD OF WITNESSES|
The author of Hebrews encourages us to remember the Old Testament saints, a great cloud of witnesses who remind us of God's faithfulness. They overcame challenges, discovered opportunities and carried out God's plan for their time. In our fellowship hall there is a painting called “A Great Crowd of Witnesses.” Painted in 1980, it's a montage of Baptist Temple's past leaders and a further reminder of God's faithfulness.
As I look back on the 110th year of Baptist Temple, I am amazed by the fact that this church has ministered through two world wars (and five smaller ones), two global pandemics, a world's fair and the Great Depression. Buildings were built, remodeled and repurposed. There have been thousands of baptisms and generations of people learning and practicing biblical truth. The hungry were fed, the naked were clothed, and the afflicted were comforted. Through it all the congregations of Baptist Temple overcame challenges, discovered opportunities and carried out God's plan for their time.
The year 2021 began with a backward glance as we celebrated Jonathan Clark's 20th year at Baptist Temple. Beginning as Minister of Music, he was promoted, first, to Associate Pastor and, then, to Executive Pastor. Jonathan has proven to be a man for all seasons as he has grown and adapted to the changing needs of Baptist Temple.
In February, we continued our long-standing tradition of helping in the development of ministers. To that end, we licensed Nathan and Alison Clark, Mateo Beltran and Anna Cortinas to the gospel ministry. The Clarks are part of the No Place Left evangelism network and are missionaries in residence, Mateo has been named an outreach minister, and Anna served as a pastoral ministries intern as she finished the Master of Theology degree at Dallas Baptist University.
Disciple making was enhanced this year as doors opened at the Crosspointe rehab centers, which allowed us to hold Bible study at both the men's and the women's facilities. Furthermore, Sunday school returned to the BT Campus. This created a learning environment that builds community and accelerates spiritual formation.
February was, also, the month of the big freeze that caused damage throughout the BT campus; especially in the Fritz building. Repairs and improvements continued throughout the year thanks to grants, gifts and skilled workers who gave their time and talents. We replaced some of our windows and covered others up, we replaced the Brunnemann Building access ramp, freshened up some spaces, restored the Fritz building and repaired parts of the air conditioning system.
Although many non-profit organizations and churches downsized or shut down in the wake of COVID-19, Family Deaf Church, Sunny Slope Baptist Church, New Direction, and Rise Above continue to meet on campus. The Message and Life Change Church adapted to off campus models. Jubilee Academy and Funeral Caring are still here and the Early Learning Center is stronger than ever. The Ceramics ministry was the only one to return to the Fritz in 2021.
A new addition to the BT Campus family is Care Warriors. This non-profit group helps teens and young adults with developmental disabilities to develop life skills that lead to greater Independence.
Our hunger fighting efforts were enhanced by large and timely food drives from Woodland Baptist Church, Fellowship of San Antonio and Jubilee Academy, as well as grants from the Texas Baptists and the San Antonio Baptist Association. We were able to provide groceries for 1001 families, representing 3626 individuals. Our free community meals are also back, creating more opportunities for connection and relationship building.
The COVID situation limited the number of church mission teams traveling this summer. Only two came. In the Spring, the Crusader Choir from Christian Heritage Academy performed three concerts and did some yard work in the community. In June, First Baptist Church of Tulsa brought a team to conduct VBS in the park and for the early learning center. They also did a lot of light construction work.
VBS returned this year after it was canceled in 2020. Although the numbers were smaller than in the past, it was still a great victory. First, we did it. Second, the children learned biblical truth while having fun. Third, we had a great number of volunteers. We were hampered by our inability to do children's outreach this year but I expect next year to be better.
Outreach efforts included an outdoor concert sponsored by Rise Above Ministries and featuring the bands Filthy Rags and Becoming Sons and worship concerts featuring Westward Road and Simply Blessed. Our worship attendance has remained steady for the year at 30% below our pre-COVID average. The worship concerts provided opportunities to invite new people and present the gospel through music and testimony.
Our biggest event was the Trek or Treat jointly sponsored by the BT Early Learning Center and Jubilee Academy. It was a highly attended event designed to introduce new families to the services we offer. Many new families learned about our services.
The year 2021 was a year of rehabilitation. We moved forward with an abundance of faith, trusting God for the results. I am confident for the future. We must heed the words of the passage we are focused on this morning.
- We must throw off everything that hinders. Our ministry focus must be on those events that have the biggest impact for making disciples.
- We must run the race marked out for us. We are not running the race that other churches are running. We are not running yesterday's race. We must be like the people of Issachar who understood the times and knew what to do.
- We must keep our eyes upon Jesus. Not on the news, not on the politicians, certainly not on social media. We need to see where God is at work and join him.