Mercies Anew: Thanksgiving for 2016, Prayers for 2017
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:22–24
With every new day, God grants new mercies. And the same is true with the dawning of a new year.
Just as Israel participated in annual feasts that reminded them of God’s work in their midst, so we should stop and reflect on what God has done in our lives. On our calendars, Christmas and Easter call us to consider the Incarnation and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. But we should also remember the more current activity of God in the life of our church.
As we close the books on 2016 and look with expectation to 2017, we remember a number of graces that God enabled us to see and do in 2016.
2016 marked an increased desire for and participation in cooperative learning at OBC.
- From the beginning of the year, understanding what Scripture says about the local church has been a major focus. To that end, we studied 1 Corinthians together; we discussed 1 Corinthians in our Home Groups; we introduced a new membership class (Discover OBC); and we had numerous conversations about the pros and cons of church membership.
- In March, Pastors Rod, Ben, and Dave attended the Simeon Trust workshop, a three-day training intensive to help teach the Bible. These lessons were then used to equip our church in a new six-week Sunday School class entitled How to Read the Bible.
- In April, eight men from OBC traveled to Together for the Gospel, a three-day conference celebrating the Gospel and reminding us of the importance of keeping the gospel central.
- Later that same month, many women from OBC gathered in the mountains of Virginia for a weekend retreat. Wonderfully, the speakers came from our own church and blessed all the women who came.
- In September, we hosted an EQUIP conference. Joe Flatt and Tim Brister taught us about marriage and evangelism and how they can mutually-strengthen the other. We pray this conference continues to bear fruit in homes that look to share Christ with others.
- In October, our counselors traveled to Chattanooga, Tennessee for the annual Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF) conference. Receiving instruction on the theme of emotions will help them better minister to people in our care.
- Finally, we have had five members taking seminary classes in 2016. Jamie McBride, Ben Purves, Rod Fillinger, Tim Cox, and Kevin Benore (a new member) have all taken classes this year.
In 2017 we will continue to look for ways to grow as a church and as disciples. Discipleship will be a key focus in 2017: our first Sunday School class will focus on that subject, and we will offer another Sunday school class on “Discipleship in the Digital Age.” In March, teachers are invited to go to the Simeon Trust workshop in Gaithersburg, Maryland. And in April, a trip is scheduled to go to The Gospel Coalition conference in Indianapolis. If you are interested in attending this conference, please let us know. These are just some of the plans for 2017.
2016 included many opportunities for ministry and missions.
- First, beginning in January we took on a new missionary to support. Gunnar Gunnarsson is church-planter in Iceland and we have had the joy of encouraging him this year. In addition to monthly support, we were able to bring him to Together for the Gospel, and by God’s provision, we were able to purchase his family a car.
- Next, we also welcomed Pete and Sharon McMillan during this summer as they had a chance to visit with us during furlough. We also spent time with them at Together for the Gospel.
- Also during the summer, we welcomed Timothy Cox as our summer intern. As Ben took a three-month Sabbatical, Tim stepped in and ministered to our youth. Thankfully, he continued to stay with us after his internship as he goes to school in Washington, D.C.
- Other areas of ministry have included a local missions’ week with the youth which included service at the Northern Neck Food Bank, ACTS (a local homeless ministry), and offering a neighborhood VBS.
- Finally, 2016 marked the first full year that David Schrock served as Pastor for Preaching and Theology.
In 2017, we are again making plans for furthering ministry. Some of these areas include increasing on-ramps for discipleship activity, a men’s mid-week Bible study in Woodbridge, participation in Woodbridge’s Community VBS, a missions trip to Iceland, and more.
2016 will be remembered as a year of local and national turmoil. Thankfully, God empowered our church to engage with our neighbors as salt and light.
- In January a few brave souls raced through the March for Life, hours before thirty inches of snow dropped on the region.
- Throughout the year, OBC has partnered with the work of CareNet, raising awareness and funds for this life-saving ministry.
- Throughout the year, we have met with other area pastors to pray, to form relationships, and to partner for gospel work in our area. Often we pray for these churches and leaders in our services, because we want to gospel to flourish throughout our region, not just in our church.
- In the fall, when Prince William County schools considered a policy change regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, OBC organized a pastor’s breakfast to inform and equip pastors, and hosted a town hall to educate concerned citizens and parents on this issue.
- At the same time, more than thirty people from OBC attended the PWC School Board meeting, many speaking up for biblical truth and love of neighbor. It was encouraging to see the way homeschool families came to stand in solidarity with families whose children attend public schools.
- Since these events, some of our members have continued to be involved in these community effforts.
In 2017 we will continue to look for ways to partner with others for the sake of the gospel and to speak truth in the public square. One tangible way we are doing that is to begin to give monthly to support CareNet’s important work. We are also planning another pastors’ breakfast this January to encourage biblical engagement of culture as we seek to love our community.
Always a challenge to communicate information to a mobile people, we took strides to improve communications this year.
- Throughout the year, we tried out a variety of evening services, looking for a way to increase meaningful conversation about church matters. We have landed on a format that focuses our attention on disciple-making and praying for God’s grace in all we do. No communication is more important than prayer, and so we are excited to pray together each month, as we seek to be faithful to the great commission.
- The elders also involved the deacons more this year, meeting on a monthly basis. Through these discussions, and our weekly Home Groups, we were better able to hear and address needs.
- In the fall, a Facebook livestream of the 11am service was added to encourage those who are ill or physically unable to attend.
- Likewise, at the very end of 2016 we introduced an OBC App. On top of an upgrade to our church database and planning center, this App will help us to communicate better. Not an end-in-itself, our hope is that this App will deepen engagement and lead to increased face-to-face relationships. On the App you can find sermons, blogs, weekly devotionals, and a place to give. If you haven’t already, please download the App, and allow mobile notifications so we can keep you updated on church events.
In 2017, we are looking for additional ways to keep you informed. Some of the best ways to stay informed or get plugged in are through our Home Groups, the upcoming Sunday School hour which will bring the whole church together, and our times of Great Commission prayer.
With that final piece in mind, we are meeting on Sunday night, January 8, to recap a bit more from 2016 and to pray for 2017. In our annual meeting, we will not only share more about our plans for this new year; we will commit our plans to the Lord and ask for his ongoing direction and aid.
As we turn the corner from 2016 to 2017, we are reminded what Jesus said long ago: “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We, the elders, feel have felt that intensely in recent months—and that’s not bad. Woe to us, if we think we can serve the Lord without deep prayerful dependence on him.
So come join us Sunday night’s annual meeting as we pray together for this new ministry year.
With joy in service to you,
Pastor David, on behalf of the elders