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Ministry Reimagined – Part 2

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Before my sabbatical began I wrote an article explaining more about what a sabbatical is, and how I intended to spend the time I was away.  To give focus to this time of renewal I gave it the theme of “ministry reimagined.”  I explained that this meant I wanted to look at how our current patterns of ministry may not be serving the outcomes that we intend, nor the purposes for which God has gathered us together and sent us out.  And then following that prayerfully seek and discover new or modified (reimagined) ways of doing ministry that would be more fruitful.

In this article I hope to share some of what I have been discerning, understanding that all of life and ministry is a work in progress.  “God’s not done with us yet” … as the common expression goes.  This just means that we always need to keep open hearts and agile spirits that are willing to be redirected along God’s paths as we move throughout life.  In fact, we need to do this anyway because life and the world are always changing around us.  We may be doing nothing wrong, but God needs us to do a new thing simply because that is what’s needed now.  We all know that culture has moved in so many ways.  Along with this, we need to recognize that how people experience the unchanging Truth of God’s Word, and the Love of His Son Jesus changes too.  Notice – the Truth doesn’t change.  God doesn’t change.  Jesus doesn’t change.  But the ways in which people encounter and experience them do.

Since life and ministry is rarely black and white but more of a spectrum, consider this list not as either/or but more of one and less of the other.  These concepts and more will begin to unfold in our new “Leadership Pipeline.”

As our ministry is reimagined, this becomes our culture:

  1. fewer meetings, more accountability. Often we hide behind the fact that we “had a meeting to discuss.”  Not only does this consume valuable time and energy, but it limits what we can do by tying it to the meeting schedule.  Better is to use fewer meetings to establish more effective goals, and then better accountability for the completion of those goals.
  2. less ambiguity, more clarity. Lack of clarity leads to confusion.  Confusion leads to frustration – which leads to ineffectiveness.  Whether it is regarding goals, or the authority and resources to accomplish those goals, we need to capture our plans and communicate them with clarity.
  3. less hierarchy, more teams.  The more layers of complexity that an organization has the harder it is to get things done because decisions are always getting pushed up the food chain.  Rather than filling seats on boards and committees, we will focus on smaller functional teams.
  4. less excuses, more “Genesis goals.” It’s a downward spiral.  Fewer hands means less gets done. We then shrink our goals to what we believe our limited resources can accomplish.  Small goals don’t inspire, so we end up with even fewer hands and then even smaller goals.  To break this cycle, we must set compelling goals that will stretch us and require all hands on-deck!  (Genesis goal: God created the universe in 6 days. We can do much more in a week with God’s help than we usually attempt.)
  5. less busywork and more discipleship. The teacher enters the room, and unexpecting students do what? Look busy!  God didn’t give us the Great Commission to “go and be busy,” but to “go and make disciples.”  We need to get laser focused on making disciples by creating intentional steps for everyone to grow spiritually.
  6. less ritual and more discipline.  Many of the rites and rituals that we practice were birthed out of basic spiritual disciplines such as prayer, study of the Word, self-examination (which leads to repentance),  fasting, service and gratitude. But we are in danger of keeping the forms and losing the substance.  The challenge for us is to re-train our hearts to the purposes for which we have rituals in the first place.
  7. less focus on externals, more focus on creating culture.  Have you been in a restaurant with ornate decorations, but lousy service?  That’s an example of focusing on the externals but failing on the culture.  We need to first create a culture of disciple making and spiritual care – then the externals can follow.  Culture is usually not written down, but it ebbs and flows through every little thing we do.  People sense culture immediately even if you never talk about it.
  8. Less information, more transformation. Have you heard of this thing called the internet?  People have access to more information than ever before.  And they have it instantly at their fingertips, any hour of the day or night.  What people are hungry for is not more information, but life transformation.  Therefore we need to discover ways of helping people put God’s Word into action in their life.  This begins with Sunday morning first, and then builds off that.
  9. less surface, more connection.  “How are you?” “Good.” That’s surface.  We must do better to truly connect to the wonderful people that we are passing by – starting right in our church first.
  10. less isolation, more inclusion.  It’s obvious, but you won’t connect with others if you stay in your safe shell.  People today are lonely and isolated more than ever before.  Our phones and our fancy cars and homes all contribute to this isolation.  Church is to be a place that’s different.  We need to call people out of their hiding into our welcome embrace.
  11. less hiding, more outreach.  Interestingly, as a church, we hide well too.  We put on some great programs and events, but who knows about them?  Do we even really want them to come?  We need to come out of our shell and seek to widen our circle of influence and connection.
  12. less “causes” and more community.  When we do reach out, often it is because we want bodies or helpers for our cause.  We bang the gong and say, “come join us!” But we aren’t really interested in relationships with those people, but increased numbers in our army.  I am using harsh terms, so you can clearly see the difference between the two.
  13. less obscurity, more identity.  I wonder if we don’t hide, because we don’t know who we are and what we’re about.  Can we express our identity in simple words so that we can communicate it to others?
  14. less peddling, more providing. Often we decide what we think the community, our neighbors, even our members will want.  Then we “peddle” that product on people – trying to sell them on what we’ve decided they need.  Better is to be in dialog with them to listen and understand what they need, and then lovingly and graciously provide that.  In the latter case, no “peddling” required.
  15. less worldly, more Kingdom.  Kingdom wins often don’t look like much to the world – and vice versa.  This is a simple reminder to us of who we are trying to please.  God smiles when lost sinners turn to Him.  But He also smiles when saved sinners are faithful in their marriages, generous in their tithes and offerings and humble in their service.
  16. less flesh, more Spirit.  To do these things, we cannot simply “try harder.”  Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain – Psalm 127:1.  We must start from the inside out – transformed by God’s Holy Spirit that dwells in us through faith and baptism.  As we walk with Jesus each day, we offer ourselves as His hands and feet; allowing Him to guide, direct and work through us.
  17. less talk/analysis, more action.  Two popular books by local Christian authors have these simple titles “Love Does” and “Do something.”  Get the message?  Jesus taught us that Love cannot sit idly by.  You and I cannot be satisfied to talk about what we ought to do, but seek rather to allow Christ’s Love to shine through us.  We are going to heaven, that’s settled.  But until God calls us home, He wants us to be bearers of His Love and Light.
  18. less lukewarm, more passion.  There’s a reason that the book of Revelation warns against lukewarmness.  The opposite of which is passion.  Christ’s suffering and death has been called His “Passion.” Lukewarm won’t lead one to sacrifice and die for the sake of another. Passion will.  As Christ followers, we are passionate about what He is passionate about.
  19. fewer people in Hell, more in Heaven. Jesus told us what He was passionate about.  He came to find lost sinners (Luke 19:10).  He longed to gather them as a mother hen gathers her chicks (Matt 23:37). We must recognize that judgment day is coming.  People will live forever – it’s just a question of where.  May there be more souls in heaven on the Last Day because of what we do today.

What do you think, is that ministry reimagined?  I hope it gives you a handle of the work I believe that we have in front of us to become the kind of church God desires us to be.  And I pray that it encourages you to be a part of shaping the future of our ministry together.  I am excited to begin working with you as we further explore and flesh out these concepts.  There’s much work to be done. But thankfully, God hasn’t called any of us to do it alone.  He has gathered us together in a community of brothers and sisters with Christ as the head of our family and the bonds of the Holy Spirit uniting us together in one mystical union – the Body of Christ.  May we be transformed by Him and faithfully carry out His work until He calls us home.

Amen!  May it be so, for Jesus’ sake,

Pastor Augie

Advancing the Mission

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“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10

The phrase “Joining Jesus in our Community” is sounding more and more familiar around Redeemer, isn’t it?  This is what we believe God wants us to be doing as we fulfill our mission to make disciples.  But there is one question that still needs to be tackled – What will that look like when we are doing it?  And so, on Saturday January 28th, we began a planning process that will lead us to greater clarity and unity around this question.

We believe that for us to advance our mission and ministry together, we must have unity and clarity around not just vision, but around values and behaviors. In fact, the single greatest hindrance to mission advancement is what our consultant, Bill Walker, referred to as “Nodding Heads & Folded Arms.”  That’s where well-meaning church members “nod” when they hear the vision (who doesn’t want to join Jesus in His mission?) but then “fold their arms” while they wait for someone else to figure out what needs to be done.  In other words, we not only need vision clarity, but we need substantial clarity – clarity that affects what we value and what we do.

Churches can suffer from “churn” (where people visit, but don’t connect to the church), “competition” (where ministries within the church vie for attention, resources, and volunteers), and “burnout” (what happens when everything is equally important).  This happens when there are just too many game-plans in play.  Think of any sport you like – got one in mind?  I bet that game has rules and boundaries; and those teams that excel at that sport have a game-plan that they’re all working toward, together.

What this means for the church is that we don’t have to try and find the “right” way of doing church.  In fact, there is probably no single right way to do church.  But we do need to do church one way – together.  Consider a boat full of people with oars.  Everyone can be paddling their hardest … but if they aren’t paddling in the same direction they’ll make a big splash, but will go nowhere fast.

As such, we are setting major milestones for this planning effort.  They are:

  1. Clarity – We are forming a “Mission Advancement Team” that will put a clarifying & compelling case for unity before the Church Council. If the Council approves, Redeemer will adopt that approach.
  2. Movement – The mindset of the leadership, staff and volunteers shifts from “doing whatever is right in my eyes” to “how does my area of ministry support and increase the efforts we are all working toward?” In this stage, we will see grassroots changes begin to take place.
  3. Alignment – At this point, meetings and activities are organized around how to do what is absolutely essential and eliminating distractions, redundancy and sideways effort.

We will not arrive at all of these milestones at once, but these are the indicators we will look for before moving on to the next phase or milestone.

See, God wants unity in His Church.  Why?  Because it reflects His being … God is internally and perfectly united in the Trinity.  The world longs for unity, and therefore seeing unity of mind and purpose within the Church of God is perhaps our most attractive outreach!  The Old and New Testaments agree on God’s desire for this among His people:

  • “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” – Psalm 133:1
  • “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” – 1 Corinthians 1:10

Jesus even prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “… May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” – John 17:21.  In other words, the more united we are – with each other, and with God – the more the world will see Jesus in us, and put their faith in Him!

It’s a tall order, and it means that we all need to be in prayer – asking God to give us that burden to do what it takes to reach people with the Gospel and to Join Jesus in His Mission to seek and save the lost in our community.  Are you ready?  Let’s go!  … May the Name of Jesus be lifted high among us, and may the world be drawn to Him through our words and deeds.

Joining Jesus in His mission with you,

Pastor Augie

Joining Jesus in Our Community

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Our church’s leaders just gathered for another annual planning meeting.  There were over two dozen leaders from various ministry teams in our congregation present.

Here is the vision that we believe God has given us for our congregation:

Redeemer is a church family joining Christ in our community.

You will notice that this vision statement is brief and memorable.  The idea is for it to be something that we can think about every time we make ministry decisions, mobilize teams, and consider God’s plan for our congregation.  In this vision statement, I see three key concepts at work:

  • “church family” – This is a picture of a congregation that knows and loves the other people in our midst.  It represents the best of what the word “family” means.  We believe that in a largely disconnected society, people spend too much time isolated in their cars, on their cell phones and behind closed doors.  Further, many people are separated from their biological families geographically.  The Church can provide the love, support and connectedness that we all need and are hungry for.  (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  • “joining Christ” – This short phrase captures the concept of what in Latin is called the missio dei: the “mission of God.”  We believe that God is on a mission to redeem all people.  In fact, He began this mission long before Redeemer ever became a congregation.  We desire to be a church family that expects Jesus to be at work in the lives of people – the Father drawing them and the Holy Spirit enlightening them.  We seek to keep our eyes and hearts open for opportunities to join Jesus Christ on His mission to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10)
  • “community” – We know that God is at work all around the world, but we see ourselves particularly called to reach the people in our immediate community with the Gospel of Christ and the Kingdom of God.  This little word signifies to us that we must have a heart for the community.  It means that Redeemer cannot simply have a physical building in our community, but that we must truly be the hands and feet of Christ in our community.  We must constantly seek to see our neighborhoods and city the way that God sees them, and be equipped to engage them, doing the works that God has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10)

For more reading on this concept of “joining Christ in our Community,” please read the book “Joining Jesus on His Mission: How to be an Everyday Missionary” by Rev. Greg Finke. (There’s a link to it under the “Church Leadership Books” tab on my blog.)

At our meeting we celebrated the success we experienced in working toward our goals for 2015.  Based on the experience and learning from last year, we established more goals for 2016.  Please join with me in praying that this Vision and set of Goals become for our congregation a rallying cry!  That our members, teams and team leaders will all take ownership in helping our congregation be equipped to engage our community with the Gospel of Christ … not for our glory, but for His!

How will YOU be a part of this vision?  Please pray about that.  I invite your comments and discussion.

May God bless us as we serve Him together in 2016,

Pastor Augie

Vision 2015!

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At Redeemer by the Sea, we are BLESSED!  So many positive things are happening right now.  I believe we are positioned very well for the new year that is at hand.  When I look back over the last few years, I see that we have many gifted people on our church council, elders, committees and teams. Perhaps more importantly, we have a congregation that is passionate about God’s Word, and has a desire to love God and serve our neighbor in His Name.  Where I think that puts us at this time is in a spirit of “readiness.”  We are ready for action!

leaders gather to envision God’s future for our church!

At our recent Annual Planning Meeting (January 24th) it was clear among the more than two dozen leaders who were present that we are at a time in our ministry where we can no longer just talk about reaching our community, we must put plans in place to accomplish this.  Further, we are keenly aware that this is not going to happen with just a few of us working toward it.  It will take our whole congregation working together.  So we set out to discuss ways that our whole congregation can be mobilized into meaningful ministry to our community.

To do this, we took a step back – way back – to the Old Testament.  Using the book “The Four Cups: God’s Timeless Promises for a Life of Fulfillment” by Chris Hodges, we looked at this passage from Scripture:

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.’” (Exodus 6:6-7)

We saw there that God made some promises to the people of Israel, that He still makes to us today – His New Testament people.  In fact, we see this pattern regularly in the Bible: Many things in the Old Testament are merely types and shadows of what will only most completely be fulfilled in Jesus. For example, sacrifices in the Old Testament were incomplete.  They served to point to the most complete and significant sacrifice of Christ on the cross (Hebrews 7:27).  Or consider even the temple itself.  The temple pointed to Jesus Christ. In Him God most completely made His dwelling with mankind.

Likewise with these promises in Exodus…  God made them to Israel, and He honored them in the Exodus, but they are most fully given through Jesus Christ.  So we claim them for ourselves and our ministry even today.  In fact, they become a kind of pattern for ministry, that I believe fits very well with our “WORSHIP-GROW-SERVE” model:

  • WORSHIP: God’s promise to “bring you out” is a promise of Salvation.  In 2015, we have a goal to see our Worship Services be an inviting place where lost people are saved.
  • GROW: God’s promise to “free you” is a promise of Deliverance. When the people of Israel were rescued from slavery, they still needed to learn how to live as free people.  As saved people we need to learn how to live in the freedom of Christ, no longer in bondage to sin.  In 2015, we desire to see our Growth Groups become places where people are restored.  We have a goal to create structures where Groups can more easily form and more effectively function as “hubs” of discipleship and service.
  • DISCOVER: God’s promise to “redeem you” is a promise of Redemption. When you redeem something, you release it for its intended purpose.  Redeemer’s Discovery Track series of classes are designed to help people discover their redemptive potential.  In other words, people discover how God is calling them to WORSHIP, GROW and SERVE, and then they engage.
  • SERVE: God’s promise to “take you as my own people” is a promise of Fulfillment. In 2015, we have a goal to see our congregation complete 1,000 hours of community service. This is not just service for service sake.  We believe that God desires his people to live fulfilled lives in Christ, by serving in a meaningful way.

At the planning meeting, these promises and our plan to achieve them was formulated into this vision statement below.  See if it describes a congregation that you want to be a part of!

Vision: Redeemer is a place that reaches and accepts people from all walks of life and circumstances. Our hubs provide multiple services and venues that meet various needs. We explore God’s hand in all areas of life. We are good stewards of God’s gifts to us. We are an inviting place where people want to be with a connected family of friends and believers.

May Redeemer truly become a place where lost people are saved, saved people are restored, restored people discover their redemptive potential, and live fulfilled lives in Christ!

In ministry with you,

Pastor Augie.

Making Ministry Count

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“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:7, ESV)

As we have been studying the book of REVELATION at Redeemer, we are learning that there is much comfort and hope for the believer in the last book of the Bible… but there is also much warning. In John’s Revelation, believers are warned to stay active in the spiritual battle. We find great strength in knowing that the Lord and His army are victorious on the Last Day, and that all those who have faith in Christ are saved. But we also see that there will be great destruction and punishment for those who reject the Lord. Therefore, as Christians we are compelled to continue sharing the saving Gospel of Jesus, and to bring more people to Christ to be saved.

And so our ministry as a “lighthouse” in Carlsbad becomes even more critical, as we realize that the Lord will be returning for judgment soon (Rev. 22:7, above). We cannot afford to spin our wheels … or worse … fall asleep at the wheel!   Rather, we must be careful to ensure that any and all of our ministry effort is directed at Gospel-oriented mission that will bring both the sobering awareness of God’s Law, as well as the soothing comfort of Christ’s Gospel and His free gift of salvation.  Quite simply, we must work to make our ministry count!

We need to ask ourselves if what we are doing in ministry is just activity … or is it mission? Since we know that the Lord will separate the wheat from the weeds on Judgment Day (Matthew 13:24-30), we cannot allow ourselves to just be busy between now and then. It is a challenging truth that activity does not equal effectiveness. We have to continually ask ourselves how any program or event at Redeemer either brings the light of Jesus to people, or brings people to the light of Jesus – that’s what being a lighthouse to the community and the world means.

Often you may hear me express it this way: we need to “do fewer things better.” This is a direct challenge for us to make our ministry count. We don’t want to just fill our calendars with events and programs that are familiar and “easy,” we want to find ourselves working together on the kinds of things that really make a Kingdom difference – and require all of us working together to make happen. This is our challenge.

At Redeemer, like most churches, it is difficult to give up something good to make room for something better. I believe that when do, however, we will find that several good things happen[i]:

  1. Our volunteers are spread less thin. They have margin in their schedule for family and ministry.
  2. Our members and leaders are healthier. When we are focusing on too many things, too many events, and too many meetings, we have less time for personal health and relationships.
  3. We experience excellence rather than mediocrity. If we focus on too many ministries and programs, usually all of them become average (or worse), but none of them become excellent.
  4. We better communicate the urgency and significance of our mission. With too many messages coming from our church, our community and our own members don’t know what we’re all about.
  5. We are freer to live out our identity in Christ. With less busy activity our members are able to build relationships with people outside our church who need Jesus.

May more souls be in heaven on the Last Day because of the work that we do today.

Pastor Augie

[i] Concept from Michael Lukaszewski (michaellukaszewski.com)

Worship – Grow – Serve!

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“[Jesus] answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  (Luke 10:27)

You’ve heard and seen the phrase “Worship – Grow – Serve” at Redeemer for quite some time now.  What does it mean, and why do we repeat it so much?  We are going to spend the last few weeks of January asking and answering those questions on Sunday mornings.  We hope you’ll join us.

In Luke chapter 10, Jesus beautifully summarizes commandments of God in the Old Testament found in Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19.  In modern expression, we refer to this as the “Great Commandment,” which in actuality is a summary of all of God’s commands.  The Great Commandment has two parts to it – Love God and Love Neighbor.  This “vertical” and “horizontal” love comprises the foundational action and attitude of the Christian, and thus it is fitting that a vertical and horizontal line intersect to make a cross.  The Cross is a great visual for loving God and loving neighbor.

At Redeemer, we express loving God and loving neighbor as worship – grow – serve.  “Worship” is where we express our love and devotion to God… both on Sunday morning as well as in our private and daily devotions.  Further, worship is an adoration of God that is expressed through all our thoughts and actions, using our time, talent and treasure.  Therefore, we see the stewardship of our offerings also as an act of worship.  Truly, for the believer, all of life is and should be a worshipful expression of thanks and praise.

Grow” fits well at the intersection of God and neighbor.  It is our goal to grow both in our love and knowledge of God, as well as in our love and relationships of neighbor.  So “Grow” includes our study of the Bible and our fellowship with other believers.  We want to grow in both aspects of our relationship.  In fact, when we grow in our knowledge of God and His commands, He then turns our heart toward our neighbor as the beneficiary of our love toward and faith in Him.  Our Growth Groups at Redeemer are designed to the perfect place for you to grow in both love of God and love of neighbor!

Finally “Serve” is an expression of mature faith as we turn our focus off of ourselves and onto God and our neighbor.  Jesus himself said that He did not come to be served, but to serve (Matt. 20:28).  When we ask the question, “How can I serve the Lord?”  He responds to us, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matt 25:40).  At Redeemer we serve the Lord by serving our neighbor – both inside our congregation and out in the community.   We seek to serve them both in physical and spiritual needs.

May this New Year be an opportunity for us to follow the Lord’s command to love God and neighbor, through worship, growth and service!

Worshipping, Growing and Serving Christ with you,

Pastor Augie.

What great things He has done!

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“But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.”  (1 Samuel 12:24)

As we look forward to the year 2014 and with 2013 now in the rear view mirror, I cannot help but marvel at what great things God has done for us!  At Redeemer we have experienced another year of blessing and growth.  We have seen increases in our Sunday School attendance, added new Growth Groups, added new members to the congregation, and have added new office staff!  All these things are only possible because of the powerful hand of the Lord at work.

When the prophet Samuel said these words in 1 Sam. 12, he was encouraging the people to ponder both the Lord’s faithfulness and His might.  For as they went forward, they needed to have a healthy understanding of the Lord’s provision as well as His power.  Samuel knew that while he would not be with them always, the Lord would be.  So Samuel gave his message to prepare the people to go forward in Godly confidence.

At Redeemer, we look forward to the New Year with hope, mindful of God’s faithfulness in the past, and therefore confident of His continued faithfulness in the future.  Lord willing, 2014 has some great things in store!   In fact, Jesus promises His disciples that those who believe in Him and do the work He has called them to, will do “even greater things!” (John 14:12).  May it be that God works even greater things in our midst next year!

But truly, if we accomplish anything great in our congregation, it will not be because of our own cleverness or ability; it will be because of God’s goodness and His faithfulness.  Samuel’s reminder that Israel needed to consider the great things God had done for them was as much a corrective as a comfort.  Our human nature is no different than in Samuel’s day – we want to take the credit for our accomplishments ourselves.  We need to both trust in God to work through us, but also to give Him the glory when He does!

So join me in thanking God for the great things He has done at Redeemer last year!  And with the wonder of Christmas still in our hearts, may we marvel at the great thing that God has done in sending His own Son into the world to take on human flesh!  Through His sinless life and painful death, He won us forgiveness of sins and showed us the way to the even “greater things” that God has in store!

Thankful and Hopeful,

Pastor Augie.

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