Advent Blessings: A Pastoral Letter from Pastor Jon
Dearest Christ Church Family,
In the opening greetings of the Apostle Paul’s letters, it was his custom to give thanks to God for those to whom he wrote. For example, to the Christians in Thessalonica he states:
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 1:2–3).
Paul’s thanksgiving is aimed heavenward. Gratitude and glory are given to God alone for the Thessalonians’ faith, love, and hope. Why? Because apart from the triune God’s saving, animating, life-transforming grace in Christ, these first century Christians would still be dead in their trespasses and sins. They’d be utterly lost. The same is true for us.
It is with this understanding of God’s sovereign grace that I give thanks to God for you, Christ Church Presbyterian; for your “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” As your pastor, it is a profound honor and blessing to witness your faith in action, as you cling to Christ alone for salvation, Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day, through the Word, sacraments, and prayer. It’s a deep encouragement to see your constant love and support for one another shown in very practical ways; as well as your love for lost friends and family members, expressed through prayer and a faithful gospel witness.
Having had the privilege of walking with many of you through pain and suffering, I’ve seen firsthand the steadfastness of hope that the Holy Spirit fosters in your hearts. My own faith has grown as I’ve witnessed your faith being tested by fiery trials and proved genuine. Over the years you’ve demonstrated a hunger for the Word of God, an eagerness to learn and grow, a heart for one another, a compassion for the lost, and a warm and welcoming posture toward those who walk through our doors for the first time. Indeed, I very frequently hear from visitors about the extraordinary friendliness of our congregation (a couple from Michigan expressed this to me this past Lord’s Day). This encourages me very much, as it has always been my prayer that Christ Church Presbyterian would be both doctrinally faithful and conspicuously open-armed. I never cease to thank God for you, and the work that He is doing in and through you.
The Joy of Christmas
I must admit that I love this time of year. I enjoy Christmas decorations, Christmas music (sans Wham and Mariah Carey!), and many allurements of the cultural side of the season. What I love most about this time of year, however, is our collective focus on the incarnation and birth of our Savior. The eternal Son left the resplendent glories of heaven above to enter the brokenness of this fallen world. He took on human flesh and set aside His divine privileges, all to accomplish His divine rescue plan for sinners. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). What a Savior!
This past Lord’s Day, in our adult Sunday school class on the Westminster Larger Catechism, we covered Q/A #47:
Q. 47. How did Christ humble himself in his conception and birth?
A. Christ humbled himself in his conception and birth, in that, being from all eternity the Son of God, in the bosom of the Father, he was pleased in the fullness of time to become the son of man, made of a woman of low estate, and to be born of her; with divers circumstances of more than ordinary abasement.
Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God and prince of heaven, deserved to be born in an illustrious palace to an eminent family. Instead, he was born in a lowly stable to an obscure family of little means. The “divers circumstances of more than ordinary abasement” in which Jesus was born underscore His divinely-ordained mission to serve, rather than to be served, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk 10:45).
The baby born of a virgin in Bethlehem would one day hang on a cursed cross for our sins. He was born to die, that we would live. What a profound privilege we have to worship, follow, and humbly serve Jesus Christ. Therefore, don’t let consumerism or that which is related to “cultural Christmas” be your chief focus in the coming days and weeks. May your focus be on Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the One who was sent from heaven above to earth below to reconcile us to God, and to save us from the unconscionable miseries of sin, death, and Hell.
Remembering One Another in Prayer
Let’s remember to pray for one other this Christmas season. While this is a joyful time of year, it’s also a difficult season for those who’ve lost loved ones. In case you were unaware, this past month Amy Clark’s dear mother went to be with the Lord, and Stephanie Becker’s dear sister unexpectedly died and was ushered into glory. She was only 52. Let’s encourage Amy and Stephanie and all those that we know who still grieve the loss of a spouse, parent, sibling, or grandparent. Let’s also remember those who are lonely, and open our arms and homes to them.
Please pray also for our nine (yes, you read that right— nine!) pregnant mothers. May the Lord grant these dear young mothers healthy pregnancies. Pray for baby Thomas Jacobs (Whit and Katie Jacobs’ youngest) who will receive covenant baptism on Sunday. Pray for the ten godly men currently participating in officer training. Pray that God would teach and guide them as they work their way through several books, and seek to discern God’s call upon their lives. We are tremendously blessed to have so many men in consideration for elder and deacon at Christ Church Presbyterian.
Dearest members of Christ Church, we have a wonderful opportunity to love and serve one another this time of year. One obvious way that we can encourage one another is to attend and participate in the congregational prayer meeting on Sunday mornings. The heartfelt prayers of God’s people are a profound encouragement. They strengthen the souls of God’s people. Join us this Lord’s Day at 8:50 a.m. in the sanctuary for our prayer meeting. Come once, and you won’t want to miss it ever again.
When my family moved to Charleston in 2013 to plant Christ Church Presbyterian, we weren’t sure what to expect. We were confident that Christ would be faithful to build His Church through the ordinary means of grace, but the details of how it would all come together were a mystery. It was all so new and exciting.
As the months turned into years, the work could, at times, become wearisome. This was true for both pastors and members. Some of you remember Sunday set up duty at Moultrie Middle School and dropping off toddlers in the makeshift nursery under the less than sanitary stairwell. Do you remember that two-inch long cockroach making its way up the bannister during my sermon or the soccer tournaments consuming all available parking spaces? Or how about endlessly searching the real estate scene for a more permanent and suitable facility, and facing numerous disappointments along the way? Of course, let’s not forget about the pandemic and the lockdowns! Planting a church is not for the faint of heart.
Church planting is not unlike taking part in a pioneer expedition — venturing into the unknown, incurring regular losses, lacking resources and personnel, and sometimes simply trying to survive (It has been stated that 80% of all church plants fail). Of course, there are countless joys along the way, one of the biggest being the joy of pioneering with a committed core group of believers, who rather than become anonymous in a big box evangelical church, choose to join a countercultural, disciple-making, Reformed and Confessional church plant. Laboring with you to establish Christ Church has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.
A Vision for the Future
The Lord blessed us tremendously when we found and later moved into our newly renovated 8000 sq. ft. facility at 486 Wando Park Blvd. in February. It took about a year to complete the top to bottom renovation. Jake Earle, Ralph Charles, Cathy Paterson, and several others contributed some serious sweat equity to our new building. It’s a beautiful, comfortable, welcoming, and functional space for worship, fellowship, and study. Just this morning we finished our men’s Bible Study on Covenant Theology with about 15 men in attendance. After recently adding 50 chairs, we presently have room for 300 in the sanctuary. It already feels pretty full some Sundays, though we still have room for growth.
Now that we are happily situated in our new facility, the elders have begun to discuss a vision and plan for the future of Christ Church. We would love to expand our discipleship ministries to children and youth. We would love to provide more discipleship opportunities for women. We are eager to improve our musical accompaniment in worship, and teach our children how to sing. We would love to hire pastoral interns in the future, giving us the opportunity to mentor and encourage them as they prepare for a lifetime of faithful gospel ministry.
Perhaps most critical at this time is our need for a Director of Church Life, someone to help with communications, administration, and media. Finally, since our current lease will end in six years (here before we know it!), we would love to build or acquire a church facility of our own in a strategic location. Does this all seem impossible? Let’s remember, Christ Church Charleston was only an idea and a prayer in 2012! What is impossible with man is possible with God.
One practical way to serve the future growth of the ministries of Christ Church is to pray. Pray earnestly and regularly for God to lead and provide. Pray for the session as we seek to bring long term vision and plans into focus. Apart from God’s wisdom, power, and provision, we can do nothing. Indeed, unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain (Ps. 127:1).
In addition to prayer, another way to serve is to give financially, above and beyond the tithe, towards the ministry of Christ Church. Hiring staff to strengthen our future ministries will take considerable resources. The goal, of course, is not for our church to become large. It never has been, and it never will be under my leadership. The goal is — and has always been — to strengthen, deepen, and expand our mission, discipleship, and shepherding ministries. Our aim is to do that which is currently not being done, due to limited resources and the time (and gift) restraints of the present leadership. Would you take time to pray for Christ Church today?
General Giving Update | 2021
As with many congregations, giving at Church Church suffered in 2020. The pandemic took its toll on the number of “in person” visitors and new members, and thus on contributions as well. We’ve been playing catch-up since, and have dipped into our reserves over the past two years. Due to a very large financial gift in January from friends outside the church, the deacons have informed me that we are only slightly behind in our 2021 giving going into the month of December (* specific details on financials, provided by our bookkeeper, will be posted in the bulletin next week).
Therefore, as we head into the final month of 2021 and prepare for a new year, let me encourage you to do two things:
- Review your annual tithe/giving to Christ Church, and if necessary, plan to catch up in your tithe/giving by year end.
- If you are able, consider giving above and beyond the tithe by year end. Your generous and sacrificial giving will not only help Christ Church to meet our expenses at year end, it will provide the resources necessary to expand our administrative and ministry staff in the future — all to the eternal glory of our blessed triune God.
Dearest members and friends of Christ Church, I thank God for you. I thank God for what He has done in and through your lives, and for what He is going to do in your lives (and your children and grandchildren’s lives!) in the future. May this Advent season be a time of warm reflection on and gratitude for God’s many gifts, especially for the inexpressible gift of His Son.
Now let us all with gladsome cheer
go with the shepherds and draw near
To see the precious gift of God,
who hath his own dear Son bestowed.
Martin Luther (1535)