With another year behind us and a new decade before us, here’s both a recap of 2019 and a preview of what’s to come in 2020 at ECC.
Looking Back at 2019
In August, our church celebrated 75 years of gospel ministry with a special celebration service and a wonderful church picnic. The purpose of the weekend was to encourage faithful, gospel-driven ministry and healthy, word-centered churches in a region that is starving for the good news of Jesus Christ. It was not so much a looking back in remembrance as a looking forward in confident expectation. We were honored to have our good friend Jared Wilson join us for the weekend as our guest preacher, as well as the many friends and family who joined us from other churches.
Having finished preaching Luke’s Gospel, we began a new sermon series through the second volume of his “orderly account” written to Theophilus (Luke 1:1-4)—what we know as the book of Acts. We’ve seen time and time again that this book is really all about the acts of the risen Lord Jesus, accomplished through the witness of his people in the power of the Holy Spirit, in fulfillment of God’s kingdom purposes for the world. The portrait of the church found here has been both encouraging and challenging. We also began a second series through an Old Testament book, starting with the fifth gospel, the prophet Isaiah. Lord willing, we will be going back and forth between Acts and Isaiah over the next couple years as we continue to preach through both books.
Our Community Groups finished reading and studying through the entire bible in a chronological arrangement using The Daily Bible. In our Line by Line Sunday class, we worked through both of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians and also began an in-depth study through the book of Revelation. This time spent in the Word each week has been tremendously beneficial, as we’ve not only learned to read and study the Scriptures for ourselves, but have beheld the glory of God in the face of Christ in every passage.
Among the many other ministries and opportunities for fellowship that took place in 2019, we also launched a brand-new ministry here called The ECC Pastoral Residency—an eighteen-month training program for men discerning a call to gospel ministry. These men have devoted themselves to a rather intense curriculum, including several readings, reflection papers, and sermon assignments. It has been a joy to see these men grow not only in their understanding of the Word, the doctrine of the church, and the work of shepherding, but in their love for the local body of believers here at ECC.
Looking Ahead to 2020
There are many exciting things in store for 2020. Lord willing, here are some of the upcoming projects, ministries, and changes we are working on as we enter this new decade.
Renovations and New Ministries
This year we are planning to make several much-needed renovations to our sanctuary and further utilize our gym and school buildings. We are also making preparations to launch several new ministries and provide more opportunities for fellowship. Specifically, we are working on a potential Sunday evening service, a men’s ministry, a resource wall in our lobby, and a family resource center. Please be in prayer for our leadership, that God would grant us wisdom as we prepare to launch these new ministries and projects.
In 2020, our Community Groups will experience a slight change in format. Instead of using another bible study curriculum or reading plan, our studies will be centered around the passage of Scripture most recently preached in our Lord’s Day worship gathering. The purpose of such “sermon-based” questions is not to simply highlight the preacher’s main points and to make much of his sermon, but to further study the biblical text and make much of Jesus Christ. This comes with several benefits: (1) It enables the whole church to be on the same page every week with little effort; (2) group members can commit to their own Bible study or reading plan, depending on where they are in their Christian walk; (3) and since there are innumerable riches to be mined in every single text and passage of Scripture we preach (theological implications, personal applications, cross-references and allusions, etc.), we can now explore the texts from our different sermon series in more detail. This will essentially enable our groups to work slowly through entire books of the Bible in community with others.
Line by Line
While our Line by Line class has covered half of the Revelation, we will be taking an extended break to begin a new study through the book of 1 Peter for the first half of 2020, taught exclusively by our pastoral residents. The purpose for this change is to enable the residents to gain meaningful experience teaching one of the more straightforward epistles—a book which, quite honestly, is a more appropriate end of the teaching “pool” in which an aspiring shepherd-teacher can learn to swim. While we’ve seen that Revelation is actually quite a manageable book, with incredible relevance for the church today, it is nevertheless a challenging book to interpret; we will resume our study later on this year. If you are a member of ECC, please consider joining us on Sunday mornings to not only benefit from the teaching of God’s Word, but also to encourage our residents and evaluate their calling.
We will also continue making progress in our ongoing endeavor to reform the governing structure of our church. In order for our church to be faithful to Scripture, we need to be an elder-led congregational church that is ruled by Christ, governed by the congregation, led by a plurality of elders, and served by deacons. This process—of understanding polity, evaluating our church’s constitution and bylaws according to biblical standards, and assessing what changes need to be made—began almost three years ago. This year, by God’s grace, we will move into the final stages and prepare to propose and adopt several necessary changes; this will happen primarily at the regular meetings of our membership.
A Prayer for 2020
Lord willing, 2020 will be an exciting year for ECC! But more than just the accomplishment of these plans, our prayer is that our church will bring glory to our risen King, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul’s desires expressed in Ephesians 4:11-16 capture the essence of our prayers:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Matt Bedzyk is the lead pastor at Elmira Christian Center. He received his Master of Divinity from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Matt and his wife Brianna have two children: Lorien Grace and Owen James. In his spare time, you can find him reading, playing music, enjoying coffee, and supporting Manchester United.