Well brethren, here we are.  Today marks the 4th anniversary of our arrival in Iowa.  As we should always do when we hit such milestones, we need to make a plan for the next year.
No marriage finds itself celebrating anniversary after anniversary without making a conscience effort to make the marriage stronger.  The team of husband and wife will go through trials together.  They will go through triumphs together.  They will experience setbacks.  And it is the keeping their eye on the goal that enables them to come through these situations with flying colors.  Likewise, our relationship with one another requires us to keep our eyes upon the goal.  But if we don’t know what our goal is, how can we keep our eyes upon it?
This past week, brother Pat Blythe passed out the meeting minutes from the November men’s meeting.  On the last page of this meeting minutes there was a list of spiritual goals the men hoped to accomplish by the end of 2014.  While some of these were nothing more than determining who would be preaching at the upcoming gospel meetings, several of these were about some changes, improvements that we would like to make in the year to come.
For starters, being that we are more spread out here in Iowa we need to make more of an effort to be together.  To help us accomplish this the men have set forth the following goals. 
#1 - We would like to increase the number of times we might during the gospel meeting by one.  It has been a long time since this congregation has had an evening service on Sunday nights.  And while the men understand that asking some of the brethren here to travel back and forth from home and the meeting house can be difficult we thought if we had an afternoon service rather than an evening one it would make it a little easier upon us all.  This coming spring meeting we are going to have a 3:00 service.  This will encourage us in two ways.  First we get to hear an additional sermon during that week so that our souls might be edified.  Second, we end up spending most of the day together.  We have our bible class starting at 9:30, worship at 10:30.  We break for lunch, at which time most of us get together for a potluck, and then we get to worship together again at 3:00. 
#2 - We are going to increase the number of get togethers we have.  As it stands, right now we only have a congregation wide get together twice a year.  (Usually around gospel meetings).  We are going to be doing it quarterly now.  We will have a get together in the winter and summer (as well as the two during the gospel meetings).  Being that it is already winter, we are in the stages of planning what it is that we will be doing, and where it will be at.  Keep your ears open as it is bound to be planned before too much longer.
#3 - The men are going to be trying to have a men’s get together as well.  The ladies have truly inspired us men.  To be honest, some of us, myself included, were a little jealous.  (Not that we wanted to get away from the kiddos, but that you use this as a time to draw closer unto one another.  We men need to be doing the same thing.  Over the next couple of men’s meetings we hope to hash this out as far as what we will be doing and when.
Being that the primary work of the church is evangelism we want to take our evangelistic efforts to the next level.  This congregation has been working hard at inviting others to the gospel meetings that we have.  For this I for one am very thankful.  (Even though our last Gospel Meeting was not as well attended as past ones it does not change the fact that we had a plethora of visitors between the two for 2013.  In fact, see more visitors here in a given year than I have at all the other churches I have worked with combined.  What we men have decided to do is not just encourage you to continue this good work, but to take the efforts that we have displayed over the last 4 years and point it in other arenas to spread the gospel message.  These opportunities will be announced as they come up.  They will be mentioned in the bulletins and they will be mentioned during the announcements so again, keep your ears open.
Finally, we want to make a concerted effort to make our worship services as conducive to the glorification of God as possible.  To help us do this we are going to be scheduling a singing class sometime during the course of this next year.  This will be about helping us sing some new songs as well as giving us a refresher on songs that we have already been singing.
While there are many other goals that have to eventually be laid out and many more things I know that this church would like to see accomplished we hope that these will help us get to those bigger goals (like one day appointing elders).  Until then we hope that you will be willing to aid us as we push forward in our next year together.  -WTK

n living as close as I did to the state most of my life, I had many preconceived ideas about the state of Iowa.  Like most Americans, I believed the state was exceptionally flat.  I knew that there was a lot of corn and a lot of pigs in Iowa.  I knew the churches here in Iowa were typically small in size and few in number.  As far as the church in Grinnell was concerned, I only had my first impressions to go upon.  Something I learned several years ago is that first impressions can be deceiving.  I have worked with churches that appeared to be trouble churches that turned out to be a great group to work with, and I have worked with churches that seemed to be the perfect fit only to find out there were massive issues hiding under the surface.  So, as I trekked across this great country towards many relative unknowns I was quite a bit nervous. 
In my adult life  I have not really laid down any roots.  Dawn and I lived in Rantoul for 6 months before moving to Mattoon, IL to work with the saints there.  After almost three years, we moved to Kennett, MO.  We worked with the saints there for 2.5 years and then moved to Richmond, VA were we lived in two different homes in 23 months.  (You know you move to much when after a year here your children look at you and ask if it is time to move again.)  To be brutally honest, I came here skeptical.  I thought I might stay for a couple of years and begin looking somewhere else; after all that is what I have been doing.
Little did I know that a brief stop in Iowa would turn out to be nothing that I was expecting.  Sure, I moved shortly after arriving.  But, my move was for the purpose of setting more permanent roots.  I have seen a church that has been quite active in getting their friends, family, neighbors, etc in the building not just for gospel meetings but for “normal” worship times.  I have seen a church that one more than one occasion nearly had 30 visitors for a single meeting.  I have seen a congregation that has impressed not just this preacher, but other preachers that have come here for meetings.  So much so that they have pushed their own churches to help support the work here in Grinnell.  (and for that I am thankful for them, and for you).  What you reminded me was that I should never judge a book by its cover. 
Christ warns us of such behavior in Matt. 5-7.  The Sermon on the Mount is filled with many wonderful lessons.  The chief of which is that we are supposed to surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees.  This is no easy task, or at least it seemed to be no easy task, for the 1st century Jew.  How can their righteousness surpass that which was symbolic of righteous living?  To put things into perspective, that would be like a business guru teaching a class and telling the students that if they hope to be a success in the business world that would have to be more success than the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  If we were sitting in on that class we likely would get up and leave exasperated because we were just given an impossible task.  Likewise, I could see many Jews upon the mountain that day exasperated at Jesus’ charge for them to be more righteous than the Pharisees.  Jesus then goes on to expose the Pharisees for what they really were.  They were a people who wanted the approval of men.  They looked righteous because that was their goal.  That was their intent.  And they were good at it.  People noticed them praying at every hour of prayer.  People noticed every time they were giving unto others.  People noticed because they planned it that way.  Conversely, Jesus ran into numerous people that appeared to be unrighteous but were quite the opposite.  The Pharisees took great offense to the fact that Jesus spent time with tax collectors and sinners.  While I am not saying that the sinners were righteous, the Pharisees perceived them as not worth the time to help.  And for that they often drew criticism from Christ.
I guess I write this because I know how easy it is to judge a book by its cover.  With the new year right around the corner I would like to encourage you to out aside all prejudices.  No longer look at what a person might say to the gospel message, no longer predetermine whether or not a person is worth your effort to share the gospel.  Do not think because the person does not look like you when you look in a mirror that you shouldn’t associate with them.  With 2014, and our 5th year together, I would like to encourage you to invite those you wouldn’t normally have invited to services.  Reach out into those that are nothing like you.  Teach those that are desperately lost in sin.
Grinnell church of Christ
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Another Year in the Books

The Light
Volume 4 Issue 51