When does a pastor’s heart fall in love with a congregation? For some it takes a few years of faithful presence and love, countless funerals, baby dedications, and baptisms. With Immanuel Baptist Church, the congregation I am now preparing to serve, it was love at first sight! There is an authenticity, a genuineness about them and their faith that simply drew me deeply in. For those Immanuel readers out there, keep in mind that I’m not saying you are perfect… just real. J So, what’s so real about Immanuel?
Immanuel Baptist Church is an international congregation of disciples who simply seek to love, worship, and serve the risen Christ with simple praise and sincerity. Immanuel, however, has a mission! Its mission has many foci. Foremost, Immanuel seeks to reach English speakers in the Wiesbaden area with the love and life changing message of Jesus Christ. Imagine the foreigners' struggle in Germany, living as strangers in a strange land, far away from family, friends, and their home churches. Immanuel's mission is to be a family and a worshiping home for these wonderful people. This is an area of ministry that I began to feel called to even before encountering this congregation… funny how God does that!
The congregation also reaches out to the many military and Department of Defense families stationed in Wiesbaden. In fact, the church was first established in 1957 specifically to minister to U.S. military forces stationed in post-war Germany. There is simply a gut wrenching need to care for those who invest themselves in serving their nation overseas.
Immanuel has a missions focus as well. Many members engage in missional opportunities in such countries as Romania, Cambodia, and Ghana. The congregation wants to strengthen its role as a missional church, and looks to the future with hopeful ambition! I cannot express how exciting it is to go to a church that recognizes that the fields are still ripe for the harvest!
Yet, as I have said to many dear friends, Immanuel is a struggling church. Mainly, she is struggling to grow beyond her current size and financial shortfalls. Through years of military downsizing in the area and some unforeseen financial losses, Immanuel has not been able to support a full time pastor for over three years! This too has taken a toll on the membership and life energy of the church. In fact, the church cannot afford to fully support a pastor even now. So, they are truly stepping out on faith, as am I. As I seek to raise a portion of my support, they are also sacrificially providing for my arrival and tenure as their shepherd. Their struggle has hooked my heart. However, it is their focus and commitment in the midst of struggle that, more than anything, has warmed my heart.
I can hardly wait to serve in the company of such wonderful and loving disciples. They are, already, family. Please pray for me and the membership of Immanuel Baptist Church as we step out on faith together.