State of the Church 2016

“2016 State of the Church”

31 January 2016


Earlier this month, President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union address.  For the past few years, I’ve given a State of the Church address here at First Presbyterian.

In his address, President Obama kept saying, “Our union is strong!”  And he said, “Our economy is strong!”

Now I struggled when I heard that, because I kept thinking, “Aren’t we 19 TRILLION dollars in debt?”  How can our economy be strong when we are that far in debt?

Now, I’m not a politician, so I’m not going to lie to you in my State of the Church address.  From a business standpoint, our church is not in good shape.  Financially, our church economy is not strong.  Our budget is upside down.  In 2015, we spent $100,000 more than we took in.  In 2016, we’re scheduled to spend $125,000 more than we take in.  That’s not good business.  And I’ll be honest: It scares the bejeebers out of me!

Now the current budget for 2016 has been passed.  But that budget can be changed any time in the year.  The session is going to have to make some tough decisions.

The fact is, we have a facility that was built for a congregation of 1,750 members.  We’re not even 1 tenth (10%) of that any more.  And we have a staff that was built for a much larger congregation.

The session is asking the tough questions.  And it will need to make some tough decisions in the near future.  We need to be good stewards of our resources.  We need to be fiscally responsible.

But the fact of the matter is… The Church is not a business.  We’re not here to make money.  We are here to build the kingdom of God.

I often hear the question, “Pastor Lance, what are your goals?”  I’m a little surprised when I hear this.  I feel like I repeat them so much people must get tired of hearing me say it.  It’s printed in the bulletin every week.


Here at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Ana, we are endeavoring to

1) Worship God in spirit and in truth;

2) Lead children, men and women to a saving faith in Jesus Christ;

3) Incorporate believers into the spiritual fellowship of God’s family;

4) Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; and,

5) Serve as Christ’s ambassadors in our community & throughout the world.


My goal is to establish a healthy balance between five areas of ministry: Worship; Evangelism; Fellowship; Discipleship; and Service.

But don’t take my word for it.  What does Jesus want for us?

In John 17, right before His arrest, Jesus prays for His followers, not only the disciples who were with Him at that time, but everyone who would follow in the future.  That means Jesus was praying for us!



Vs. 4    “I glorified You on earth…”

Vs. 10  “I have been glorified in them”

Vs. 24  “Father, I desire that those also, to see My glory”

Anytime we talk about glorifying God, we’re talking about worship.  In fact, the opening to the Westminster Catechism states, “The Chief end of humankind is to glorify God…”  And in worship, we embody what Jesus said was the first and greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.”



Vs. 3    “And this is eternal life, that they may know You”

Vs. 6    “I have made Your name known…”

Vs. 20  “I ask on behalf of those who will believe in Me through their word.”

Vs. 26  “I made Your name known to them…”

These speak to evangelism.  Telling people how to know God, how to be in relationship with God.



Vs. 11  “protect them in Your name… so that they may be one”

Vs. 12  “While I was with them, I protected them… I guarded them”

Vs. 23  “I in them and You in Me, that they may become completely one as We are one.”

These verses speak to fellowship.  What unifies us?  What bonds us together to create community?



Vs. 8    “the words You gave to Me, I have given to them… they have received them and know the truth”

Vs. 14 “I have given them Your word…”

Vs. 17  “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”

Jesus wants us to know the word of God and grow in the word of God.  To sanctify means to be made holy.  As we grow in our faith, we mature in our faith.  We become more like Jesus.  And that is what discipleship is all about, becoming more Christ-like.



Vs. 18  “As You sent Me into the world, so I have sent them…”

Vs. 23  “so that the world may know that You have sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”

Vs. 26  “so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them”

Henri Nouwen defines Ministry as, “Service in the name of the Lord.”  I like that definition.  It embodies Jesus reminding His followers that the second most important commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves.  And then He told the story of the Good Samaritan.  The Samaritans were hated by the Jews.  And yet the Samaritan embodied the love of neighbor to the man who had been beaten and left for dead.  When we serve others, we demonstrate God’s love to them.



A healthy balance between these five areas of ministry

In WORSHIP we CELEBRATE God’s presence.





When we look at these five areas, we have to ask, “What are we doing well?” and “What do we need to do better?”

We seem to be doing pretty well in missions and in worship.  Other areas… not so much.  We need to raise the other areas to the same level as missions and worship.



FIRST: to take advantage of our location.  Those nice churches out in the suburbs Have to travel to find ministries to serve. They have to take mission trips to Mexico and beyond.

We don’t have to go anywhere.  We are on the frontlines of ministry!  Some call us a “Missionary Church.”  We don’t need to send missionaries into the world.  The world has come to us!  We don’t need to travel overseas.         We just open the front door!

As some have said, “Jesus went to the least, the last and the lost.”  And He calls us to follow Him…  We don’t need to go to a developing country to help children in need.   They’re right here!  And they need our help!  I love working with the elementary aged students at our La Semilla Learning Center.          Yes, they are high energy; they’re a little crazy, a little hyper, a little squirrely.  But they’re also beautiful.  And they’re precious in God’s sight.

And we have the opportunity to show God’s love to them, four days a week.  We’re lucky to be in a place where such opportunity abounds.  Our partnerships with La Semilla, with Kidsingers, with Mixed Martial Arts, with Zumba, with Wilson School.  All show that our location is good for ministry!

Let’s take advantage of our location.  We are rich in opportunity!

SECOND OTHER DREAM: to nurture our “multi-ness.”  Yes, like President George W. Bush, I just made up a word: “multi-ness.”  Someone approached me after World Communion last October and said, “Ya know, Lance, one of your dreams is coming true.  A few years ago you said you wanted to build a multi-ethnic ministry and you could see it today; it’s coming true!”

I’m so glad she was listening!  I’m glad she heard one of the dreams I have for our church!  And it is starting to come true!

When I first got here, there was one Hispanic member.  One!  And that was Annie Lugo, the wife of a retired Presbyterian pastor.  How can that be?  We are located in the highest Hispanic population in the United States.  How is there only one Hispanic member?

Now our membership reflects our community better.  We are closer to 30% Hispanic.  Our session is close to one half Hispanic.  And we are a better congregation because of it.

When Jesus taught us to pray, He taught us to build God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.”  I’m pretty sure when we get to heaven it’s not just going to be white or brown or black.  It’s going to be filled with people from every race and nation.

And when our congregation here on earth reflects God’s kingdom in heaven, then we’re doing something right!

The funny thing is that Pastor Jonathan was in my office this past week.  And he said, “Our Hispanic members want to know what your goals are”

I wanted to say, “They are one of them!”

15 years ago: 1 Hispanic member; today: 30%.

My dream is coming true.  My hope for the coming year is that we’ll build on our diversity.  Perhaps add more ministry groups, different ethnicities; different generations.

My dream is that we do more things together.  For example, Pastor Johnson from our Kenyan congregation mentioned they were looking into a trip to Israel & Egypt.  I asked if we might join their group.

Can you imagine?  A tour group visiting Israel with 15 black Africans, 15 Hispanics, 15 Caucasians, 15 Asians, all from one church?  What a testimony to the kingdom of God!

And the benefit to us!  We learn so much more from each other.  We learn more about God.  We learn more about the community of faith.  We learn about ourselves.

Let’s build on our diversity!  Let’s celebrate our “multi-ness.”



It’s true, we’re not a business.  Jesus did not commission us to make money.  And while we need to be fiscally responsible, we cannot allow money – or the lack of it – to drive our church.

We are a people who follows God.  We are God’s people.  We are God’s family.  We are God’s kingdom.

Let us continue to build God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.  Let’s continue to find a healthy balance between worship, evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, and service.  Let’s continue to minister here in this unique location where God has called us to be.  And let us continue to celebrate our diversity, exhibiting the kingdom of God and the love of God to our community and the world.


Pastor Lance