Church Newsletter For Christmas, 2003
I'm very pleased to write to you this Christmas and wish each of you a joyous holiday. I've decided to do something a little different for this year's Christmas newsletter. Normally I give news covering the past year illustrated with a number of Christmas style graphics. But this year I've decided to post pictures sent in to our church from some of our members who participate regularly on our church's Bulletin Board. These are the folks who keep the fellowship of our church active, regularly supporting, encouraging, and praying for our members and visitors who come to our church's web site. Of course, there's still a wealth of Christmas graphics available on our past issues of our Christmas newsletter, and you can access them on our Newsletter Archive Page.
Well, it's been a bit of a tumultuous year this past year, but God is good and He continues to bless this ministry and its members and ministers. As most of you probably know, we had to change the format of our School Of Biblical Studies so that we award Certificates of Completion rather than degrees. This was done to bring the school in line with requirements of the State of Georgia (my home state and the state our ministry is incorporated in). While this caused some disappointment for some of our members and visitors, I had no choice but to take the necessary actions to protect this ministry that has come to mean so much to so many folks around the world. After all, the main mission of this ministry has always been to evangelize Christ and to help others in their calling to His work, and that must remain its primary focus if it is to continue to do that work successfully. I do apologize to everyone for any inconvenience this may have caused them, but I think our ministry will ultimately be a better, stronger ministry for having taken the steps it has. And I'm very grateful to everyone who has shown support, patience, and understanding during this time of transition.
Even with everything the ministry has been through the past year, God continues to bless our little church greatly. The church web site continues to get a respectable amount of traffic, and we have new members joining every day. I only wish that more of our members would participate in our Bulletin Board Fellowship. The folks whose pictures you see in this issue are all regular participants of the Bulletin Board Fellowship, and are truly a great bunch of folks. Many more regular participants weren't able to send in their photographs, so the pictures here only represent a small precentage of our regular posters. If you've ever visited our Bulletin Board, then I'm sure you'll recognize many of their names. I would have liked to have added more pictures, but I'm very grateful to everyone who was able to send in their photos. And I also realize that, while we have a sizable number of regular posters, we also have a large number of visitors who "lurk" on the board, and for one reason or another simply aren't able or aren't comfortable posting on the internet. I do know that all the prayer requests posted on the bulletin board are prayed on by many members all over the world, and we've seen the power of prayer evidenced in the lives of our regular posters. So, if you've never been to the board, or haven't been there lately, do be sure and visit and take part in our fellowship. I know you'll find it very edifying, and find true friends among our members.
Of course, the Bulletin Board isn't the only interactive feature of our ministry web site. We also have Prayer Request Page dedicated to prayer requests from our members and visitors and the responses to those requests. For those who prefer a more spontaneous and simultaneous interaction with other members, our site offers two different chat rooms, and you'll find links to those on the front page of our web site at www.ficotw.org. Some of our members try and meet regularly in the chat rooms on Sunday evenings, but it's difficult to arrange a time that's convenient with our members located in time zones all over the world. But if you'd like to chat in either of the chat rooms, give them a visit, and if no one's there, post a message on the bulletin board letting us know when you'll be in the chat room and I'm sure you'll be joined by some other members. One thing I'd like to clarify about both the Prayer Request Page and the chat rooms, though. Unlike the Bulletin Board, those pages are hosted by "free hosting services", which provide the service free of charge to our church, but in exchange they do run some advertising on the pages, advertising which we have no control over, and which sometimes features links to sites of dubious quality or taste. I do apologize for that, but it's a trade-off, and I ask you to simply ignore any advertising that offends you. Or send an e-mail to the hosting service and let them know that the advertising is in dubious taste to you as a Christian, and maybe we can influence them to exercise a bit more discretion. Again, your patience and understanding is a blessing.
I'd like to take a moment now and express to each of you what a blessing you are not just to this ministry, but also to me, personally. As we draw to the end of our seventh complete year as an active ministry on the internet, I can look back on many times, both high and low. Throughout, you folks have been there for me, as I've tried to be there for you.
At one point over the past year I faced a particularly difficult time, and even asked for help on the bulletin board. Many of you responded and made it possible for me to pull through my difficulty until things improved again. You really came through for me, and I want you to know what a blessing you were and how much it meant to me. Since then, in addition to maintaining the day to day operation of the church I've also begun working a full time job. While this unfortunately takes away from the time I can devote to this ministry, it also helps insure that it will survive and continue to prosper, so I count it as a blessing to be able to work full time in addition to serving this ministry. I'm grateful to our Lord for having the opportunity and ability to work a regular job in addition to my ministry work, and I praise Him for making both possible.
Forgive me if the design of this newsletter gets a bit sloppy, as I'm trying to include all the photographs our members sent in for this issue. It's been a real treat to me to finally be able to put a "face" with so many names, some of whom I've known over the internet for five, six, even seven years. If you'll notice the dates on the photographs, you'll see they cover many of the years our church has been in existance. Throughout that time, we've always been a diverse group of folks from a wide variety of backgrounds, and I believe that's part of the strength of our fellowship here at the First International Church Of The Web and Saint Luke Evangelical Christian Ministries. While our membership is predominately drawn from the United States, we also have members from all over North and South America, from Europe, Asia, Asia Minor, Africa, Australia and the Pacific, the Middle East - basically all over the world. That's part of what makes our fellowship here so wonderful. But it's not just the diversity of cultures that our membership represents that makes it great, it's the quality of the character of our members that makes our fellowship so warm and inviting. I'm grateful to you for that, and to our Lord for bringing each of you into this fellowship and into my life, and the lives of our other members.
Of course, our fellowship with each other is only one part of what makes our lives rich as Christians. What really brings joy to our hearts is reaching out to others with the saving message that Jesus Christ is Lord, and sharing His Salvation with a lost world. I pray that each of us will find a way this blessed holiday to reach out beyond our regular circle of friends and loved ones and share the true meaning of Christmas with someone who needs Christ in their lives. While there's nothing wrong with the traditional activities and trappings of the Christmas holiday, let's not let them distract us from the true meaning of Christmas. This is the day we celebrate the birth of Our Lord and Savior, and Christmas should never be separated from the saving gospel of Christ. So reach out and share the Good News this Christmas - it's truly the best gift you can share with anyone!
Well, folks, this is about going to do it for this year's Christmas newsletter. I'd like to thank again all those members who sent in their photographs to be included in this newsletter. I think our members will enjoy "meeting" the other members they've been chatting and corresponding with throughout the years. I know there are many who would have liked to send in their pics, but weren't able to this year, so I'd like to encourage our members to add their photographs to their posts on the bulletin board, if they're comfortable doing so. There are still a couple of pictures I think you'll enjoy, so be sure and scroll down the page and view them. They include Brother Lance Micklus and Sister Dianne Micklus, two of the earliest members of our church and the official Vice-Presidents of our ministry. You'll also find my personal Christmas card to each of you. Thank you for reading our newsletter, and thanks again for participating in our church. May the peace and joy of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you this season and throughout the year. Thanks again, and God bless you.
Yours in Christ,