Members and Friends of First Church,
A new decade has begun, and 2020 is certainly off to a strong start across Southwest Florida. Even the weekly attendance figures at First Church—the only data to which I have ready access—seem to suggest that this season is the busiest ever across our area. We see crowded roads and golf courses, restaurants and doctor’s offices; we see new homes popping up like mushrooms and visitors arriving at our local airport in record numbers. This is certainly a wonderful place to live—and the secret is obviously getting out to more and more people “up north” and elsewhere.
Our worship services, classes and Bible studies, and our concerts and guest speakers continue to welcome people in very high numbers. The pastors and leaders of the church were blessed to host more than 50 guests at our latest Discover First evening, and most of them have decided to join our church. Currently, our membership is at an all-time high of approximately 2,700 adults, plus our children.
We were surprised in late January (when the financial books were closed on the fiscal year of 2019) to find that we ended the year with a deficit (greater expenses than contributions). This was the first year in many that we have not ended with a balanced budget. We lost some faithful givers in the past year (who either moved away to be near family or who passed away), but I had expected that the giving of our new members would compensate for that. We go into the 2020 budget year wondering if last year was a trend or a one-time blip. First Church depends on your financial gifts to sustain all aspects of our Kingdom work, here at home and through church-supported missions across the globe. If you are in a position to make an extra gift this year, I would greatly appreciate it. Please join me in praying that God will prompt generosity and faithfulness across our congregation, as our response to His blessings.
In the months to come we are looking forward to completing two special projects to improve the experience of attending First Church: a right-turn lane on Bonita Beach Road
to provide safer access to our campus, and larger restrooms to accommodate higher usage (especially during concerts attended by the community). The turn lane project is scheduled to begin in early May, and the restroom expansion will be done during the summer months.
All Americans are aware of the importance of the upcoming elections in the fall of this year. Not only will we choose a President and a Congress, but locally the citizens of Bonita Springs will be electing a new mayor and council members. I am gratified that our BookCenter has sold over 400 copies of the new Pray for America Bible. This paperback (a mere $12) contains not only the entire Scripture divided into daily readings, but also many beautiful prayers that we can offer to the Lord for our nation in this critical year. The prayers and readings are non-partisan but reflect a profound awareness that America was founded on a vision of morality and faith.
I continue to be profoundly grateful for the talented and dedicated men and women who have become part of our staff here at First Church. In my more than 40 years of pastoral ministry I have never worked with such a gifted team of all-stars!
May the Lord’s blessings be upon you for the rest of this year.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Doug Pratt