Dear Friends of Metro,
After several years in church-planting, I was certain that 2016 would be a year of “coasting”, focusing on greater stability for our leaders. Of course, I was incorrect; I was very wrong. 2016 turned out to be a pivotal year in shaping Metro’s history. The things we learned as a church and leadership will undoubtedly shape the way we do ministry in the future.
The following is a brief summary of how we’ve grown as a church in the past year (with so much to be grateful for):
- In January, we officially brought on two interns: Guirae Jang and Heidi Yun. Guirae served as our first-ever rotational intern, a unique internship that will act as a backbone for equipping and assessing future staff members and church-planters in our network. Heidi served in various capacities, but was mainly involved in the formation of a more intimate team of ministry leaders that make up the operational center of our team. Oh, and by the way, Guirae and Heidi are getting married in June 2017! What an honor to lead them from premarital counseling to their wedding day!
- Our pastoral team (pastors and interns) shares a love and chemistry that’s been born through shared experiences, mutual suffering, and redemptive joy, in a way that’s enabled us to embrace a lot of the challenges we’ve experienced this year. There’s never any loss of laughter or soft moments when we all connect, and our ministry partnership is both a success and joy. I am so grateful for Brian Park, who directs our college fellowship, for Timothy Shin, who oversees and directs our worship team, and for Hee Jun Rho (provisional elder), who currently oversees our hospitality team. So grateful for our pastors and interns—each adding such a different dimension to our ministerial growth, and all such a joy to serve with.
- Speaking of couples, our Couples’ Ministry met 6 times this year. We are hoping to turn this into a 9-time affair in 2017, as it’s been a great opportunity for couples to connect, share in the Word of God, and pray and support one another. There was laughter. There were tears. There was prayer. Our couples are blessed. We’ve seen our baby count explode this year! So much so that we are in plans to build a nursery on the same floor of our main sanctuary by Q1-end in 2017.
- Metro grew at an annual rate of 8% this year; adjusted figures (non-normalized) are closer to 19%. A more amazing figure is that at least 3 out of every 5 people who attend Metro come from an unchurched or dechurched background. We continue to pray for Gospel humility and softness among our congregants—birthing our community into a perseverance and joy amidst suffering that is other-worldly.
- Our Community Group model expanded into two new locations, totaling 7, altogether. We are monitoring growth into 2-3 more groups by year-end 2017.
- Community Group participation remains higher than any national average I’ve seen over the years: over 80% of all congregants at Metro attend a Community Group. To witness those once skeptical of the church now attending a Community Group is a remarkable aspect of our growth (Acts 2:42-47).
- Our Lay Leadership Team has grown to 37 members—all committed to our core values, and Gospel mission and purpose, as a church-planting ministry. Each year-end, we celebrate as a team during our final meeting of the year; I am blessed to see how intimate this team has become, even with our growth. It’s one of my favorite experiences at church each year.
- Our “pastoral cabinet” was launched this year, consisting of 13 lay leaders and pastors, representing the various “departments” of our church operations. Although we are refining this team so that it is focused on excellence in both ministry and operation, we know that we have something special, here.
- With the growth of our community come specific ministerial needs. And so, we’ve seen the consistent growth of our Women’s Fellowship, overseen by my wife Angela, and led by various women leaders. The Addictions Anonymous ministry led by Joshua Kim continues to reach various individuals in our church struggling with substance abuse and rehabilitation needs, among other forms. We’ve also provided support through our meal ministry that provided meals for up to a month for 8 families.
- Although it’s probably one of the largest teams in our church, I treasure the consistency, mutual support, and prayer each Sunday by the hospitality ministry, and the way they engage congregants, visitors, and newcomers. When guests say that Metro is one of the most vibrant and welcoming churches they’ve visited, we know it’s because this team actively paves the way for others.
- Leadership Training and Christian Education are not just necessary in a church at our stage; they are critical. I believe we have a wonderful model for developing and equipping members, and we are committed to training our team with what we believe is the “engine” of our ministry: Gospel transformation of the heart (character above competence), which leads to the transformation of our community and culture.
- This year, on top of our foundational leadership training and membership classes (101-Level), we added the History of Redemption as part of our 201-Level curriculum. We will open 2017 with a series on the Doctrine of the Word.
- Our College Fellowship enjoyed two excellent retreats in 2016, along with the formation of a leadership core within the fellowship. Pastor Brian Park has done an excellent job bringing students from 2-3 universities together in fellowship weekly throughout the school season. We look forward to seeing each student grow attached to a mission and vision that is larger than their own aspirations.
- Our mission extends beyond congregational care, for that matter. This year, we’ve supported, in some monetary form, at least 4 additional church planters in the city.
- Metro also played significant roles in the following for the East Falls community:
- Christmas donations to the Mifflin School
- East Falls Park and Streets Cleanup
- Setup of the wooden slide for the “Castle on Tap” event
- Hosted, and participated in, Christmas Caroling throughout the East Falls region
- During the Lent season, Metro partnered with approximately 50 other churches in the Philadelphia area in the Easter Outreach program, delivering meals to over 5,000 homes—many in our East Falls locale.
- Furthermore, a small team of editors (Kylan Schroeder, Heidi Yun, Hee Jun Rho, Sarah Kim, and Kevin Ro) helped one of our closest friends and partners edit a portion of his book before it was submitted for formal editing and publishing; the book On the Block by Doug Logan, which shares the heart of missional ministry in the city, was launched in the 2016 fall season, and is currently on sale through all major distributors.
And few-to-none of the above actually demonstrates the actual, organic ministry that is transforming the lives of people at our church. The day-to-day meals we share with pastoral team members and other leaders in the church; the week-to-week intimate conversations that take place in Community Groups (or derived from them); the times of prayer we witness among members immediately after Sunday Worship Service; the relationships that are built among residents and businesses in East Falls; the way our members have been challenged to give, and the way their giving directly impacts the lives of others; and the way a sermon, hymn, training session, adult Sunday School lesson, counseling session, ministry leaders’ meeting, or meal gathering during Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Maundy Thursday impact the lives of people regularly.
That said, we look ahead to the following:
- A rekindled commitment to prayer. With all gravity, church movements are built on prayer and are sustained by prayer. Any contribution we make to this beautiful city will be a lasting result of our prayers for it.
Second, we are in the process of building:
- Continued, sustainable ministry for the years to come (internally), and a more intimate partnership with the East Falls community and businesses so that we can advance the prosperity of the city (Jeremiah 29:5-7); we’ve developed great relationships in East Falls thus far, and will not rest until we are a friend to everyone within a quarter-mile radius of our location.
- A true, renewed strategy and commitment to our growing toddlers’ and children’s ministries. This is a critical initiative for 2017 that will take about 1-2 years of sustainable development.
Lastly, we look ahead to the following as a part of our calling and mission:
- A plan for the next stage of our church-planting: our next 2 sites, and a training program for future resident church-planters.
- A more intimate partnership with specific church-planters (and networks) in our city with whom we can engage, learn from, and dream together. The Lord blessed us with close friends whom we love and trust.
Were there difficulties and losses? Of course. We stood on the front lines of our church’s history and witnessed and experienced them all with tears and groaning. But I will be the first to say that all of our experiences shaped us to further affirm our calling and values, our place in the city, and with whom we stand and partner with. It has made the difficulties understandable, the losses bearable, and the brokenness memorable. All for God’s glory and our good.
I want to thank everyone who has served or given, and is faithfully serving and giving in our ministry efforts and worship. I strongly encourage you to recommit to the Lord our God for 2017—in greater service and acts of generosity, as we share in this amazing vision together—to make Metro a place of renewal, hope, and transcendent joy in Jesus Christ in the lives of our friends, in East Falls, and in this unique, captivating city that God has placed us. You are my joy and crown (Philippians 4:1), and I can’t wait to enter 2017 with you all.