Mesmerizing. That is how I would describe it. Clinking glass. Mechanical harmony. Vintage precision. The potion goes in. A cap inexplicably finds its way tightly atop the glass sculpture. A banner is wrapped around it, artfully proclaiming the goodness inside. As I found myself pressing up against the window, I am not sure who was more entranced – my 6- and 4-year-old children or me. We sat down at our table with mom and baby brother, gleefully sipping on our bottomless glass of Fitz’s root beer.
If you have been to Fitz’s in the Loop, you know this experience quite well. At the back of the restaurant, children from ages 1 through 99 line up to watch the bottle works at work. It is truly a sight to behold and marvel over. When I pick up a 4-pack of Fitz’s ginger ale or root beer from the local grocer, I never see it the same having watched the production in living color.
In my role at Central, I get a similar view of our ministry “bottle works.” As your Executive Administrator, I get to see first hand on a daily basis all that goes in to the amazing work of our Heavenly Father in and through Central. Every Thursday morning, I get an up close and personal look in a very unique way. That is the day of the week when I review checks going out to make ministry happen. Like every bottle rolling through Fitz’s mechanical wonderland, I get to see how the money that you give to Central is making a huge difference.
This past month, for example, I had the privilege of reviewing our quarterly payments to myriad missionaries and mission agencies around the world. For the fourth time this year, we sent more than $125,000 out to make the gospel known. Representing more than half a million dollars annually, this money is touching lives from France to the Philipines, from Honduras to Hungary, from India to Argentina. More than 50 missionaries worldwide receive support from Central’s annual operating budget. Over 25 local mission agencies receive support as well. We make significant contributions to ministries like Thrive and their ministry to the unborn; Promise Academy and their ministry to the disabled; Mission Gate and their work to restore recently released men and women from jail; Sunshine Ministries, Urban K-Life and so many more. Nationally, we support the Gideons, Emmaus, Lay Renewal and others. As I watch this money go out from our operating budget, I am utterly amazed at how much Central is doing to make the gospel known in so many areas near and far.
When I walk the halls of our church campus, my view is even better. One of my favorite “windows” is our kitchen. Julie Kraus and her band of merry-makers are seemingly always there preparing the next big meal for the next big event. I can barely throw together a bowl of cereal for myself – seriously - so to watch this team do what they do on such a large scale is mind-boggling. Many of you have volunteered with Julie and you see this first-hand. With just a little more than $50,000 from the operating budget each year, Julie is continuously turning water into wine and helping us all to maintain our winter warming weight. It is an inspiring and fruitful ministry.
The other night I needed to find a quiet corner in the church to finish a few bits of paperwork. I sat down outside of the sanctuary and began to type away on my laptop. Yes, I always have my laptop. It’s kind of like a security blanket for me. And just as I did a heavenly chorus quietly and magnetically filled the lobby with the most beautiful sounds. Have you heard our choir recently under the direction of Matt Mazzoni? Truly beautiful, and it is art that stirs the heart of even this task-oriented administrator to places of wonder and awe. Our budget keeps the choir outfitted with the technology and materials needed to help us worship well together.
And then there is that magical wing of our building just through the choir room to the south. I love walking through our nursery and early childhood wing, especially on a Sunday morning. Our children, from the earliest ages, are being fed the word of God from teachers who really care and from curriculum that engages the hearts and minds of these little ones. My family and I were members of Central for a number of years before I joined the staff, and our children have experienced the blessing of this side of Central’s ministry since they were in diapers. I never cease to tear up at home when one of them just randomly rings out a memory verse that they’ve learned. How beautiful and formative is it that our children are having the word of God built into their hearts at these early ages? Whatever we are paying our nursery workers and teachers, it is not nearly enough. Not to mention so many of the faithful and talented volunteers! Speaking from firsthand experience, this is truly one of the most special facets of Central’s ministry.
Two of my children are now school-age, and they both attend Central Christian School – our school – across the street. I cannot speak well enough about the wonderful things that God is doing at our school. I have the pleasure of dropping my kids off each morning, and as I walk out the doors I daily find myself giving thanks and praise to God for all that He is doing in that school. Our children are growing up with a biblical world view, and in an academically excellent way. These young ones will undoubtedly be a force for the gospel in the world no matter where God calls them because of how they are being equipped now. In St. Louis, we like to ask each other where you went to high school because it is a sign of so many things. It is the wrong question, friends. The right question is where did you go to elementary school! That is where our children begin to build on the firm foundation that is theirs in Jesus. Did you know hat Central contributes nearly $300,000 every year to our school in the form of cash, staff resources, and building maintenance? Did you know that the building belongs to the church, and creates a rent and debt free environment that allows us to keep tuition affordable? The root beer that comes out of this machine is some of the finest we make.
In the same way that I could stand in front of Fitz’s window for hours, I could write so much more about what I get to see here through the proverbial “windows” at Central. We have a team of talented and committed staff that pour their hearts and souls into serving you and the broader church. Our student ministry is growing and flourishing in its new building. We are investing in better audio for the sanctuary, website improvements, and new ways to communicate. Evangelism is an area where we are making new investments to be more intentional about making known the gospel to those in our nearby community. We are doing new things to make Central a more welcoming church. We have a new ministry to widows. The list could literally go on and on.
Friends, my view of what you make possible at Central is truly amazing. I see it daily, in living color. Be encouraged. Your generosity to Central has a profound, daily impact for the gospel.