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It’s about noon, Eastern Standard Time, and I’m enjoying a cup of coffee in Galveston, TX. We close the office between Christmas and New Year’s and I took the family south to Texas. I believe it’s called a vacation. For the record, the coffee probably would have tasted better in Florida … but that’s in the past.

This past year has brought change to our lives and loves, as time has a habit of doing. Our oldest daughter graduated high school and started college. Our youngest daughter got her driving permit. Tonya continues to love her first-graders. Me? I got older and a little bit wiser.

Progress doesn’t always unfold in a straight line. But if you end ahead of where you started, that is progress.

In my line of work progress can be a bit fuzzy. Pastors and preachers are tempted to measure progress in terms of heads and dollars. In the hotel business they speak of “butts and beds” – an unbaptized view of the same thing. To measure progress we ask, “Did we have more people in the seats and more dollars in the offering?”

Generally speaking, that’s a helpful indicator if progress is happening. But it can also be misleading. Additional numbers don’t necessarily indicate health or the presence of life-change. I do believe healthy organizations grow – therefore, numbers should be moving in a growing direction as well.

As I reflect on the last 12 months at Mountainview, I’m encouraged, challenged, and excited.

I’m encouraged by the fact that we baptized 39 people, many of whom have been at our church for less than two years. Baptism is a great indicator of life-change. I’m also encouraged to meet people who were first invited by a friend – another great indicator of life-change. These along with a great staff and leadership and growing ministries keep me encouraged.

Looking back also reminds me of the challenges we face. Turning around any organization, but especially a church, is not an easy task. Honestly, it’s hard work. Having started a church from scratch, I can tell you that revitalizing an existing church is even harder than beginning with nothing. We face challenges with having enough volunteers, needing to grow our giving, and the general day-to-day challenges of maintaining morale.

But as I look ahead into 2016 I’m also very excited about our future. Who wouldn’t be excited about living where we do, doing what we do, and serving the God we serve? I fully expect 2016 to be filled with even more changes because that’s what progress brings. Every change will be an opportunity to grow, stretch, discover, and learn. More importantly, they are opportunities to glorify and magnify the One who brings the ultimate progress.

No one can predict the future but we have been given the privilege of helping shape it. That’s encouraging, challenging, and exciting to me.

I hope you will find the time to reflect on the past 12 months. Learn what you can, discard what you must. But keep your eyes looking ahead and may 2016 be a year of wonderful opportunities for you.