You partnered with God to transform lives…
Stories & Moments
"Where'd you get this grace thing?"
This fall, Pastor Jeff was meeting with a man who had recently started attending Ezra Church on Sundays. The man asked, “So, where did you get this grace thing?” Although he had spent most of his life in and around church settings, the abundant life and grace of Jesus was something new to him. “You don’t just preach it, your people live it.” We have good news to share with our words and our lives.
Every church thinks they are friendly, but…
It is not uncommon for people to be friendly to those they know and like. The true mark of a welcoming church is what it’s like to be a new person coming in for the first time. At Ezra, every Sunday is someone’s first Sunday. We regularly hear how welcoming we are, and recently a first time guest said this was the most welcoming place she had ever been, and she couldn’t wait to come back and bring one of her friends.
"I'm not going to pray."
It can feel uncomfortable and intimidating to pray out loud with other people. In one of our Ezra growth groups this fall a woman was concerned that she was going to have to pray out loud with the group. She said she would come to the group but, “I’m not going to pray.” Of course, no one is required to pray out loud at a group. However, by the end of the group semester, this woman discovered that she didn’t need special words or to feel judged by what she said. The openness and realness of her group helped her take a next step, and she prayed together with other people for the first time. Growing people change.
Life to the fullest
We all long to experience fullness of life, but don’t always know where to find that. At Ezra, we are convinced that Jesus leads us to this way of life. In 2019 our teaching and groups included more intentional tools and direction to help us all discover more of life to the fullest.
This summer we celebrated Jamie’s baptism. She shared this story of her faith journey:
I grew up going to a small country church. I participated in youth group and went to church camp every summer growing up. I loved my relationship with God and I knew he was with me all the time.
When I was 20 years old my brother passed away. The autopsy report came back inconclusive, there was no reason why he died. He just went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up. I can’t put into words how much that hurt me and my family.
I turned 21 a few months after he passed away and turned to alcohol, I received an OWI during that time. I used alcohol to cope with the pain and the hurt. My brother was my best friend and my rock. He was in Grey’s Anatomy terms “my person.”
I began to question everything I thought I knew and felt about life and about God. If God was watching over me and my family why would he do this to us. Why would God take someone as good of a person as my brother. I bargained with God to bring my brother back. I stopped believing for a long time because there was no way the God I grew up knowing would do this to my family and I. If God loved me why would he do this?
It took me years to get to a place of wanting to find peace with God. Losing my brother was the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. I started talking to people of different religions because I still questioned what I thought I believed. I read bits and pieces of the Bible.
Last year I started talking to my best friend Ashley about going to church again. She was actually going to Ezra at the time. It took me a while to get on board but I finally took a huge step for myself and started attending.
The first time I stepped into Ezra I was in awe of how amazing and real all the people were that talked to me. It felt like home the first time I came to Ezra. It took me 7 years to want to reconnect with God and have a relationship with him. It wasn’t easy at first but as time went on my life started changing.
I remember a service earlier this year that talked about putting all your trust in God. I was reflecting on that as I was driving home. I took a deep breath and decided to trust Jesus with my story. In that moment, something inside me shifted. I felt peace with God. I was baptized this summer because I put all my faith and trust in him.
Looking back and reflecting on my life God was always there with me I felt so bitter towards him that I ignored him. It’s crazy to me how much my life changed and how much happier I became when I surrendered my life to God.
A Few More Moments & Highlights
Your church is known by what we’re FOR. We are FOR our community
Serving In Our City
This year our groups served our community with hundreds of volunteer hours supporting…
- Syttende Mai Helpers Team
- Gathering Table Meals
- Personal Essentials Pantry
- Stoughton Area Senior Center
- Stoughton Food Pantry
- The River Food Pantry
Students making a difference
Serving others is a big part of our student ministries. It’s a great way to put faith in the action and see it grow. Here are a few ways our students in grades 6 to 12 lived out being FOR our community this year:
- Collected food for Stoughton Food Pantry
- Caroled & visited Skaalen Home
- Baked meals for Ronald McDonald House
- Sent encouraging notes & gifts to Stoughton first responders
Lunches For Vikings
Lunches For Vikings is a volunteer led program that offers free brown bag lunches to kids in the Stoughton Area School District during the 12 weeks of summer break when they no longer have access to the free or reduced lunch at school. They prepare the lunches at the Stoughton Area Youth Center and distribute them Monday – Friday at three sites around Stoughton. This past summer, Lunches For Vikings packed and served 3,355 lunches over the course of 58 days. Ezra Volunteers packed 1200 lunches.That filled a lot of local kids’ hungry bellies.
CHRISTMAS FOR STOUGHTON 2019
Jesus gives the life we’ve been waiting for
Christmas For Stoughton Offering
- Christmas For Stoughton Offering ($725) 100% 100%
- Lunches For Vikings ($250) 35% 35%
- Stoughton Area Resource Team ($250) 35% 35%
- Ezra Compassion Fund ($225) 30% 30%
A look at our income and expenses…
Revised Budget Income
Behind the Numbers
In early 2019 we significantly revised our budget to better align with actual income projections. Our staff’s excellent stewardship met ministry needs while also growing our financial margin by the end of the year.
Better yet, together we prayerfully sought God’s leading and provision. The Ezra family responded with faith and generosity. We live with open hands.
2019: A Season of Becoming
Seeking Jesus together, we are learning his unforced rhythms of grace. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Prayer Leads the Way
As 2019 began with financial and staffing challenges, we prayed together. We invited God to move in our hearts. Our response was one of beauty and generosity. This contemplative practice of prayer has permeated how we function, relate to each other, and lean more fully on God. His plan and provision is in everything.
Living with Open Hands
Pastor Jeff’s sabbatical was an opportunity for growth in our leaders, teachers, and volunteers. We learned to seek God’s wisdom and strength, in and for our church and community. We grew in our experiences, our character, and our faith during this season. We united to care for each other.
Growing People Change
Core groups, “Discover the Power of Your Voice”, “Staying Present and Productive”, and other personal growth trainings ear-marked 2019 as our year of change. Spiritual practices like breath prayers, meditation, and repeated reading of scripture verses (lectio divina) were introduced in our faith journey.
We had a good 2019, Ezra Church. It was full, challenging, yet rich with moments of peace and delight. In our season of dire need back in March 2019, you prayed corporately with us:
Thank you, God, for my church.
May we honor you in all we do.
Our desire is to partner with you
to transform lives and bless our city.
Now, break my heart for what breaks yours. May my life and generosity reflect my heart.
How are you leading me to help provide for your work through Ezra Church? I want to say yes to your best in my life.
Give me courage to respond in faith as you lead. Thank you for blessing and leading me.
Today we are grateful. We celebrate God’s provision and your response in generosity.
We start 2020 with renewed hope and purpose. We invite you to prayfully seek God with us, and for us, as we walk this faith journey. We are better together.
Your Next Step?
Would you consider taking a next step in you faith journey and with you church? Perhaps you’re next step is to join a group… serve on a team.. commit to giving regularly… pray? In 2020, let’s keep growing together.
Find A Group
Circles are better than rows.
Groups at Ezra provide everyone the opportunity to pursue authentic community and spiritual growth. Find your group today.
Setup Regular Giving
Could you setup regular online giving?
Your consistent faith-fueled generosity will help keep us on track for the year ahead.
I love my church!
With your help in 2020, we can…
Family Focused Ministry
Culture of Abundance & Generosity
Be the Church
Life with Jesus is about just that: our life. It’s lived out in every day places in ordinary ways. Our 2020 focus will help you live that out with others. Groups will be more open and available. Learn some spiritual practices to deepen your faith and cope with the stresses of life in the support of community.