*Tonight at our annual SVCC family meeting, I briefly reflected on many things that happened among our faith family during 2014. Below are the thoughts I shared in the form of a letter.
Dear Faith Family of SVCC,
This is the third time I have had the opportunity to reflect on what all has transpired among us over the course of a year. I find myself wondering if such reflection will ever feel routine, as each year is so distinct. 2014 brought it’s own host of new ways in which we experienced God’s grace. Truly his mercies are new morning by morning, month by month, and I feel like I can now say, year by year.
I do not mean to make it sound like 2014 was just a fantastical adventure of epic proportions. In many ways it was quite normal, and in others, quite exceptional. My family experienced some of the most difficult days we’ve ever known last spring. Then, by winter we had seen God’s faithfulness unfold more beautifully than ever before. And yet, scattered throughout these crazy highs and lows were mostly normal, mundane days filled with changing diapers, homeschooling, cooking meals, working, talking, offending, forgiving… you know… just walking through life.
Last year held both the miraculous and the mundane for my family… and I feel like it was the same for us as a faith family. Through 2014 we saw God miraculously give sight to the physically blind and the spiritually blind. We got to see some new brothers and sisters become a part of the body of Christ and we worshipped as nine went through the baptismal waters. God continued to bless us with new families, singles and just a couple of college students. We had to buy new chairs and Student Life donated some on top of that! One of our kid’s classes outgrew their room and had to move. A new community group and men’s fellowship began this year and we even survived having five interns. Truly, God has worked in miraculous ways among us.
Yet, it is also crucial for us to see how the Lord has worked through the “mundane.” Last January, when Snowpocalypse struck, I watched many of you open your homes to each other, even to complete strangers. You needed no recognition, but simply served those in need. This servant like heart has not just been evident during random Birmingham blizzards, but I’ve seen it week to week through your faithful service to one another. So many of you are faithful in the ministries to which the Lord has called you… women’s and men’s ministry, prayer, farmer’s market, community exchange, finance, hospitality, decorators, worship, facilities, and on and on the list goes.
And, your not just faithful within these walls, but wherever the Lord has called you. I often am asked what Shades does to minister in our city. Through these kinds of questions, I feel like people are looking for miraculous testimonies of “big things” done by an organization. I tell them that I don’t have those kinds of stories to share. What I have is much more mundane. If you want to know what Shades does, then I have to tell you stories about people… because Shades is people.
I tell stories about families going through adoption classes in hopes of bringing home children who have no home… stories of people who have designed city-wide events to connect with others in their profession who don’t know Christ. I talk about college students who have consistently, graciously shared the Gospel with their exchange-student roommates. I speak of people who share weekly meals with the Birmingham houseless community… of people fighting sex trafficking, others ministering to nomads, and some who are foster parents. I talk about how I’ve seen people pour into one another’s lives over coffee or give counsel around their kitchen counter… or how I’ve seen brothers and sisters in the faith hold each other through tears and joys…through deaths, weddings, and births.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of what “Shades” does, because Shades is made up of a couple hundred missionaries who come together week after week to pray, love, support, disciple one another, and then go into various sectors of our city and minister in all sorts of ways.
All this happens through the mundane. Through normal people, empowered by the Holy Spirit, daily living out their faith. It’s not flashy. It’s simple-faithfulness. And, in truth, it’s not mundane… it is actually miraculous. If I have learned anything in my time at Shades… it is that the mundane is precisely where our God loves to work his miraculous power so that it is obviously his work. He gets the glory and we get the joy!
After three years of living life as part of this community, I find myself still desiring to enter into the mundane alongside of you, equipped with the miraculous Gospel. You are my family, and week after week I’m so thankful that it is with you I get to go into the world in peace, having courage, holding on to what is good, honoring all men, strengthening the faint-hearted, supporting the weak, helping the suffering, and sharing the Gospel. I get to watch you all love and serve the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit. We get to see the grace of our lord Jesus Christ make every “mundane” moment miraculous. And to that my heart says, along with all God’s people, amen and amen!
I love you all,