*Tonight at our annual SVCC family meeting, I briefly reflected on many things that happened among our faith family during 2015. Below are the thoughts I shared in the form of a letter.
Here we are again. Another year has passed and I continue to wonder if I will ever actually figure out how to be a pastor. Every time I think I have a grasp on this thing called ministry, something changes, and I find myself relearning everything I thought I already knew. Last year was no exception to this trend. Looking back over 2015 at SVCC, I feel like I can say that everything has changed… yet nothing has changed.
Let me see if I can explain what I mean. Everything has changed. For instance, just a few years ago there were about 70 members at Shades and now there are over 170. We used to set up 250 chairs for Sunday mornings and now we set up over 400 and are almost ready to open two balconies. We used to have two community groups and now there are basically thirteen. Everything has changed!
Yet, nothing has changed. We are still family no matter how many of us there may be. This space still feels like our living room no matter how many chairs we cram into it. I still get to watch our community groups pray, study, and be on mission together as they grow in love for Christ and one another. Nothing has changed.
Still, everything has changed. I mean, a few years ago, we were praying that God would provide the funds for a new roof. That seemed impossible, but now we are getting a final price and beginning construction as soon as possible! Not long ago we were praying that the Lord would allow us to see spiritual adoptions among us and now we’ve almost grown used to seeing several baptisms each year. Likewise, I remember how we prayed together for the Lord to grant physical adoptions in many of our families, and now we ooh and ahh together over the answers to those prayers. I recall how we’ve prayed for the Lord to send members of our body to the ends of the earth for the sake of the Gospel, and now there are people connected with Shades on every continent except Antarctica (we are taking applications). Everything has changed.
Yet, nothing has changed. We are still a people of prayer! We still pray for God to move in our midst and let us to see more spiritual and physical adoptions. We are still passionate about the Gospel being preached to all peoples, so we continue to pray for the Lord to raise up missionaries from our body to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the ureached. Nothing has changed.
Still, everything has changed. Just four short years ago, I remember celebrating as one to two babies were born amongst and now the number of new births per year is consistently close to double digits. Likewise, in my first few years at Shades, I would only do one or two weddings a year, but last year I officiated seven. We definitely gather more often to celebrate, but we also gather more often to mourn. There was a time when we only had to assembled about once a year to grieve the passing of someone from this life to the next, and now this seems to be a much more regular rhythm in the life of our community. Everything has changed.
Yet, nothing has changed. When we celebrate together, we still do it with the same explosive joy that is rooted in Jesus. And when we grieve, we still do it as a people whose feet are anchored to an everlasting hope. I don’t think that anything has affected my faith more than grieving with this community. They way you surround each other, walk with one another for the long haul, and hope for joy in Jesus when it seems all hope is lost…that has given me more confidence in the glory of Christ than anything else I have witnessed in this world. You have taught me the meaning of 2 Corinthians 6:10, “…sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” Nothing has changed.
Everything has changed, yet nothing has changed.
So… as we head into 2016, it may feel like many things are different… and that is because they are, but we will continue to be the same Shades. We will still be the same, weird Shades family that gathers at the same time each week to sing the same praise, wave the same flags, sit around the same Word, eat from the same bread, drink from the same cup, and go into the same 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. Our mission will still be to love and serve the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit, and our prayer will still be that the grace of our lord Jesus Christ would be with us all, and we will still be God’s people who week after week say, “Amen.”
I love you all,