by Jonathan Haefs
*Last night, at our annual SVCC family meeting, I briefly reflected on 2017. Below are the thoughts I shared in the form of a letter.
My Dearest Shades Valley,
With each passing year, Holly and I feel the Lord sinking our roots deeper into this community. It is still my prayer that Shades will be the only church I ever pastor. To that end, Holly and I recently purchased a new house that we hope will be our forever home. We are sinking our roots deep and not just geographically, but relationally. As you know, at the end of 2017, we found out we are expecting our fifth child…another little boy. This means that more than half of our children will have been born during our days at Shades, and you are helping to raise all of them! You are their family. You are our family. And, we are daily in awe that God has graced us with you. We continue to sink our roots deeper into this community because this community has sunk its roots deep into us.
Shades is a place with deep roots which have a way of digging into your heart, grabbing hold, and never letting go. I believe this is so because of the ultimate ground in which we, as a church, are rooted… the ground of the Gospel. And, we will only continue to be the community God has created us to be if our roots remain in the Gospel. Therefore, it is vital that we constantly remind ourselves of how everything we do is rooted in the glory of Jesus. This is why, at Shades, we talk about four roots or four ways that we dig down into the glory of Christ: Worship, Serving, Community and Mission. And, just like my family’s roots have pushed down deeper into Shades this year, I believe that we, as a faith family, have pushed our four roots down deeper into Christ in 2017. Let me mention just a few ways, not to brag on us but to boast in God’s grace, for all we do is empowered by being rooted in him.
So… in 2017, we sank the root of Worship ever deeper into the Word as we continued our journey through the Gospel of John. We also spent the Lenten season digging into what it means to be a cruciform community; and, through the Word, God continued to conform us to the cross of Christ. He has also shaped us through music as our worship team has kept on writing new songs that ever put the praise of Jesus on our lips. Rumor has it that pretty soon you may be able to carry a couple of these songs with you wherever go. Deeper still the root of worship grew as our art’s ministry hosted “The Feast.” They led us to worship Jesus through the symbolism of Passover via all sorts of artistic mediums. So, whether in word, song, or art, all our worship has and will continue to aim at rooting us in Christ.
Likewise, the root of Serving grew in 2017. I cannot possibly list all the ways you volunteer and sacrifice yourselves for one another, and your serving continues to grow year after year. Two examples from 2017 of new serving ministries come to mind. First, Shades of Motherhood has reached out to serve moms within and beyond our community. It has been amazing to hear testimonies of how so many have been cared for and encouraged through times of celebration and mourning. Second, the WRAP ministry has engendered a new awareness in our body concerning the needs of adoptive and foster families. Further, they continue to enlist new volunteers to help met these needs. All of this is happening from the bottom up, not the top down. These ministries haven’t been designed, planned, and executed by the staff. No. God’s people, you, have answered the call to take all you’ve been equipped with and use it to serve one another, pointing each other to Christ. Your serving roots us deeper in Jesus.
Now, the root of Community grew like a weed with incredible speed in 2017. I’m not even going to guess how many children were born among us last year, but it is an observable fact that our nursery is buried in babies. We are literally making disciples! And, there is no sign this multiplication will slow down any time soon, for we also had an abundance of weddings in 2017 (including our own discipleship pastor…finally). All joking aside, last year the Lord added to our community through new community groups, new leaders, and new partnerships with other Homewood churches. We shared in Lenten devotionals and a Reformation celebration with brothers and sisters from across our city; and, I believe, the Lord is going to use this unity more and more for the spread of the Gospel. The purpose, the root of our community is Christ!
And finally, if all our worship, serving, and community are rooted in the glory of Jesus then our Mission must be also! We are a people who long for Christ’s glory to be known from Birmingham to the ends of the earth. And, last year our root of mission dug down as we saw new believers come to faith and be baptized. It dug down through the West Homewood Farmer’s Market continuing to connect with the surrounding neighborhood. It dug down through sending a hurricane relief team to Florida and a mission team to Cambodia. It dug down through the commissioning of people out from our body to domestic as well as Global mission. And it continues to dig down as we persevere in prayer for the Lord to raise up more laborers for his harvest. We have been and must continue to be a people whose mission is rooted in the glory of Jesus!
So, Shades…in 2018, let’s sink our roots even deeper! Through all our worship, serving, community, and mission let’s delve into the infinite depths of Jesus. Let’s 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. Let’s love and serve the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit, knowing that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is with us all. Let’s sink our roots deeper into the glory of Jesus because he has sunk the roots of his love deep into us.
I love you all,