A Good, Long Year
*On Sunday, at our annual SVCC family meeting, I briefly reflected on 2022. Below are the thoughts I shared in the form of a letter.
My Dearest Shades Valley,
We all know that the older we get, the faster time seems to move, and I would say that is usually true from me, but not last year… not in 2022. Last year felt long, but in the best way possible. Let me explain.
When 2022 began, we were still in two services. Doesn’t that seem like ages ago? When 2022 began, I was still preaching through The Sermon On The Mount, the SVCC kitchen was still under construction, and my son, Levi, was still shorter than his mom. All of that feels like forever ago, and I believe that is because God has been at work so much in our midst over the last 365 days. When I look at the great things he has done, there is just no way it feels like it could all fit into a single year. Let me give you just a few examples from our body, from our staff and from my own life.
In our body, we saw several long-standing projects come to completion. I’ve already mentioned the kitchen, which was years in the making and has already been a huge blessing, but in 2022 the first Shades Worship Album, also years in the making, released, and has likewise been a huge blessing. We also completed our training and policy development with GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment) which will go into effect soon as we seek to care for the most vulnerable among us, especially our kids. Speaking of kids and completed projects, we finally finished installing a new kids’ playground! But, the beautiful thing about 2022 wasn’t that we just completed some long-standing projects, we also resurrected some long-ceased events such as the hoedown hootenanny, the men’s campout, and we got the return of a full-fledged women’s retreat. All this community connection was incredible after being apart for so long, and I’ve only named a fraction of all that happened.
Even more important than any event or building project, was the amount of life God graced us with in 2022. I cannot tell you how much the Lord grew my own heart as he fed us from his Word through The Sermon On The Mount, examining our cultural convictions and diving into Judges. And, as we’ve journeyed through the Word, he worked literal life in our midst through bringing so many new members and visitors who are fast becoming family. We’ve literally seen new families form through four weddings, families grow through eight births, and the kingdom expand as the Lord continues to let us see the baptismal waters stir and missionaries go forth, especially in Poland, Thailand and Cambodia.
The Lord also poured out his grace by walking us through hard things in 2022. We walked through hard truths in the Word, especially in Advent as we talked about the Gospel and racism… but from those hard truths came so much beautiful fruit that is still being born in our body week after week. We also walked through difficult suffering in this world. The most difficult being the death of Jason and Reena’s son, little Zeke. Even there, God has shown up in power. Through Zeke, we’ve seen him display his strength.
Oh Shades, so much life happened in our body… much more than it feels could possibly fit into a year. And not just in our body, but within our staff. Brad and Jordan Brown welcomed little Elizabeth Anne into the world, and she keeps rocking their world! The Doroughs are fully funded and ready to adopt baby Dorough number three! John Kegley finished his time at Shades with great fruitfulness and faithfulness. Sara Hersh completely took the reins of our youth ministry and it’s thriving. And Brooke Premo completed her incredible time as our Shades Kid’s leader and Joely Coker stepped into her place and joined this motley crew of a staff. Life came at us fast, but I mean it when I say there is no one else I’d rather work with than the staff of Shades Valley Community Church. Most pastors dream of having this kind of chemistry… and it exists because this place really is family.
Oh Shades, so much happened within our staff… much more than it feels could possibly fit into a year. And not just within our staff, but within my own life personally. When we came to Shades, Holly and I had two preschoolers… now we have five kids, and those two preschoolers are now teenagers… how did that happen? It happened because it has been more than a year. Shades, it has been a decade. February of 2022 marked ten years at Shades Valley for my family. I was so young when I came, which concerned a few of you, but I made you a promise… I promised you I would age. Shades Valley, I’m keeping my promise. This year, I’ll turn 40. I may not be old, but I’m not the young pastor anymore. No. I mentor them now. And Shades, that’s because of you.
The only reason I have anything to offer as a pastor is because of God’s grace toward me through a patient and forgiving church, through you. Shades, I’m still here after a decade because you have loved me well and pointed me toward Jesus. I have long quoted Paul to describe how I feel about you, and his words only ring truer in my heart year after year… Shades Valley you are my joy and my crown.
So, I don’t care how long or how short 2023 feels, or the year after that, or the year after that… my heart’s desire is to walk through those years with you going into the world in peace, having courage, holding on to what is good, honoring all men, strengthening the fainthearted, supporting the weak, helping the suffering and sharing the Gospel. Let us love and serve the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit, and may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all…
I love you all,