Beloved in Christ,
I don’t know how it seems to you, but it is very difficult for me to believe that it is now one year since my family and I moved from St. Louis to the Colleyville area so I could begin serving as your pastor. At the time, moving to this place and leaving behind friends and parishioners we loved to take a new pastoral call seemed like a huge risk to Ami and I — a step into the unknown. And I suppose that in some ways, it was. But the truth is, all of you know what it is to take that kind of risk, even if you have never moved across the country to do it. I know that because I know that Christ, the hope of Glory, is at work in you and there is no way to follow Jesus other than to follow him into the unknown.
In any case, I can hardly begin to tell you how grateful I am that God has given us the opportunity to knit our hearts to yours over the past year. One of my favorite moments during our worship each week is during the offertory, because for a few minutes I can simply sit and look out at your faces and give thanks quietly to God for his goodness in appointing me as a pastor for each of you. It is a mysterious thing, the relationship of a pastor and his congregation, and I feel as though I am only beginning to understand it. Many of you have joined our body over the last year, and I am grateful and humbled by you for the trust and openness you have shown in joining yourselves to a congregation in a time of change and with a new, young pastor. Many others of you have undertaken the difficult task of remaining in the same congregation but allowing someone new to take up the pastoral role. I am grateful for the trust you showed last spring when you called me to come and be your pastor and even more thankful for the patience and grace you have shown me in our first year together. All of us have embraced risk in the last year in this congregation, and I am grateful most of all to God for his mercy and kindness to our small piece of the Body of Christ as he has shown himself faithful to us.
As we move into our second year together, I want to take the rest of my letter to you this month to reflect briefly on some of the encouragements of the past year and some of my hopes for the year to come. Some of my greatest encouragements:
-The spirit of peace and unity among the leadership of our congregation. It has a been a pleasure serving for the past year with our church’s elders, deacons, Women in the Church council and staff members. I am most of all encouraged by the mutual love and respect shown at every level of our church’s leadership. We are blessed to have so many men and women of humility and grace in these positions.
-The eager hospitality shown by all of you toward one another and especially toward those who are new to our fellowship. We have been richly blessed in the past year with many new families worshipping with us on Sunday mornings and desiring to be added to our membership. As your pastor, I am so encouraged by the stories I hear of the hospitality and love you are showing one another as we all seek to get to know and deepen our friendships with one another. I know that showing hospitality and building new friendships always requires risk and sacrifice. And yet I see again and again ways in which you are engaging one another with respect, love, and care. Thank you for honoring the image of God in one another!
-The number of beautiful children the Lord is blessing us with. I am so glad for all of you, but in many ways, I am most glad for your children – for the way they enliven our body with their joy and laughter how they serve so often as a model for our faith. What a blessing to have so many baptisms and children joining our body in the last year!
Some of my hopes for the year to come:
-I hope that as a body we will continue to grow in servant leadership. As our congregation continues to grow, it means that we have an increasing opportunity to serve one another. I’m so thankful for all of you who have stepped into new servant leadership roles and look forward to seeing how the Lord will continue to call many of you into new and increased roles in the year to come, remembering the teaching of the Apostle Paul and Jesus himself, that it is even more blessed to give than to receive.
-I hope that as a body we will continue to grow in our delight in the means of grace and the discipline of hospitality. I am increasingly convinced that as our culture increasingly enters a Post-Christian age, we must grow in our attention and care as a community to the means of grace (Word, Prayer and Sacrament) if we are going to maintain our distinctive character in the world. And as we are formed by the means of grace that God offers us, I am also convinced that the posture of joyful hospitality is one we must increasingly adopt toward both one another as well as the outside world — modeling our own lives after the life of Christ, who was able to offer himself to his friends and to the world because of his union with his Father in heaven.
-I hope that as a body we are able to grow in our spiritual care for our covenant children. In a very real sense, regardless of whether you have children that join us in worship every week or not, all of us are called to be (spiritual) siblings and even parents in the faith for the children in our midst. God has entrusted us with the lives and hearts of so many young men and women and I hope that in the year to come we are able to strengthen our intention and care as a church for our children, from infancy to young adulthood. As Jesus makes clear, all of us (biological parents or not!) will be held accountable for how we represent him to our covenant children.
What does all of this mean? To be honest, I am still (as usual), figuring it out. I certainly welcome your questions & ideas! But regardless of the details, I am grateful for this: that he who began a good work in each of us will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. I’m grateful for the freedom that promise gives me to figure all of this out alongside you. And I’m grateful for the gift you’ve entrusted me with by allowing me to serve as your pastor. But most of all I’m grateful for the Good Shepherd, the one who is able to keep all of us from stumbling and to present us blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, the only God, the one to whom we gladly, now and forever, owe all glory, majesty, dominion and authority — our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Let’s follow him together.