Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I am Thankful for the Blessings of 2010: #8 – New Covenant

[As the year comes to an end, I am listing a few of the things that happened during 2010 for which I am most thankful. The list is not in order of significance.]

“The person who values their vision of community more than they value the community is destined to destroy community.” (Bonheoffer, paraphrased)

Those words by the martyred German theologian are ever before me. One cannot, at least, should not, endeavor to serve as a pastor without a clear vision of what the church should be as a community of faith. You must love the church as it is and as it should be. The temptation is to focus so much on what the church should be that one rejects the church that is present.

New Covenant started as two small-groups meeting in homes twenty two years ago next month. I led both groups and I had a strong vision of what the church should be. Its two decades later and my core vision is the same. I have let go of micro managing the details and found more freedom to trust God to work through his people. In short, I have let go of my vision in order to keep my vision alive. My vision is that it is God who must give the vision.

In recent years I have been over extended at the seminary and I have survived as a pastor. In some ways I feel like Rip Van Winkle, I have awoke from a long nightmare of accreditation to discover the world has changed. Our church has become a most wonderful congregation while I slept.

We have an outstanding group of people. They love God and each other. They are charitable and compassionate. They are diverse: multi-generational, multi-ethnic, and from a broad socio-economic spectrum.

In 2010 I have been especially blessed by the children, youth, and worship at New Covenant. The children are so much joy to be with. They are an important component of our congregation. Vernice Blackaby, our Children’s Pastor, has nurtured and taught them until they are excited about being at church.

The youth of our church are phenomenal. They love God and are committed disciples. They take their walk with Christ very seriously. My heart leaps when I think about them, so gifted, devoted, and open to the work of God in their lives. Brian Dalton, our Youth Pastor, with his wife Tamera, have led the group into true Christian fellowship and lives characterized by prayer and worship.

Worship at New Covenant has always been a challenge. Diversity in people includes diversity in worship preferences. A couple of years ago our Worship Pastor resigned unexpectedly and the Praise Team/Musicians felt led to work together without a Worship Pastor. They are very gifted. Our most prominent vocalist, Jennifer Dickhut, took the lead and did a phenomenal job seeking God for the music selection and coordinating the team.

By the end of this summer, the time was right to designate a new Worship Pastor and God sent us Justin Spears and his family. Our worship has moved to a higher level. We are having a renewal of freedom in all aspects of our worship. I am especially blessed to see teens on the drama team and joining the musicians on Sunday mornings.

I would not risk leaving someone out, so I will not try to list all of the individuals who are a constant encouragement to me. Suffice it to say that the most striking characteristic of New Covenant is that we truly are the family of God. And I am so pleased with this family. For twenty two years they have held me and encouraged me to be the best I can be. They have kept the vision alive and shrunk the distance between what is and what should be. We have been through some tough times over the years, but 2010 has been a season of rest (spiritual), renewal, and blessing. I am thankful.

The one negative about 2010 is that we had some very significant members to move away. We always have people moving, but this year was especially challenging. Kim, Lisa, Matthew, the Nuritinovs, and the Buteaus, we miss you. You are still part of our family.

Cleveland, Tennessee
December 22, 2010

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