In the early days of radio and TV, Edgar Bergen had a ventriloquist act which featured a dummy named Mortimer Snerd. Mortimer was a dummy in more ways than one, and part of the act was that he had to have everything explained to him. And most of the time when it was, he’d shake his little dummy head and say, “Who’d have thunk it?”
Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the first public meeting of what would become The Church at Shelby Crossings. It was August 27, 2000 when that first group gathered at the Pelham Civic Center to discuss the possibility of starting a new church. A few weeks earlier, a website had been set up and publicized–newchurchsoon.org–and that night more than ninety people attended. Twenty-eight signed a letter asking the leaders of The Church at Brook Hills to sponsor the new church.
It would be a couple of weeks later–on September 10–when that group gathered again for a time of worship and an informational meeting related to the beginning of a new church. At that time, twenty-five families indicated that they were “called and committed” to serving in the new church. The new congregation began the process of laying the groundwork and building a core group for the new church to come, and the name “The Church at Shelby Crossings” was announced on November 5 of that year. The first official public worship service was January 7, 2001.
Only a few families remain from those first few months twenty years ago–and we are grateful for their faithfulness over the years. In so many ways, things didn’t turn out like those original plans, but the Lord has been so good to this church.
Ironically, about that same time twenty years ago I was also a part of a “new” church that was also forming in Shelby County. Actually, we had planted the church in Hoover, and after several years we were moving to Alabaster and re-launching it with a new name and direction. We had begun the process of moving in July, and were aware of the new church coming to the same area we were planning to target. Despite a little jealousy at all the good things that were happening with the “newchurchsoon”, we reminded ourselves that we were not in competition, and that there was plenty of need for several good churches to reach the thousands of unchurched people in our area.
A little later in the fall, we prepared for a major public kickoff for our new church, and sent out a couple of mass mailings to announce it. The week of our first service, one of the leaders of the “other” new church called me and said he had seen the mailings, and invited us to join them in their new church. My response was, you saw that we are already planning to kick off our church this coming week, why don’t you all join us? By the end of the call, we both decided we would pursue what we felt was the Lord’s calling for each of the new churches.
That Sunday we had a great kickoff, which included several families who were already committed to the other new church and wanted to get a taste of what a “grand opening” service was like. And the Lord blessed our ministry there for several years, while we watched from a distance at how He also blessed the new church known as Shelby Crossings.
Fast forward about four years, and the difficult decision was made to disband the church where I was pastor. As it turned out, our family joined together with several other families from our church who were now in the market for a new church home and tried out Shelby Crossings. In fact, the first week our family attended was the first week the church made the move from Pelham to Calera to worship in our current facilities. And almost five years later, as God’s crazy providence would have it, the Lord opened a door and I stepped through it to become the second pastor at The Church at Shelby Crossings.
Which brings me back to Mortimer Snerd. I think if you had told me twenty years ago how things would have turned out over time, I would have joined him in saying, “Who’d have thunk it?” I am sure those of you who were there at the Pelham Civic Center that first night would say something similar. I never would have imagined throughout that process how God was at work in all of our lives to bring us together. I guess, in a strange way, I ended up accepting the invitation to come and join “you” here, even though there was a bit of a detour along the way. But it does show how the Lord is always at work, sovereignly numbering our steps, orchestrating events, and leading us–for such a time as this. Not unlike what we have seen in our recent study through the book of Esther.
Am I grateful for how He has worked out His will in our lives as a church together these twenty years? Well, I will answer that with another phrase that Mortimer invented that is still around in a slightly different context these days: “Duh!”
I thank the Lord for His blessing on this church, and I’m excited to see what He has in store for us in the next twenty years. I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.