As Long as It Is Called ‘Today’

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” –Ephesians 4:29

What if….we as Christians were known as encouragers? What if, everyone knew they could count on us to build up instead of tear down? What if, in a world full of negativity and division, followers of Jesus Christ were a source of grace and hope and love instead?

I am more convinced than ever that the best way that we who call ourselves Christians can impact our world these days is simply by not being whiners, complainers or arguers, and not feeling the need to interject our opinions into the steaming caldron of vitriol that is social media.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing,” the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2, “so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”

In effect, he was saying, “You want to stand out in this warped, crooked world? Stop with the grumbling and disputing (as some versions translate those two words). If you just refuse to join the chorus of complainers, you’ll shine like the stars against the dark night sky.” So, we can choose to let nothing unwholesome come out of our mouths–or our keyboards–and also choose only those things that lead to edification and benefit those who hear.

And in case you haven’t been paying attention, it is getting darker, and more negative and divided and hostile by the day out there. It’s so easy for people of grace to get sucked in to the vortex of polarization that defines American culture, and the politicization of all things, that even works its way into the church. But we must resist that temptation, lest we become hard-hearted like the rest of the world.

Here’s how the writer of Hebrews said it: “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12-13)

Or hear Paul’s simple words from 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

The Biblical recipe for Christians living in the world, but not of it, is pretty straightforward: don’t use your words to tear down, but to build up. Don’t complain and argue, but encourage. If you can’t find something good to say, then say nothing at all. What if…we all actually practiced that this week?

I am praying for you, that the Lord will bless you, and use you as a blessing to all those around you. I am grateful for each of you, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

In the Middle of the Battle

I have mentioned a few times that one of my favorite things to watch on TV these days are interviews on YouTube of World War II veterans, put together by the Veterans Story Project. Usually, the interviewer behind the camera asks a question or two, and then sits back and just listens for 45 minutes to an hour as a real-life hero tells his story.

There are hundreds of such interviews on YouTube, with men from “the greatest generation” giving their personal accounts of their experiences in the war. Many of them didn’t talk about the war for a half century or so after they came home, but now their family members–and organizations like the VSP–are having them share their stories while they are still with us. Most do so with humility, and with amazing detail, especially considering it’s been 75 years since the end of the war.

I was watching an interview a few weeks back of a former Marine who had served in the south Pacific, including major battles in Guam, Pelileu, and eventually Iwo Jima. He recounted names and places like it was yesterday, and stories of humble heroism from the battlefield–including his own that earned him a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. But the one thing I found most interesting was that he said he had no idea really where they were or the importance of the battles at the time, and only realized the significance after he came home. All he knew was they had to take a hill or two, there was someone on the other side trying to kill them, and they just wanted to keep each other alive to win the war and go home to their families. It was only when he read the dramatic stories of the battles in newspaper and magazine accounts when he got home that he realized what he was apart of.

I have found that to be true in many areas of life. In the middle of the moment, all you are trying to do is survive, but when you look back, you see the bigger picture, and what God was up to through the whole process. It’s only then that you can truly begin to understand His work and His will.

I say all that to say that in the social media driven world of 2020, we are reminded daily of the battles we are fighting, the drama we experience, and the struggles we face each day. You can always count on someone telling you how hard life is these days, even if it’s through a comical meme. When you hear all the negative, all the time, and realize you’re in the middle of a war, it’s easy to feel like giving up. It’s no wonder that one of the biggest crises of the whole debacle we call 2020 will be the mental health issues it has brought us.

And here’s the point. The perspective in the middle of the battle is often distorted. But you don’t need to be overwhelmed, and you don’t have to have it all figured out. You don’t kneed to know the outcome of the COVID pandemic, or how the November election is going to turn out. You don’t have to fix all the issues of social justice, climate change, the economy, and everything else to survive this year. You just need to put one foot in front of another, seek to do the Lord’s will for the day He has set before you, and trust that He will work it all out on the other side. He is faithful.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV)

So just exhale. He’s got this. And we’re in this thing together. I am praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Heal Our Land

It’s 9/11. The anniversary of the one day, in our lifetimes, “that will live in infamy.”

I still remember so much about that day, getting a call to turn on our TV, and then watching the live reports from New York as they developed. The first plane crash was thought to maybe be an accident, but we couldn’t believe our eyes to be watching the tragedy unfold right in front of us. Then the second plane hit the second tower, and we knew this was no accident. It was terrorism, and our nation was under attack. Before long there was another report of a plane crashing into the Pentagon, and rumors of others hitting the White House and the U.S. Capitol building (that never happened, of course). We wondered where and when the next attack would come.

Then the towers fell, the two tallest buildings in the western hemisphere violently crashing to the ground in a matter of seconds. We couldn’t wrap our minds around what we were watching. There were tears, there was fear, and there was anger at unseen enemies, terrorists who had ruthlessly killed so many innocent people.

What followed in the days ahead was unlike any period that I can remember. The nation was unified. Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, stood arm in arm on the steps of the Capital building and sang “God Bless America” together. Cities, big and small, had public prayer services, where Scripture was read, and people called out to God.There was a humility and brokenness in the land. People were more kind and more compassionate.

We all said we would never forget.

Which brings us to September 11, 2020. We are facing another tragedy, a pandemic that has taken the lives of tens of thousands of people in our country. It has left millions jobless, and has had a devastating effect on our nation’s economy. And sadly, it has been turned into a political tool that has divided us even more. I had really hoped that the COVID crisis would bring our nation to its knees in the same way that the terrorist attacks did nineteen years ago. That we would come together in unity to fight our common enemy–a virus that has killed nearly a million people worldwide. But clearly that has not been the case.

And I have to wonder what it will take to break us, to humble us, to draw us together again.

If you are old enough to remember those days after 9/11/01, then I would encourage you to sincerely seek the Lord in prayer for our nation and our world in the same way we did those many years ago. Not with polarized politics. Not pointing fingers at the other side. Just in humble dependence on God to bring us out of this difficult season. Even if you don’t remember those times from 2001, I’m sure you understand how much we need the Lord’s intervention in our world today.

You are probably familiar with God’s challenge to His people, Israel, when they were dedicating the temple in Jerusalem almost 3,000 years ago. Those same words are so applicable to us today: “If My people who are called by My name shall humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Let’s humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from our sin. And may the Lord bring His healing to our land.

I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Doubting Your Doubts

Robert Louis Stevenson was one of the greatest authors of his age. He wrote numerous short stories and poems, but he is best known for his novels, most notably Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Many of his writings are still required readings in school. But most people are not aware of the depth and strength of the faith he had in God. 

Stevenson’s life was a bit of a Dr. Jeckyll-Mr. Hyde story in and of itself. He was raised in Scotland in the mid-1800’s in a very strict Christian home. But once he left home and began attending college, he rebelled against the teachings of the church. He called Christianity “the deadliest gag and wet blanket that can be laid on a man,” and adopted a thoroughly worldly lifestyle. He even referred to himself as a “youthful atheist.”

But as he grew older, he began to have, as he described it, “doubts about his doubts.” He came to see that for all its claims to wisdom, the world had no satisfying answers to the deepest questions of life.

And thus, because the world couldn’t satisfy the thirst in his life, he returned to God. Later, Robert Louis Stevenson would write, “There is a God who is manifest for those who care to look for Him.” And he described his own walk with God as a “cast iron faith.”

Like Stevenson, most of us have gone through periods of doubt in our lives–especially in a crazy year like 2020 when few things have gone like we had hoped or planned–and there’s a little prodigal son in all of us. But there comes a time when we have to have, as he worded it, “doubts about our doubts.” This world will lie to us, and rarely delivers on what it promises. But if we are sincere in our seeking truth–and seeking God–He will not leave us hanging. He truly will manifest Himself to those who really care to look for Him.

F.F. Bosworth said it well a long time ago: “Believe your beliefs, and doubt your doubts.” (Some will also recall that Switchfoot adapted that statement in the lyrics to one of their songs.) That’s what truly exercising our faith looks like, even when we are inclined to doubt. I wonder, what would happen if each of us really lived by what we say we believe today, and refused to believe our doubts along the way?

I am praying that you will, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Who’d Have Thunk It?

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.

–Pastor Ken

Lord Willing

It’s been such a joy to finally start seeing some of the signs of “normal” popping out after the last several months of the pandemic, almost like the first blooms of spring. School is starting back, football is kicking off this week, one of my favorite restaurants in finally opening for in-person dining, and we are starting to see more and more people gather together freely and without fear. It’s been great getting together, in person, with our midweek small group the last few weeks. There’s just something about living life in the same room instead of through a computer screen.

We had an interesting discussion in our first gathering last week, after missing being together for all these months. Our topic was presuming on tomorrow. We talked about Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:34 to “not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And after all that has gone on in 2020, all the people said “Amen!”

We also discussed the words from James’ epistle that we should be careful about making plans for the future, because we have no idea what it holds. James adds, “Instead, you should say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will do this or that.” (James 4:15) Clearly, he meant more than just saying “Lord willing” before we speak of our plans. He was advocating a mindset that avoids presuming on a future that we have no way of predicting.

That idea has surely been brought home to us in 2020. Our group meets upstairs in Building B–in the “upper room”–that also doubles as our college/young adults room. Their C/YA calendar from March is still on the wall, almost like it is frozen in time from when the wheels came off and our pandemic began.

Similarly I found a notebook a few weeks back that I had scribbled out all that we had going on in the church for the spring–a very busy March through May–with everything from a church golf tournament, a family dedication, a membership class, and several Easter weekend activities. But when the COVID quarantine began, everything came to a screeching halt.

It certainly is a reminder of what Jesus said, that we have no idea what tomorrow will bring. That is not to say that we shouldn’t plan for the future, and even anticipate a full calendar of ministry. Otherwise, we find ourselves flying by the seat of our pants, unprepared for the ministry to which He has called us. But it is to say that we never know what’s around the corner, and we would all do well to make sure we live our lives to the fullest today.

There’s a sign behind the counter at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants not too far from where we live. It says “Free Margaritas Tomorrow.” I am sure it’s there for a laugh–for whatever day you come back looking for your free drink, it still will be the next day. Tomorrow never comes.

The writer of Hebrews reminded us that we need to “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today.'” And in case you missed the memo, every day is called “Today,” so you don’t want to miss your chance to encourage someone. Paul wrote in Ephesians that we need to redeem the time we have now, “making the most of every opportunity.” In other words, you better make the most of what you have today, because you might not have the same opportunity tomorrow.

So let’s not worry about what’s around the corner, but trust God for today, and be faithful where He has us, knowing that He is in control, He has a plan, and He can be trusted. And let’s not miss any of the blessings and opportunities He provides us to love and serve others in His name.

I am so grateful for each of you, and I pray the Lord’s continued protection and blessing on you and your family. And I do hope to see you Sunday….Lord willing.

–Pastor Ken

Somebody’s Watching

It was Michael Jackson–along with his childhood friend and one-hit wonder Rockwell–who sang almost 40 years ago, that “I always feel like somebody’s watching me.” And these days, most of us can identify.

Turn on the evening news, or browse through social media sites and you’ll figure out pretty quickly that there are security cameras everywhere, watching our every move. It helps in catching the bad guys, and in capturing some funny moments sometimes, but it’s also more than a little disconcerting to know that there’s hardly a place in our public world where you are not in view of someone’s camera.

But I’m not just talking about security cameras in public areas, it is getting more and more evident that we are being watched closely by technology even inside our “private” homes. I hear people mention almost weekly that they were talking about a particular subject, only to see ads show up on their social media accounts directly addressing what they were talking about. And if you let Alexa and her friends listen in to your daily life at home, you can be assured that they are keeping up with every conversation–and putting together a profile of your preferences, needs, likes and dislikes.

Of course, we’ve given permission to each of those apps and platforms on our phone or computer to have access to so much of our private lives, even if we don’t read those privacy settings we sign off on. It’s all justified as “smart advertising,” but I think Orwell understood it better when he prophetically referred to it as “Big Brother.” Either way, it makes you wonder how much farther technology will take us, and how little privacy we’ll be left with in the end.

But the reality is, even without smart phones and security video, we are being watched, and listened to, and we have been all along. Scripture reminds us that there is no place we can go, and nothing that we do–or even think–that God is not aware of. He is watching.

“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me,” David wrote in Psalm 139. “You know when I sit down and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar….Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence?…If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.”

This is not to say that God is lurking behind every corner, trying to catch you doing something bad. But it does remind us that there’s nothing we do that is not in full view of God. May the Lord who shines His light into our darkness be pleased with the lives we are living for Him this week.

I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Temporary Permanence

This Sunday, following our 10:30 service, we’ll be having a church wide meeting to discuss and vote on the purchase of two of the buildings on our current church campus (buildings B & C). We are excited about this opportunity, though I can’t imagine when the church moved to this property in the fall of 2004 that anyone considered at that time that we would one day be purchasing it.

If you were around then–and truth be told, not a lot of families who were here then are still around now–you know that the move to this location was intended to be temporary, as property was being purchased just down George Roy Parkway with plans to build a large, beautiful church building there. But, that never materialized, the property was eventually sold, and we have continued to rent all these years, all the while looking for another “permanent” location.

Then last fall, things changed. The owner of these two buildings passed away, and the “sweetheart deal” we had in rent was no longer going to be an option. In fact, we were faced with some big decisions: we had to find another place to meet (whether we rented or bought an existing building, or tried to build something ourselves), or if we wanted to stay where we are, we would see our rent go up somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 to 50,000 a year—which would stretch our budget beyond what we could handle. The other option was the possibility of purchasing these buildings ourselves.

We began praying about where the Lord was leading, and felt then, even before we knew anything about a pandemic, that He was pushing us out of our comfort zone, and leading us to something exciting.

Over the last several months we have been exploring those options, even in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic. We even considered the possible purchase of a couple of existing church buildings that are not too far from our current location. Finally, our elders prayerfully decided to pursue the purchase of our current buildings. After much conversation with our current landlord, we have finally come to a tentative agreement on an offer to purchase the buildings, pending approval of our church body.

Fortunately, we are blessed to have a combination of a Building Fund and reserves from years of God’s blessings and frugal stewardship, that have allowed us to prepare for such a time as this. We should be able to pay for the purchase using mostly cash on hand, and still maintain ample operating reserves to effectively minister, even in these uncertain financial times. We are also intentionally holding back an additional amount of monies to devote to making improvements on the buildings that we have not been able to do while we were renting.

If approved, we will be paying $720,000 for the buildings and property, well below the $840,000 appraised value. Our plans are to pay a little more than 90% of the purchase price up front–$650,000, from money in the bank–and the owner will hold an interest-free mortgage for the remaining $70,000 that we plan to pay off within the next couple of years. We will be able to do that by basically making the same payments we have been paying for rent, but would like to try to pay down the balance of the principal as much as possible as we go.

Also, for those who have asked, this does not involve Building A (our Kids Crossings building). That building belongs to another owner, and we are currently in a lease to continue to rent that building. But we do hope, once we get this purchase behind us, to begin discussions about possibility buying that property as well.

This is some of the information we will discuss in our meeting on Sunday, and our elders will be available to answer any questions you may have. We will also use this meeting to briefly discuss and approve our ministry budget for 2020-21.

We said several months ago that the only thing that was certain was that the “status quo” was not an option, that changes were inevitable. In reality, this is the closest thing to a status quo option we could have found, though that was not our desire. From a week to week basis, not much should change in the life of our church–even when things return to “normal” in our post-COVID world. The positive difference will be that we can upgrade some things and make them more fitting for us as a church body.

The other advantage, at least from the world’s point of view, is that we will be “owners” instead of renters. That suggests that we are permanent, instead of temporary. I do understand the financial importance of now throwing money away on rent any longer, but let’s not confuse any of this with ownership or permanence. First, the Lord owns it all, and we are just stewards of His stuff anyway; and second, this is not our home, any more than it was before. These buildings are, at best, temporary permanence. They are helpful tools for us to do ministry, but they do not define us, not now, not ever. We are the church, regardless of where we gather.

Thank you for your prayers these past nine months as we have sought the Lord’s direction for where He would have us, physically, to gather as a church body. We are grateful for His leadership and His faithful provision of our needs, not just this past year, but throughout the life of our church. And thought this is certainly not an ideal time to be making such a significant move, in the middle of a pandemic, but we are confident that the Lord is in this, and hope to move forward with the purchase.

I do trust that the Lord is taking care of you during these crazy days. I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I do hope to see you on Sunday. 

–Pastor Ken

Anyway

The Pardoxical Commandments were written in 1968 by Dr. Kent Keith as part of a booklet for student leaders. They have often been attributed, incorrectly, to Mother Teresa. She did not write them, but she did find them important enough that she put them on the wall of her children’s home in Calcutta.

For the last 52 years, the “commandments” have circled the globe and have been read by millions of people. They have been posted on walls and refrigerators, included in speeches and sermons, and over the few decades, shared extensively over the internet. In light of the current state of affairs in our world today, I thought it might be helpful to share them with you once more, anyway.


People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Love them anyway.

If you are kind, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway. 

And I will add, in this crazy season of 2020: It’s a confused, hurting, scared, divisive, angry and unkind world out there. Let’s love them with the love of Christ, anyway.

May the Lord bless you and use you this week as you serve Him and serve others according to the paradoxical truths of His kingdom, anyway. I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Healthy Body, Healthy Souls

I have contemplated whether I should share something about this, since it’s a personal issue, but it’s kind of funny–and it may help to answer everyone’s questions all at once–so I’ll give it a shot.

It seems pretty evident that a lot of folks think I don’t look so good these days. I get asked regularly, usually a couple of times a week, “How are you doing?” Not the ordinary, somewhat cliched version of that question that we ask each other all the time, but with deep concern and compassion. I suspect some of you have even had a conversation or two about it among yourselves.

I understand where some of the concern is coming from. I have lost a good bit of weight in the last nine months, and have had my share of sickness, including cancer, in the last two years. But let me say–somewhat carefully–that with the exception of a few arthritic and orthopedic issues that come with many years of wear and tear, I am happy to say I am healthier than I have been in thirty years.

Some of my pathway to better health started last October, after my third bout with diverticulitis in seventeen months. Often, by the time a person has a third flare up of that disease, they have to have a foot or so of their lower intestine surgically removed, but I have dodged that bullet so far. But I decided that maybe I needed to take some steps to clean up my diet and consistently eat a little cleaner, in hopes that I could bring some healing to my gut.

Like the previous bouts with diverticulitis, I had lost about ten pounds in a couple of weeks in October, and didn’t look so good for a few weeks after that. But I thought that would be a good jump start to dropping a few more pounds, and with the healthier eating, and regular trips to the gym, I continued to shed the weight.

Then came the coronavirus and quarantine, and since the spring weather was nice, and I couldn’t get in a gym because of the shutdown, I decided to try to get my exercise by running. And over the last four months, I have made a good habit of it, running several days a week, even into the hot summer months. Which has helped keep me thinner and healthier.

But apparently, I still don’t look so good, and everyone thinks I’m dying.

I’m sure the fact that I had cancer a few years back has something to do with it, but as of next week I will have been cancer free for two full years. And so far I am avoiding any more diverticulitis struggles, though I hesitate to write this, knowing that they could potentially flare up again at any point–at which time we’ll have to cancel out that “healthier than I’ve been in thirty years” comment from above.

I guess I should be grateful that you all are concerned, though I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t plan my funeral just yet, or start rounding up a new pastor search team any time soon. And I hope you can get used to seeing less of me–as in, quantity of content, not time–because I hope to maintain my current habits and stay at my current weight and health. If my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, then I want to make sure I continue to keep the building properly maintained.

I’m guessing you are wondering if there is a point to this. Yes, and here it is: You can’t always get a good read on someone’s health just by looking at the externals. And the same goes for churches.

I know this has been a time of struggle for us as we continue to try to ride out this COVID-19 pandemic. I know that many have not been able to attend public worship, we have not had our Life Groups, and many of our small groups have not been able to meet. I also know that, on the surface, you would think our church is having a hard time. But if you look a little deeper, you see some very healthy things going on in the life of our church body.

One glaring example of that is our Vacation Bible School this week (and next). No, we are not gathered on our church campus for a busy VBS, with more than a hundred kids in one place, lots of noise and excitement, and exhausting ministry. But we do have several VBS groups gathered, in our neighborhoods, reaching children down the road and around the block, teaching God’s word, connecting with families and sharing the gospel, even in the middle of a pandemic. The church gathered is a wonderful thing; the church mobilized for ministry is pretty exciting too.

And there are several other examples of connected relationships, one-to-one daily discipleship, students living on mission, practical ministry to those in need, and believers being the hands and feet of Jesus in their community–the church being the church, even if we aren’t all in one place at the same time.

Really, it all comes down to us being collectively what we are individually–who we are “together,” even when we are not physically together. If we are each seeking the Lord, serving Him, and living spiritually healthy lives, then our church body will be healthy too, and there’s plenty of evidence that is the case.

All that to say, our church body may look a little “thinner” during this crazy season, but there are several encouraging “vital signs” that tell us that we are pretty healthy after all. And that’s especially encouraging, considering the kind of obstacles we have faced in 2020 so far.

As the apostle John wrote to his friend Gaius in his third epistle, “…I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” In other words, I pray the Lord will grant you a healthy body, and a healthy soul, as you walk with Him this week. It’s a joy to be your pastor, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

–Pastor Ken