So we just returned from a week in magnificent Carmel-by-the Sea.It has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. I have a new appreciation for California, and am grateful to call this remarkable nation home. Happy Independence Day, America.
Its been a fabulous three weeks for me.
I've had the privilege of two full weeks vacation with my family, which has been rejuvenating in so many ways.
I've also had a chance to get around and see some of what God is doing in other places. A mix of vacation and vision, I guess. I'm acutely aware of the privilege of being able to do this, and deeply grateful to some friends whose generosity made it possible.
Todd Proctor, one of the men to whom we are accountable as a church eldership team, and someone who has become a vital voice of wisdom, has been speaking to me for a while about 'swimming upstream.' What he means by 'swimming upstream', is the ability as a leader to get out of town from time to time, not simply to rest, but also to to hear from God in fresh ways and learn from what He is doing in other parts of the world.
So I've done that with some of our other elders, which has been so clarifying and helpful. Kirk and I went to Mexico in June to be with three churches in Ensenada, with whom we have a friendship. Always stirred by the faith, passion and initiative of the churches in Mexico, I was particularly impacted by a couple called Adrianne and Lourdes, who lead a community of around 2000 people in Ensenada called Accion. Adrianne is a medical doctor, who runs his own ear, nose a throat practice. His son, who is also a doctor, translated for me when I preached. Both came straight to the meeting from hospital. Over dinner, I asked Adrianne how he managed to juggle work, family and ministry. He simply replied,'God never asked me to choose between the three, so he gives me grace for all three. We only have two employees in the church. The rest of us serve as volunteers." An extraordinary man leading an extraordinary community. God give us all that same sort of joyful servanthood.
I also spent two days in Chicago with Donnie Griggs. He and his wife lead One Harbor church in Morehead City. Donnie and Jill planted from Southlands about two years ago, where they were part of our eldership team. One Harbor is simply exploding. They have grown to around 600 people in two years. They started with 6, I think. More importantly, they have seen many people come to faith,some of them the town's most notorious sinners. Donnie and I spent two days trying out some of Chicago's deep dish pizza while talking theology, life and leadership. It was a stirring reminder to me of what God can do when we as a community are willing to say gospel good-byes to leaders we love. Church planting is a part of DNA. It is a costly part. But a vital part which we cannot afford to lose.
Tomorrow morning, Brenden and I head off to Denver for the last part of my 'vision break.' We will spend three days at the New Covenant Ministries International annual get together, where we still maintain many meaningful friendships. God has given us some beautiful new gospel partnerships which we are enjoying, but NCMI has been an integral part of the Southlands story for more than a decade, and we desire to honor this history and walk with them as friends and allies in the Gospel.
In the meantime, I've loved hearing how well the team has done at the base, the amazing response to the Red Thread series, as well as the different missional strands going on. I heard we have 70 people signed up for 'Laugh your way to a better marriage' and that 'Rockhart' is picking up some serious steam too. I can't wait to be back in the pulpit this Sunday as we look at a story of how God turned a 'prodigal' into a radical follower of Christ.
Thank you all for being compelling communitas - friends together on mission.