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Celebrating victories is fun…and needed! As we closed out 2015 we were able to celebrate victories of financial goals met and exceeded. We celebrated the completion of Touch the World 2015 by highlighting the multiple compassionate justice ministries we joined hands with along with the five year work of evangelism in 17 states and 63 countries around the world. In that celebration we practiced Acts 21:20, "And when they heard it, they glorified God."

With every celebration there is an ending and then sights are set on next challenges. I am so excited about how God is unfolding the next chapter in the life of Shades! As we move forward, we do so with the mission of “Sending transformed people to influence their world.” With this clear description of “what we are doing”, we are now working on our strategy which will answer the question of “how we are doing it?” I will keep you informed each step of the way and appreciate so much your interest and prayers!

Some of you were not able to attend the worship services on January 10 and the 17. I believe that it is vital for all our members to understand the preparation and foundation being laid for the next great chapter at Shades. Click here to listen to both sermons. I strongly encourage you to listen to both of these and join me in praying for clarity in discerning God’s will and direction. If you attended both services, not a bad idea to get a refresher and listen to it again…no telling what you missed the first time!

This Sunday I begin a series entitled “The Kingdom is Like…”. We will be looking at Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus told stories from his listener’s everyday world and placed them alongside a teaching to help them understand its meaning. Through this effective and practical means of teaching we will gain a greater understanding of what the rule and reign of God means in our lives and our world.

I am thrilled to announce that on January 31, Dr. Charles T. Carter, our pastor emeritus, will be preaching in the Sunday morning worship
service. On that day he will be 79 years and 364 days old…just one day shy of his 80th birthday! I can’t think of a better place for he and his wife Janice to celebrate. For those who do not know Dr. Carter, I don’t want you to think that we are pulling him out of years of inactivity to come and preach a message. He is presently the interim pastor of First Baptist Church in Opelika and I had to give him plenty of advance notice so he could be away from his “day job” to come and preach here! Make plans to attend…you are in store for a blessing!

It is a joy to be your pastor as we continue “sending transformed people to influence their world for Christ.


Thank you for your encouraging response on the sermon series “The Kingdom” and especially our study of the Sermon on the Mount. I believe Jesus’ teaching on what it means to be a Kingdom citizen is challenging us all! This Sunday we will focus on Matthew 6:25-34 and what Jesus says about anxiety and worry. We live in a world that breeds anxiety and our Lord has a word of hope so make every effort to be here.

Let me share some numbers that I recently received:

- The 2104 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering was $153 million which was the second highest ever. We gave $250,000 which placed us 33 out of more than 45,000 SBC churches. Thank you for your faithfulness in giving to Make Jesus Known! My hope is that we would exceed our $1 million MJK goal and use portions of the overage to add to our budgeted amount we give to Lottie Moon.

- The numbers for the Franklin Graham Greater Birmingham Festival of Hope were released and more than 22,690 people attended and more than 43,000 people from 100 countries around the world watched through a live webstream. Praise the Lord!

As you know Brenda Clark retired from her position as Preschool Minister in October. (And by the way what a great send off on Sunday night October 18! A large stream of members for more than two hours expressing thanks to her and Larry was really special.) This Sunday we will introduce a new staff member who will fill a newly created family ministry staff position that encompasses Preschool. We are excited about the possibilities of this stronger ministry emphasis on families. Also in the service we will highlight one of our newer ministries, Orphan Care, and explain how each one of us can participate in a backpack drive.

Sunday night we will ordain Kevin Naylor into the Gospel ministry. Kevin is our new University Minister and is completing his studies at Beeson Divinity School. He has a great testimony and I encourage you to be a part of this service in the Student Building at 6:00 pm.

We will continue our Sermon on the Mount series through November and share in the Lord’s Supper on November 22. However, we will step away from the series for a very special service on November 29. Dr. Robert Smith from Beeson Divinity School will be preaching that Sunday morning and be a part of a meaningful presentation/recognition. In September Dr. Smith was installed as the first recipient of the Charles T. Carter Baptist Chair of Divinity during Beeson Divinity’s community worship. Since Dr. Carter is our Pastor Emeritus, we wanted to let the church be a part of celebrating this historic milestone. Dr. Carter, Timothy George and Andy Westmoreland will be here for the presentation. So join us for this celebration AND hear Dr. Robert Smith, one of the greatest preachers in America!

Thank you for your prayers for our staff as we work with the consulting group, Auxano and for your participation in the survey last Sunday. The first three months have been eye opening, challenging, stretching and flat out exciting! There is a great sense of anticipation as we seek God’s direction for how to best reach our culture and our world.

I look forward to seeing you each Sunday in November as we walk together learning to live as Kingdom citizens!

Be sure and turn in your Deacon nominations by noon on Sunday, November 8.


This Sunday we will continue our series “The Kingdom” and complete our “prequel” to the Sermon on the Mount. Then on the 13th we will begin studying these amazing three chapters in Matthew’s Gospel. The Sermon on the Mount deals with both our character and our conduct. It describes what human life and human community look like when they come under the gracious rule of God.

John Stott stated, “If the church realistically accepted Jesus’ standards and values as set forth, and lived by them, it would be the alternative society He always intended it to be, and would offer to the world an authentic Christian counter-culture.”

It is a call to be different…different from both the nominal church and the secular world, different from both the religious and the irreligious. This Christian counter-culture is the life of the Kingdom of God…a fully human life lived out under the divine rule.

This authentic, counter-culture kingdom life is the impetus for Man Church on Sunday night 6:00 September 13. What a great night for the men of Shades to come together and worship and be challenged with God’s Word by John Croyle and Rick Burgess. And then at the end of the service have the opportunity to take tangible steps to follow through with commitments to grow deeper and to use spiritual gifts in service. I encourage all the men of Shades to make that a priority and be a part of a great movement of men stepping up and leading out!

These are exciting days at Shades! Weekly we are getting reports around the nation and around the world about the impact ministries are having that we support with our finances and our people. But you don’t have to get off our campus to see the impact. The last week of August we had over 500 college students on our campus on a Tuesday night for a pancake supper. Then on Wednesday night over 400 middle school and high school students heard a gospel presentation with 38 decisions. Then on Saturday we had over 500 participate in the Urban Purpose Challenge. Wow that is a lot of people on our campus hearing about Christ and seeing Christ lived out!

This past Sunday was a fitting conclusion to our church year (for reporting purposes to the Birmingham Baptist Association our year runs from September 1 to August 31. Our fiscal year runs from January to December) with the introduction of about 40 new members. This is our first year to require the Discover Shades class for membership and we had the greatest number of additions and baptisms in three years. Praise the Lord!

College football season is starting so enjoy your favorite team but, if possible, make plans to be here on Sunday!


I have thoroughly enjoyed the summer sermon series on the book of Proverbs. I appreciate the many comments of our members who have shared the insights they have gained from a systematic reading of this great book in the Bible. Though the series is over, I recommend that we all add a daily reading of Proverbs to our other devotional readings…never hurts to have additional vertical wisdom for horizontal living!

This weekend is theFestival of Hope with Franklin Graham. I remember being in the meeting on April 3, 2014 with many other Birmingham pastors and lay leaders as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association presented the opportunity of coming to Birmingham. There was a great amount of prayer and seeking God’s face on this. In the days that followed we were thrilled when the Graham organization finalized the plans and the date!

Shades has been “all in” since day one. Our facilities have been used for counselor training and other administrative needs. Some of our members are working in an administrative capacity at the temporary Graham offices at the old Central Park Baptist Church. We gave $25,000 to cover the expenses of establishing and operating this office as they prepared for the festival. Hundreds of our people will be serving as counselors, ushers and volunteers.

All of this is important and necessary…but the most important thing is that we invite lost people to attend. I urge all of us to not be shy in issuing invitations! This could be the start of a spiritual awakening in Birmingham…something that has been passionately prayed for years. So let’s all do our part and make plans to attend and invite others to come with you. Don’t miss this opportunity…this blessing!!

This Sunday I will begin a new sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount entitled “The Kingdom” that will take us through the remainder of this year. Jesus made the Kingdom of God the central focus of his teaching, preaching, ministry and life. In the Sermon on the Mount we will gain a greater understanding of this and how that affects our daily lives.

As in any good movie there seems to be a “prequel”! So for the first four Sundays we will have a “prequel” entitled “The King is Here” and study Matthew chapters three and four that set up the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). We will be introduced to John the Baptist and then the early ministry of Jesus that leads up to the greatest sermon ever preached.

I look forward to seeing you on Sunday morning at Shades…and hopefully see you on Friday and Saturday at the Bartow Arena.

July 2015

The summer is in full swing and God is doing some great things at Shades both on our campus and through our mission teams. I encourage you to continue to support all that is happening on Sundays and continue praying for our "ambassadors for Christ" who are literally touching the world!

I was saddened (though not surprised) over the Supreme Court's ruling on the redefinition of marriage on Friday. Not only does this go against God's design for marriage but, as with every other time that we have "done what is right in our own eyes", there will be negative consequences for years to come. At Shades we remain committed to God's Word and the biblical definition of marriage as a permanent union of one man and one woman. We also remain committed to love all people and to share the good news of Jesus Christ, the hope of the world. God is still on His throne and we have a great privilege to take the Words of life to a hurting world!

As Christ-followers we each need to know and be able to articulate what we believe about the biblical definition of marriage. We need to stand for biblical truth with conviction and kindness. Earlier this year I preached a series entitled "The Elephant in the Room" and dealt specifically with homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Here is a link to both sermons that can provide you some additional resources.

Also I recommend this article regarding the Supreme Court ruling written by Russell Moore, the President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Practical truths that we should heed and next steps that each of us should take.

As we move forward nothing has changed in our ministry and mission. Remember that God is still sovereign, Jesus is still alive and on the throne, and the Bible is still God's Word...Praise the Lord!

May 2015

This Sunday our own Larry Taunton, founder and Executive Director of Fixed Point Foundation, will be preaching in the morning service. His message will be “The Gathering Storm: Islam, Christianity, and the Persecuted Church.” Larry brings an incredible insight and a wealth of knowledge to this pressing issue so make every effort to attend and bring a friend.

May is filled with special Sundays from parent dedication on Mother’s Day to graduation recognition on May 17. On graduation Sunday, Kevin Johnson, our High School Associate, will be preaching. For the past four years he has worked with these students who will be graduating…he has been with them since they were ninth graders and it would only be fitting that he give them one last challenge as they step towards the next chapter of their lives.

On May 24 Chad Cossiboom will be preaching and on May 31, Steve Browning, our Minister to Students, will be preaching as our High School students return from Student Camp. Both of these young men are excellent communicators of the Gospel and you need to make plans to be here, to worship, and to support these gifted staff members.

This Sunday morning we will announce some staff changes and introduce some new staff members. First of all we will introduce and welcome to our staff, Jacob Simmons, as our new Minister to Singles. Jacob and his wife, Suzanne, are moving from Chicago and will be with us in the service and I look forward to you meeting them.

Also Chad Cossiboom will be moving to a new position of Associate Pastor. He will be relinquishing his University Ministry responsibilities that he has so ably led for almost ten years. However, he will maintain his direct leadership over Young Married Adults and reporting leadership over Single Adults and Preschool and will be over the new University Minister. Chad will also come alongside of me and assist me with pastoral duties. At this time he is assisting me with the Discover Shades Class and has responsibility over the Church Planting Residency.

Kevin Naylor will become our new University Minister. Kevin and his wife

So exciting things are happening both in our staff and the church! I encourage you to pray for our nation and our world but especially to pray for Nepal as they try to move forward after this tragedy. We praise the Lord that all of our workers in Nepal with connections to Shades are safe and secure. May the Lord use these workers and other Nepalese Christians to bring the Gospel, comfort and hope to all the people of Nepal.

APRIL 2015

What makes the great news of the Gospel such great news is that Jesus Christ has raised from the dead! The words from the angel at the empty tomb to the women who came to anoint his body with oils and spices, “He is not here, but has risen!” are some of the most powerful words in history. Our sins have been paid for; death has been conquered; and Jesus is Lord. All of this we celebrate on Easter. And this celebration is so great that we cannot fit everyone into one service!

Just a reminder that we will offer two services on Sunday at 9:30 and 11:00. Our Sunday School will continue to meet with the 8:00 hour meeting at its normal hour and the 11:00 Sunday School meeting at 9:30. We are anticipating an exciting time of praise and celebration so I encourage you to bring family and friends with you.

With the anticipated large crowd I want to encourage you take advantage of the shuttle service from the Charter parking lot on Columbiana. The shuttles will be running from 7:15 to 12:30 and will drop you off at the front door of the church and then pick you up at that same location…can’t beat that! However, if you have a “shuttle phobia” and really feel like you need to park on the premises, let me encourage you to park in the lots farthest from the worship center and enjoy the walk. We are expecting many guests to be with us so let’s save the closest, most convenient parking spaces for them.

This Sunday I will complete the sermon series “Do Something” with a message entitled “Something Done!” Starting on April 12, I will begin a new three part series focusing on living life together with one another based on the shortest book in the New Testament, Philemon.

In August, Birmingham will host the Franklin Graham “Festival of Hope”. In preparation for this citywide evangelistic effort, the Graham organization is offering a “Christian Life & Witness Course” for believers. The material is excellent and applicable for every believer no matter where you are on your discipleship journey. We are fortunate to be one of the host churches. We will be offering these courses on Tuesday nights, April 14, 21, 28 from 7:00-9:00 in the Worship Center. The entire community is invited but I would love to have a large contingent from the “home church” to be in attendance. We will all benefit greatly from it!

I eagerly look forward to seeing you on Easter Sunday!

March 2015

The GIC was an amazing four days! First of all thanks to our staff and our church members for being flexible and making the needed adjustments due to the inclement weather. Attendance at all events was outstanding and once again you overwhelmed our missionaries with love!

The debrief session was such a blessing. The missionaries were effusive with praise about our church family. They were blown away by the types and depth of questions you asked. They so appreciated the interest you had in them and their work, and your commitment to pray for them and keep in touch with them. Every one of them left encouraged with an excitement to return to their field of service feeling stronger and more prepared for the task at hand.

At both the financial commitment service and life commitment service your response was amazing! How exciting to see so many people committing to sacrificially give of their financial resources and of their time and energy.

Plus all three of our speakers were very complimentary of our church. They sensed immediately the excitement and passion you had for missions. Each one reiterated to me what a special place Shades is…and I agree!!

This Sunday is Time Change Sunday so go to bed an hour early and turn your clock up one hour. We will continue the sermon series "Do Something" so come prepared to be challenged by God's Word…to do something for the Kingdom!


This Sunday we complete "The Elephant in the Room"series with a message on "Guilt and Shame." All of us have had things happen in our lives that we carry around as heavy baggage named 'guilt and shame'. Satan loves to bring these things up to convince us that we are not worthy to get a second chance; to be forgiven and to be used by God. This Sunday that "elephant" will be dealt with and my prayer is that many of you will walk away with a lighter load after Sunday morning!

I will be beginning a new sermon series on February 15 that will be in line with our GIC theme "Do Something." It is a call to action...a call to put aside procrastination and do something that when it is done, will have a positive impact on you, others, and the Kingdom of God.

Speaking of GIC I hope you are using your prayer guides to pray for our missionaries. It is important to not only be praying for their needs but it also allows you to get to know them better. Then when you see them at GIC you can put a name with a face and more intelligently talk about their ministry and their needs.

This will be our 14th Global Impact Celebration and each year it gets more exciting! There is such an anticipation of God touching lives, opening eyes to the fields that are white for harvest, and calling members out to serve the Lord here and around the world. Plus we have the joy of being able to celebrate, pamper, and encourage our missionaries who are on the front lines. What a powerful 5 days!

For the three services we have some outstanding speakers. Kicking-off the GIC on Wednesday night will be Greg Matte, the pastor of First Baptist Church Houston, Texas. Greg followed a legend at FBC Houston (I can relate to that!), John Bisagno, and has led that historic church to new heights in missions.

On Sunday morning Ralph Canada from Connect Global will be preaching. Ralph has been with us before as one of our missionaries and I don't know of anyone who is doing a better job of mobilizing Latin Americans to be missionaries around the world. You will be amazed as he enthusiastically shares how God is moving throughout Latin America and the world.

On Sunday night Dr. Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in Springdale, Arkansas and the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention will be closing out the week. Ronnie has such a heart for spiritual renewal and revival and I can't think of a better man to be used by God to challenge us. We will be joined again by our brothers and sisters from Greater Shiloh to add to the family celebration!

So much of what God has done through Shades in missions is a direct result of each year's Global Impact Celebration. Don't miss the opportunity to be used by God to pour into the lives of missionaries and for God to stretch you and expand your vision for His Kingdom. Mark your calendar for February 25-March 1. It could change your life!