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Contentment: Living as Sheep in the Fold

Posted in Adults  |  By Jeremy Horton  |  Posted on Wed Oct 17, 2018

Contentment: Living as Sheep in the Fold

Life is a series of ebbs and flows. With every end, there is a beginning. The end of summer introduces the beginning of Fall. The end of one school year leads to the beginning of the next semester. The completion of one successful financial quarter initiates the striving for yet another. There is little that is constant in our earthly lives, and our tendency as finite creatures is to always look to what is next for fulfillment. 

Is this what God intended for His people? Are we to live in a constant state of desiring what is next, seeking fulfillment and contentment in each new endeavor? David helps us to answer this question in his writing about the Lord as the shepherd of his life is Psalm 23:

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me besides still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23

Many who have been believers for a long time are familiar with this Psalm. It is a retreat for those who are walking the valleys of life. It is a comfort to those experiencing grief. But it is also a guide for contentment in the Lord in every season of the Christian life. Let us observe three primary ways that Psalm 23 teaches us to be content in the goodness of our Shepherd. 

1. Our Identity as Sheep is Found in our Shepherd (vs. 1)

The very first statement made by David is a statement of identity. Yet, David doesn’t state who HE is. He doesn’t identify Himself as God’s anointed one, as the one through whom God would establish Israel as a powerful and prosperous nation. He doesn’t identify himself as he who killed the great Goliath, or the leader of the mighty men of God who defeated the infamous Philistines in battle. No; he identifies himself by the one to whom he belongs: “The LORD is my shepherd.” 

Where then, do we find our identity? The world tells us that our identity is in our accomplishments and success, or lack thereof. This means that many of us find our identity in our sales numbers. Others of us find it in our education and number of degrees. Some of us even find it in our years of church service or in the successes of our children. We hold our resumes and our personal goals next to others in the hopes that we will measure up to what the world deems as successful, and hope that this in turn tells us who we really are. Don’t get me wrong, these things are not inherently bad in and of themselves. But they were never meant to give us our identity or lasting contentment. 

The true meaning of contentment is not found in what we accomplish, but to whom we belong: the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice that the result of David’s identification in the Lord is that he, “shall not want.” How can this be so? The Lord is his shepherd! In other words, what could David desire or accomplish which would be of more value, more worth, more comfort than in knowing and walking with the living God? What in life could he achieve which would climax the care he knows as a sheep in the flock of the Lord?  

For those of us who are believers, Jesus has accomplished all we need to become sheep who belong to the Good Shepherd. We will never find contentment searching for the acclaim of the world and the accomplishments of man; true contentment only comes to those who belong to the flock of the Lord. Your identity is not in who you are, but in who He has declared you to be in Christ: a sheep belonging to the Good Shepherd.  

2. Our Care as Sheep is Provided by Our Shepherd (vs. 2-4)

Not only does David define himself by his identity as a sheep in the fold of God, but he expounds even further on the ways that God cares for His sheep. He is not a rough rancher; one who provides for the sheep only so far as they will bring Him profit. Instead, His care for the sheep involves genuine love. He gives them protection to lie down in the luscious fields of grass which will fill their stomachs to satisfaction. He leads them confidently to still waters which quench their thirst and maintain their health and vitality. He genuinely cares and leads them in His way, asking that they trust His guidance and protection in the valleys of life. 

True contentment in God our shepherd is trust that He will provide for your needs. By the Word of God He feeds our hungry souls like luscious green grass that satisfies our inquiries. By the power of His Spirit He leads and guides us by still waters where we can experience His righteousness and learn His ways. By the peace that surpasses understanding, His presence protects and comforts us in the midst of trial and difficulty, that we would identify with the sufferings of Christ. In all of these things, our shepherd cares for us, and when we experience such care, we begin to understand that contentment in the midst of the changes of life can only persist by His gentle hand of care in our lives. 

3. Our Security as Sheep is Ensured by our Shepherd (vs. 5-6)

David knew that goodness and mercy would follow the man who was content in God all his life. How could he make such a confident assertion? The security of his place in the flock of God was not sustained by his own work, but by the shepherd. Therefore, with confidence even before his enemies, David could rehearse, “I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

Such is the promise to all who place their faith in Jesus Christ. If all else on this earth is lost; all wealth, all loved ones, all status, all accomplishments, everything we have, one thing the world cannot take is our security as one in the fold of God. Why? Because it is no effort or production of the sheep that defines them as one of the fold, but the work of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, which has made a way for their invitation into the flock. And that security alone is goodness and mercy beyond comparison; such that it is the very foundation for contentment in life.

Conclusion

There will always be ebbs and flows in life. Times will be good; times will be bad. Some things will come to an end, and others will begin anew. But as sheep in the flock of God, our song remains the same through it all: “It is well, with my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul.”

Let us find our contentment in God alone, who gives us identity, genuine care, and eternal hope in the glory of His Risen Son!

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NEXT Update

Posted in From the Pastor  |  By Danny Wood  |  Posted on Mon Oct 8, 2018

NEXT Update

NEXT is in full swing! As we as a church take this journey together on the NEXT steps in our spiritual transformation and facility improvements, let me point out some resources to help all of us.

  • The NEXT Initiative Devotional sheds additional light on the spiritual components through the Scriptures and prayer. It prepares our hearts to take this NEXT step.
  • The NEXT Commitment Guide is a practical and biblical guide to assist you in working through how to make a sacrificial financial commitment. If you did not get one Sunday, this guide will be available in the worship center lobby and in the church office.
  • The website is a great resource for information on all aspects of NEXT. One new addition is found as you scroll to the bottom of the page and see “Giving Calculator.” This is a calculator that helps translate specific acts of sacrifice into actual dollars. This can be a helpful tool as we prepare to make our financial commitments on Sunday, November 4.

Each Sunday the sermon will focus on a next step that we are to take in our spiritual transformation. This Sunday I will be preaching on “NEXT Stronghold Demolished.” Please be in prayer for this service as we see how we can have victory over those things that constantly defeat us. 

I am excited about all that God is doing at Shades and enjoying taking these NEXT steps! Have a great week!

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NEXT Vision Space

Posted in Uncategorized  |  By Jordan Cox  |  Posted on Tue Oct 2, 2018

NEXT Vision Space

NEXT | The Time is Now is a season of focused sacrifice for our church family. Our leadership has identified the most pressing needs facing Shades in 2018: spiritual transformation and facility improvement.

With the launch of the NEXT Initiative last Sunday, we curated a NEXT Vision Space in our third floor Worship Center lobby. Its home includes the former Resource Center and Global Missions Room, now called the Vision Room.

This space was designed to guide our church through the spiritual, financial, and building goals that anchor the NEXT Initiative.

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Turning a Conversation Toward the Gospel

Posted in Uncategorized  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Mon Jun 18, 2018

Turning a Conversation Toward the Gospel

How can I turn a conversation toward the Gospel?

This is the number one question that I get on evangelism. For many people, the struggle is not how to share the Gospel. They understand the truth that Jesus’ death and resurrection makes it possible for all people to have a relationship with God. The hang up many people have is how to turn a conversation toward the Gospel without it feeling forced, awkward, or coming across as “preachy.” So how do you start talking about the Gospel in a conversation with someone else?

It may seem counterintuitive, but if you want to speak about the Gospel you have to LISTEN.

Each conversation presents its own unique opportunity to respond with the truth of the Gospel. In order to understand how to share the Gospel you have to listen to what the person is walking through in life and speak the hope of Jesus into their situation.  

In his book, “Turning Everyday Conversations Into Gospel Conversations,” pastor Jimmy Scroggins gives this helpful insight on how to listen for a Gospel opportunity:

“Wait for the moment in the conversation when someone shares a problem, issue, or concern.”

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Intentional Discipleship: Are You Redeeming Summer Break?

Posted in Children  |  By Jeremy Horton  |  Posted on Mon Jun 11, 2018

Intentional Discipleship: Are You Redeeming Summer Break?

You did it. This is real life, and you have FINALLY reached the end of the school year. No more homework or school projects, school dances, or parent-teacher conferences. No more rushing from school to practice to homework to shower to bed to repeat… take a deep breath; you’ve arrived! 

There is nothing quite like pushing through something difficult and all-consuming to finally reaching the finish line. And what’s the first thing we want to do when we have survived something hard? Prop our feet up, sit back, and zone out. I don’t know many runners who the day after the marathon decide to go for a difficult run. 

If we are honest with ourselves, this is what we tend to do with our summer breaks. We finally reach the end of a hectic and crazy spring season and we put our feet up, lean back, and power down. And I am not referring to the much-needed rest that summer break can bring. I am talking about more than rest; I am talking about checking-out altogether. 

But as transformed parents seeking to influence our children in the love and admonition of the Lord, maybe we should take a step back and reconsider how we approach summer break with our kids. Think about it: What other season during the year provides us with uninterrupted, open time with our children? 

DISCLAIMER: I am not here to add more things to do to your recently cleared schedule. I am talking about being intentional with your summer break as parents who are discipling your children. How can we as parents intentionally disciple our children this summer without adding business and stress back into our lives? 


Let me encourage you in three areas to capitalize on over summer break for the betterment of your family’s eternity:

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Our Next Initiative FAQ

Posted in Uncategorized  |  By Scott Heath  |  Posted on Thu Apr 26, 2018

Our Next Initiative FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Downloadable FAQ Document

Why repurpose? Why can’t we keep the Worship Center just as it is and just freshen it up and update the HVAC?

The goal of the size and design of the Worship Center is always to bring glory to God and reach more people for Christ. In the 1980’s and 90’s the strategy for churches to reach “their Jerusalem” was a large place of worship with one service and it was an effective strategy for a number of years. But in recent years, research has shown that people prefer smaller venues, community spaces, and options of worship times. By repurposing, we are striving to provide a more intimate worship experience, better sight lines, improved technology, expanded community spaces and at least an option for a multi-service format if we so choose. By doing so, we are preparing to reach more effectively our Jerusalem.  

Also, from purely a facility needs perspective, the Worship Center is a very large building (floors 3,4 & 5 constitute +/- 75,000 sf) and has a number of code compliance and other “good steward” items that need to be addressed. Those items include: adding a fire suppression (sprinkler) system, retrofitting and enlarging the restrooms to provide handicap accessible spaces (ADA compliance), replacing 70% of the existing HVAC (heating and air conditioning) that is original to the facility, upgrading our fire-alarm system, and installing new / more energy efficient lighting. When combining these items with replacing the 30-year-old worn out carpet, existing pews, new paint / stain, audio / video needs, etc. the total anticipated expense exceeds $7m. Thus, it became clear we would be better stewards of Shades resources, future, and mission by pursuing a more complete repurposing. 

At that point, with the strong encouragement of both the Finance Committee and active Deacon body’s unanimous recommendations to do so, we moved in the direction of the complete repurposing initiative that was presented and approved by the church Sunday evening, April 22, 2018.  

Didn’t we just get out of debt?   

Yes we did in October 2016. As shared above we feel this initiative is of such importance that we need to pursue this now. Naturally our hope is that we will make financial pledges that will equal and even exceed the cost of the project thus being debt free at the end of the three-year pledge period. However, if there is any resulting debt, we are confident that we can manage it to where there is no adverse impact on ministries or missions. For most of the past 20 years we have managed debt while investing $26 million in our campus facilities and giving $34 million to missions and continuing a strong emphasis on ministries.

Why should I/we consider supporting the initiative?

We are a blessed church with a history of faithful members willingly sacrificing their time and resources to provide facilities for the next generation. Now this is our time to impact the short-term and long-term future of Shades. Whatever we do in this initiative will set the footprint for ministry for at least the next 20 years. The expanded lobby space will provide a desired place for community. The changes in the Worship Center will enhance the worship experience and give a much needed flexibility for strategic ministry decisions. Combined, these will positively affect the growth of our church and our ability to effectively reach our Jerusalem with the Gospel of Jesus Christ both now and in the future.

Over how many years will the repurposing initiative pledge commitment be made? 

Three years.

What if I would like to give stocks, real estate, or some other kind of gift? 

Gifts other than cash can often be easily accepted. Please contact Tom Boston, Minister of Administration, for further discussion.

What is the timeline for construction?

Construction will begin February of 2019, following our Global Impact Celebration. Anticipated completion will be early to mid-August 2019.

What are the benefits of increasing the size of the Worship Center Lobby? 

A larger Worship Center lobby would greatly enhance the fellowship and flexibility aspects of our church. This would provide a warm, inviting environment for gathering and building relationships before and after services/events, as well as community spaces for everyday fellowship during the week. A larger Worship Center lobby would also create secondary spaces to better function with potential multi-service and multi-use formats. 

How much additional square footage will be added to the Worship Center Lobby area? 

The Worship Center Lobby area will increase by approximately 5,000 sf.

Will all Worship Center rooms be refurbished?

All public areas (including classrooms, bride & groom rooms and baptistry changing rooms) located on 3rd, 4th, and 5th floors of the Worship Center are planned to be refurbished.  

Will the public restrooms on all 3 floors be updated and made handicap accessible?  

The restrooms on the 3rd floor will be enlarged and made ADA compliant (handicap accessible). The restrooms on the 4th and 5th floor will not be enlarged but will be retrofitted to meet handicap accessible needs. All restrooms will have diaper changing stations. 

What about the sound issues in the Sunday School rooms on the 4th floor? 

The sound attenuation of these rooms will be studied and it is our intent to improve their abilities to function while worship activities are occurring.

Is the size of the Worship Center decreasing?

We anticipate decreased seating of approximately 280+/-, however current obstructed seating in the fan banks will become more viable. (Note: Past ticketed event sales were based on a 2800 seat capacity.)

How many entrances/exits will there be? 

The 3rd floor main level worship center will have 7 entrances / exits. Additionally, the stage will have 2 dedicated entrances / exits (at stage level).

Will the pews be replaced with theatre seating? Are we going to donate or sell the pews?

No theatre seating. We will replace the current pews with new pews. We will look to donate the pews that are in good shape to churches in need of pews.

Is the choir going to have to stand on risers during the whole service? 

There are a wide variety of riser options. If for standing only, the choir would exit before the message and sit in the congregation. Risers with seats are also an option.

Why are we getting rid of the pipe organ?

The Shades organ is a beautiful instrument and for its time, was considered among the top organs installed in several large Baptist churches of the late 1980s. But the challenges of a true pipe organ have never been a secret. Subject to changes from heat and humidity, the organ truly is at its best when played alone. Intonation (the ability to be played in tune) is a constant challenge given the vast Worship Center space where changes in temperature and moisture levels are in constant flux. Additionally, the cost and upkeep of an instrument which now has many parts that are obsolete continues to rise where the costs of electronic versions of the same sounds continues to decline. There are occasions where the organ sound is an added plus to the broad musical styles offered at Shades, but those sounds can now be created for a fraction of the cost and in perfect tune with the variety of instruments that surround it.  

Can we sell the pipe organ?  Can we sell the pipes?

We are searching for a potential purchaser; however, we’ve already been advised there is not a market for used organs or organ pipes.

Why have we never had a sprinkler system in the Worship Center? 

It was not part of the building code at the time the Worship Center was built.   

Will the sprinklers go off in the Worship Center when we use smoke effects for special events?

Sprinklers are activated by intense heat and not by smoke.

Where will worship services be held during construction?

Two services will run simultaneously in both the Conference Center and the Student Building. Danny will preach both services, rotating venues, preaching live in one venue and live streamed to the other venue. There will be live music in both venues leading the same song selection.

Will we have a choir during the construction/transition period?

Absolutely!  We are blessed with so much talent and such strong leaders among our amazing Shades Worship Choir.  Our plan is to divide and place smaller worship choirs in the midst of each worship environment.

Will we have baptisms during construction?

We will have a portable baptistry. Baptisms will go on!

Besides worship services, what is the impact of construction on ministry spaces?

During construction, there will certainly need to be some occasional adjustments made. We will do everything possible to mitigate disruption to ministry spaces; nevertheless, there will be times when we will have to hold a few events in alternate settings, and anticipate some temporary movement of some classrooms and other spaces during construction.

Can we use Worship Center elevators during construction?

During construction there will be limited to no access to the Worship Center 3rd, 4th, and 5th floor elevators. We are working through options for best circulation to the Worship Center 1st and 2nd floor.   

Are we going to two worship services after construction?

Remodeling the Worship Center gives us the option to go to two worship services; it does not force us into two services. The remodeled size is adequate for one service. Just to be perfectly clear, whenever we even talk about two services, we envision two services identical to our present service. We are a multi-generational church and we are committed to continue to structure our worship services so we can continue to worship together. Our staff is studying and researching the option of going to two services versus remaining in one service. We want to be strategic in our decision and determine how our Sunday morning services can reach more people of all generations. Our hope is to have discussions with the church family in late Spring 2019 and gain a clear direction as we move into the remodeled Worship Center. 

If repurposing would allow us to accommodate new people, what about parking?

With our newly implemented shuttle system, recently improved and creative approaches to traffic circulation through our FIT and security teams, and potential off-campus parking options that can be explored, we are confident that our parking situation can accommodate all new people that the Lord brings our way!

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Our Next Initiative

Posted in From the Pastor  |  By Danny Wood  |  Posted on Thu Apr 26, 2018

Our Next Initiative

At a church business meeting on Sunday night, April 22 our church family voted to approve the proposed Worship Center repurposing; and move forward in an initiative to raise the needed funds to complete the project.  The total amount authorized for construction will not exceed the amount pledged and previously committed without the prior approval of the Finance Committee, the Deacons, and the church body as a whole.


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Ed Traverse and Greg Ott

Posted in Missions  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Wed Mar 14, 2018

Ed Traverse and Greg Ott

Global Impact Celebration is a week of connection, encouragement, learning, and renewal for all of us. But sometimes, there are God-ordained moments that make the week a memory for both missionary guests and church members. Below, you'll read recollections from Ed Traverse, pastor of Lifepoint Church in Westerville, Ohio and Greg Ott, a member here at Shades, about a unique connection between them.

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Live Sent

Posted in Missions  |  By Cassandra Hicks  |  Posted on Mon Feb 26, 2018

Live Sent

I grew up in the age of Girls in Action (GA’s), so I always knew what a missionary was.

We heard stories of people who traveled to other countries to tell people about the love of Jesus. However, my first real touch with missions was when I was about five-years-old and my Paw-Paw, who was a Southern Baptist preacher, came home from a trip to China.

My Paw-Paw loved Jesus with every fiber of his being, and he loved to tell people about Jesus! He could do this at a restaurant or he could do this in China. I grew up knowing this not just because of his words but also because of his actions.

I took a mission trip to Trinidad the summer after I graduated from high school. I understood that we were there to share about Christ, but I never felt a passion for the people we were ministering to. I had never experienced an all-consuming desire to reach out and see hearts and lives changed. Missions were just an exciting trip we did. A church thing.

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A year of Community Engagement

Posted in From the Pastor  |  By Danny Wood  |  Posted on Wed Dec 13, 2017

A year of Community Engagement

At the beginning of this year we introduced our vision for living sent in our community. It was a bold, multi-faceted vision that would be led by Dr. Steve Browning (he doesn’t get to use the “Dr.” much, and so I wanted to include that earned designation!), our Minister of Community Engagement. He attacked the vision with passion and energy, and the first year results are beyond anything any of us expected!

This month, Vestavia Hills Magazine did a feature article on Shades and our community engagement in this area. I have included a link to the article and strongly encourage you to read it and be aware of some of the incredible ministry that is taking place right here in Vestavia Hills. And as you read the article also keep in mind that we are also doing life changing ministry in Hoover and Bluff Park!

I am proud of Steve and his leadership and all our staff working with this and the hundreds of lay people volunteering their time to live sent in the community where they live and work.

Read story

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