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NEXT Update

Posted in From the Pastor  |  By Shades Staff  |  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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Our Next Initiative

Posted in From the Pastor  |  By Shades Staff  |  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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A year of Community Engagement

Posted in From the Pastor  |  By Shades Staff  |  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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Posted in From the Pastor  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Mon Aug 14, 2017


It is great to be back home at Shades! Janice and I are thankful for the six-week sabbatical that you gave us. It was a very restful and enjoyable experience, but now I am fired up about getting back to work.

First of all, two shout outs. A huge thanks to Chad, Steve, and Jacob for their excellent preaching in the sermon series “In the Wilderness." 

And thanks to the Shades family for the hundreds of personal letters and notes that were typeset and bound in a beautiful book. Wow, what a way to start a sabbatical by reading so many affirming and touching messages! I feel deeply loved by the Shades family and thank you for taking the time to express your appreciation.

This Sunday I will begin a new sermon series titled “Recalculating.” 

We set our life GPS on love; hope; happiness; meaning; and purpose and head in the direction we think best, but then things change and often we are faced with “recalculating.” Sometimes it is life situations that create detours and force a recalculating that we have no choice over, but we do choose the path to take; options are the world’s definition of recalculating or a biblical response of recalculating. Other times we are faced with life situations that expose the fallacies in our current path, and we have to choose whether to continue down that road or to accept recalculating and head down a different path and redefine our goals in life.

This is a great Sunday to invite a friend. All of us (believers and non-believers) have to deal with “recalculating” so extend the invitation!

This week I hope you take advantage of the post cards we distributed Sunday and take a few moments to write a note of encouragement to your children’s teachers. It will be a time of refreshment for the teacher and could open the door for you to share about your relationship with Jesus. We have extra cards in the office if you missed them or need more.

I look forward to seeing you Sunday and seeing what God’s Word has to say about recalculating!

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Pray, Go, Give

Posted in From the Pastor  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Thu Mar 16, 2017

Pray, Go, Give

The Global Impact Celebration is now three weeks behind us and we are still getting great feedback from the missionaries and church planters! We are lining up short term mission trips for our people to be boots on the ground resources to assist them in their work. For a listing and description of mission projects, go to

Praying and going are important and so is giving. It is your giving to Make Jesus Known that provides the financial support for these ministries that helps them continue to do their work of advancing the Kingdom of God. If you have not completed a pledge card, I encourage you to do that sometime these next couple of Sundays. We are attempting the largest goal ever ($1.2 million) for MJK and it will take all of us to make this a reality. Pray about it and make a commitment knowing that you have nine months to complete it. Thousands of missionaries and church planters are depending on us.

On the topic of giving, a number of our members support The Big Oak Ranch and its founder, John Croyle, and now his son, Brody. We have had John come and speak numerous times to Sunday School classes and most recently to Man Church. The Dave Belcher Scholarship Fund at Big Oak Ranch was established several months ago by his friends in the Businessmen’s Bible Class at SMBC.  The Fund will provide a $2,500.00 (initially) scholarship each year to a young man or woman to be selected by Big Oak from their class of graduating high school seniors. Dave cared deeply for the young people at Big Oak, and this annual scholarship will be a continuing tribute to him. If you are a regular contributor to this ministry or want to begin, I encourage you to support this scholarship fund.

This week through April 15, Scott Heath, our Executive Pastor, will be taking a well-deserved four-week sabbatical. Our Employee Handbook provides for ministerial staff to receive sabbaticals at 5-year intervals once an employee reaches ten years of service. Scott celebrated his 15th year of service with Shades back in November. I know many of you are shocked that Scott has been here 15 years because he does not look to be over 30 years of age but I can assure you that we did not hire him when he was 14 years old!

This Sunday I will begin a new sermon series Transformed and continue it until April 23. Our mission statement is “Sending transformed people to influence their world for Christ.” We have focused a great deal on “sending” and now I want us to look at what it means to be “transformed.” Bottom line is transformation is an ‘outward reality of an inner work.’ This is a great time to invite your friends, neighbors and coworkers to join you at church as we lead up to Easter Sunday. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing a number of tools to assist you in making the invitations.

I believe Sunday will be a glorious day as we kick-off the new sermon series and learn more about the transforming power of a relationship with Jesus Christ!

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Beyond the Horizon

Posted in From the Pastor  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Tue Jan 24, 2017

Last Sunday I was able to share “Our Next Chapter” vision ... a focus and direction for Shades for the next five to 10 years. It was multi-faceted in its approach and God-sized in its challenge. It was formed over a year and a half of studying, praying, and receiving input from our congregation and from outside sources. We are excited about all the opportunities that are before us and what our church family will look like as we “live sent” each day of our lives. These are amazing days as we move forward and become effective laborers in the harvest in our community, our city, our country, and our world!

Also if you missed the service, you can go to this link and watch the sermon. I encourage you to watch the service and pray to God and ask Him to direct you to the area(s) in which He desires to use you to advance His Kingdom. Take up the challenge of the “Live Sent” life and see what a difference God will make and how He will use you in ways you never imagined!

This Sunday I will begin a four-week sermon series entitled “Here/After." We will be looking at eternity, heaven, and hell. This Sunday the focus will be on “Eternity: What Happens When I Die?” On February 5, I will be preaching on “Hell” and then the next two weeks on “Heaven”. Everyone has questions about eternity and the Bible has some very clear answers. So take the opportunity and invite a friend to join you for this practical and life-changing sermon series.

I am as excited today as I have ever been about the potential for Shades to engage our community and impact our nation and our world with the Gospel. I am praying for you that you will “live sent” and be so in tune with God that you are ready whenever He calls and wherever He sends.

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Shades Life

Posted in From the Pastor  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Mon Jan 9, 2017

Shades Life

This has been quite an interesting couple of weeks. On Christmas Eve our worship center was filled with the largest attendance ever and we had a wonderful evening of worship. The next morning on Christmas day we had about 1000 in worship which blew me away! With the next Sunday being New Year’s Day, I had pretty low expectations but again we had about 1000 in worship and another great day of worship.

And then there was last Sunday, January 8. With high hopes and lots of preparation, I was excited anticipating a large crowd of eager worshippers anxious to hear about the State of the Church and to join in the Celebration of the conclusion of Chapters. And then came the ice. As most of Birmingham was stirring around and getting out of the house, Shades sat atop an ice filled mountain surrounded by icy streets and we had to cancel all Sunday activities. However, in the midst of that disappointment, I was reminded that Shades Mountain Baptist Church is not the physical structure on 2017 Columbiana Road…it is the people, the body of Christ.

So in an effort to gather the body of Christ and hear a word from God’s Word, four of us put together a worship service to livestream to our church body. I preached; Ryan Maynard handled the sound; Ethan Milner the video; and Chad Cossiboom sat in the worship center about half way back in my eyesight and played the part of a soul in need of restoration (and he played the part very well…in the words of the old Buck Owens Song and later performed by the Beatles “and all I gotta do is act naturally”!).

I preached a different sermon than planned and visually to a lot smaller audience than anticipated. But when the service was over our tracking showed that 1001 I.P. addresses from 21 states and 2 countries outside the US had huddled around their computer screens, cell phones or iPads and listened to the Word of God and had a worship experience. Realizing that each I.P. address could have 2 or more people, we might have reached more people than I had originally anticipated! God is good and His Word will not return void!

The weather for this Sunday will be lots different…in the 70s! This Sunday I will preach on the “State of the Church” and we will celebrate Chapters and some of the amazing victories the Lord accomplished through your faithfulness in giving and going.

Then on January 22, I will be sharing a vision for the next chapter in the life of Shades. Make every effort to be here and join in the blessings of being together, sharing life, and worshipping our Lord in music and message.


P.S. – With our budget needs and missions commitments we need 52 weeks of Sunday giving to meet those challenges. We missed last Sunday so please make sure you get caught up! Click here to give online. Thanks!

Also, go to this link to catch up on all the news of major happenings at Shades.

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Jan. 8 Church Activities Canceled

Posted in From the Pastor  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Sat Jan 7, 2017

One of the "blessings" of being located on a mountain ... a "shady" mountain at that ... is that when ice and snow come, we are the first to receive it and the last to get rid of it! And we find ourselves in that position leading into Sunday. 

With the recommendation of the Vestavia Hills Police Department to avoid travel, and most of our church building entryways covered in ice, it is in the best interest of safety that we cancel our Sunday morning worship service and Sunday School classes. Have a great weekend, be safe, and enjoy time with your family.

Photo courtesy of Chris Adler

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September 2015

Posted in From the Pastor  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Thu Sep 3, 2015

September 2015

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 ManChurch on Sunday September 13 at 6 p.m. 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!

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August 2015

Posted in From the Pastor  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Wed Aug 12, 2015

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 the Festival 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 five-seven). 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.

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