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Gifted | Finding renewed purpose in selling art

Posted in Adults  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Tue Oct 13, 2015

Gifted | Finding renewed purpose in selling art

When you take yourself out of the race that the world of retail has created and instead rest in the reward of Christ with a selfless perspective, you'll be shocked at the difference it makes. Creating becomes an overflow of the heart and an act of worship.

For as long as I can remember, I've loved creating little pieces of something special to give to other people.

I made my mom countless "works of art" as a "birthday gift" every year for about ten years straight. I painted all of my closest friends canvases with Bible verses on them for graduation presents, and I even glued rocks on a piece of paper for my dad with the phrase "You Rock" one Father's Day.

That process of creating for a purpose - giving something you've created to someone you care for - it's a pretty great feeling.

Two years ago, I was able to sell some of my artwork at Gifted for the first time, and something just seemed to click. This was one of the first opportunities I had to sell for a purpose that was bigger than an individual.

A portion of the proceeds would go to benefit the Orphan Care Ministry at Shades. I began to see that I could take the gifts and abilities that God had given me a passion for and use them in a way to minister to and bless others. The thrill of each sale became less and less about the money I might make and more and more about contributing to a ministry.

There was a little bit of an anxious excitement in my process as I started to think about the products I could offer. I felt like in some small way, I was getting to use my work to live out James ‪1:27; and what a blessing to combine art, which I'm passionate about, with service, which I feel called to as a believer.

Let me just say, it changes your perspective. Each sale is no longer about the money you might make or the profit you get to see, it becomes about the blessing you might be able to pour out on some children who need homes and a loving family. Selling with a purpose really changed the way I work and brought to life Colossians 3:23-24 which says, "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ."

This verse became my prayer as I created products to sell.

Those hours I spent creating were intended to serve God and bless others, not boost my own pride or make my name known. When you take yourself out of the race that the world of retail has created and instead rest in the reward of Christ with a selfless perspective, you'll be shocked at the difference it makes. Creating becomes an overflow of the heart and an act of worship.

I found that I could sell a product without the pressure of approval or the need to compare. I wanted my products to bring joy to the buyer and glory to God.

Selling with a purpose changed the way I defined success.

One thing I never saw coming was the relief of comparison when you begin to create and sell to the glory of God. We can look to the right or the left and see half a dozen people doing the same craft we do and think, "Wow, they are so much more talented than I am..." or, "Man, if I could just create like she does..." But those thoughts do nothing to inspire creativity or encourage your work. Those are thoughts that the enemy tells us to discourage our process and put the focus on ourselves.

When we look to God, the ultimate Creator, and find inspiration and purpose from Him, our work becomes so much greater.

Our efforts become a direct reflection of the gifts He's given us. When you start to put those products out there for others to see, you don't have to feel insecure or worried about what others have to offer. You can trust that God will use your efforts and that your work can bring glory to Him.

Selling a product becomes less about you and more about obedience to Him. That is one of the greatest gifts I've experienced in this process over the past few years.

I would encourage anyone who has the gift of creating to consider selling with the purpose of blessing others and serving God. I have found such joy in combining my passion with a greater purpose, and I pray that God would receive glory for as long as I'm able to create.

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dGroups | Fulfilling the purpose

Posted in Students  |  By Lesli Travis  |  Posted on Sun Sep 13, 2015

dGroups | Fulfilling the purpose

To know God and to make Him known is a statement of purpose for me as a follower of Jesus Christ.

I had never heard this, much less understood this, until I attended college. Through the encouragement of friends, I became involved in a campus ministry that provided biblical teaching and training. This teaching, guided by the Holy Spirit, would ultimately change my perspective of life and for life.

I began participating in a small bible study group we referred to as discipleship. I had one leader who invested her life into me and two other women in my group for all four of my college years. Through the sacrificial example of my group leader - and the faithfulness and accountability of my group members - I too became committed to pouring my life into others. This biblical lifestyle and process was and still is my life’s passion. Through this college relationship, I caught a glimpse of why discipleship was so important to God. It changes lives and creates a stronger desire to be more like Him and “to make God known” to the world.

As an adult, my husband and I have seen first-hand what the benefits are of being a part of an accountability and bible study group. These cultivated relationships are such that will last a lifetime. Our hope is that the importance we place on staying in an “iron sharpening iron” relationship will trickle down throughout our family.

We have had three children impacted by the process of discipleship. At Shades, we refer to it as a dGroup. Without a doubt, this ministry is one of the greatest opportunities for our students to grasp what Jesus has called them to be.

Our oldest son just graduated high school and was blessed to be in a group with the same fearless leader and group members from seventh through high school. He claims the consistency, the accountability and the content of his time with his dGroup was life-changing. My other children are currently involved in a discipleship relationship that continues to provide support (when needed), truth (when required) and fellowship (always). The fellowship, accountability, teaching and commitment that comes with dGroups is a perfect example of what Paul instructed Timothy to do in II Timothy 2:2:

And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Our prayer for our children is that through dGroups, they will become better equipped and prepared to live according to God’s plan for their lives and that they too will pour their lives in to others, reaching the world for Christ.

Currently, with the help of a co-leader, I disciple a group of seven senior girls. It is one of my greatest joys in life.

To be able to use what the Lord taught me when I was younger is not only exciting but affirming that God never gets tired of using us as long as we are available to be used. You’ve probably heard the saying “Jesus ministered to the masses, but he discipled only a few." This sounds exclusive but Jesus spent all of His time with just a few because He knew the world could be changed by these disciples … living, eating and breathing Jesus. The entire world was changed through these few men that Jesus invested His life into.

I believe that each student that participates in dGroups will have this same impact on the world surrounding them. This is God’s great design for reaching the lost. We receive training from others and we give training to others so that they will continue this process for generations to come. dGroup emphasis at Shades has taken the biblical perspective of discipleship and planted it in the hearts of many.

Prayerfully, our students will take these principles and be changed by them. Why? So that they can fulfill the purpose, “To know God and to make Him known.”

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dGroups | A parent's perspective

Posted in Students  |  By Walter Church  |  Posted on Sun Sep 13, 2015

dGroups | A parent's perspective

In mid-August, my wife and I became empty nesters when our oldest son returned to college as a junior and our youngest son started his college career. In advance of each son leaving for college as a freshman, a flood of thoughts entered our minds.

Is he prepared for this next chapter in his life? Will he meet friends with character? Will he have academic success?

Even though the questions were very important, they did not worry us or distract us because we believed that God had prepared each son by using us, other family members, and people who invested in their lives through school, extra curricular activities and the Shades student ministry.

During middle school and high school, my sons regularly attended Shades, and they participated in many student events. From seventh grade until high school graduation, each son truly enjoyed his dGroup and benefited greatly from a committed leader who continually encouraged and taught each son to live like Christ even when facing difficult challenges, including the pressures and temptations of this world. Over the years, many in the dGroup became their closest friends.

As my sons progressed in age, my wife and I watched them grow in their Christian faith, including their desire to invest in younger students and friends who were not believers in Christ. We are truly grateful that dGroups emphasize this way of life that models Christ. Now, as college students, each son is actively involved in a discipleship group while regularly attending worship. As a parent, these choices bring great joy and gratitude.

More than a year ago, God convicted me to disciple younger students in addition to being a twelfth grade Sunday school teacher. So, last year, I accepted the challenge of leading a seventh grade discipleship group. Even with the busyness of life, the young men who were assigned to be in my dGroup blessed me by their energy, fun nature and general interest in Christ. I have no doubt that this year will be another great dGroup experience.

As we fast approach the first dGroup meeting of the year on Sunday, September 13, let’s never forget the call of Christ to be a disciple who makes disciples, and let’s faithfully pray for God to work in and through dGroups beyond anything that we can think or imagine.

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September 2015

Posted in From the Pastor  |  By Danny Wood  |  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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Summer at Shades | How God uses art, recreation and Bible study

Posted in Community Life  |  By Felecia Dewing  |  Posted on Tue Aug 18, 2015

Summer at Shades | How God uses art, recreation and Bible study

Summer is a universal fun time that means sun, sand and sleeping in late.

In the Christian Life Center at Shades, summer means one thing – KidsKamp! KidsKamp is an outreach of the recreation ministry that serves families in and around our community by offering affordable childcare for children who have completed kindergarten through sixth grade. What started nine years ago with a small group of 10 kids for three weeks of the summer has quickly grown into a gregarious gathering of 130 kids for 10 weeks each summer.

Our kids come to the CLC each day for rotations of art, Bible and recreation with afternoons filled with a range of activities from archery to cooking, watercolors to slip n’ slides. Throughout all of the fun, there is one pivotal thread that runs … the Good News of Christ.

Our kids come to us from all sorts of backgrounds, including faith backgrounds. We like to think that life is easy for kids, but in reality many are exposed to things at a young age that would keep adults up at night. For some of our kids we are a place to play and be silly, but for others we are a safe place where they are loved and receive food and care that might be difficult at home.

This summer we were honored to love on kids from foster care, Urban Purpose, divorced homes and traditional homes and the Lord - in His goodness - gave us the privilege of pouring into these kids and sharing Gospel Truths with them, many for the first time. In our nine years we have had over 100 new brothers and sisters added to the family of God! This summer was no different! Several children made decisions of faith to accept Christ or make the next step of obedience in baptism and many others received Bibles for the very first time.

I was raised by a single mother and spent a great deal of time in daycare while mom worked to keep food on our table and a roof over our heads. It wasn’t difficult for me to look around and realize that my daily life looked very different from my friends. I knew that God loved me and Jesus died for me, but I had trouble understanding, at times, why life was hard for our family.

In the afterschool program I attended, it was clear that Catherine, the program director, was there because the Lord called her to share the Gospel by loving on “her” kids. Catherine was a safe place to ask my questions and vent my frustrations. She was a disciple of Christ that was making me a little disciple with her consistent love and patience.

Twenty years later I can see how Catherine changed my life without me even noticing. When I joined the staff at Shades almost three years ago, I knew that I wanted to work with children but I had no idea how the Lord would continue redeeming my past by placing me in a place where I could serve the next generation of kids with questions and frustrations.

Shades family, God is using our recreation ministry to reach people in a mighty way!

This summer we were home for 233 families and less than 20 of them are Shades attenders. Our staff gets to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the ways we play, act silly and share God’s goodness with kids and their families, even with simple things like meeting basic needs! We have had the honor of providing food and clothing to families in need, foster parents, single parents, incorporating them into our KidsKamp and even Shades family.

The work is not done, either. Starting this week we transition from summer silliness to school time structure with our After the Bell program. We’ll go from 130 kids each day to 70, but we will continue with playing and sharing the Gospel and replace our art projects with homework time.

Working with kids, as any teacher will tell you, is oftentimes a marathon where you hope for the best but don’t see results until much further down the road. KidsKamp and After the Bell are no different. Each day our kids hear a Bible story and a weekly Gospel presentation where they are given a chance to ponder and respond to what God’s gift of Jesus means for their life.

Please pray for our ministry as we rejoice in all the Lord has done this summer and prepare for this school year with After the Bell. May our counselors and staff know that they are adding to the Kingdom, even if it looks like dodgeball or helping with spelling words and math assignments. May we guard our tongues and attitudes so that we do good and not harm. May we heed the words of Deuteronomy 6:6-7; “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

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Why it matters

Posted in Worship  |  By Abbey Plant  |  Posted on Fri Aug 14, 2015

Why it matters

Sit with me and tell me once again, Of the story that's been told us,
Of the power that will hold us, of the beauty, of the beauty
Why it matters
Speak to me until I understand, Why our thinking and creating
Why our efforts of narrating, about the beauty, of the beauty
Why it matters
Show me the love that never fails, Some compassion and attention
Midst confusion and dissention, Like small ramparts for the soul How it matters

-Sara Groves, “Why it Matters”

I still remember my fifth grade church musical. It was held in the conference center in the spring of 1988, and I played the character Anna in "Look in the Book." Sherry Armstrong directed our timid bunch with a huge, encouraging smile and twinkling eyes as we sang, “Look in the book for the answers to all the questions that are troubling you. Look in the book for the Lord to show how He answered questions in the long ago.”

I promise I didn't just look up those lyrics! That song with the message to read and treasure the Bible as God's word is a truth locked away in my heart and mind, even now – several years later.

When I consider my years growing up at Shades, I think of music. Children's choir, middle school choir and high school choir are where I learned more about Jesus, where I became passionately devoted to worshipping Him and encouraging others to join in the song. It matters.

I know life is busy because I'm a parent, too. Making it to Wednesday night church sometimes feels like a miracle, with a battle raging for our time. The week is packed with school, homework and enough extracurricular activities that not even your iPhone can remember them all. It's tempting to say, “Well, it doesn't really matter,” but I'd like to let you in on a little secret. It matters. Big time.

Here are some reasons why children’s choir will matter to you as a parent:

  1. Your child will build lifelong friendships. Your child will make friends at choir during these grade school years that will become brothers and sisters in Christ for a lifetime. It’s a tough world out there, and they are going to need each other. They need to be here together – learning, bonding, laughing, having fun and enjoying being in the house of the Lord. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  2. Your child can improve academically. In addition to the amazing spiritual benefits of being a part of a church choir, studies have shown that children involved in choir receive better grades in school, and their scores improve in both language arts and mathematics. Children’s choirs develop other qualities as well, including memorization skills, healthy homework habits, creativity, self-discipline, punctuality, focus and problem-solving. Choir members become good team players, have more advanced social skills and emotional expression and management. (Matthew 22:37-40; Luke 2:52)
  3. Your child will receive a foundational music education. Children’s choir provides a free musical education that helps to train and develop the abilities of young musicians who might not otherwise have that opportunity. Regardless of whether these children are budding musicians, they all will be exposed to basic music theory training in a fun atmosphere. For a list of our learning objectives, see (1 Chronicles 25:7; Psalm 150:1-5)
  4. Your child will have opportunities to serve the church. Children’s choirs benefit both the children and the church in the areas of discipleship, worship, evangelism, missions and fellowship. These choirs give the children a healthy place to belong, grow and contribute to the body of Christ as worshippers and worship leaders. (Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 2:12)
  5. Your child will grow spiritually. God is planting seeds of Biblical truth directly from His word into the hearts of the children of this church through music. Music is special because something will trigger those truths to resurface in your child's heart and mind over and over again throughout their lives. They are also learning how God is worthy of our praise, and learning to love worshipping Him. (Psalm 119:9-11; Psalm 119:105; Hebrews 12:28)

Now, will your kids care about all of those reasons as much as you will? Probably not. But, here are some things that will matter to your child:

  • friends
  • fun music
  • “singing in the rain”
  • drumming buckets
  • bouncing tennis balls to the beat
  • painting the ceiling with flashlights
  • laughter
  • movie candy prizes
  • caring leadership
  • the irresistible love of Jesus

My job here provides no greater joy than seeing God place gifts and talents in children to be used for their good and His glory. I am inspired because I know that this band of children worshippers will grow to be men and women of God, lifting their voices to lead people into the presence of The King. I’m more passionate than ever about training up this next generation, because it matters. And they matter too.

STOMP (Special Times of Music and Praise) meets on Wednesday nights at Shades from 6:00-6:40, starting August 19. For further information, please visit

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August 2015

Posted in From the Pastor  |  By Danny Wood  |  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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Proverbs | A Guide to Life

Posted in Worship  |  By Danny Wood  |  Posted on Thu Jun 4, 2015

Proverbs | A Guide to Life

We all have situations in life where we need wisdom – with relationships, issues at work, even personal growth; we want to know the right thing to do.

And, if you have decided to follow Jesus, you want His perfect wisdom in knowing how to respond. But, what if we didn’t look at wisdom as something to reach for when things seem uncertain, but if it was a virtue that characterized our lives? The book of Proverbs tells us that the life marked with wisdom is the life of someone who knows and turns to the Lord.

We are going to spend 10 weeks looking at the rich wisdom from this practical book in our summer sermon series Proverbs: A Guide to Life. Some commentators have said that the Psalms tells us how to get along with God and the Proverbs tell us how to get along with one another.

Each Sunday we will focus on a specific theme from Proverbs, but also invite you to personally spend this summer reading Proverbs daily for yourself.

There are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs, so we’ll read the corresponding chapter to each day. On June 7, read Proverbs 7, on June 8 read Proverbs 8, and so on. Over the course of the summer, we will have read through the book 3 times!

Let me encourage you to read Chapter 1 this week. I will be preaching on Chapter 1 as we lay the foundation for this practical study and then pick up the reading plan on Sunday.

We have created a couple of tools to help keep us together and on track. You can use the reading plan on the Shades app, and even receive daily reminders on your smartphone with the chapter for the day, or download a reading guide from our website.

This is a great opportunity for us as a church to spend these summer months, wherever we are, focusing on the goodness of God through reading His Word. We hope you’ll join us!

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Why VBS is more than just a fun event

Posted in Children  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Wed May 20, 2015

Why VBS is more than just a fun event

It takes hundreds of volunteers, months of planning, thousands of man-hours and it takes up nearly every inch of our church for an entire week.

Vacation Bible School is one of the greatest weeks in the life of our church. What other week are there nearly 1,000 kids gracing the halls of our campus?

We have the privilege of sharing the gospel with boys and girls who are eager to have fun and learn some incredible Biblical truths at the same time during the week of VBS. There is something special about an action-packed week at VBS that just builds excitement here at Shades. It’s a great reminder of the excitement we should have for God and His work in our lives every day!

We do have a significant goal, however.

Our goal at VBS is to bring as many children to Christ as possible.

Our VBS program is designed to teach the message of salvation and reach those who may not attend church on a regular basis. This should encourage our families to bring visitors. This should be relatively easy because VBS is FUN! In fact, that’s one of the main reasons I have always loved VBS! I get the opportunity to laugh and be silly with boys and girls of all ages as we transform our church into a pirate-themed landscape. Having fun is important – it shows children that loving God can be fun and exciting!

I want to ask you to pray for VBS.

First, ask God to lay on your heart the names of some individuals you need to invite to VBS at Shades. Then, begin praying for the boys and girls who will be in attendance – that God will prepare their hearts to fully understand how they can connect Biblical truths to their lives. We’re praying for God to show-off in some pretty big ways!

While it can be loud, messy, and it can get a little bit crazy – VBS is so worth it!

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National Day of Prayer

Posted in Uncategorized  |  By Danny Wood  |  Posted on Thu May 7, 2015

National Day of Prayer

Today is National Day of Prayer and is a time for all of us to put aside our busy schedules and spend concentrated time in prayer.

I encourage you to pray for our nation that God would bring about a spiritual awakening. Pray for those in Nepal who are trying to recover from tragedy but, at the same time, may the gospel message reach their ears and hearts. Pray for persecuted Christians around the world ... men, women and children standing strong for our Lord in the midst of perilous times.

As you are praying for the needs of this world, remember the words of Richard Foster and his description of prayer:

“The primary purpose of prayer is to bring us into such a life of communion with the Father that, by the power of the Spirit, we are increasingly conformed to the image of the Son.”

May this be a day where we pray to our Heavenly Father about all that is on our hearts and may we have our hearts and lives conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.

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