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Sunday, January 01, 2017

2016 Round Up

2016 has been the subject of much commentary from the election to the seemingly full spate of celebrity and other deaths. After fourteen years of ministry at Good Shepherd, the session also gave me a second sabbatical, which I used primarily to write and record original music (more below). Last year at this time I wrote about leaning back into "core ministries" as the church re-captured its vision after focusing on a capital campaign for several years. Like the previous two years, we also had some staff transition with our youth director, Joanie, leaving to get married, and with our children's ministry director, Melissa, stepping away from her church role at year end. So we enter 2017 still in staff transition. I have named several areas of new ministry and focus (men's ministry, racial reconciliation, youth ministry w/new staff), but also still look forward to seeing where God is leading us in 2017. As in past years, I would name some highlights (and benchmarks) for this past year.

Sermon Series: I don't always preach in series, but when I do, I often enjoy the cumulative effect of building on a theme or digging deep into a topic. We had several this year:

  • "Dark Season of the Soul" - looking to Lamentations and Psalms of lament to see how people have called out to God in the most challenging seasons of struggle, loss, and discouragement
  • "Things We Leave Behind" - a series focusing on what it means to trust and follow Jesus as disciples
  • "God As... in the Pentateuch" - series by Kathy Larson during my sabbatical, focusing on the character of God as revealed in the first five books of the Bible
  • "Doers of the Word" - series from the book of James by guest preachers in the congregation while I was on sabbatical
  • "Summer Series" - various themes and sermons during the summer after returning from sabbatical
  • "Lessons from Philemon" - series on race and identity in Christ
  • "The Good Shepherd" - series on Psalm 23
  • "Stewardship" - series on our stewardship, consecration, and thankfulness as God's people
  • "Advent/Christmas" - this year's Advent series and Christmas sermons, focused on knowing God through Jesus, as seen in his teaching and relationships
Individual Sermons: three sermons that stood out as "most downloaded" as well as meaningful to me. It is interesting to me that two of them came from our 'number' series early in the year and that the three represent a nice range of interests (spiritual struggle, spiritual discipline, spiritual health).
  1. "Leaving Our Culture" - we are "dual citizens" of our nation (and culture) and the Kingdom of God, but our first allegiance must be to the Kingdom of God
  2. "Three Compassions" - compassion is a necessary first step to living and loving beyond ourselves and what we and the whole of the human race needs to survive and flourish; written in response to the racial conflict manifesting in the summer of 2016
  3. "While the Nations Rage" - God's sovereignty is an anchor in the midst of the unrest, anxiety, and issues swirling around us in the world today
Testimonies: this was a year of meaningful testimonies shared in and with the church; some are included below; I started to note "this is amazing!" next to them, but they are all amazing and really significant testimonies of God's goodness!
Music: one of the goals/habits I cultivated in 2014 was trying to regularly write or record music; I called this "Sundays for Singing," trying to post something each Sunday. I certainly didn't generate a post weekly, but it did get the wheels turning again. I was also excited for my friend, John Duncan, to get a life-long dream up and running in Beathaven. It brings the opportunity of professional interaction, review, and submission of ideas to amateur musicians. I was pleased that John used several of my instrumental tracks (here's one example) in setting up the site and interacting with him around the Beathaven service has spurred some enjoyable musical creativity.

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