Monday, July 30, 2007

Pastoral letter to church family:

The view from 10,000 feet.

I have spent some time now asking Jesus what he sees from Heaven as he looks at 5 stones community church. I will try to awkwardly communicate this vision as best I can in the following paragraphs. I believe this letter is the first sketch of our blueprint of restoration, revival, and revolution.

Restoration: means God healing us of the wounds we have experienced both inflicted by others as well as self inflicted.

Revival: means getting back to deep connection with God where we feel truly alive and know we are loved without conditions.

Revolution: means we are fully engaged in God’s mission and Gospel going out into our culture to rescue it.

As a pastor and as an anointed apostle sent here as a messenger from God:

First of all I wish to express God’s appreciation and my own as a pastor for the incredible sacrifice, wisdom, and leadership that Jaime Parsons, Aaron Wardle, the board, the staff, and various other people have given to the church in the months since the previous pastor left and in the gap before my arrival. There is no way I could name all the right names, but rest assured God has seen what everyone has done for the sake of His church here. I cannot communicate the warmth, love, and pride God wants to show to you. I can only say as he has said “well done, my good and faithful servants.” In particular as the last full-time staff member I wish to communicate how much God, myself, and I am sure the whole body appreciates what Jaime has done to lead and serve in this time of awkward transition. Many of you will never know the burden she has carried, alone at times, in serving this body. Again, thank you to everyone in leadership and followership for being the strong army of Gideon over the last two years. [God used Gideon to take a large army and make it smaller so that they would understand when the war was won it wasn’t won because of size but because of God’s presence with them despite their lack of numbers] God picked you for this season, and your character, commitment, and creativity amazes me and brings a broad smile to the face of God. And a special thanks to Terry, Gene, Dan, Glen, John and others who have filled the pulpit and brought both the Word and the Spirit through some tough times. The right thing is often the tough thing; and the great thing is often the hardest. Someone needs to tell you how proud God is of you, as your pastor I say again “well done!”

Secondly I wish to say thanks for those courageous enough in this season to follow God even though that has meant leaving 5 stones, either for a season, or for a new calling. This is normal and natural, it is a good thing. God is always training people for ministry at one church, and then launching them into new ministries with the skills he has equipped them with at the former church. 5 stones has, and will continue to launch people out as missionaries, apostles, and leaders in other churches. This is something to celebrate, even in the midst of grieving. And for those who have needed a Sabbath rest to regroup we always as a church family want to make sure you know that we have saved a place at the table for you. Some will leave for other reasons, and in those grace allows us to agree to disagree in love.

Thirdly, I understand this. My own grieving over leaving my Fort Worth ministries behind is being healed by God through you. The dinners, the prayers, the words of encouragement that you have offered me have made some hard days bearable, and made other days positively triumphant. I am well aware of the limitations of my humanity, but I am even more aware at the unlimited resources of Christ’s divinity. And as He is healing me and rebuilding my walls in my spiritual heart, mind, and temple I am attempting to rebuild each of yours as well. This I am doing directly, indirectly through leaders, through the preaching of His word, and praying in the Spirit over all of you and this community. This place I am growing to love and understand as my new home away from home [which is heaven]. I, as you are, am inadequate for the task, but am made adequate and more through the power of God which lives in us. We can do ALL things through him!

Finally the fog is lifting. I can say with full assuredness that nothing has happened in vain. God has done and allowed everything that has happened to happen with a purpose and a plan of providence. This church has a birthright and a destiny. This church has been held together by God through your obedience, character, and sacrifice. And for that again, I say thank you. Things are coming together: new board members; new teachers; new people stepping up to leadership; a spiritual oversight team; new vision; new blogs and websites; and a renewed passion for the mission. As Nehemiah stood, so I stand and I fully see the wall that must be built and all of our places in it. Little stones that only small fingers can move; large stones that only teams can move; prayer watchmen on the wall; guards who protect; and a million other things. Each of you have a stone to move…in fact you could call us 150 stones community church right now and that would be true. Each of us as living stones, fitted together through relationships, as the temple of God in Ashland. We are becoming the city of refuge for the lost and hurting, we are becoming a sanctuary, and we are becoming a missionary training school to create spiritual marines that will topple the gates of Hell. What does it mean to rebuild the wall? It simply means to ask God how to use you and your unique gifts to impact those around you with God’s love. It is risky to actually engage and it is riskier still to be disengaged. But God asks us to risk with the same reckless abandon that he did…He risked it all, even His son, for you! I can only say go ahead and feel the full weight of all those emotions that are heading at us as tidal waves and undertows. God is real, and we can surf in His momentum and power; and Satan is real and seeks to drag us under. But God and His Kingdom and His church are an UNSTOPPABLE force that will have to be reckoned with here in Ashland. This I believe with my whole heart. And I am prepared to face the consequences of this epic story with all I have. I am not going anywhere. If money is tight I will become a tent-maker somehow and my wife and I will figure out what it takes to lead with whatever creativity and grit we will have to acquire from the strength of God’s spirit. And if God is for us, who can be against us? Christianity has survived and triumphed through 2000 years of persecution, and has spread across the globe like a revolutionary wildfire of love and grace. And hard times always come, leaving a remnant, that is reborn stronger and tougher than the refugees they once were. That is our heritage, and we stand with the prophets and saints, who poured out their lives and blood on the battlefields of culture for the sake of the gospel and the kingdom. That is our story as well, and it is epic and real. And so like William Wallace I can ask “which of you this day would trade all your tomorrows to come back and fight…right here right now” not for our freedom but for the freedom of those chained and blinded by Satan.

Having thus faced all these things let us stand, with the fortress of Gods strength as our foundation…let us run, as those with wings like eagles lifted by angels…and let us burn with light like a lighthouse and a city on a hill for those trapped in the dark waves…and let our lives show them the way home.

May the Spirit fill all of us with passion and power; and may all of us be open to hearing, following, and flowing to all the Spirit has for this church family.

Humbly, and with great deep passion. For “not all who wander are lost.”

Your pastor,

David Sherwood

PS: Our mission, should you be wondering what it is…is very simple. “Go everywhere; tell the gospel story to everyone; make disciples…repeat as needed till everyone has heard and experienced Christ’s love through us.” We will probably frame it a little different in the future, but that is the meat of it.

PPS: Rebuilding the wall simply means fixing anything that is outside of God’s perfect will and attempting to bring it back into conformity with what God wants.



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