So, it is finally here. If it is not real to you that we are actually moving, join us Sunday and see for yourself. The church is a mess! And further more, I am not apologizing. There are boxes everywhere, as room after room is packed and ready to move next Tuesday. As I look around my study, my home for the past 12 years and see half of my books packed up (thanks to my hero Wendy Vande-Linde), empty bookshelves, pictures stacked on my desk, and liqueur boxes for packing everywhere – I know it is real. Moments like these are natural “hinge points,” endings and new beginnings, so it is natural that we reflect on where we have been and where we are going.
I am not going to miss this renovated warehouse, though I am very thankful for it. We moved into this space to be here for just a short while. We needed more space till we could raise money to build. A few years turned into twelve years. For me personally, many of them were Wasteland Years. But as Tim Keller says, “the desert is the place where the only way you survive is God.”
Here, we saw our church’s growth not only stop, but we also saw many folk leave. This was a first for me. It is only looking back that I realize I was in a very low place. But the good thing about “low places,” “Wasteland Places,” “Desert Places” is that that is where you meet God in a new, real, and fresh way. I can remember a turning point during that bleak period that Brian Henson and I were at a hotel talking about the future of St. Patrick and weeping as we begged God for fresh direction. And you know what – he showed it to us!
In 2013, after a year and a half of soul searching, and our leadership rethinking everything, we did two things. We RE-Visioned, clarified, and simplified our vision to what you now see everywhere, “Loving God, Loving People, Loving Life.” The second thing that followed re-visioning was RE-Engagement with our community of Collierville. We held a huge feast and invited everyone in the neighborhood to come and join us. At this time we basically said, if we are going to reach more people and make more disciples the number one thing we must do is build. So we set a goal to be in a building at the end of 2014 or 2015.
That vision has breathed new life into St. Patrick and I can honestly say, not building when we thought we would in 2008 was a “severe mercy.” I have learned more things in the past five years than I can imagine, and our church will be a deeper, richer place for the painful experience of some of these past years. Do I want to go through them again? Heavens no! But we couldn’t be where we are as a church now, our staff and leadership, without the storms we have weathered.
So we have a new phase of ministry now in a new and beautiful place – right in the heart of Collierville. Talk about great grace – this is a gift from God. Every time I am at the stop light on Byhalia and look up – and from that vantage point it looks like our church is the “light set on a hill” – I am overcome with gratitude.
This is our last Sunday here, so I think the last word spoken here from me has to be the one word that defines each of us and the ministry of St. Patrick – Grace! Join me Sunday amid the glorious mess and chaos of moving and let’s rejoice together one last time over the amazing grace of the gospel!