And There You Have It – A Long Post On Thankfulness

10451071_10152256155483541_3935563780557239040_nYesterday was a glorious day for the church, and I don’t just mean City Pres.

It certainly was for City Pres, too. We held our what is called Particularization Service at 5pm. This means that an official commission from the presbytery gathered to install and ordain our elders and then carry out official business for City Pres. Until yesterday we had been considered a mission church. Our government and oversight had come from the presbytery. But when we elected our own Ruling Elders (men who serve and shepherd but aren’t pastors themselves), we are able to be self-sustaining, self-governing and therefore the congregation can also elect its own pastors.

So it’s a service of calls, charges, vows, prayers and the laying on of hands. It makes something official. It’s the work of the church at large. It’s a reminder of what is true – City Pres is on its own but it’s not on it’s own. We didn’t just pop up out of nowhere and we don’t exist in a vacuum by ourselves. We are committed to and connected to the Church. We pinned that service to Pentecost on purpose – so we could celebrate the birth of the church universal and celebrate with the saints all throughout time.

It was a service of tears for me. Bobby and I have looked forward to this day for years, and it finally came. We knew it would be glorious, and it was. I didn’t know how much work it would take, but God has sustained us. We’re tired but joyful.

Thank you to Dr. Dan Doriani of Covenant Seminary for sharing the day with us. Both Bobby and I loved our time at Covenant. It was formative for me. i showed up at Covenant in 1997. I was 26 years old. Julie and I had two kids. I learned about grace at Covenant. I was taught the Bible. I was exposed to thinking about the world and art and all of life redeemed. I learned enough Greek and Hebrew to pass, but I was formed by these great teachers and pastors, who set a foundation of gospel-centered pastoring.

Thank you to the men who served on the commission and to our presbytery for supporting us and believing in us. That includes Bill Thomas and Brad Bradley of the Southwest Church Planting Network – they plant churches! Thank you men for examining our Ruling Elders with both truth and love.

Thank you to Dave Clelland for serving as the head of the MNA Committee for our presbytery and my mentor and coach. You are a Vietnam vet tank commander and that is scary, but you have served me and Julie, Bobby and Jennifer and City Pres far more than I could have asked for. You have served in love, patience, kindness and the occasional butt-kicking that I have needed. Thank you for being for me no matter what, even when I was an idiot and off track.

Thank you to Bobby especially for being a friend – a best friend – and colaborer and pastor together. In all honestly, this is your idea Bobby. Thank you for having it and for giving yourself to the task in love. Thank you for asking me to join you in this work and entrusting me with so much. Thank you for your sacrifice of love to do this together. You are one smart, talented, compassionate man who loves Christ with his heart, soul, mind and strength.

Thank you to the other PCA churches who came to support us. We love Heritage Presbyterian, Christ the King and Redeemer here in our metro. Thank you to Christ Pres, RiverOaks, Ethos, and Trinity Owasso in Tulsa. Thank you to Brent Corbin at RUF Tulsa and Justin Westmoreland at OURUF for coming. Thank you to Ryan Baker, just newly appointed at Grace Stillwater and one of our own. I love being pastors with you in the crazy conformity and diversity of the crazy PCA – let’s do more of these with the churches we plant in our state.

Thank you to my friends who came to support me, many of whom are Baptists and didn’t know what they were getting into. I love you Andy, John, Ben, Clint, Andrew, Ben, Jeremy. You have been faithful friends and pastors and I’m thankful for walking with you in our state. I’ll help you plant and support churches like yours any day of the week. Thank you for walking with me in love and friendship and for putting up with my spirited conversations and well just general jerkiness because you are far kinder than I am.

Thank you to my OURUF students from 2001-2011. Wow. I really love you so much that I cannot explain  just how deep that love is. We did some wacky things together, but we also shared our hearts and lives. Thank you for sitting with me all those hours at the coffee shop to love and pastor me. Thank you for coming to listen as I shared the gospel and preached boring sermons that I needed to hear. Thanks for attending some fun parties and weird events. Thanks for believing in me and supporting me even now.

Thank you to those who started at the very beginning of City Pres. I especially honor the Dunhams, the Abbots and the Masons who sat in the living room with the Servens and Griffiths that first night of Bible study reading Tim Keller’s church planting manual. Look how far we’ve come from those days.

Thank you to those who started right after that. You were such early adopters, and I think you saw something in there, something of the Spirit moving, something of God at work. Thank you for singing and playing, serving kids in the nursery, for set up and clean up, for suffering through disorganization and change, for giving your gifts and talents so willingly, and for following me and Bobby so graciously. We have seen incredible things since then.

Thank you to those who decided to jump in along the way. What was it? Fun parties, great CityGroups, service projects, amazing music, stories of rescue, CityVision where we asked others to come and be with our church, a motivated staff that cares to love and serve, the Lord’s Supper every week, a church filled with a people willing to share their poverty, repentance, this building the Lord provided, Pyretics – what was it?! You have decided to join with your gifts and talents, skills and service to be priests and missionaries, sinners and saints, and a part of this church. I’m thankful for all of your dedication and hard work, and how you’ve served and loved far more than a pastor could ask for. I think you’ve seen God at work and that he is good and he blesses his people.

Thank you to Ryan, Brian and Jake for answering the call to be those very first Ruling Elders. It is an honor and it will be an honor to serve alongside you in this active leadership of the church. Thank you to the others who went through leadership training, and all of the other leaders in our church. Your leadership is essential and we will thrive as you all lead us well.

Thank you to our staff who serve basically without hardly any pay. Thank you Keely for making us look good, way better than we deserve. Thank you Jarod for loving the youth and the parents. Thank you Brenden for pulling together and leading the best worship in the city. Thank you Christie for corralling these women and helping them connect with Christ and each other. Thank you April for caring for our kids with an excellent, safe, loving nursery each week. Thank you Laura, Laura and Sara for the great events you have done with the CityKids in the summers. Thank you Paul for all your work with the sound – way beyond what we could have asked. Thank you to Laura and Matt for serving Moore with Sheds of Hope and then doing so much with our church and building.  Thank you all who have helped all of them to do so much.

Thank you to all of those who served so much to get us the building. It’s a miracle that we can meet in this place. You may already be used to it, but our guests yesterday were astounded. Thank you for your sacrifice and tears to make it happen. You gave. Dusted. Vacuumed. Mopped. Put together furniture. Weeded. Then did it all again. This is a place where Jesus truly can be more believable and beautiful. Thank you for those like Ben Seller, Andrea Meister, Jon Dodson and JW Peters who dedicated expertise. Thank you to those who gave $10 all the way to $300,000 to make this happen. God is blessing us and you through this for his church and kingdom.

Thank you first time visitors. I think I met 10-12 new visitors this Sunday. We want you to come and love City Pres but most of all to come and love Christ. Please come back and help us make this a better place where more can be served and loved. Where Christ can be preached and glorified. Where we can walk in real community together because it’s okay and we don’t have it all together but we hope for more and that hope is real and founded in Christ. We’re not surprised by sin but we don’t settle for it either. We weep and laugh together. And we reach out to those who don’t know him or his church. We invite people to walk with Jesus with us. We pray big prayers. We want to change the world. We are involved and active and seeking Oklahoma City to be more like the city of God.

I’m humbled to be a part of something like this. Jesus is our hero. I’m just a guy who is trying to lead this ragtag group but I need Christ more than any of you. I am not capable in any sense. I am blessed. Truly. I am beyond my capacity and ability. I am weak and wounded, sick and sore. I am tired like you may be.

But Jesus is good to me too. He’s not just good to City Pres on this Particularization Sunday, this Pentecost Sunday. He certainly is good to City Pres.

He’s good to me. I know he loves me and cares for me and is close to me and that I can walk with him and share with him all of my junky junkiness. That’s good news.