Dear Church of the Shepherd Family,

The count down until Thanksgiving has begun. Many of you might even be celebrating thanksgiving this weekend. The truth is, all of us should practice thanksgiving every day. The Apostle Paul could well be known as the Apostle of Thanksgiving. He included in all of his letters his thanks for those he was writing to. He wrote of his great thanks to God for what God had done, was doing, or was about to do in his life. He was always thankful. He recognized he had much to be thankful for.

Now some might look at his life and say he suffered with his constant thorn in the flesh, and was persecuted, jailed, beaten, ridiculed, and more. He was disappointed and let down by friends over and over. But Paul never counted any of that as a negative. He instead focused his life on what Christ had done for him and in him. He focused on the new life that he had been given, the opportunity to share Jesus with others, and the opportunity to be used by God in service to others. He was a long way from being a Pollyanna kind of guy. But he never took his eye off of his life with Jesus. It made all the difference.

It’s not always easy to be a person who lives out a life of thanksgiving. But that is the life we are called to if we are following Jesus. So what does your life look like? I found these assessment questions last week as I was doing some personal assessment of my own and thought I might share a few of them with you as a way to determine if you are really thankful or just giving lip service to God during this Thanksgiving season:

  • Would the people who live nearest to you characterize you as a complaining person or a thankful person?
  • When was the last time you spent time grumbling, moaning, and complaining about life?
  • When you look at your world, do you find yourself celebrating God’s common grace?
  • Do you view yourself as one who has been constantly short-changed and neglected, or as one who has been unfairly showered with blessings?
  • How often do you fill in the blank with gratitude, like “I can’t believe God has given me _________”?
  • In your relationships, are you encouraging friends and family to continue their grumbling, or are you encouraging them to find reasons to give thanks to God?

I encourage you to begin your prayer time this week with a time of thanksgiving before you lift up your concerns or needs before God. Know I am giving thanks for you today in my prayers.

 

Celebrations

What a joy to welcome our new members this past weekend. Those joining our church family include Gayle Borho, Nate Hoke, Bill Steele, Harvey Hurtt, Michelle Hurtt, Brian Nutt, Jessica Nutt, Adam Lauman, Megan Lauman, Barb Powers, Jamie Kirn, Bill Brewington, and Carolyn Brewington.

We also celebrated the commissioning of Laura Kremer and Larry Pugh as Stephen’s Ministers. What a privilege to celebrate this calling with them.

 

Charge Conference Update

Monday night we gathered for our annual Charge Conference meeting and lifted up our new purpose, vision, journey, and task statements. We shared the core values that are shaping us, what our church would look like if we lived into this vision, and what our four main tasks will be for 2018. You can pick up a 10 page report at Guest Services. I will be sharing more details on all of this over the next several weeks.

During our time together, there were some great questions asked. One of those questions was how can we find out how we are tracking with our vision and what are the directional and strategic decisions that are taking place in the church? The answer is – Pastor Jon’s eNote. Each week I will be sharing some of that “insider” info to help keep us all informed and to keep encouraging us to lean into what God is doing in our midst. This is where we will be sharing and celebrating our mission goals and actions, our stewardship news, leadership challenges, and more. If you have questions, you can feel free to drop me a line and ask. If it is a question I think others might well enjoy knowing, I will respond in the eNote. If it is more personal, I will just respond to you. But we want to be as open as possible.

One of the questions that was asked, and I didn’t have the answer for that night, was what’s happening with our membership numbers. I promised I would share that here. First the really great news – in the past 12 months we received 36 youth and adults by profession of faith! This is a great reason to celebrate. We also give thanks for the 20 people who joined from other UMC’s and 10 people who joined from other denominations, making a total 66 people who made COS their church home in the last year. Of those who are no longer a part of our COS family, we celebrated the lives of 7 who have passed away in the last year. There were 9 who transferred to other congregations, 9 who withdrew their membership, and 19 who were removed by charge conference action. These last two categories are largely due to people moving out of our area and who we have lost contact with.

 

This Weekend in Worship

This is a great week to gather for worship as we encourage all of our church family to join us online or in person as we enter into the Christmas season and kick off our Unexpected Christmas: Beyond Words. Advent and Christmas are about our preparation and encounter with the God who chose to become one of us to show us what love, grace, hope, and life is all about. An encounter with God is what we are all seeking, and when we encounter God, it is beyond words.

We will begin the season by focusing on how our family will celebrate the wonder of Jesus as we give ourselves away. This weekend, we will all have a chance to respond directly to how we will worship fully, give more, spend less, and love all. Come join us as we respond to the one who loves us.

I look forward to seeing each one of you in worship or online this week.

Pastor Jon