Yesterday was our fifth annual Easter gathering at State Street. It just happened to be the largest Sunday we’ve had to date (with roughly 445 people joining us.) We have now turned the pages of our collective journey to begin the fifth year of ministry and life. Today I’m left with a profound sense of gratitude for the places we’ve been, the people we’ve met, and the events that have left us laughing and crying. It’s been such a great season for myself, my family, and [hopefully] those who have entered into community with us. As I take inventory of the past five years, here are some of the things that I’m most thankful for:
I’m thankful for my wife. Since we’ve planted State Street, we have had two more children [Finley and Harrison] and countless life events. From buying a bigger car to fit the growing family to being patient with me as I finished my graduate work to navigating the waters of my recent illnesses, she has been my best friend, sounding board, and firm ally during it all. My life has so much more meaning with her in it. She never wanted to be a pastor’s wife, but she has made a tremendous one regardless.
I’m thankful for my children. Few people understand the sacrifice that children make when their mother or father is a pastor. Most week I spend 50-60 hours away from them in my office, in counseling meetings, studying, or helping those in need. Nora, Finley, and Harrison bring incredible amounts of joy to my life. I’m determined to be cognizant and aware enough to make them grateful that their dad was a pastor and not ashamed or disgruntled of that fact. Perhaps it’s an attempt like swimming upstream, but they are worth every effort I can make to provide them with an engaged and loving father. If our community at State Street grows but at the expense of failing my children as a father, this is not success.
I’m thankful for the staff. Our children’s director Julie Secor has taught me so much about how to value the voices of those who often aren’t heard enough by the adults around them. If every church had a children’s director with a heart, passion, and vision the size of Julie, the church would be in great shape for the next generation. Becky Crain’s passion for Christ and the Church is infectious. She’s also a supremely talented person: a gifted preacher and musician. I’ve learned much about finding my own voice from watching her exercise hers. Jason Clemons provides a constant reminder that the heart of Christ is located with the poor, widow, and orphan. He helps me fully appreciate the redemptive message of the Beatitudes. Without him, I’d be a worse pastor. I’m even grateful for the Philosopher Janitor [Jonny Schult] who not only cleans the bathroom stalls each and every week, but also provides me helpful commentary on Platonic dialogue. He’s a good friend.
I’m thank for the leadership at State Street. I sit under a gracious, loving, and wise board of stewards that help guide me, keep me accountable, and establish a defined vision for the future of our community. Some have been with me since the beginning [Mark Secor, Neal Loucks, Mark Bublitz] and some have just joined us this year [Stacey Lingle, Ty Miller, Mark Bules, and Brian Morros.] They have never been afraid of asking tough questions and seeking uncomfortable answers if it leads us to be a more faithful presence for Christ in our community. They are truly a blessing to me.
I’m thankful for those who have gathered under Christ with us. Whether you’ve been at State Street since the beginning or you’ve just joined us. Perhaps you only had a short season with us and you’ve now moved on to another community to use your gifts and talents. I am grateful for you. I hope that you’ve been able to connect to the current of Christ in this world with us… if only for a small season or for a long one.
I’m thankful for the many people who have given to State Street. We have certain priorities and values that are funded and equipped by the money, talent, and energies of the people within our community. Each weekend we have dozens of people that volunteer in the children’s ministry, the worship team, greeters, and many, many others. During the week we have those who give to make the community center [food pantry, clothes pantry, community garden, community meal, summer bistro, just to name a few…] happen each and every week. They give of their time and money to see to it that others can experience the profound love of Christ that we have seen and felt. It’s an honor to be in community with you all.
I’m thankful for our neighbors at State Street. When we moved to 209 State Street, it was our goal to become good neighbors. We are located in a very transient neighborhood with many rental homes. People often move every 6-8 months to another location in LaPorte or elsewhere. But, while they are in our locale, it’s important to become good neighbors. Many of these people look out for us as we do for them. We’ve now seen some of our neighborhood children grow from elementary ages to middle school. Many of our neighbors have joined our church community in the process. It’s been a joy to do life together over the last 4-5 years.
I’m thankful for other churches and pastors. Many of our fellow churches in LaPorte committed to pray for us as we launched into the area. I’ve been able to build relationships with other pastors who share in our commitment to Christ and His Kingdom. Their pray and support has meant a ton to us over the years.
I’m thankful for my friends who continue to encourage and challenge me. Some of my best friends have been with me during this whole planting process. They’ve encouraged me when I was down, the’ve challenged me when I was wrong, and they’ve laughed with me about all the ridiculous things I’ve said and did in the in between. I’m thankful for Seth Bartlette, Jason Miller, David Cramer, Andrew DeSelm, and Ashley Swanson. They are some of the absolute best people that I’ve had the privilege to meet.
I’m thankful for the many pastors and theologians that, unbeknownst to them, have fed my sermons with inspiration and creativity. Said another way, I’m glad I could steal so much from these folks: N.T. Wright, Stanley Hauerwas, Scot McKnight, Justo Gonzalez, Kallistos Ware, Luke Timothy Johnson, and many other men and women who give their time to put resources in the hands of pastors like myself. Without your scholarly aptitude, I would be a lesser pastor.
I'm grateful for the many community businesses and leaders in LaPorte who have given their time to learn about our community center work, their money to help fund this work, and their energy to help further our mission to feed the poor, clothe the naked, and love the lonely. Your partnership means so much.
Most importantly, I’m thankful for Christ. He has given me infinitely more than I can ever give back to this world. My life has been changed by the love of Christ. It’s been such a joy to be able to proclaim this love to others at State Street. Through the comedies and tragedies over the last five years, His love has been an ever present buoy that has reminded me of what is truly valuable, good, and just.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, STATE STREETERS! I am grateful for you all. Truly, you mean more to me than you'll ever realize.