• Will Spink
    Senior Pastor
  • Rita Clardy
    Executive Assistant
  • Ron Clegg
    Assistant Pastor, Discipleship
  • Peter Render
    Assistant Pastor, Youth/Families
  • Winnie Winford
    High-Life Assistant Director
  • Kim Delchamps
    Administrative Assistant
    High-Life/Children
  • Niña Banta Cash
    Director of Children's Ministry
  • Sarah Niemitz
    Director of Community Development/Assimilation
  • Janice Crowson
    Director of Facilities/Office
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Pastors’ Note: The Experience of Expressed Grace


Coming out of seminary, I was warned of the perils that my family was sure to face in church life.  Many of these things we already have painful experience in from other places, so we felt prepared as we moved to Huntsville.  Emily and I both know the reality of our life together.  We understand what it means for a church family to accept and tolerate our version of crazy.  We know how hard it can be to keep loving and giving when it seems like the other side does nothing but take.

When we hit the ground here at Southwood a little over a year ago, we were both living alertly, waiting to experience shame and guilt for our parenting style and results.  We love our children desperately and are simultaneously appalled by any hitch in their giddy-up.  It almost can seem as though the mirror that the behavior of our children holds up has to do with the state of our souls, with our very identity.

A year later, we have been ministered to in ways that we probably did not understand at the time.  The patience, acceptance, and love for our children has been above and beyond that for which we could have possibly hoped.  Certainly we have had to meet poor behavior head on, issue our fair share of apologies, and ask for forgiveness.  These things, however, have been the exception to the rule of grace at Southwood.

Our core commitment of valuing the least, the lost, the littlest, the lonely, and the
left-out often meets the road when it involves children’s ministry.  People seem attracted to the machine, to the pomp, to the curriculum, to the variety of interactions that children get to have with God’s Word.  I would argue that our true success is with the people, both staff and volunteers, who pour their transformed hearts into our children.

This is a microcosm of what it means for Southwood to be a relational church that experiences and expresses the grace of Jesus Christ.  Although I hesitate to say that the “bad and ugly” is expected, it is handled in stride with the same love and care as the “good.”  In situation after situation with our children, others remind Emily and me that God loves us, his covenant is made with us and with our children, and that our continued effort to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is all that is required.  Not only that, but we also have also been reminded regularly that other brothers and sisters are there to help us with their Christian nurture.

What a testimony it is when the people of God push each other toward the reality of what our Father is on about in this world.  He has adopted us as his children, so that we might rely on him as our Father.  He desires that we would ask him to incline our hearts to his ways, so that we will trust his will and rely upon him.  Certainly our Father disciplines those whom he loves, but his love is our identity.  In spite of our nature, which keeps on taking, he stands steadfast with his children, loving and giving.  I hope and pray that each of us knows more of his love tomorrow than we did even today.