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Pastors Note: Keep Summer Going


As the first day of school, the kickoff of football season, and other fall events rapidly approach, my family is trying to hang on to some of the joys of summer. The ability for kids to sleep later in the morning has given us leisurely nights together at the pool or on the tennis court, playing games or talking and laughing together before bed. Even though next week we won’t be able to stay up until 10:00 on Tuesday nights anymore, we want to stretch summer into fall, as it were, and figure out how to make margin for these leisurely times together that are so valuable.

I’d like to suggest the same for our church family – that we all think together how to stretch summer into fall. What I mean is that we’ve focused this summer on “One Anothering,” on investing in Gospel Community together. We’ve seen over and over how intent God is on answering the loneliness in our lives and in this world with the life-giving relationships in his family. But as life gets busy again this fall, it would be easy to leave those nice thoughts behind and have nothing change, no relationships develop, no Gospel Community actually grow.

OR … we could each take a step toward prioritizing what God calls us to prioritize. My first suggestion is one you’ve heard all summer: We want everyone at Southwood in a small group and/or a Connect Community. Trying one out is a great step toward Gospel Community. So is serving one another. Your small group may be with children or youth, where you learn alongside and from them as God works in their lives and yours. There’s a place for you there! Maybe your step to take is actually moving toward that one person you committed to move toward earlier this summer. Imagine how community would multiply if we all actually moved intentionally toward another brother or sister!

To be clear, I’m talking to all of us. Particularly on my heart in calling us to invest more deeply are longtime Southwood members who have drifted from deep connection with their church family, new people at Southwood just trying to make this place a home for themselves, and some of you who have been members a few years but have not yet moved beyond that initial commitment. Please let us help you engage in the life-giving community Jesus died to welcome you into! But I’m talking to those of you who feel deeply connected already, too. You need a small group, too, and someone else needs you there. You may feel relationally full, but your brother or sister next to you on Sunday is lonely, so God says you’re not full yet because WE aren’t full yet! (If you need any more motivation, read Christine’s beautiful “Don’t Drown” article in the middle of this issue of Branches.)

Those are practical steps we can all be taking right now to pursue what God has called us to together and stretch summer into fall. Another way summer will stretch into fall is with our upcoming sermon series. We’re finishing up “One Another” passages and turning our attention to some Minor Prophets. They’re going to hit many of the same themes we’ve seen this summer with perhaps a bit more of an edge that may hurt (for our good). They’re going to be calling God’s people together to repent – that is, to turn our hearts back to the God who made us a family in the first place, whose Word is to be our life, whose glory is to be our passion. In other words, they will keep asking us week after week whether the Gospel is what is defining our community. They will challenge us in many places where it’s not. They will offer to us the beauty of a community that actually is learning to have Jesus at its center.

So even more importantly than taking that first practical step to put yourself in a small group or Connect Community, join me in asking Holy Spirit to put Jesus at the center of your heart and life – and then to let you experience with those you’ve locked arms with that disruptive, uncomfortable, glorious life with Him.