UPDATE FROM PASTOR GARY
We miss you! God has worked in some wonderful ways over the first half of my sabbatical. Kristin and I traveled to Greece, Turkey, and Italy, where we were able to tour several wonderful biblical and historical sites, including Athens, Ephesus, Patmos, and Rome. This not only helped equip us to lead a trip to Greece next year, but also gave us a deeper understanding and appreciation of God’s Word and the spread of the gospel throughout the world.
As a family, we spent a week at a pastor’s retreat center in Georgia, unplugging from everything and seeking God together. I have also been able to spend some time studying and writing, reading a number of books on preaching, leadership, ministry, and theology (I have a solo trip planned at the end of the month at another pastoral retreat center for some time alone with God). Through it all, God has helped us grow closer to him, to taste and see that he is good, to experience how those who take refuge in him are truly blessed.
God has also deepened our love for you all. Throughout his letters, Paul speaks of the longing brothers and sisters have for one another when they can’t see each other. We have worshipped at a number of different churches in Florida and Georgia, getting a sense of how different churches are living for the kingdom in their contexts. However, each of those experiences has also been a little bittersweet, as it has emphasized how precious it is to worship with our church, how we long to be with you all again, and how blessed I am to have the privilege of pastoring you, opening up the Word to you week by week.
Yet, we are so thankful to hear how God has worked these past six weeks! Praise God for his faithfulness and grace, for our baptisms, mission trips, children’s musical, and so much more. I can’t tell you how encouraging this has been. What a wonderful testimony to the truth of the priesthood of the believer, that every member of the church has been called to a unique and vital ministry in the body of Christ.
Please know we are praying for you. At the beginning of my sabbatical, I spent some time seeking God for a particular Word to focus on and pray through, a kind of theme for this time. I chose John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” I have been praying that verse not only for myself and my family, but for our church. Everything we are and everything we do comes from Jesus and should be increasingly about Jesus, for Jesus, toward Jesus. I trust that God is answering this prayer. I invite you to join me in this prayer. And I look forward to seeing you all soon.