On Sunday, May 21st, we will celebrate the 63rd birthday of Providence Baptist Church. This Anniversary Sunday will be my first one with you, and I am looking forward to it. Grateful people remember their shared history, as well as the leadership, vision, sacrifices, and devotion of those who made that history possible in the first place. It’s a good thing that, once a year, we set aside a special Sunday to look back at where we’ve been and thank God for blessing us so generously. It’s also a good time to look ahead and consider the kind of church that God wants us to be in the future. I’ve already been here long enough to recognize some of the strengths that have defined the ministry and mission of Providence since 1954. This church is filled with talented people who have a great deal of energy and a great desire to follow Jesus. These are strengths. This church is filled with generous people who give freely of their money and their time in order to make a kingdom difference in Charlotte and beyond. These are strengths. This church is filled with faithful people who love Jesus, recognize the authority of Scripture, and are committed to historic Baptist principles of freedom under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. These are strengths. This church, finally, is filled with people who love one another very much and have deep-rooted relationships that stretch back, in some cases, for nearly as long as Providence has existed. These are tremendous strengths, especially at a time in our culture when what divides seems to wield more influence over us than what unites. Providence is a living, breathing sign of what the apostle Paul means when he writes in Ephesians that Jesus is our peace, breaking down the walls that divide us so that he can reconcile us to God as one body, through the cross (Ephesians 3:14-17). The continued vitality of Providence is a testimony to what can happen when diverse Christians serve God together based on their common commitment to Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected. The thing is, though, the Lord expects us to be good stewards of the blessings we’ve received. So, how is God leading us to build on these strengths? What kind of a church does God want us to be in the years ahead? Believe me, these are questions that I think about—and pray about—a lot. Here are some early answers after eight months here with you: I believe that God wants us to be a church that takes seriously the Christ-given command to make disciples and help them to grow into followers of Jesus whose lives bear good fruit. This means investing in Christian education and spiritual formation for people of all ages in our Providence family. I believe that God wants us to be a church that is engaged with our neighbors in Cotswold. There is no excuse, other than lack of effort, for why we are not building strong, lasting, life-changing relationships with the people who live closest to our church. I believe that God wants us to be a church that not only meets our obligations to support kingdom ministries and missions at home and around the world, but is a leader among Cooperative Baptist churches in supporting worthy efforts to share the Gospel and serve others in Jesus’ name. I believe that God wants us to be a church that reflects a New Testament model for what the body of Christ should look like, in which many, diverse parts form a single, cohesive whole: Everyone’s gifts are needed, everyone’s gifts are shared, and everyone’s gifts are honored and respected, “so that there may be no dissension within the body, and the members may have the same care for one another” (1 Corinthians 15:25). Is that it? Probably not. I am confident that God has even greater things than this to accomplish for, and through, Providence. But this short list is a start, reflecting how I sense the Spirit moving among us right now—and there’s nothing on this list that God has not already equipped us to begin working toward. Through His generosity, God has blessed us with abundant strengths to build upon. Through His Son, Jesus, God has given us abundant life to draw from. May the Lord make us strong where we are weak—and, in those places where we are strong, may He make us humble. And, may the peace of Christ be with you!