I am still overwhelmed by the warm, generous welcome you extended, both to me and to my family, when we came to Charlotte to meet you at the end of July. Your joy, your energy, and your love for Providence Baptist Church are all contagious. That’s a good thing. Thanks to you – and to the power of the Holy Spirit working through you – I left Charlotte filled with joy, energy, and a genuine love for this church. Your words of encouragement and letters of prayerful support have made our initial transition from Murfreesboro to Charlotte less difficult than it might have been otherwise. I remember clearly how one of you said to me after worship on July 31, “Welcome home.” I do feel welcomed, and I am very glad that God is making a new home for us with you. For all that and more, I am grateful. Now, it’s time for us to begin our work together. God has already equipped you with joy, energy, and a love for the church of Jesus Christ. These are three huge blessings that, together, serve as a strong foundation for ministry and a compelling witness to our neighbors in Charlotte. I don’t have to tell you that we live in a broken, divided world – racially, economically, socially, politically, and in so many other tragic ways as well. The sad evidence is all around us. The church is God’s answer to this brokenness, a visible sign of God’s grace and a hopeful promise of the peace that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus makes possible. He is our common ground, writes the apostle Paul, near the end of Ephesians 2, and in Him we are joined together to be a dwelling place for God. Now, what does that mean for us, as God’s people gathered for worship on Randolph Road and scattered for ministry throughout Charlotte? Simply put, it means that the “big tent” diversity of Providence is a glimpse of God’s desire to reconcile all people to Him, and to one another, in Christ Jesus. Our life together is a powerful testimony – and when we share it with abundant joy, cheerful energy, and a sincere love for God, one another, and our neighbors, I believe we’re doing kingdom work in its purest form. Sam Wells, former dean of Duke Chapel and current vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London, recently wrote that Christians “can do unbelievable things together if we start with one another’s assets rather than deficits. In a community of fear we begin with our hurts and our stereotypes and find a hundred reasons why we can’t do certain things or why certain kinds of people don’t belong. But if we peel off labels,” he continues, “and instead see qualities like passionate or committed or generous or enthusiastic or humble, then there’s no limit to what a community of hope can do.” A community of hope. What a worthy way to be known – both by our neighbors and, most importantly, by God. May the joy, energy, and love of God be with this hopeful community of believers we call Providence Baptist Church, and bless us all as we seek to bless others, together, in Jesus’ name!