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John Barber – Live Deeply

I’m CSPC Director of Adult Ministry John Barber, and this is how I’m living deeply. 

“When I joined the CSPC staff a year ago, I’d been pastoring a wonderful small church. As executive pastor, I was involved in all the things that needed to be done. We had great volunteers, of course, but I was still at every event. If somebody doesn’t get the bottles of water or whatever, you’re the one that goes to Sam’s Club and buys them. The main difference at CSPC is that we have an incredible staff managing most of those things. So I transitioned from sort of being the guy things don’t happen without… to here, where we have such a great infrastructure. As I look back on my first year at CSPC, I see God drawing me closer to Him through two main avenues: 1) The blessing of having some freedom and space to breathe. 2) Putting encouraging people all around me and my family. It’s my joy to give you a window into both. 

SPACE AND FREEDOM. My staff is unbelievable here. I have room to breathe. And I don’t mean that in a negative way about my former experience- we still love that church! It was a church plant, and that’s just the way those work. For five years, I was part of the team that drove a trailer, unloaded, and set up at an elementary school at 7:00 every Sunday morning. Going from that routine to just having the freedom to oversee a little bit and breathe is a wonderful thing, and that’s what I’ve experienced here. At a lot of churches, when a new pastor comes in, almost immediately he and his family get asked to do a million leadership things. Here, that didn’t happen, and I mean that in the best possible way. My wife, 17-year-old son, and I have been given the ability to ease into life at CSPC. We’ve just been able to come to church together, which is something that hadn’t happened in almost 20 years, a beautiful thing. At CSPC, having room to breathe also includes space to do personal Bible study. We’re encouraged as a staff to work on our personal discipleship while we’re here, ‘on the clock.’ Having the clarity and the space to do those things has been a real encouragement.    

 SURROUNDED BY ENCOURAGERS. My walk with God has taken leaps and bounds over the last year, not only because I have space for it, but also because I have people around me who are so encouraging. I’ll brag on some of my team members here:  

-Clay Harrington, our pastor to senior adults. When Clay sits down and has a conversation with you, you’re the only person in the room. He never has his eye on the door. He’s not thinking about what’s coming next. He fully invests in that moment. I’ve grown so much just being around Clay- because it’s really easy for me to be thinking about the next meeting, the next Zoom call, the next whatever. Watching Clay work reminds me that at CSPC, we have the freedom and space to focus on the person right in front of us. 

-Alisha Ballenger, our director of elementary ministry. VBS is coming. You want to see somebody working in their glory? Watch Alisha work on VBS. She’s putting in a lot of hours and working really hard- because she loves it! And one of the benefits of my role is that I get to see people do that all the time, often in ways that are ‘behind the scenes’ but vital to the ministry of our church. 

-Jeannette George, our caring ministry coordinator. She’s phenomenal, and a lot of people don’t even know! Jeannette hosted a lunch for caregivers a few weeks ago, and it was an hour of just the most life-giving conversation. It wasn’t overly planned, wasn’t programmatic. It was, ‘We’re going to get these people together who spend all their time and energy loving others, and we’re going to love them.’ And it was fantastic. We all saw Jeannette shine in that moment. 

It’s also really apparent to me how healthy our leadership is, from the elders to James, Andrew, and Torrey. A lot of times in churches, staff members are carrying too much- doing the job of three or four people. But we have people in the right places, able to do their jobs without being in constant states of chaos. What a blessing to have leaders who love and support their staff and want them to be spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy. That’s a rare thing- not all churches are like that.

But I’m not just talking about the leaders and staff. It’s also our members who are constantly encouraging. Moving here from a small church of about 70, we were afraid we would get lost in the weeds at CSPC. Maybe the thing that’s most impressed me about the culture here over the last year is that has not happened. If anything, we are sought out by people- our church cares! The very first time my wife Janna and I visited a Sunday school group, the Covenant class just fawned all over her. Janna was really impressed how genuinely they accepted, loved, and cared about her. Another example: I recently got to go to the Home Builders Sunday school class, which is made up of some of our older members. That group showed me what it means to have loved people well over decades. They have a time every class where they pray by name for people in their lives who are unbelievers. They’ve done it faithfully every Sunday for decades. And it bears incredible fruit. Through snapshots like that of CSPC life, God has been showing me that discipleship -helping people grow in their faith and conform to the likeness of Jesus- is like planting an oak tree. It takes years and years. Eugene Peterson calls it a long obedience in the same direction. During that class, I got to see how discipleship manifests way down the road in some of our amazing, faithful older members. So spending my first year learning the culture has been a huge joy. Now the staff and I are ready to bring that experience to bear, and we’ve decided one big emphasis for the next year will be discipleship. (The other will be serving.) We’ll be helping our groups -community groups, men’s and women’s groups, Sunday school classes- get smaller and slower. That feels counterintuitive, I know, but discipleship is a slow process. We’re not breaking up Sunday school classes that are large, but asking how we can help them. And we are encouraging them to carve smaller groups out of those big classes so people can pour into each other, because discipleship happens in relationships. So how can we pour into each other, grow, and conform to the image of Christ? By going smaller and slower. That’s how you get oak trees.

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