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Live Deeply- John Barber

I’m CSPC Director of Adult Ministries John Barber, and I’ll be preaching Sunday. Here’s how God’s enabling me to live deeply.

It’s a little jarring to go from executive pastor of a 70-person multicultural, multiethnic congregation -meeting in the gym of an elementary school- to CSPC. I just started this position in March, and it’s quite a change for our family. My wife grew up a small-town preacher’s kid in Arkansas, so this is by far the biggest church she’s ever attended. I grew up in a huge church, First Baptist Orlando, so it’s not that unusual for me. But still, it’s a big change, and I’m spending a lot of time just learning CSPC’s people, personalities, rhythms, and routines. God has us here for a reason, and the way He called us assures me of that. In addition to serving the people of Bridge Church, I was the area director for Joni & Friends for two and a half years. Joni & Friends, of course, does disability ministry and is a great missions partner of CSPC. Last October, when I was still in both of those positions, Andrew Keasling invited me to come lead CSPC’s staff chapel. So I did- I spoke to the staff, spent some time with them, prayed with them and started learning about what they do. After that chapel, I was telling some of my friends who happen to be on staff at CSPC, ‘This is a great group! I’m not looking for anything different, but I just really appreciate being here and I really like these folks.’ The very next day I got a call asking, ‘Hey, would you consider this role as director of adult ministries?’ So it wasn’t a situation where I was looking to leave. I love Joni & Friends dearly. I have an adult son with autism, so that ministry is very close to our hearts. And I wasn’t looking to leave Bridge Church, which we’d helped start as a church plant five years earlier. We still love and are close to those folks. But we also felt Bridge was in such a great place with leadership, staff, and volunteers, it would be okay for me to leave. That’s just the way God orchestrated it. Over the next few months we spoke to James, Andrew, and the elders. Slowly and surely, we ended up deciding to say ‘yes’ to what God had in store.

Leaving was not an easy decision, but it was the right decision. So we’re grateful to be at CSPC. I work with an amazing staff who do their job so well that, for the most part, I consider my job almost a support role. I’m here to help and serve leaders in the Generations group, Men’s and Women’s Bible Study, Men’s and Women’s Ministries, Young Adults, and Marriage Ministry, to name a few. I am fortunate to work with this incredible team that just knocks it out of the park! Take, for example, the Caring Ministry, which a lot of people who attend CSPC probably aren’t even aware of. They do a really great job of taking care of people having hard times. So, for the staff that I oversee, I consider my job kind of like being a pastor to them more than anything else. I get to care for them, while at the same time providing similar support for Sunday school leaders and community group leaders as they shepherd their little flocks. It’s perfect because this is how God has uniquely gifted me. I mean, I can preach; I’m okay at it, but I don’t think that’s my primary gifting. My primary gifting is managing teams of people. I’ve done it in the business world, the nonprofit world, and the church world. I don’t take a top-down kind of approach because I don’t think that’s particularly helpful. It’s my job as a manager to support my team and make sure they’re equipped to lead their own specific areas of ministry.

I’ll give you an example of what this looks like in practice. For the record, I could toot the horn of every single one of my staff members. But I’m going to toot Mark Steimer’s horn for a second. Not a lot of people know all the things Mark does. Mark is amazing- he’s our college minister, but he’s also the guy who oversees the folks going through difficulties who come into our church building off the street: maybe they’re currently unhoused, maybe they’re going through a financial problem, those kinds of things. Because he’s so gifted at this, Mark is the person who’s chosen to pour his time and energy into those folks- to create relationships with them that lead them to Jesus. That’s what he does, and most people don’t see it. Often those encounters happen at weird times, too, but he’s so good at stepping in to minister through them. I feel like my whole job is to prop him up and ask, ‘What can I do to help you? How can I grease the skids for you, clear the red tape so you can go do what God’s gifted you to do?’ Sometimes it means I lighten his load a little and try to help someone in need who’s dropped in unexpectedly myself. That’s a joy. But honestly, the biggest pleasure so far is just watching this staff do what they do so well. The way God’s helping me live deeply is through His people- I am learning the depth of the kindness and generosity of the people of God. It’s everywhere- from hanging out with our Generations group for the hymn sing and ice cream night, to working on a new premarital and young married class in the fall, to visiting Sunday school classes. I’m seeing the kindness and generosity of God’s people- how they have just loved on me and loved on my family, giving us space to learn, grow, and rest a little bit while wanting to pour into us. It’s been an incredible blessing.

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