Either today or yesterday (not sure which) marks the four year anniversary of us packing up our stuff and heading west from Canterbury for the bright lights of Burnham-on-Sea. There have been times when it was a tough gig, as I dare say there will be in the future too. Big adjustments for us as a family and perhaps even bigger ones for the congregation here! But as I look at where God has brought us there are real encouragements.
I am in a church where there has been no opposition to my preaching long sermons as I go systematically through a book of Scripture. This is something that it is easy to take for granted but talking to an Anglican friend nearby who says that he couldn't get away with more than 10 minutes makes me realise what a blessing it is to be free to do what God has called me to.
I am in a church where they have allowed a great deal of change. The pews have gone, the pulpit and platform replaced and other structural changes inside the main hall. We have started a Kids Holiday Club - the fourth starts later this month. The Sunday School has increased four or five fold from the four that were here when we arrived. Earlier this year we had a holiday club for over 60s and there is enough excitement amongst that age group to organise another next year. We have had our first church weekend away. I've been able to introduce dozens of new songs and most importantly we've seen a fresh understanding of grace amongst us - both in terms of understanding it and exercising it.
We have seen a few leave us, through death, through transfer to other churches and - occasionally - they have been difficult ones for us as a church. Yet we have seen more join than leave.
I'm just counting some blessings aloud. Please don't think I am taking the credit for any of this. There were good foundations laid here already and there are many good people here who are faithful and hard-working in their ministries. Some of them have been serving for longer than I have been alive! And anyway, it can only be through God's grace that we see any lasting growth in Kingdom work. Easy to say that glibbly but I think I truly believe that to be the case from my small experience. If it's down to me we are all in trouble.
So, I was just spending some time thinking how good God has been to us here. At times it has felt painful to be obedient but I can see a little better what he's doing here. And there is still a lot to do - we are not the finished article! But as we step forward we do so confident in him.