“How are you” is a simple question that, when paired with a burrito from Chipotle and asked to a complete stranger, can change someone’s life.
That’s what Jeremy Clayton asked me the first Sunday I visited Uptown Church and I never left.
It used to be a simple question, but now “how are you” has become quite a difficult question to answer.
After four years in Charlotte, I’ve been called to serve as the associate pastor of students at Chestnut Mountain Presbyterian Church in Flowery Branch, Georgia. That means that the answer to that simple question has become rather complex. I’m ecstatic to be done with school and overjoyed to be walking into what seems like my dream job on June 5th… but that’s not the entire story. Those feelings are, to some extent, counter balanced by the fact that Reebok and I will have to leave the church that loved us so well for the past four years.
It means no more visitor’s lunches, no more early morning phone calls to pick Omar up for church. It means not hearing the Dave Latham’s southern twang during worship that reminds me of home, or the stampede of tiny footsteps when children’s church is dismissed. It means that I’ll fall just short of my goal to eat at the OHOP by the church 1,000 times, and I’ll have never found a subject in which Dan Moore couldn’t hold an intelligent conversation.
PLEASE KNOW THIS
As an intern I got to see the inner workings of the church. Between all the staff meetings, session meetings, mentor meetings, and down time in the office, one thing really struck me: Uptown Church, you are deeply, deeply loved. You might expect a session meeting to run like a board meeting – a room full of important people plot the course to further their company. If that’s the image you have, it couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve seen the men on the session agonize for hours (and hours) over a seemingly minute detail; not because they wanted to be right, not because they wanted to look good, but because they love you enough to expend all of their energy to shepherd you in your walk with the Lord. They love you enough to give up their Monday nights, to fight for you in prayer, to rejoice in your victories, and to weep with you when things get hard. If you know nothing else about the church leadership, please know this: your session loves you.
ADVICE: GET INVOLVED
As the outreach intern, I’ve seen two and a half years worth of people join the church. The people who have benefitted from church membership the most are the people who are very intentional with their involvement. There’s really no substitute for building godly community, as it helps apply the truths you learn at church into practice. Only good can come from hanging around the godly people that call Uptown home. If you’re overwhelmed on how to do this, here are the ministry opportunities that have impacted me the most:
The Mentor Groups that I’ve been a part of have been incredible – they were like Life Group boot camps. You go a little deeper theologically and relationally than in Life Group, but only meet once a month. I was lucky enough to have Chuck and Bill Macurda lead the ones I was in, and the guys I met in those groups became good friends.
Joining a Life Group was probably the best decision we made while at Uptown. The intergenerational friendships and accountability have been a source of great encouragement for me, and the ability to get out of seminary-mode and just be part of a life-giving community was a necessity. It was so refreshing to experience real life with people and not just see the well-kept exterior.
It might seem like this doesn’t belong here. It may seem like this is an opportunity to serve someone else instead of an opportunity to be built up, but spending time with the youth has taught me more about Uptown than anything else. The nursery and children’s ministry prepare kids to join the youth group, and the men’s and women’s ministry equip parents, so by spending time with the youth you really get to see the culmination of a lot of ministry. By spending time as a table leader or leading a mentor group, you get to spend time with some incredibly intelligent, insightful, and fun people that aren’t afraid to call it like they see it.
If I had the space, I could thank every single person I met here over the last four years. Unfortunately, space is limited and I’d be remiss to not mention a few people here.
Chuck Macurda – Thanks for taking time to mentor a tall quiet kid that can beat you in basketball. I can’t think of a better example of a better Christian husband and father.
Wilson Kam – I couldn’t have done half the things I did as an intern without you. Your heart for service and your work ethic is unbelievable. Dean, recruit this man!
Jeremy Goodwyne – You’re my hair hero. When I couldn’t take another theological conversation, dissecting Chance the Rapper lyrics with you was a lifesaver.
Guys in my mentor group – It’s been an honor meeting with you. You all are extremely gifted and I’m excited to see how the Lord continues to use you.
Wes Andrews – You’re the reason I want to go into youth ministry and the reason I know how much koi fish are worth. Everything I do in youth ministry will be easily traced back to your influence.
It might not seem like much, but if you’ve ever gone to visit Reebok at work, thanked me for anything, said hello in the sanctuary, put up with me singing off-key behind you, shook my hand, or have asked me how I’m doing, know that you’ve been a huge encouragement to us. I don’t think I could have made it through school without such a wonderful collection of faithful saints by my side. Thank you so much for all that you have done for me and for my family.
Rocky Top will always be home sweet home to me, but the people at Uptown have made Charlotte a pretty close second.
Grace and peace,