In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I have found it helpful, healthy, and maybe necessary to take some time to review the past year. I want to consider the year and how I have sought to grow in Christ. Where was their growth? What were some unexpected blessings? What did God reveal as some areas where I need to grow? What am I anticipating Christ will do in the coming season(s) of my life?

Some areas of growth: I started the year, like many of you, hearing an exhortation to make Jesus King in every realm of my life: personal, marriage, family, calling, career, and community. This year I purposed to travel less and create more time with my wife, Karen, our sons, and friends. I’m optimistic that I’ve become a better husband, father, and friend this year because I’ve become a better follower of Jesus.

I confess that I struggled with my devotional Bible reading this year. I’m constantly in the Scriptures as a teaching pastor, but I need personal devotion time to hear from God and grow in Christ. I hope to return to our daily Bible reading plan in 2017, and look forward to reading the Bible cover to cover again in 2017.

A special area of growth for me was in the community realm. I came to the realization that I did not truly love my neighbors. Jesus was not king in that realm of my life. I began to create margin in my life to allow myself to befriend and build relationships with people where I live, work, study, and play. I’m learning to love my neighbors better, and it feels great to yield this area of my life to Christ.

Where did you grow in this past year?

Some unexpected blessings: This year our church celebrated our 20th anniversary. As I think about the thousands of transformed lives I’ve seen at Calvary Nexus in that time I marvel. God has been so incredibly gracious to us. We began as a home Bible study, moved to a park, and then a shopping center. We bought land and developed our Mobil Ave. campus, and later added the Lewis Rd. campus. As I considered the last twenty years, I feel so very blessed to be part of Calvary Nexus. God has brought so many amazing, godly, good, kind, and wonderful people into my life. I love our church, and the people I serve with, and our community! And it keeps getting better every day.

Karen and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this year. She is my best friend. She is a gift from God to me, and to our church. Karen has served our church alongside of me since day one. I doubt that I would have been able to do my part without her, and can’t imagine life or ministry without her by my side. In November we got to experience our first cruise together, with a group from church, following the footsteps of the Apostle Paul around the Mediterranean. Traveling with her, and the people form our church, and seeing biblical sights in Israel, Ephesus, and Athens was an unexpected and incredible blessing.

What were some unexpected blessings that you experienced this year?

Some areas God revealed where I need to grow: Throughout the year, a team of pastors at our church began to meet to seek God’s long-term vision for our church. We committed to work together to determine His will and implement the vision together. These men are some of my dearest friends, and I greatly appreciate and respect them. They also really helped me to see some areas in my life where I need to grow. One area was pride. I confess there were times that an idea was shared and I interrupted, because I didn’t think it was a good idea. That type of behavior reflects pride. I rejoice at the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and the desire to submit to Christ more completely in humility. I thank God for progress, and also want to keep growing.

I also want get better at thinking smaller. We have been blessed as a church to engage in many large-scale and global initiatives. At times, my focus was global, and I rejoice at the influence that our church has been able to make in advancing God’s kingdom around the globe. However, in this season I feel God is calling me to learn to focus more locally. And I believe our community and my neighbors where I live, work, study, and play are becoming increasingly more my focus.

What were some areas that God revealed where you need to grow?

Some things I anticipate Christ will do in the coming season(s) of my life: Our team of pastors sensed a vision from God to reach our community for Christ by saturating the city with gospel-centered Neighborhood Groups where we learn to love God and neighbors better. The values of zealously loving God and neighbors are the essence of all of God’s commands [Matt. 22:37-39]. Learning to actually do this better will be the greatest experience of my life. And ultimately this will provide the greatest life-transforming influence that our church community can offer to the community around us. I can’t wait to share more with you, but that will have to wait until New Year’s Day.

Until then, Merry Christmas! I can’t wait to celebrate the glorious God who dwells with man together with you on Christmas Eve.

Much Love,

Pastor Bruce for the Team at Calvary Nexus