A love letter to Shades

It seems wrong that one church would have so many genuinely incredible people be part of its community.

I grew up in a small, rural church. Visiting Shades during college was quite an adjustment. The size was overwhelming at first, but once I got involved, I saw just how small it actually is and so began a love affair with the greatest church family I’ve ever seen.

I met a guy named Jason Morales at college orientation during the summer of 2009. I was at a karaoke night getting to know the group of classmates that would be attending Samford University with me that fall. Jason was videoing the event, and after meeting, we learned we had some mutual friends.

Fast forward to the first weekend of my college career. I figured a good way to meet other freshmen would be by attending a retreat aptly named, well, Freshman Retreat. My Connections leader, Ben, was a leader on the trip that weekend and the first night we were there introduced me to a local pastor named Chad.

Chad introduced himself as the college pastor at a church named Shades Mountain Baptist Church. I’d never heard of it, but this guy seemed pretty cool.

I visited Shades a few times early that semester, but I had an in at The Church at Brook Hills, so I bounced back and forth for most of that first semester.

Early in the second semester, Jason mentioned me on Twitter asking if I was interested in him connecting me with a friend of his who was looking for a drummer. I had played drums growing up in church since I was 12 and figured that could be a way for me to plug-in to a church.

The next week, on a Tuesday night, I went to a rehearsal at Shades and met a guy named Bobby Smith. Bobby and I ended up being from the same part of Florida. The rehearsal went well — as did the following Wednesday night student services — and almost eight years later, here we are.

Camps and Crave Weekends. Summer Missions and Sunday mornings. I played drums during every Wednesday night student service for five consecutive years. As the years passed, more avenues of service opened up. I got involved on the tech team and formed a great relationship with two men that would eventually become colleagues.

I was asked to disciple a group of seventh grade guys by the student pastor at the time. Scott is now the executive pastor and one of my greatest supporters in my battle with cancer. That journey spawned one of my most cherished relationships with two guys, Whitt and William, of whom I couldn’t be more proud.

Do you ever just look back on a season of your life and think about how undeserving you are of the grace you’ve received?

That’s exactly how I feel about my time at Shades. There are countless memories, relationships, moments, and feelings that will live with me forever.

The most creative, talented guy I’ve ever met has become one of my best friends. Shades has given me a community group that I look forward to being with every Thursday night. It has given me ways to serve and use my gifts in the ways I’m most passionate.

I’ve been given the immense joy of playing music with three guys I love and respect more than anyone in this life. Bobby, Chuck, and Logan have made a deep impact not only on our community at Shades, but also on other faith families all through the southeast.

I don’t deserve any of it. When I’d lost my first two jobs after college, Shades was there to offer me a job that is the perfect mix of my skillset and passion. I get work with unbelievably talented people to communicate the greatest story ever told and also tell the stories of what God is doing in the lives of our people.

I support the greatest teammates in equipping our people to live sent. I work for an executive team that rivals any. To observe a boss daily that values excellence but never sacrifices people for production is inspiring.

Spending each Wednesday night with the most insanely cool group of students is the best. The way they’ve rallied around me these last four months is so, so humbling. They’ve had way more of an impact on me that I could ever have on them.

CBC. Pancake Study Break. GIC. dGroups. Thy Perfect Light. Shades Stories. VBS. Our staff. Our people. Grace upon grace.

I never dreamed I’d be on staff. I don’t know how much longer God has this season lasting, but no matter what the future holds, Shades and its people will always have a special place in my heart.

I’m looking forward to what joys tomorrow brings.