Pastoral Notes - Sunday, October 15th, 2017

If all has gone according to plan, I’m tucked away somewhere deep in the Rocky Mountains with my wife, Christy, and my 12-year old daughter, Katie, this morning. As some of you know, sweet Katie turned 12 last week, and when you turn 12 in the Shurden household, you get to do something special—you get to take a trip with Dad and Mom to somewhere in the U.S. for a few days.

Katie loves horses and spending time in nature, and so as we began to talk with her about a trip, she thought a few days on a dude ranch sounded like a great way to ring in #12. So, about six months ago, we booked a long weekend at Lost Valley Ranch in Sedalia, CO. If you’re reading this on Sunday morning, we’re likely a bit sore from the weekend of trail rides and square dances. But more than physical soreness, I trust we’re full of thanksgiving for the time we shared and the memories we made celebrating the life of Katie.

Before I go, I want to give you a quick financial update. Our budget year as a congregation runs from July 1 to June 30. That means we’ve just closed out the first quarter of the 2017-2018 budget year, and we want to keep you up to speed on our fiscal health as a congregation. Below you will find a breakdown of where things stand financially at present. Please take time to review it and feel free to e-mail our Office Administrator, Susan Bumpus, at, if you have any particular questions.


Pastoral Notes - Sunday, October 8th, 2017

Martha Brooks, Children’s Ministry Coordinator, gave an encouraging children’s ministry update last week in worship. In her update, she announced the creation of a new ministry resource for parents and children—a weekly Children’s Worship Bulletin. Her content was so good that I asked Martha to write the Pastoral Notes this week, so that those who missed her report could catch the vision for this new ministry tool.

It was such a delight to get to share a little with you about our new Children’s Worship Bulletin in service last Sunday. While I can talk to children all day long, speaking to adults is a different matter! Thank you for your grace as I attempted to outline our hopes for this new tool.

I want to reiterate how much we welcome children, with all the noise and chatter and life they bring to worship. We are not choosing to include them in corporate worship, the central act of our covenant community, for what they can get out of it. Nobody’s three year old is taking sermon notes and neither are most twelve year olds. Even as adults, worship is never about what we can get out of it. It is about the worship we offer to our Lord. Choosing to include children in the service makes a powerful statement to them about that 90 minute segment of our week: it is important, it is formative, it is necessary. We want to set high expectations that children can participate, they can offer worship to Jesus Christ, and that what they offer is necessary to the life of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church. It says to them,  “You are not only welcome, you are needed!” which Jesus himself said in Matthew 19:14.

Preston and I well remember the days of our girls lolling about the pews, crawling underneath to retrieve dropped cheerios, kicking the pew of the older couple in front of us, and the humiliation of walking out with a screaming child. #thestruggleisreal for those of you in the throes of parenting small children. It is the desire of the children’s ministry to help you make the transition, to work with you, to offer you tools and time, and to walk alongside you as you teach your kids about worship. The Children’s Worship Bulletin is a first step, designed to draw the children into the worship service, not distract them from it. Please pray for us as a Children’s Ministry team and for your pastors as we are looking toward and planning for more ways to help teach our covenant children to worship.    

If you aren’t a parent of preschool or school-aged children but have stuck with me to the end, let me encourage you to give a smile to a struggling mom and dad. Get to know the children in the pew sitting next to you: ask them their age, their school, their favorite thing that happened this week. Throw a bag of crayons in your purse or pocket to pull out and offer. Interest from an adult who isn’t their parent makes children feel so important. And when you feel distracted by the children around you, PRAY. Pray for the child who keeps bumping you or is tussling with his brother or the parent doing the walk of shame with the toddler throwing a tantrum. Children require patience, and prayer is the greatest tool we have.

Please contact me anytime to discuss this or any matter further. I am very excited about what the Lord is doing at Cornerstone and thrilled I get to be a part of it. I covet your prayers as I continue seeking the Lord for clear direction and leading in the Children’s Ministry.           



Pastoral Notes - Sunday, October 1st, 2017

There’s something special about October.

The county fair arrived in my small Mississippi town every October. I’d circle the dates on the refrigerator calendar and mark with stars “arm band nights” where for one low price I could ride all night long. Needless to say, it was a boy’s dream. After spinning, racing, twisting, and falling through the air on the rides, I’d park myself under a tent floored with sawdust and wash down all that excitement with a sausage dog and a coke. After that, I’d waste my last $5 on a bag of homemade taffy before calling it a night.

I started falling in love with Christy in October 1998. The first time we ever held hands was on the Ferris wheel at that same county fair. I knew right then that there was something special about that girl. At 19, I thought it was her beautiful blue eyes. It was, of course. But I’ve learned over the years that it was a lot more than her eyes.

There really is something special about October.

It’s no surprise to me that one of the greatest renewal movements of church history happened in October. On All Hallows Eve 1517, an Augustinian monk by the name of Martin Luther changed the course of history with a hammer, a nail, and 95 Theses. Well, that may be overstating things a bit. It didn’t happen quite that fast, nor did Luther set out to change the course of history. His aspirations were far more humble. He simply wanted to see the church return to the Scripture as the ultimate authority for faith and practice, and in so doing, be restored to a right (biblical) understanding of the gospel.

This October is even more special than most. For this October, we celebrate the five-hundred year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. For the five Sundays of October, we’re going back to the foundations of the Reformation’s teaching to study what is commonly referred to as “The Five Solas of the Reformation”

·      Oct. 1 – “Scripture Alone” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

·      Oct. 8 – “Faith Alone” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

·      Oct. 15 – “Grace Alone” (Romans 3:21-23)

·      Oct. 22 – “Christ Alone” (Acts 4:11-12 & 1 Timothy 2:5)

·      Oct. 29 – “The Glory of God Alone” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Take time to prepare your heart each week by reading and meditating on the Scripture passages above. Further, commit to pray for this series with boldness and expectation. By God’s grace, let’s pray that October 2017 will share, in some very real sense, the gospel power of October 1517.

Pastoral Notes - Sunday, September 24th, 2017

I wanted to take a few minutes today to update you on a few moves the Leadership made to strengthen our staff and better care for you!

First, we welcomed Miss Anneke Seely to our staff back in August. Anneke is no stranger to many of you. Originally from Wisconsin, Anneke first joined the Cornerstone community in 2015 when she moved to middle Tennessee to study at New College Franklin. Almost as soon as she landed, Anneke began playing viola in worship and teaching children in Sunday School. Anyone who knows Anneke has witnessed her sweet countenance, industrious spirit, and servant’s heart. Anneke was brought on part time to assist Rev. Tony Giles, our Assistant Pastor, and Mr. Greg Wilbur, our Worship Director & Chief Musician in the area of Discipleship. We’re absolutely thrilled to have her on the team!

Second, some of you will remember that our dear sister and long time Nursery Coordinator, Linda VanGorden, moved to Florida in late spring to care for her aging parents. To fill an immediate need, Mrs. Christy Shurden (my wife!) was hired on an interim basis to get us through the summer and consider a more permanent solution. As the summer drew to a close, the Personnel Committee had interest in retaining Christy in the role, and Christy expressed desire in that way as well. To that end, the Personnel Committee recommended Christy to remain in the role of Nursery Coordinator for the foreseeable future. I’m pleased to report that the motion was passed unanimously. 

Finally, let me note that the role of our beloved Assistant Pastor, Tony Giles, has shifted slightly at Cornerstone. As many of you know, Tony is an eager servant of the Lord with a wide range of gifts. Because of that, he is sometimes asked by other churches and organizations to serve as a consultant or coach–especially in the area of leadership development. You’ll remember that during this last year, as a very part time aspect of his role at Cornerstone, we “loaned” Tony to assist Grace Community Church (GCC), a sister PCA church in Asheville, NC. GCC was passing through a difficult season as a congregation, and Tony was able to step in and provide some much-needed staff and leadership support while they searched for a Senior Pastor.

Good news! GCC now has a new Senior Pastor. His name is Patrick Lafferty, and he preached his first sermon there just a handful of Sundays ago. With Patrick coming on as Senior Minister, Tony’s role at GCC came to a close. But, the work at GCC confirmed for Tony a sense of calling to the work of assisting churches as a coach in leadership development. In order to give a small margin of his time to the work of coaching, Tony requested that we reduce his hours from full time to three-quarters time this year. Thankfully, we were able to make a few small adaptations to Tony’s workload in a way that gave him some margin to continue serving other churches as a coach without diminishing his ministry impact at Cornerstone.

Recently, a church in Nashville, Village Chapel, sought out Tony for a little coaching help. Tony will be working with their staff one day a week for the next six months. As a kick off to his ministry, Tony is actually preaching at Village Chapel this morning. Continue to pray for our brother as he faithfully spends himself for the Kingdom!

Pastoral Notes - Sunday, September 17th

“I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no God.”—Isaiah 45:5             

There was a new psychological study conducted earlier this year that suggested Americans are more stressed, depressed, and anxiety-ridden than they’ve ever been. According to the study, the last 30 years have been tough on Americans as anxiety related disorders have risen by more than 1,200 percent. The study went on to suggest that the fast-paced, high demand culture we live in is the primary cause—while noting that other studies point to increases of technology use coinciding with the weakening of social bonds as other leading factors. There’s certainly much to be said for the cumulative effect of these realities on the health of our psyche.

If I’m honest with myself, I can see how these realities shape my own felt experience of life. When I’m discouraged, I often find it’s because I’ve shredded the normal God-created boundaries for healthy life. I’ve filled my schedule with far more than I can ever do, stretching the margins of my energies and capacities. Day after day, getting up hours before dawn and then not shutting down until hours after dusk. Often as a consequence, I don’t make good food decisions or get enough sleep. I neglect the gym and fail to make time for rest and recreation.       

Now, like most people, I can get away with living this way for a while, and let’s face it—sometimes life requires such sacrifices. Eventually, however, if I keep this up, it begins to catch up with me. The backaches and headaches show up. Lethargy begins to take over. Pervasive feelings of emptiness and numbness present themselves. Spiritually, nagging doubts creep in and intense temptations show up out of nowhere. If I see any mix of these things, I’ve learned (or am learning), it’s time to press pause and perform a self-audit.

A few years ago I went on a Jim Collins reading kick—starting with his mega bestseller, Good To Great, and finishing that run with How the Mighty Fall. One little phrase in that latter book, How the Mighty Fall, really stuck out to me. He said that companies often fail because of, “…the undisciplined pursuit of more.” That word undisciplined caught me. I started to reflect on it. For me, undisciplined looked like saying, “yes” to things that I really ought to say, “no” to.

David Murray in his excellent little book, Reset, cites the minimalist expert Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism where he says, “We need to learn the slow ‘yes’ and the quick ‘no.’” The slow yes is a yes that stops and ponders priorities, purpose, and capacities. The slow yes asks questions like: “Is this within my calling?” “Is this worthwhile?” “Do I have the time, energy, and resource to give this the attention it deserves?” I’m learning how to do this better than I’ve done before, and I can see, and even feel, the difference.

One of my biggest, besetting sin-tendencies is to think I’m God. It’s subconscious, of course, and I’d never say it that way in so many words. But, if you had an inside track on my life, you’d spot me all the time trying to live like I’m infinite, boundary-less, and self-sufficient. What a joke! By God’s grace, I’m continuing to learn (and re-learn) that first, fundamental, and always relevant principle of theology: “There is a God, and I am not him.” And that’s a very good thing.