Pastor’s Post for July 3rd!


Dear friends in Christ:

As we come upon the weekend when our nation celebrates Independence Day I am feeling especially thankful.  For one thing I am very grateful for all the effort put forth by the Biblical Equipping Ministry Team and the Growth Groups during June and especially last Sunday, June 26,  which was Growth Group Sunday at Shepherd of the Valley.

The Christian movement has been gathering for public worship and in small groups, often at member’s homes, from the very beginning. In the Book of Acts Paul tells us that his ministry was conducted his ministry is this twofold fashion. “…I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house,21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:20)

It wasn’t until long after the time of Jesus that believers constructed the large edifices we call “churches” today. Some congregations today are following that model. Does the church really need a building that’s only used for a couple of hours a week? The simple fact is that Christians do not “go to church,” they are the church, the community of believers baptized in the name of the Triune God, nurtured in the Word of God and the Holy Supper, and sent out to make a positive difference in the world for the sake of Christ.  Growth Groups help individual believers get a handle on what that means in their personal lives as they gather for fellowship, food, Bible study and prayer.

The Biblical Equipping Team will be following up on those who shared that they were interested in creating a new Growth Group…watch you “in box” for an email soon.  I am thankful that our Growth Group Sunday turned out so well. Kudos to the Damascus Growth Group for providing us with a delicious “Wurst Blunch” (combination of brunch and lunch).

I am thankful for those who have provided special support for Fred and Diane Taft as they undertake yet another mercy mission trip to share God’s love with the orphans and foster children of Romania where so many have grown up without the love and warmth of a real family. The benefit concert went well and raised over $1500 for their travel and other expenses.  Thanks for your support.

As we approach the 4th of July I also want to share that I am thankful for the freedom and opportunities we have as Americans.  I invite and encourage you to pray for our nation, for our president, for the armed forces, and for all who are in authority. When Europeans came to North America many of them came for the opportunity to practice their religion as they saw fit.  We call it freedom of religion.  That was clearly true of those who eventually formed the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in the 1847.

Today the freedom of religion can mean everything from the most conservative to the most liberal, however one may define these two increasingly useless terms.  One recent book event suggests we shouldn’t have to choose one, we can be “Relig-ish,” and I suppose where there is “freedom of religion” that is true.     Some of us may be uncomfortable with the new religious scene in America these days. Many of us may feel that something has been lost. One writer said it feels like the church in the US is “limping along like a puppy with a sore paw.” (Christian Century, June 22, 2016, p. 29).  But I would agree with those who err on the side of optimism. Christianity is grounded in two great truths: the forgiveness of sin, which is nothing less than a healing of the past, and the resurrection to eternal life, the claim that our future in Christ has no end.

How thankful we can be that we live in a nation where we can practice and share the great optimism of our faith with as much joy and enthusiasm as we can muster.  So have a great 4th of July. Be thankful for all the ways God has blessed America, and pray to that God would bless the world with peace and good will. After all, it’s not all about us, is it?


Pastor Joe Hughes
Voice & text:  217-898-9063              Email: