2021 Review: The Light Shines In The Darkness
News | by Pastor Adam Sinnett
Merry Christmas Downtown Cornerstone,
There is no doubt these are dark and difficult times. Conflict lurks around every corner, at home and abroad. Covid is mutating. Inflation looms. Politics divide. Ethnic tensions remain. Vaccines, and now boosters, are available, but debated. There is ongoing conflict over when life begins and who can end it, conflict over what gender is and who defines it, conflict over the media and which narrative controls it, conflict over societal injustice and how to fix it, and conflict over the gap between the haves and have-nots and how to shrink it. Homelessness, immigration, and violent crime are at crisis levels. Global warming is being seen as a growing concern. Deconstructing faith is an unfortunate trend. Yet, even so, I’m not a declinist. I'm a gospel optimist.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn. 1:5)
Our God specializes at working in the darkness of a world under the siege of sin, amidst catastrophic floods (Gen. 7-9), elderly infertility (Gen. 17), marital brokenness (Gen. 29), tremendous personal loss (see Job), sibling betrayal, slander, and false imprisonment (Gen. 50:20), enslavement and genocide of foreign nations (Ex. 1), forty years of wilderness wandering (Ex. 16:35), a decades long battle-fraught unfulfilled conquest (see Joshua), over two hundred years of oppression, chaos, moral descent and spiritual decline (see Judges), faithless rulers and impossible battles (1 Sam. 15,17; 1 Kgs. 11–2 Kgs. 25), systemic paganism and false prophets (1 Kgs. 18), the fall of empires (2 Kgs. 17; 25), life in exile (see Daniel, Esther), re-building post-exile (see Ezra, Nehemiah), and four hundred years of seeming silence from God (Mal. 4–Mt. 1). There is a reason God ordained for this darkness to be recorded in the Bible. Why? To show that He is not hindered by it and so that we'd take heart amidst it (Jn. 16:33). When the timing is right, He will act.
“When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman…” (Gal. 4:4)
After millennia of tragic and tumultuous darkness, in the fullness of time, this Son, our Jesus, the “light of the world” (Jn. 9:5) arrived in an oppressed Roman-occupied Israel. This should bring fresh hope amidst the darkness we find ourselves in this Christmas. His light shines most brightly against the darkness he came to save us from—then and today. Now, as people of the light, we are to be a community of light, a redemptive picture of what life looks like when Jesus’ people together submit to God’s kingly rule of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). In the words of Jesus,
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Mt. 5:14)
This means our ongoing, faith-filled, Jesus-treasuring, gospel-spreading, people-loving, church-planting, mercy-minded presence in Seattle is more important than ever. It’s amidst the darkness, that the Light shines most clearly, like a redemptive "city set on a hill”. Our corporate light points Seattle to Jesus as the Light, like a lighthouse in the middle of a storm-tossed winter night. This is, of course, counter-intuitive. After all, who wants to build their life in the dark? Well, Jesus does. But, why? It's not because He enjoys the dark. It's because He wants His light to shine in the dark. He wants the light of the indestructible joy, found through His gospel, to overcome the darkness—for the sake of the nations. So, there is something significant at stake in our shared life as Jesus’ people in our city at this moment. Let’s shine as lights in the world.
“Be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.” (Phil. 2:15-16)
You can see how different this understanding of Jesus’ local church is from something we consume—when we have time, when it meets a need, when it’s convenient or not too challenging. Jesus is after a faith-filled people in a particular place—a local church—who together display something of His glories through their shared life in singing and sacrifice, in prayer and praise, in studying the Scriptures and spreading the gospel, in lament and longing, in confession and creeds, in sanctification and service, in gathering and generosity, in hope and help that together creates an other-worldly people—a diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural people whom only Jesus could forge. It is precisely this kind of people, this compelling Christ-forged community, that stands out as a light in the darkness. What a privilege! Yet, there is still work to do.
“We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)
Amidst all this, God is at work among us in ways seen and, more often, unseen. Over the last twelve months we have continued to see God provide regularly, faithfully and generously:
- We celebrated our tenth birthday as a church, which is a huge milestone.
- We raised over $2.5M for our new building, in the middle of a pandemic.
- We rejoiced in six stories of God’s grace through baptism, and more on the way.
- We continued our long-form study of Romans, paired with One Another'ing.
- We welcomed 45 new members.
- We sent 116 members, the vast majority of whom moved out of the city/state.
- Over 300 people took a class, whether virtually or in-person.
- Currently 307 people are involved in a community.
- We essentially restarted Cornerstone Kids, Greeting, Ushering, Facilities, and Hospitality teams.
- We invested $211,000 in church planting efforts in the US and around the globe.
- We sent out our second frontier church planting team, John and Hannah, to SE Asia.
- We survived the doldrums of Covid.
That is a lot of grace amidst a very difficult season. So, what's next?
“You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” (Jas. 4:14–15)
2022 is uncertain. What will happen with Covid? Will we renew our lease or go mobile for a season? Will our building be complete? How many might give their life to Jesus? We don't know. But, what we do know is that Jesus will be with us no matter what we face (Mt. 28:20). Amidst this uncertainty, we have seven priorities as we head into the new year together, of course, Lord willing:
#2 Prayerfully plan excellent, edifying, theologically-rich, worship-filled, and missional Sunday gatherings.
#3 Nurture our relational unity (not uniformity) in Jesus, amidst a highly divisive season.
#4 Continue to nurture a culture of discipleship, where every member is equipped and growing.
#5 Grow as relational evangelists while developing our missions pipeline to reach the unreached.
#6 Love our city to life through tangible, sacrificial, and mercy-filled service.
#7 Place a priority on developing leaders (service leads, community leads, staff, deacons, elders, etc.)
Will you join me in praying for the health of our church in these ways in 2022?
“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:6–7)
As the year comes to a close, we invite you to partner with us financially as an act of worship. Many of you already are. Thank you! We are blessed by Him, in order to bless others. Together, our generosity spreads the gospel, multiplies disciples, plants churches, and serves the city. It is incredible to consider all that we are able to do together. Here are a few practical pathways for us to financially partner to do our part in fulfilling Jesus’ great commission:
- During gatherings: Drop your gift in an offering basket. Giving envelopes are located in every seat pocket.
- Snail mail: Mail us a check postmarked by 12/31 and it will be included in your 2021 giving.
- Online: Visit us at downtowncornerstone.org/give
- Assets: Or, consider giving stock, bitcoin, or other appreciated assets.
“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Ps. 27:14)
God is our refuge and strength. He is an inexhaustible fountain of goodness, glory, and truth. In Him, and in Him alone, do our hearts find the rest and meaning they long for. May He keep us on fire for His supremacy in all things in the year to come. Let’s lean on who He is and all that He is for us, in Jesus. His promises are true and they cannot fail. He alone is worthy of our days and dollars. We exist to know Jesus and to make him known for the glory of God and the joy of all people. So, as we’re on the verge of a new year, let’s be reminded of His faithfulness. His story is still unfolding and we’re a part of it. Together, let’s ask Him to do what only He can in 2022. Merry Christmas!
Warmly, in gospel hope,