This past Sunday, Suzanne and I celebrated our one year anniversary at Immanuel here in Corbin, KY. It is hard to believe that one year has already flown by! We drove onto the campus Sunday morning and found the church adorned with signs saying “Happy 1st Anniversary, Haglunds!” and balloons. My office and the choir room were also adorned with rolls upon rolls of toilet paper! I’ve learned that the way this church shows that they love you is with toilet paper. I don’t want to see what they do to people who they don’t like!
As we reached this one year milestone, it has been fun to reflect on the past year. Here are some of my thoughts at the one year mark…
Suzanne and I were driving home after our discipleship electives on Sunday night and I made the comment, “This is a different church than we came to a year ago.” It is quite amazing what God has done in one year in the life of our church and we are excited to be a part of what God is doing! There is a fervor and a hunger that is spreading like a wildfire. The people at Immanuel have willingly followed its leadership to give up some things that were good to pursue what is better! This has brought some significant changes–a departure from long established norms–especially for this area of the country!
One of the most exciting changes to me is the move from a traditional “Sunday School” model to a small group model. Even though most of our groups will still continue to meet on Sunday mornings, the move toward a small group philosophy is key–multiplication of groups and the apprenticing of new group leaders along with more group discussion instead of a master teacher format. I recently walked through the education wing of an area church. It was like a maze! There was hallway after hallway of classrooms and I thought to myself, “What a waste! All of this floor space that has to be heated, cooled, cleaned and maintained, let alone the expense of building it–all this to be used for one hour a week!” We’ll never be able to afford to build enough classroom space for everyone in this area who needs to connect to a small group–and if we could afford it, it would be a waste of money! My men’s small group meets on Monday nights in a home and the level of authentic community and sharing is awesome! Now, I’m not saying you can’t have that kind of authentic community in a Sunday School class, but it is much harder to do and much less likely to happen than when we meet in homes. What is so exciting to me is that the groups we have meeting in homes didn’t start because the staff decided it needed to happen. God moved in the hearts of the men and women involved and they took the initiative to get it started!
As the worship pastor, I’m thrilled to be able to work with the talented and dedicated bunch of musicians we have at Immanuel. I have been blown away by what they’ve been able to accomplish! Now we just need to get out and play in the community more often and add some “fun” music to the mix–not just the music we do on Sunday morning.
Another interesting thing is that I’ve had some amazing opportunities here in Corbin that I never had in Atlanta. First, I got to lead worship for Johnny Hunt when he came to do a men’s conference we co-sponsored with another church. At the time, he was president of the SBC. He is from Atlanta, but I never had that opportunity during the nearly 9 years I lived in Atlanta. Then, Casting Crowns came to Corbin and I got to hang out backstage and provide transportation for them around town, and backstage passes to the concert! On October 1st, Max Lucado is coming to town with the Make a Difference Tour along with Third Day, Michael W. Smith and Toby Mac. As a pastor, I’ve been invited to a backstage dinner with Max Lucado and special VIP seating for the concert!
As exciting as all these things have been, the transition from a major metro area like Atlanta to small town, rural Kentucky has not always been easy. We no longer have our favorite restaurants, stores, comforts and conveniences close by. Instead of walking into my neighborhood Starbucks, I’ve had to perfect brewing Starbucks coffee at home (or drive 9 miles up I-75 to the nearest Starbucks!). It has also meant moving further away from our family. On birthdays, anniversaries and holidays, it is especially difficult to be away from our family. I’ve learned that people who have grown up in a small town like Corbin typically have all their family nearby as well. Because of this, they don’t need places to hang out and meet other people. They spend their time with their family and extended family.
I believe God has us in Corbin to learn at least one important lesson. As David Platt says in his book “Radical,” to be a disciple of Jesus Christ means to give up everything you have, lay down your life and love Him in such a way that it makes your closest relationships look like hate. It has been a great journey so far!