Well Done, Good and Faithful Servants!

Thank you Covenant Family for being such good and faithful servants these last two months.

Since I wrote you last we had two big hurdles to scale: finishing 2018 strong and beginning 2019 with energy. By God’s grace we have done both together.

With all the many transitions and changes in 2018 it would have been easy – understandable! – to have a shortfall in the budget. But we ended up with our best year ever! We exceeded our commitments to each other and to God in both our operating budget and our building budget. Thank you! Together we are pooling our financial resource for a vision that is bigger than our past and greater than our present. Together we are investing in God’s future for Madison County.

Because of your faithful prayers and creative actions, we were able to transition into my pastoral leadership without an interim period (a very rare achievement for Presbyterians!). This meant that the North Alabama Presbytery gave us the greenlight to begin looking for a new Associate Pastor 6 months ago. Your generosity means that we are offering top dollar and interviewing top candidates for this strategic role. The Associate Pastor Search Team that we pray for each week is doing outstanding work. I am continually impressed with their prayers, wisdom and dedication. We are continuing the interview process and I am so thankful to have the opportunity to speak with such talented ministers around the country. I am more confident than ever that God is at work bringing his candidate to join our team. Let’s keep praying!

Finally, I couldn’t be more pleased with the energy and momentum that we carried from the Christmas season into January with our church-wide study of Unbinding Your Soul. In addition to wide participation across our existing Sunday Schools and small group we also  added two new Sunday School classes for adults, expanded children’s programming on Sundays, and added three new weekday small groups.

A church can’t accomplish all these things on its own. We are sailing with the wind of the Holy Spirit in our sails. This is going to be a year we never forget as a Church family as we welcome new brothers and sisters into our congregation and continue to follow Christ “wherever we go.” Like the servant in the parable of the silver talents in Matthew 25:14-30, I can hear the Lord saying to each of us “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your master’s happiness” (Matthew 25:21).

Let’s share in our master’s happiness!

I can’t wait to see what happens next.



Unwrapping Gifts & Unbinding our Souls

It’s the Christmas season, which means that many of us are at work wrapping up gifts that will be opened by our loved ones in just a few weeks.

In the same way our church has been wrapping up the gift of our mission to share with our neighbors and friends in January. Our mission is to “Make Disciples of Jesus Christ who love God, love each other and serve in the world.” This is easier said than done! But we have been working steadily for 2 years to learn how to pray and share with our neighbors.

And we are ready!

Just like those presents under the tree that are ready to be unwrapped, we are now ready to share our faith with our neighbors and friends using the next book in the Unbinding series: Unbinding Your Soul.

It’s going to be fun!

Once again, we will have opportunities for the whole congregation to participate in this church-wide study. My sermons will go along with the weekly devotions and many small groups – whether they be a home group or a Sunday School – will discuss the weekly chapter in your book.

But most important of all – this will be a wonderful study to do alongside a friend.

The purple book we did in 2017 was called Unbinding Your Heart. We had over 100% of our weekly worship attendance – from ages 2 to 92 – all reading the same scriptures and saying the prayers. Unbinding Your Heart communicated the most significant research about why we should share our faith in Christ.

But now we’re ready for the how. How do we share our faith in the context of relationships and conversation? How do we move from knowing to doing?

That’s what Unbinding Your Soul is for. This yellow book is designed to give you lots of opportunities to have interesting conversations about your faith and to listen to the stories and experiences of new guests.

Let me share a secret with you that I have learned over the years in sharing my faith with friends: December is the perfect time to invite someone to do a bible study with you in January.

January is very often a “slow time” in the lives of many people. It’s after the Christmas season, the weather is cold, people are getting into new routines for the start of a new year.

It’s the perfect time to invite a guest to give Covenant a “test drive.” For 21 days in January we are going to do a “short and sweet” study of Unbinding Your Soul. It’s a wonderful “no pressure” opportunity for a friend or neighbor to give Covenant a try – to experience the warmth and love that our community has to offer as we “love God, love one another and serve in the world.”

You don’t need to do any additional preparation or study ahead of time. Your friend doesn’t need to have ever been to church before. I myself have had a WONDERFUL time doing this study with friends who had never read the bible and never prayed before. No matter where you are or where your neighbors are, this will be a fun chance to talk about God.

This study is ready for you to experience side by side with a friend so that both of you feel the joy and fun of unwrapping the “gift” of your conversations together.

So what are the next steps?


Pray each day of advent that God would give you an opportunity to invite someone to do Unbinding Your Soul with you in January. You may be surprised how God answers this prayer!


When you feel a little “nudge” from the Holy Spirit, ask your friend if they’d like to do a 21-day book group with you. Tell them it’s the perfect way to “experiment” to see if they’d like to talk about God or would like to feel what it’s like to be a part of Covenant’s church family.


January will be kind of like an “open house” for our church. We can’t control who comes (God is in charge of that!) but we can control how we treat them.


God’s in charge and we’re going to have a blast with whomever he sends our way. I can’t wait to see what happens next!



What Does the Lord Require of You?

Micah 6:8 (NRSV)

8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

What does the Lord require of you?

That’s a question I have been asking myself each day this last month.

And over and over again I have thought about our theme verse: Micah 6:8.

I want to thank all of you for being so supportive of me, Alison and George since the death of our son, Callum. Understandably, this slowed us down during these last few weeks. I knew I could not do everything. So I had to ask myself each day – Lord, what do you require of me today?

Let me give you a hint. He doesn’t require us to be God.

Our only job is to walk with God.

There are many things in our lives that are challenging. There are many moments that we would rather not live through. These moments give us pain. These moments slow us down.

But it is the job of God to hold these moments in his almighty sovereignty. It is his job to be in control when we are weak, broken and vulnerable.

Our only job is to walk with God.

And as we walk close beside him, through our savior Jesus Christ, you will find each day that the Holy Spirit is out in front of you.

And as he hovers in front of you – as he hovered over the deep waters of creation (Gen. 1:2) – you will find that he points out a small moment of justice. You will find that he points out a small moment of kindness.

And we hear the voice of the spirit say this moment is for you, too. Take it in your hands. Do justice. Love kindness.

Where is the Spirit of God calling us as a congregation?

I don’t know. But I feel him gathering us together.

We had our most successful Trunk-R-Treat yet last month, extending almost 500 invitations to the community. We picked up a long tradition of Covenant, with almost 90 people attending family camp. I am so pleased and proud of our children and youth who continue to lead us in scripture and song. We have added a new Wednesday worship that averages almost 50 people weekly. God is gathering us together. My prayer is that he transforms us into his apostles. That he would continue to build us up in power and send us out in mission, wherever we go.

Your servant in Christ,



“Wherever We Go….”

Covenant Family,

Thank you!  Thank you, Covenant, for your kind hearts.  Thank you for your willingness to serve.  Thank you for encouraging one another always.  We have had a month of coming together in the newness of our journey.  You have welcomed me with open arms in my new role as Senior Pastor and have encouraged me daily with prayers, kind words, and uplifting spirits.  We have embarked on a new adventure which calls us to examine ourselves and open up to others around us to know God.  I pray that Covenant can continue to keep this at the forefront of our minds and that God uses us in all situations.

With this change has come great responsibility.  We have come together as a family to take care of our own.  I am so proud of this church family.  We all gathered to serve the Cloud family and Hase family during their time of sorrow.  I am so thankful for each and every person’s contribution in their own way.  God has granted us abilities to help and that is exactly what we did.  God has asked us to be His hands and feet.  That is exactly what has happened.  These families’ legacies will live on through the generations and we were able to honor them because of your efforts.

I am very excited about our upcoming Family Camp at Maranatha on Oct 26-27.  It will be a time to grow together as a church family, get to know each other on a more personal level, and see how God plans to use Covenant to influence the world through Jesus Christ.

As we move forward, I encourage you to continue to keep our strategic goals handy.

  • Be Transformed from Disciples to Apostles
  • Maximize Covenant’s Impact for the World
  • Balance Covenant’s Ministry

Look into each goal and see how you can make it personal.  How can you become the person that God is molding you to be?  How can you serve the people in the world but not be one of them?  Is God guiding you out of your comfort zone into another ministry that hasn’t even begun yet?  I pray that God will grant Covenant clarity as we commission our church to pray for those not in our congregation.  Give us courage to go where He guides us, listen to His voice, and pray through Jesus Christ that others will come to know Him.

I leave you with our Charge.  Take these words and make them your daily anthem.  Ask God to give you the strength and patience of the Holy Spirit as these words come alive in your life and the life of our church.

Wherever we go, God has sent us.

Wherever we are, God has put us there.

He has a purpose in our being there.

He has something He wants to do through us,

Wherever we are.

After the Pulpit…

Wow! I will never forget the amazing month of August 2018. What a remarkable time of celebration, tears, laughter and joy. This was a farewell that every single one of you made special in so many ways. After 32 years of faithful service we sent Hal and Jean off with every honor and blessing that were in our power to bestow. Among the many favorite moments I will take with me was the delightful skit at the Saturday night concert. Our own Murrill Robinson (and his fabulous back-up singers!) sang a parody of the Drifters’ 1964 classic “Under the Boardwalk” with words composed for Hal and Jean: “After the Pulpit.”

Then we danced the night away! It was as fun as any wedding reception! I watched two-year-olds twisting with teenagers and 90-year-olds putting on a dance clinic. I heard Hal remark: “This is what the Kingdom of God looks like.”

The next morning was special in a different way. I have never heard such a beautiful sound as our sanctuary filled to the brim with 400 voices praising Christ. Russ, Matt, the Praise Band, the Choir and Betty all did a tremendous job working together and the Celebration Committee and all their co-workers transformed our campus once again into a late-summer picnic palace.

I was personally very moved by the 8:30 prayer service. Hal surprised us all and showed up to join in the prayers. The meeting began by praying through Isaiah 61 for the Oakley family and for our church. Then together we listened to the Holy Spirit and each of us gave a short word from the Spirit to send Hal and Jean on their way. A 94-year-old charter member bowed his head next to a four-year-old kindergartner. Together we laid hands on Hal and offered up the following words of blessing from the Spirit’s prompting. I would invite each of you to prayerfully read these words as a prayer for Hal and Jean’s glorious new season.

A job well done
Confidence in the work done and the work ahead
The work is not over yet!
Healing for Hal & Jean
Unscheduled Days
Lord, continue to lead them
A sense of abundance
We have many problems, but the Lord will help us
Go out with rejoicing
Joy with grandchildren
Spiritual Leadership
God is sovereign
Blessed are the peacemakers
First rest, then adventure
Redeeming love
Lots of Fun
You have led well, now you may follow well

One member then read from Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

At the end of the laying on of hands, Hal closed the meeting – as he has closed every meeting in his 32 years – by singing the doxology.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise God all creatures here below.
Praise Him above ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son & Holy Ghost.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Be Prepared

What a wonderful season of God’s abundance this Summer has been! I feel like I’m the most blessed Pastor in this country to have the opportunity to share in ministry with my mentor, Pastor Hal, and to be able to take his legacy of leadership forward into the next generation.

As I preached this sermon series in June called “Be Prepared” (watch the whole series again on our YouTube channel!), I have been very aware that God has been preparing both me and this church for many years to serve Huntsville in this next season. God has used Hal and Jean’s leadership to prepare us. God has used parents and grandparents and teachers to prepare us. God has used the Holy Spirit in our hearts to prepare us. And God has used his Holy Word in scripture to prepare us.

All of these things have tied a towel around our waist.

That’s the core image from my sermon series. The Greek word here is Zonnumi (zoh-NU-mee.) It means to tie something around your waist. Metaphorically it means that you are “ready for action.”

You can understand why if you’ve ever seen me in my office at 10:58AM on a Sunday morning. Sometimes with all the wonderful ministry we pack into the Sunday School hour I find myself rushing to get ready for the 11:00 service! I tangle a tie around my neck. I rumple my robe onto my shoulders…

And then I pick up the edge of the robe … and run down the stairs to be on time for worship.

That’s what the ancient idea of zoh-NU-mee means. By tying the edge of a long robe up above your knees, you are ready to run. You are ready to stoop. You are ready to serve.
In other words, you’re “prepared.”

So when Jesus ties a towel around his waist at the last supper, he scoops the hem of his robe above his knees. He is saying to each of us “This is what it looks like to be a disciple – are you prepared?”

I have a deep feeling in my bones that God wants us to zoh-NU-mee this Summer.

Because come September he’s got a race for us to run.

Come October he’s got a journey for us to travel.

Come December he’s got a feast for us to serve.

And he needs everyone of us to be prepared to MOVE!

But the good news of the Gospel is that we don’t do it alone. It is the Holy Spirit that has made us ready since before we were born. It is the Holy Spirit that equips us with power beyond ourselves in the present. It is the Holy Spirit that straightens the path ahead of us as we step out into the future.

And as we tie a towel around our waist

to share the good news,
to pray,
to welcome,
to heal,
to listen,
to bless and
to serve,
we will find that the Risen Christ is already in our midst, stooped down low, washing the feet of our neighbors.
I am so excited for this journey we are about to take together. Let us pray each day this summer for God to make us ready.


Take Off Your Shoes!

April 8 was a day that I will never forget. Thank you to each of you for giving me the opportunity to be installed as Co-Pastor alongside Hal on that day. It was a truly beautiful celebration and a fitting conclusion to the hard work and prayer of so many people in our congregation and presbytery.

The highlight for me was that my Dad, Pastor Karl Kling, gave a charge to Hal and me from the pulpit. This is a very old tradition in the Presbyterian Church that a member of the clergy gives a word of exhortation to a newly installed pastor to set the tone for their upcoming ministry.

Karl noted that the largest Presbyterian church in the world is the Myung Sung Presbyterian Church in Seoul, South Korea. They report 100,000 members (!) and seven worship services on Sundays. Their esteemed Senior Pastor, Dr. Kim Sam-Whan, has been their leader since 1980.

But for all that grandeur and achievement, the pastors of Myung Sung have a rule before entering the pulpit: Take off your shoes.

That’s because our worship is Holy Ground. It is bigger than the preacher. It is more than the congregation. Every week as we gather together to hear and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, we stand in the presence of the Living God, the Risen Christ.

So like Moses in Exodus chapter 3, we must take off our shoes. We stand in the presence of one who is

bigger than achievement

bigger than our pain

bigger than our slavery

Jesus Christ leads us through the wilderness of sin and death and into the land of God’s promises.

So every week the pastors of Myung Sung take off their shoes before they preach. And each day that Hal and I serve you as Co-Pastors we promise to take off our shoes, so that we might serve you not out of our own strength, but out of the strength of the Holy Spirit.

Thank you for sharing this Holy Ground at 301 Drake Ave SE with us. Let’s all take off our shoes as we walk through this new season together into the land of God’s Promises.

I can’t wait to hear what happens next!




“Thank You!”

Dear Covenant Members and Friends,

Thank You! That’s all I can write this month. Thank you so much for your love, your support and your trust in me as your pastor. I am humbled and honored that you have called me to be your next Senior Pastor beginning in September 2018.

The journey that God has led us on together has been truly remarkable. And I believe that the journey ahead will be an adventure that we will never forget.

Two years ago I remember meeting with the wonderful Associate Pastoral Nominating Committee – whom I want to thank by name:

Robin Strong, Ray Rowley, Martha Lehmann, Steven Herriott, Nita Maddox, Lora Keiser, Joe Jones, Tom Cunningham, Debbie Hester, Mary Gray, and Bill McDowell

It was during a sparkling evening over dinner at Nita Maddox’s home that I began to ask myself: “God, what do you have up your sleeve?”

One year ago I remember meeting with the wonderful Pastoral Transition Team – whom I would like to thank by name:

Newell Witherspoon, Sheila Cloud & Tom Coon

Thank you!

It was during a powerful meeting in our Library with these three elders that I began to ask again: “God, what do you have up your sleeve?”

Throughout this time, I would never have been able to fulfill my calling without the partnership and selfless service of our staff – whom I would like to thank by name:

Susan Pendergrass, Alice Searcy, Lana Stapler, Katherine Bennett, Eddie Glasser, Steven Herriott, Cyndy Sarkisian, Betty Augsburger, Matt Carey, Russ Ivey and Pam Holmes

Thank you!

It is a privilege to work with you each day. I deeply feel that your sacrifices and support for me are a gift beyond measure.

Nowhere is it more apparent that I am just one member of a God-picked team than when I work alongside the best officers I have ever seen. To our Deacons, Session, and Trustees – I do not have enough words to thank each of you for the incredible dedication that you bring to your responsibilities. Being counted among your number as a Teaching Elder is an honor that I treasure.

Thank you!

In particular I want to thank the session members who prayed and discerned alongside the Associate Pastor Nominating Committee (beginning in 2014), the Pastoral Transition Team, and the church-wide discernment groups with such integrity:

Jeff Baker, Betty Collins, Herb Guendel, Andy Huttula, Elaine Woodling, Nancy Cloud, Ted Lehmann, Dennis Glasser, Amy Langford, Rebecca Boone, Susan Pendergrass, Jack Royster, Don Searcy, Betsy Estopinal, Mary Griffin, Kerry Rowley, Jeff Strouse, Sheila Cloud, Andy Glover, Dottie Hicks, Frieda Howell, Nita Herrington, David Stumbaugh, Sandi Williams, Rob Barnes, Art Woodling, Tom Pendergrass, Rita Icenogle, Steve Mowry and Steven Herriott

Thank you!

Alongside the discernment and wisdom of our elected officers and elders have been the gracious contributions of members of the Special Ops team and many Covenant Senior Leaders, who gave wise counsel and direction early in this process beginning in 2013 and provided ongoing input, feedback and guidance to the work of the Session and Associate Pastor Nominating Committee. To all who served selflessly in these “behind the scenes” groups:

Thank you!

I believe that the efforts and prayers of all these people – and so many more – have been very near to the heart of God in part because of the tireless intercession of the prayer team here at Covenant. I feel the prayers of this team hem me in behind and before as I walk forward into this new role and I know that I felt their prayers even when I was in Seminary preparing for a job I did not then know I would receive. To the prayer team:

Nita Maddox, Sheila Cloud, Martha Lehmann, Mary Edna Sharpe, Vicki Cape, Sylvia Townsley, Lana Stapler, Marilyn Cardno

Perhaps more than anyone I need to thank my mentor, friend, and boss, Hal Oakley and his peerless wife Jean Oakley, who is my colleague in Stephen Ministry. Their prayers and support and coaching will remain with me for my whole life long.

In addition I have to thank my wonderful wife Alison, who first identified Covenant on the PC(USA)’s job listing website and who heard the voice of the Holy Spirit calling us to Huntsville. Thank you Alison for your love and support!

And over these last months I have experienced an overwhelming surge of support, prayer and encouragement from the whole congregation. The list of names in this short letter is sadly incomplete without you. So many of you have served with me on wonderful committees, sent me touching cards and emails and shared your lives with me in ways beyond my deserving. While your name is not listed here, I hope to use the coming years to show my thanks to you.

Thank you to each of you. I can honestly say that I am the happiest I have ever been in my life because you have blessed me with your generous listening and faithful discipleship.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

I feel like John the Baptist in that I am not worthy to tie the sandals of our Lord who has called us to follow him together.

But I also feel the wind blowing around us as we are about to lift up our sails for the breath of God – the mighty wind of the Holy Spirit – to blow us forward into his mission:

To make disciples of Jesus Christ who love God, love one another and who serve in the world.

Wherever we go…

Your thankful brother in Christ,


Keep the Course!

Our new Generosity Chairman, Brandon Tucker hit the nail on the head when he selected the generosity theme for 2018: “Keep the Course!”

2000 years ago that was also the theme of John the Baptist as he waited for the coming of Jesus: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Luke 3:4) … in other words, “Keep the Course!” until the Lord comes.

We celebrate Jesus’ “coming” during the season of Advent (from the latin ad venire “to come”). John the Baptist’s image of a “straight course” is taken from Isaiah 40:3. The prophet Isaiah opens that chapter with the words “comfort ye, comfort ye my people.” But why the need for comfort? Why the need to “Keep the Course?”

Both John the Baptist and Isaiah wrote during times of transition for the People of God. Isaiah wrote when the walls of Jerusalem were tumbling down and the armies of Babylon were sweeping away the old way of life for the Jewish people. An old age was leaving. A new age was beginning. But the Lord was on the way. Jesus was coming.

John the Baptist wrote when the walls of Jerusalem were occupied by Roman soldiers and the Jewish people lived in hardship and poverty. An old age was leaving. A new age was beginning. But the Lord was on the way. Jesus was coming.

And in these times of transition – the prophets said “Comfort Ye! Make straight a path!” In other words, “Don’t panic! Get ready!” Keep the Course. Jesus is coming.

2018 brings our own period of transition at Covenant Presbyterian. Hal will retire in August after 31 distinguished years as Senior Pastor. In January you will vote on the possibility of my succeeding Hal and our presbytery will vote in February. Change is in the wind. An old age is leaving. A new age is beginning.

But in these times of change we hear the words of the prophets: “Don’t panic! Keep the Course! Jesus is coming!”

The wonderful news is that Jesus did come 2000 years ago to fulfill the prophecies of John the Baptist and Isaiah. He lived for us and died for us and rose for us. He set us free from sin and death.

We really don’t have anything to fear.. There’s no reason to panic. We need not fear even death itself. What greater comfort could we have?

And the wonderful news is that when our own paths seem hopelessly crooked, when we veer off course and seem utterly lost, Jesus made our way straight through his own faithfulness on the cross. And he sends us his Holy Spirit to empower us for the journey ahead, to guide others to join us and to make straight our paths as we lean on him (Proverbs 3:5-6).

We really can “Keep the Course!” Not by our own power – but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I am so honored to be your servant here at Covenant Presbyterian. As I pray for us – I feel so excited! I feel like Jesus is setting a straight course for us to travel next year. I feel like he is filling our sails with the wind of the Holy Spirit to propel us down that path. And I feel him binding us together as his crew to serve Madison County in his name.

There’s no other crew I’d rather sail with. And Jesus – our captain – is coming!


Pastor David


I Can’t Wait To See What Happens Next!


Wow! Well done! Outstanding! I couldn’t be more impressed! We did it y’all!

It took everyone working together as a team: dozens of small group facilitators, the choir, the worship team, AV folks, decorators, artists, office staff, carpenters, potluckers, deacons, elders, organists, youth, children, high school seniors and super seniors, prayer warriors and even a pastor or two!

Together, we finished 40 days of prayer and faith sharing using Martha Grace Reese’s book, “Unbinding Your Heart!”

We distributed over 320 Unbinding Your Heart books and our Unbinding Small Groups posted attendance numbers of over 250 people from ages 18 months to 80+ years.

That’s remarkable considering our average worship attendance on a Sunday is 250. This means we are one of the MOST committed churches to ever attempt this study. Very few other churches have been able to match our level of commitment and involvement. That’s because this study is so demanding. AMAZING WORK!

So, I’ve been saying it for 40 days now…

I can’t wait to hear what happens next!

That’s how I concluded all 40 of my daily devotional videos (available on Covenant’s YouTube page). But I really mean it. I can’t wait to see what God does next in our midst!

Are you ready to take things to the next level?

Are you ready to follow where Jesus leads us next?

I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. I just know that we are going to see God do powerful things in Huntsville in the next 12 months.

So let’s keep it up! Take some time today and review the “Evangelism Pyramid” from page 78 in your Unbinding Your Heart books (reproduced below). Take a pen and mark the highest level where you are already sharing your faith.

For some it may be talking about the difference Jesus makes in your life with youth and children. That’s the most approachable layer to begin practicing sharing your faith (layers 1 – 2). For others, you may be comfortable talking about your faith or inviting someone who is already close to church (layers 3 – 5). For others, you may be comfortable having conversations about faith with people who are not involved in church right now (layers 6 – 9). Each level becomes a little more challenging as you move up the pyramid.

After marking the highest level you are comfortable with today, I want you to do two things for homework every day for the next 4 weeks:

  1. Do your current level one step better. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you at the start of each day!
  2. Pray that God would give you the courage and the opportunity to move to the next level. Again, ask the Holy Spirit!

What might that look like? If you’re not talking to someone at a level, start a conversation! If you’re not inviting someone to Covenant at that level, invite someone! If you haven’t shared the difference that Jesus makes in your life with someone at that level, share with someone!

If you need encouragement or direction, keep praying your favorite prayers from your Unbinding prayer journals – or watch one of my seven Unbinding sermons, all available on Covenant’s YouTube page and our website.

Don’t forget our theme verse for this study:

Jesus says: “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18)

And the clarifying verse in John’s Gospel: “You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it!”  (John 14:14)

Jesus has his fingers on

-the knots in our hearts,

-the knots in our church,

-the knots in our neighbor’s hearts.

If we ask him, he will unite these knots so that his transforming grace can flow freely.

So, let’s ask him every day!

I can’t wait to see what happens next!



What’s Different?

“What’s different about worship?” someone asked me yesterday, “the energy is WAY higher!”

I just smiled and said – “we’re all on the Unbinding team!”

What can I say? I write these words with profound joy. We are doing it! After 12 months of preparation and prayer,  we are in the midst of our congregation-wide study of Martha Grace Reese’s evangelism handbook Unbinding Your Heart.

Thousands of churches all across the country have used this book – but we are already distinguishing ourselves by our outstanding level of participation. My goal was to enroll 80% of our worship attendance in small groups and as of the first week we have met this goal! We have over 200 people of all ages studying and praying together. That’s TWENTY-THREE groups meeting on four days a week, including pre-school, kids, middle school, high school, college, young adult, middle age and senior adults! It is heartwarming for me to walk the halls and to pop into classrooms seeing toddlers and 80-year-olds and everyone in-between all pulling together in the same direction. Keep up the outstanding work!

It’s never too late to join a group, so please consider joining a group while there is still time left in this exciting 40-day season. If there is not a group that fits with your schedule please contact me and I will do my best to organize a group to fit your schedule. We have books in the office available for purchase at $10 – so come by and pick one up to join in the excitement! Every person who joins us in these 40 days will add energy and strength to our team!

I hope you use this 40 days in a way that restores your soul so that your cup overflows. You have my full permission during this time to skip something so that you have time to focus on your daily prayers. Skip a committee meeting. Skip laundry! Let something go during this brief season to make room in your life for prayer. If you want me to sign a permission slip to skip something – just come by office! Anything to keep your prayers coming…. Don’t forget to send an email to Alice.Searcy@covhsv.org if you would like to receive daily videos from me to give you special hints and encouragement about your daily prayers. Or just check out our youtube channel. Go to youtube.com and type in “CovenantHuntsville.”

If you’d like to share one of my Unbinding Your Heart Sermons, I am recording these and placing them on our youtube channel as well. Why not send one to a friend so they can get a taste of what it would be like to visit with us on Sunday?

To close, I’d like to thank everyone who has made this 40-day adventure possible. It’s like running a summer camp right here in our church! To everyone who has prayed, planned, organized, led, taught, decorated, built stuff, sung, and participated – THANK YOU! I will take a note from page 122 of your Unbinding Books and quote First Thessalonians 1:2-3.

“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”


Pastor David




Pack Your Bags for a Jubilee!

I love to pack luggage. I like to roll my clothes into perfect little cubes. I like to make each item fit just so inside of the compartments. Then at the end I love the hum of the zippers closing. They seem to say: “You’re ready!” “You’re set!” I feel so neat and tidy when I’m done.

But as much as I love packing – that’s not the point of traveling.

The point of traveling is to go.

And it’s the same with our faith journey.

The point of our faith journey is to grow.

This year our stewardship theme is “Ready, Set, Grow

God has blessed us with 60 years of spiritual maturity, joyful fellowship, wise leadership and financial generosity. God has made us ready. God has made us set. Now it’s time to grow.

God is calling us to grow deeper in our relationship with him.

God is calling us to grow wider in our relationships with people outside our church walls.

It’s the most courageous thing we can do as disciples. It’s the most faithful thing we can do as a church family. We are going to continue the hard work of growing.

To leap forward with courage we will use a congregation-wide study of “Unbinding Your Heart” by Martha Grace Reese from August 20th through October 1st. For forty days we will make it possible for every member of covenant (from ages 1 to 100!) to pray the same prayers and read the same scriptures. We will read the best available research on how to share Jesus with people who are not already in church. For forty days we will share our own faith  stories and pray for each other and for the Huntsville-metro area.

This is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our congregation to literally “be on the same page.” It’s not a new   concept. This church has done an outstanding job of praying and reading the bible since our charter in 1957. But it’s even older than that. In Leviticus 25 God declares that every 50 years there is to be a time of Jubilee. During the Jubilee, the soil rests and the whole people focus on praising God and restoring their relationships with one another and with the foreigners in the land. That’s what we’re going to do with this study of “Unbinding Your Heart.” It will be a time of Jubilee – where we all get on the same page so that God can lead us forth in the power of the Holy Spirit to share the good news of Jesus Christ with our city.

It’s going to be powerful AND it’s going to be fun! Many Sunday School classes and Wednesday Night groups will be using the “Unbinding Your Heart” curriculum and we will have a number of new small groups launching throughout Huntsville at different times of the week. You can show up to the congregation-wide “Draft Day” on August 13th at noon to enjoy lunch from  local Food Trucks and to sign up for an Unbinding small group.

Will you do me a favor? Will you take 10 minutes this month and just sit and ask the Holy Spirit if there is one person in your life that you would like to invite to do this study with you? It could be a friend who comes every week to Covenant or someone who has not come to worship in some time. It could be a neighbor. It could be a family member. Just ask God whom God has in mind. This will be a forty days that we always remember – so let’s bring along some friends for the journey!

We’re ready, we’re set, let’s grow!


Turn, Turn, Turn


Have you ever walked a long road of darkness in your life? Perhaps a divorce, the loss of a loved one, or a time of family crisis? These are the kinds of things that can drain our spirits, leaving us feeling dry and worn out. One of the ways our church provides care during difficult times is through our Stephen Ministry program. These dedicated women and men commit to walking alongside you when the going gets tough and you need a friend. This past month I was honored to help lead a retreat for our Stephen Ministers at Loblolly Farm (generously provided by Bill and Jeanie Snoddy!)

The Stephen Ministers wanted to focus on the theme of “Soul Care.” They are a team that helps care for people’s weary spirits … but they also need spiritual care themselves. As I prayed about what to share with this wonderful group, the Holy Spirit drew me to Psalm 23:3: “He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

I have read those lines many times. This is the first scripture passage that I remember learning. Hal and I use this psalm at every funeral we do here at Covenant. But I was still surprised when I looked up the meaning of the word “restore.”

I had expected that the word would mean something like “renew.” This is the sense of the English “restore” and Martin Luther’s German translation “erquicken.” However, the Hebrew word in this case is “shuv,” which means “to turn or return.” I wondered if this sense only occurred in Hebrew, but sure enough, the ancient Greek translation of the psalms gives the word “epistrepho,” which means to “turn around.” Similarly, the Latin vulgate translation gives the word “converto” which means to “turn the other way.” It seems that for many centuries Christians have read this word of scripture with a sense of the soul’s “turning.”

But what does this mean? The implications were not immediately clear to me and I was still puzzling on them during the Stephen Ministry retreat. On Saturday morning we had a powerful time of Bible study and sharing. Over and over again, Covenant members shared about the power of prayer in transforming a situation in their lives. One person said: “if you be worrying you ain’t be praying. If you be praying you can’t be worrying.”

At once the meaning of the scripture snapped into focus for me. There is a moment when we feel exhausted or worn out when we turn towards God and even though we may still feel like we are in “valley of the shadow of death” (verse 4), nevertheless we are no longer facing towards the darkness. Instead we are facing God. By God’s grace our perspective changes and our soul is “restored” to the right path. We don’t do it on our own. Psalm 23:3 says that God is the one that turns us around. God is the one who restores our souls. And it’s not just a change in perspective. The psalm ends by saying that at the end of the journey our cup “runs over” and we dwell with God forever. That’s the good news of the Gospel. When we feel too tired to go on, God turns us around through Jesus Christ and by the power of the spirit he leads us home to our full renewal, restoration and completion.

I am thankful for the way our Stephen Ministers encouraged me on that retreat. If any of you is facing a challenge right now I encourage you to request a Stephen Minister. And more than this, I pray that each of you would find that God “restores your soul” as you turn to him in prayer.

Yours In Christ,

Pastor David


You’ve Got Mail!

TO THE PRESBYTERIANS! That’s how the apostle Peter opens 1 Peter, Chapter 5. I’ll bet you didn’t know that we were called out by name in Peter’s first letter! This is because “Presbyterian” is the Greek word for “Elder.” The words that Peter uses in this final chapter of his first Peter begin by offering words of guidance to elders (leaders) in the church. But in reality, he is calling each of us by name. These powerful words are written not just to a rag-tag group of believers 2000 years ago. By the power of the Holy Spirit they are fresh and new for each of us PRESBYTERIANS today. This has been a powerful sermon series for me personally to share with Hal. I have learned so much by working through this text in sermon preparation and in Sunday School teaching. We have now brought this Sermon Series to a close. But I have a challenge TO THE PRESBYTERIANS here in Huntsville. (1) Look at your schedule this week. (2) Find 15 minutes. (3) Use that 15 minutes to sit down in a quiet place and read the letter of 1 Peter in your bible from beginning to end in one sitting. That’s how this letter was meant to be read – all at once, like hearing a mighty symphony that takes on shape and volume as you read across the five chapters. Imagine that you are in that ancient congregation hearing this letter for the first time. Finally – if you are able to do this assignment, shoot me an email and let me know what you experienced – I’d love to hear from you!  May you feel the joy of your savior, Jesus Christ, through His Holy Word!

A “God” Prognosis

If you’ve ever been to the doctor for an illness, or consulted with a surgeon regarding a procedure – you may have learned to lean on the doctor’s “prognosis.” That is to say, you may have found yourself thinking often about what the doctor’s prediction regarding the success of your treatment. It takes time to set up appointments, to have blood tests run, to wait in waiting rooms, or undergo surgery. It takes time to undergo long regimens of pills, physical therapy or bed rest. Even though the wait is long, I find that it is much easier to endure if the doctor has given me a good “prognosis,” that is, the doctor thinks that after the treatment my body will be healthy again.

This word stuck out to me as we have been studying the book of 1 Peter in our sermon series. The very beginning of the book says that we have been chosen according to God’s prognosin. That’s the same word! It means the knowledge that we have before something has even occurred. Many English translations use the word “foreknowledge” to describe the Greek term. But I have to admit there is something special to think that God has a prognosis for us. The book of 1 Peter was written to Christians in Asia who were suffering because of their faith. There are many times in our lives when we might feel suffering, loss, difficulty or pain. Wouldn’t it be nice if the pain or hardship just “went away?” And yet at times we feel like we must wait it out – go through the motions. Take confidence in the good news that God has given you a good prognosis. You will recover! You will be healed! You will be healthy! You have been chosen as God’s precious child according to his divine prognosis so that you might follow Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

May it be so!


Led into God’s Gift

I was out to dinner with another pastor’s family a few weeks ago and they asked me “so what makes Covenant special?” I paused before I told him: “This church has the healthiest relationships and the strongest leaders I have ever seen.” I was reminded of this conversation last Sunday when we installed our new Trustees, Deacons and Elders by laying hands on them and praying for them. A sea of people stood up to lay hands on the new leaders and I viscerally felt the warmth and love of our whole congregation during the time of prayer.

I believe that God is going to bless our church powerfully this year. The relationships and leaders that God has nurtured at Covenant have made this a place where the Holy Spirit can overflow into the lives of our neighbors and colleagues. Because we love one another well, we stick together. Because our leaders are faithful, we are pointed in the right direction. Together these two things mean we can serve Huntsville not just individuals but as a Spirit-led team.

In the first chapter of Deuteronomy, after years of hard work God’s people are finally about to enter into the land of God’s blessing. God says to them “I’m going to make you as numerous as the stars! I’m going to bless you just like I promised!” Moses responds to God by saying, “Wait a second – that’s too big a blessing for just one person – there’s no way I can lead that many people by myself!” God answers Moses in verse 13 by telling him to “give” wise, experienced and knowledgeable leaders to each tribe. It is interesting to me that most modern translations use the word “choose” rather than “give” in this verse. Nevertheless in nearly every other instance in the bible this Hebrew word (“YAHAB”) means “to give.”

I like that. I like that we choose our leaders, God grants us the power to make a “choice” of who will lead us. But I also know that the wonderful leaders in this church are a “gift.” Our leaders are more than just elected officials. They are gifts that God has given us.

Thank you to each of you who lead in our church – officers, committee members, teachers, musicians, volunteers, staff, and more! – you are all gifts from God! It’s hard work. But we’re ready. Now let’s get set, because it’s time to grow!


It’s Coming!

It’s coming! We are entering into the season of “Advent” in the church calendar, the time of year when we as Christians hold our breath, count the days and pray fervently because “it’s coming.” That’s what “Advent” means. Advent is a Latin word that means “coming.”

And there’s a lot that’s coming on our horizon at Covenant Presbyterian.

First – and most importantly – this is the season when we focus on the coming of Jesus Christ to earth. This is the most important event in human history. It is the reason why our calendars “count down” backwards to the year of his birth (approximately 0 BC), and “count up” forwards away from his birth. Every time we write “2016” on a check or a document we are bearing witness to the fact that two thousand and sixteen years ago, Christ came. A little boy lived among us who was fully human and fully God.  And that little boy would grow to show us how to live, how to die and how to rise again, all through his own sacrifice for us on the cross.

Secondly, this is the season when we look forward to the coming of Christ’s Kingdom. When we pray the prayer that Jesus taught us, the Lord’s prayer, we pray that God’s Kingdom would “come” on earth as it is heaven. And here’s the exciting part: Jesus wants us to help him make that prayer a reality. What would it look like for Jesus to be King of Huntsville? King of your job? King of your family? King of your life?

But thirdly, 2017 is coming! A fresh opportunity is coming! In the new year, we have a new chance to tell Jesus “here I am Lord, send me” (Isaiah 6:8).  I believe very strongly that 2017 will be a powerful year for our church family. I can hear Jesus calling us to tell our neighbors about him. I can see a congregation ready to serve. I can feel the energy of the Holy Spirit nudging us forward and building us up. It won’t be easy but it will be exciting.

Jesus is coming! His kingdom is coming! It’s time for us to prepare the way. We’re ready, let’s get set in 2017, because it’s time to grow!

Pastor David



Dear Covenant Family and Friends,

People I meet in Huntsville often ask me “What brought you here?” My response is always the same:

“The best job in the whole country.”

I really mean that. Thank you all for being such a welcoming church home to Alison, George and myself. What else makes this place the best job in the whole country?

Alison and I interviewed at a number of churches all across the country. We were looking for two things.

First, we wanted to find a Senior Pastor and a Pastor’s Wife who would mentor us and teach us how to be better pastors. Unsurprisingly, Hal and Jean were the most amazing couple we met. It has been a privilege and an honor to learn from Hal and Jean during our first three months.

Second, we were looking for was a congregation that was ready for “the future.” We believe that Jesus wants to invite new people – folks who don’t yet feel close to God – into our churches to come into a relationship with Him. But are we ready to welcome Jesus’ guests? Are we ready for this future?

Believe it or not, I learned that Covenant is ready for “the future” when I looked at our financial reports.

What did I see? I saw a church that took out a BIG loan – almost five million dollars. But I also saw a church that had built a building to welcome Jesus’s guests: a building for “the future.”

When I was interviewing, I looked at all the financial reports for all of the churches. I visited one church the same size and age as Covenant. They had done a big building project and had already paid off all of their debt. But when I visited, I saw that they had built the wrong building! They had built for “the past” rather than “the future.” Moreover, while this church gave much of their money away to missions, they spent very little on maintaining their building. It now looked rather shabby. They were not ready to welcome Christ’s guests. Their church had saved money, true, but they were not ready for “the future.”

In contrast, when I visited Covenant I saw a church that had spent five million dollars EXACTLY right. Every corner of our building impressed me – not too fancy, not too cheap. Like Goldilocks and the three bears, Covenant’s building was just right. Moreover, I was astonished to find that the building was eight years old and that much of the structure was from the 1960’s. BUT everything looked BRAND NEW. I now know that we budget very carefully and our trustees work very hard to keep everything in our building repaired and ready for Jesus’ guests.

When I worked on Wall Street, my specialty was working with companies that also had BIG loans. What did these companies have in common? They each had extraordinary discipline to focus on growing their businesses for “the future.”  Like those companies I think our loan keeps us disciplined on growing for “the future.

Those companies took out BIG loans because they had SMART plans.

I think Covenant has taken out a BIG loan because we have FAITH-ful plans.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us that FAITH means having confidence in “the future” even though we can’t see it yet. That’s what I saw when I read Covenant’s financial statements. I saw a Church that had the FAITH to invest in “the future” – even though we can’t see it yet. We had the FAITH to build a facility for guests we haven’t even met yet. It’s the same kind of faith that Jesus Christ “the author and the pioneer” of our faith had when he went to the cross to die for people not yet born (Heb. 12:2).

Are we there yet? Not yet. It will take some training. It will take some discipline. Important things often do. And together, we have the opportunity to do the most important thing: welcoming Jesus’s guests into His Kingdom. May God be with us on the road of FAITH as we run together into “His future.”

Yours in Christ,




God in Action…

When the Apostle Paul attempts to describe how the Church operates, he says this in his first letter to the Christians in Corinth: “There’s a lot of different activities – but it is the same God who activates all in all” (1 Cor. 12:6).

Do you notice how the words I put in bold look very similar? That’s because they are! Paul uses the noun form (activities) for humans and the verb form (activates) for God. But it’s the same word. Human beings and God are engaged in the same task on the same team. We provide God our stuff. But God provides His power.

I’m so excited when I think about this verse as I complete my second month at Covenant. I have already worked with so many amazing teams here: Special Ops, Finance Team, Adult Discipleship, Session, Deacons, Trustees, Youth and Family … and the list goes on! There’s a lot of wonderful activity at Covenant!

But as I pray for our congregation, I have been feeling something even deeper than activity. I feel Jesus ACTIVATING this congregation through the Holy Spirit! Jesus is preparing to release the Spirit’s energy in our midst in fresh and new ways. Jesus is our coach – but we’re on His team! I feel like I have a front row seat at the most exciting bowl game of the season.

And what’s our team’s goal? Paul tells us in the next verse: to bless the world! Come Holy Spirit Come! Empower us to bless our neighbors in Jesus’ name!


Pastor David


More Than We Can Ask For Or Imagine!


Dear Members and Friends of Covenant Presbyterian,

“More than we can ask for or imagine!” That’s how the apostle Paul describes what Jesus can do through us as a church in   Ephesians 3:20.

It is with deep pleasure and gratitude that I greet you as your new Associate Pastor. My wife Alison and I are delighted to call Huntsville our new home and to call you all our new church family. We can’t wait to meet each of you in person over the coming months and to introduce ourselves (including our four-month-old son George). We truly feel like God has given us “more than we could ask for or imagine.”

Alison and I both graduated from Princeton Seminary in the spring with M.Div. degrees. Although we interviewed at many churches, at the end of our search we very clearly heard the Lord call us to Covenant. We believe that this is one of the most remarkable congregations in the denomination and are convinced that Jesus Christ will use this church in a powerful way for His Kingdom here in Huntsville and beyond. We could not be more excited to begin working alongside you in this mission.

I am settling into my office and already I have been so encouraged by the warmth and energy with which you have greeted me. Please do not hesitate to drop by or to give me a call. Hal and I are planning my ordination service for the fall and we look forward to sharing those details with you so that we can celebrate together as a church family.

My deepest passion is telling people the good news that Jesus Christ is Lord. I enjoyed doing this so much when I was working in the financial services industry that I felt the Lord call me to equip others to do the same. Now, after three years of study at Princeton, it is truly my privilege to share my enthusiasm and training with you. God is calling us to a great adventure together, and I truly believe that it will be for “more than we can ask for or imagine!”

Yours in Christ,