It’s difficult to know exactly from where the impetus of an idea stems. So, I can’t quite recall how it came about or when we first started talking about it, but for some time Brandi Etheredge, our Communications Associate and Graphic Designer, and I have had an idea to communicate the message that “Brook Hills Loves Birmingham.”

Honestly, I think we had the visuals in our mind before we had the message. I could so easily see the letters B and H followed by the shape of a heart stacked on top of the letters, B, H, and M laid out like the initials for our airport. The symmetry of the Bs and Hs on top of one another appealed to me, and the heart made it something more. Without even thinking of what that kind of graphic would “say” the message was staring us in the face. Brook Hills loves Birmingham.

Of course, we do. We love Birmingham. But what we mean when we say that is much more than a church loving a city. It’s not an institution expressing care and concern for a geographical location. It’s about people. We, the faith family called Brook Hills, love the people here in the metro area we call Birmingham. We love one another. We love our neighbors in Broken Bow and Chelsea Park and Brook Highland. We love our classmates at Oak Mountain and Spain Park, at Samford and UAB, at Briarwood and our homeschool co-op. We love our coworkers at Regions and Grandview and Alabama Power. We love those in the suburbs and downtown. We love people who live on this side and over the mountain. We love those around us, those across town, and those who have traveled here from around the world.

We love because it’s at the very heart of the gospel. It is summed up so well in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” [emphasis added] And Romans 5:8 reveals just how gracious of and selfless and costly His love is toward us: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This then also helps drive home the truth we discover in 1 John 4:19: “We love because he first loved us.”

In our “We Are” sermon series a couple of years ago, we began by studying together how we abide biblically. It is our abidance in and obedience to God’s Word that drives us to love and also calls us to do things like welcome graciously and engage locally in ways that show and demonstrate our love for Birmingham, and in turn, shows and demonstrates God’s love for Birmingham, which will then prayerfully overflow into our love for the nations as we reach globally with the gospel of Christ.

This weekend, in which many of us get an extra day off to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., provides us an opportunity to reflect on his life and particularly the setting our city provided for significant moments within it and the civil rights movement as a whole. During those volatile years, I think we can recognize that “love” wasn’t something we were known for here in Birmingham. Recent tensions and tragedies in our city have revealed that, though we have made lots of progress, there is still a ways to go, and central to what Birmingham needs is love, and again because it’s about people. What people need, what we all need, is love. Not the love of romantic comedies or of social and moral obligation, but the love of God extended to and through His people to all those suffering from sin in our world.

So, we’ve taken that first graphic idea and we’ve put it on mugs we’re giving to first-time guests who come to worship with us. We’ve put it on the billboard that sits on the corner of our property. We’ll probably put it other places as well, because we want everyone around us here to know we love them. But it’s not just a message for those outside our church. It’s a challenge for us, too. Let’s love Birmingham, and let’s love Birmingham well. Let’s change the reputation of our city through transforming the hearts of her people, not through our own efforts, but through the love at the heart of the gospel of Christ.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” - John 13:35

Chris Kinsley serves as one of our Elders and on staff as our Communications Director. He and his wife, Liza, have been members of Brook Hills since 2003. They have two children, Story and Haven, and lead a small group in Helena.