I am an introvert. Always have been. Those elementary, junior high, and high school moments where I would have to stand before the class and quote a poem, summarize a book, or give a report were sheer agony for me. As a teenager, I was asked speak before my home church on Laity Sunday as one of three other speakers. I had prepared and felt I had something good to say. As the Sunday got closer, my confidence got weaker. It was so weak by Sunday I begged off claiming a sore throat. Every personality test I took during my career confirmed that I was and am a bona fide introvert. Continue reading That time God. . .
I have a peculiar trait. I rarely return from an auto trip, no matter how short, the same way I went. Such was the case when seeing my neurologist. Upon leaving her office, I turned left at the tee instead of the normal right. I quickly left the area of shops and fast-food restaurants and entered a lovely residential area. After a mile and a half, I came upon a church that was off my radar screen because it was outside our 15-minute radius of churches we were considering as a church home.
Just for kicks, I glanced at the clock on the dashboard and set my GPS to get me home the quickest way. I was surprised to find that the church was only 12 miles from home and the trip took 19 minutes. Deborah and I decided to visit the church the next Sunday.
Upon arrival at the 11:00 service we were greeted by ushers who seemed genuinely glad that we had joined them for worship. We settled into a pew and shortly a dapper gentleman approached and engaged us in conversation. He recognized that we were new, asked us how long we had been in the area, where we lived, and a few other non-invasive questions.
I particularly noticed he had taken out a paper and jotted down something as we spoke. I later found out he had written our names down so he could remember them and to give to the pastor in case we did not fill out the guest information in the pews. Shortly thereafter, another gentleman came over and introduced himself. I remember him well for he was holding a shofar. I made a quip about how nice it was that he was welcoming us with the sound of horn.
Several things stood out in the service. One was the energy of the congregation and the joy on their faces. Nothing contrived here, just authentic worship. Lest you think I am only speaking of the music, the authentic worship was evident in every aspect of the service.
The next afternoon, around 6:00, the doorbell rang. Two men had stopped by with a small gift and a word about how much they appreciated our visit. Over the next several weeks we were contacted by the senior pastor and executive minister of the church. They encouraged us to get involved in one of the classes the church offered. We were invited by a church member to the Wednesday night supper. More and more church members were engaging us and little by little this church was drawing us into relationship.
The worship services continued to impress. One thing that stood out was the worship leaders seemed devoid of ego. The senior pastor readily shared the pulpit with the executive minister, even doing a tag team message on one occasion. He often utilized lay people from the congregation to share experiences as illustrations of points in his message. The same selfless approach could be seen on the worship team as various skilled musicians and singers move in and out of spotlight roles.
Within my bailiwick, I was delighted to see an Acts 1:8 model being played out, whether by design or chance I do not know. I was especially impressed that they have singled out a roughly one square mile urban area within their Jerusalem and are in partnership with a church there. Would that more churches would intentionally identify and engage in ministry in a strategic and specific way to make a difference in their community.
After more than a year and a half of searching for a church we could call home, we are delighted to have found one. One that will challenge us spiritually, allow the development of deep and dear relationships, and provide an outlet for the gifts and graces God, through his Spirit, has given us. So, this Sunday, we will be transferring our membership to St. James United Methodist Church in Athens, GA, and we look forward with eagerness to see what God has in store.
In 2010, I wrote an article titled, “We are a Friendly Chuch.” That was the oft-repeated response from churches in which I was speaking when I asked what was their identifying mark as a church. The gist of that article was that a church may be a friendly church if one visits them, but they may not be so friendly to those that do not seek them out. I took them at their word that they were indeed a friendly church. Events over the past 18 months indicate I may have been a little too trusting in their perception of themselves. Continue reading In Search of a Church
On many weekends, I have the privilege and blessing of being in a local church delivering TMS Global’s Activate Conference. These churches have invited me to either help ignite a passion for missions among the membership or to assist in taking their existing missions program to a higher level.
In the context of these weekends, the issue of evangelism has been increasingly raised. Continue reading Uncomplicating Evangelism
I will forever be grateful for being able to grow up living next door to my second cousins in the little community of Clay, Alabama. Dad and Mom had four children: Ronald, me, Karen, and Stephen. Jim and Emma had seven: Jane, Jimmy, Rodney, B. W., Jerry, Elaine, and Dede. Dad and Jim’s respective mothers were sisters. Our lives were intertwined in so many ways. Continue reading Of Cousins and Baseball
Every individual believer and every local congregation should live out their walk of faith in intimacy with Jesus, showing love to others, and seeking to encourage others to find the same relationship with Christ that they have. The Four Greats of Missions presents a cyclic progression that models how that can happen in a way that impacts lives near and far. Continue reading Four Greats of Missions
Those of you who fly are very familiar with the pre-departure instructions. “In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you,” the flight attendant announces, and then, after more operating instructions, tells, “If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person.” Continue reading Reclaiming an Overlooked Missions Strategy