Fifth and final article in the amazing series “Electing to Follow Jesus” by Randy Harris you will want to read and share

After hearing Randy Harris speak at the 2016 Pepperdine Lectures, I wanted to share the message of the lectures in print form, got his permission, transcribed, then re-worked the material into five articles, with deft editing help from Karissa Herchenroeder.

We published the five articles about the church and politics in a series called, “Electing to Follow Jesus,” and we ran these articles at Charis Magazine during the run up to the election and shortly after.

We kept the principle names of candidates out of these articles. Why? We want these articles to be more timeless and serve a generation as a primer for understanding our own baggage, how we can take a prophetic stand but still be wrong, and how some Christians have chosen to engage or not engage politics.

We believe the articles will have a long-term impact. Thank you to Karissa Herchenroeder and Charis, the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX, USA).

Here are the links to the articles on Charis Magazine.

Claiming Our Baggage

The Gospel of Jesus vs. The Gospel of Peter

How to Be a Loser

Strangers in a Strange Land

Prophets of Justice and Mercy

This series represents a collaboration between Randy Harris and Greg Taylor, co-authors of Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.

Randy Harris is spiritual director for the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry and College of Biblical Studies. He also teaches theology, ethics, preaching, and biblical text courses in the Department of Bible, Missions and Ministry at Abilene Christian University. Randy speaks at numerous conferences and churches throughout the year and has authored and co-authored several books, including the newest, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.

Greg Taylor is preaching minister for The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Greg is author of several books including “Lay Down Your Guns: One Doctor’s Battle for Hope and Healing in Honduras” and “High Places: A Novel,” and has co-authored several books.

Acts of the Church 1

Garnett Church of Christ is going through an important movement right now. We are selecting new elders, we are selling our building, and we are seeking some restructuring in our staff to more fully live out our mission “to invite all people into Christ-centered lives.” We believe all people–inside and outside of the church, staff, elders, members, non-Christians–must take steps closer to Jesus. We want to become less self-centered and more Christ-centered everyday.

As part of this new movement in our church, we are returning to the roots of the church in the book of Acts in the New Testament. So January 19, we began a new preaching series on Acts, then directly after the worship at 10, we are digging deeper into study of the book of Acts in an all-church auditorium class.

In this auditorium class I’m teaching like I taught in villages in Uganda. Different men, women, teenagers will read the text we are studying, some will go out of the room to practice a skit they come up with to act out the text, others will ask good questions of the text. We will pray over the text, be confessional, ask our honest questions, be willing to say, “I don’t know,” and focus on questions that help us become more Christlike.

During this study, we are also looking for themes about leadership, because our elder selection process calls for study of elder qualifications and selection. Acts contains good stories about how the early church selected leaders.

Sunday we enjoyed laughter, good questions, and a skit by three men–Conner Fields, Clarence Davis, and John Dickmann–that showed how the apostles prayed, asked the Holy Spirit to direct them, nominated two men, then drew straws to select one man to replace Judas so there would be twelve apostles, symbolic of the twelve tribes and a continuation of Christ’s selection of twelve apostles who would lead the first church.

Here are the questions class participants asked with any comments I can give right now.

  1. Where does it say 120 followers? (Acts 1:15)
  2. Should non-apostles cast lots to make decisions? While the idea of apostolic succession has been strong in the Catholic Church, in order to keep biblical interpretation and direction of the church strong, the weakness of this approach is that it leaves the 99% of non-apostolic leaders weak. I believe Christ left us the Holy Spirit to fill us and lead local communities of followers, and apostolic succession tends to rely on men and not the Holy Spirit.
  3. How were lots cast? This can be easily looked up online. I don’t know exactly how, but it was a kind of chance, like drawing straws or throwing dice, but the apostles nominated, prayed, then considered this method the word of the Lord.
  4. Is this the last time angels appear in the New Testament? Not the last time there is a vision (Peter received a vision and heard “a voice” in Acts 10; Paul received a vision from Jesus, later “a man” telling him to go to Macedonia, then a messenger to encourage him, “I have many people in this city,” one time when he was discouraged.
  5. Is Acts the last book written chronologically in the New Testament? No, written around AD 64, and books were probably written from AD 50 – 94.
  6. Why is Judas’s death account again added to Acts and does it agree with what’s in the gospels. Acts is more of a commentary and reason given for needing to choose another man.
  7. Who are the women disciples? Acts 1:14 says “women and Mary the mother of Jesus.” It’s significant that the women are mentioned, that women would take a role in the new church, an increasingly important idea throughout the gospels, with Jesus often interacting with women, women following, caring for Jesus, being the first to witness and tell of the resurrection.
  8. Why so little written about the 40 days of appearing? We find some mention and additional stories in the gospels, particularly John’s gospel (John 20-21), very powerful stories.
  9. What was the difference between John’s baptism and the baptism the church practiced beginning in Acts 2. For a discussion of this, see the book I co-authored with John Mark Hicks, Down in the River to Pray. Basically, John’s baptism was about preparation for the Messiah and repentance. The baptism in Acts is baptism characterized by three important things: into the name, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for forgiveness, and to impart the Holy Spirit.
  10. What is the significance of the twelve apostles? Without a doubt the twelve was a significant number because of the famous 12 tribes of Israel, so it’s no accident that Jesus selected 12 apostles, and it’s no accident the apostles wanted to remain 12 as long as possible as the new church began.
  11. Was there an apostle from each tribe? I don’t think so; this is not explicitly said or denied in Scripture, but these guys are not the famed patriarchs of their tribes but fishermen, tax collectors, and they probably would not have been considered as leaders of tribes at that point in Jewish history, but I have not researched this good question much.

Next week I’ll preach on “An Acts 2 Church” and we’ll look at what it means to be an Acts 2 Church more deeply in our class, act out the pentecost events, and ask more good questions. See you next week.

Supplicants and Benefactors

A page from Leviticus, in the Samaritan bible

A page from Leviticus, in the Samaritan bible (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you live your life as a supplicant, benefactor, or neither one?

This brings to mind the phrase, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” Quick question. Is that a quote from the Bible. Ten seconds to answer. Sure, you can look it up on your phone or computer . . . but you won’t find it in a concordance, unless it’s a concordance of Shakespeare phrases. It’s Hamlet.

The Bible does say much about the relationship between the haves and have nots, the rich and the poor, benefactors and supplicants. A good place to start thinking biblically about these relationships is in Leviticus. That’s one of the first books that lays out these relationships for the community of Israel.

Ministering to Ministers: Part 1

My friend who first asked me about what a church can do to help a minister that led me to write, “What a Preacher Wants,” is our guest writer today.

We thought it would be great to write from two different perspectives, I from the perspective of a preacher and he from perspective of an elder and leader preparing for a minister to join the church.

“I thought we were done?!”

It’s the morning after, and I thought that I would have a huge weight lifted from my shoulders and the collective shoulders of my fellow shepherds. However, I woke up early again this morning with that same uneasy feeling. I am getting ahead of myself, so allow me to back up and give some background to this ongoing story.

I serve as one of the shepherds of a medium sized body of believers, and we have been searching for a Preaching Minister for the past several months . . . ten months to be exact. It has been a challenging, exhausting, time consuming task, with countless hours of planning, prayer, interviews, studying resumes and personal theology statements, followed with a lot more prayer! We have involved the entire congregation in the process, which is a very good thing, but it calls for a lot of patience and grace on everyone’s part. Fortunately we have had a wonderfully diverse group on the search team and we have a wonderful ministerial staff that have helped tremendously in the tasks that come with not having a preaching minister and a year-long minister search. Overall, it has been a very good experience. We haven’t always agreed with each other, the comments from the body weren’t always palatable or easy to read, and we found out that what the body was searching for was impossible. I had several friends ask, “So, what are you guys looking for?” With my best straight face I answered, “It’s real simple, we are looking for a young preacher, with lots of experience, one that is deeply spiritual and loves to study for hours. He has to be able to get in people’s homes and lives, be extremely relational and outgoing, and one that enjoys being by himself in meditation and deeply guided by spiritual practices. Do you know anybody?”

We were looking for someone that does not exist!

We had a wonderful response from 27 men who I believe love the Lord and want to serve a congregation and grow somewhere. We had a much-anticipated meeting with the search team, ministers and shepherds last night, which resulted in a wonderful, and we believe Spirit led, unanimous decision. We have had the difficult conversations, we have done the congregational self-study, we have sought and received advice, and we have found a fantastic couple to join us in the ministry here. So, that’s it right? As one of the team members said last night before we prayed a final prayer of sanctification over this decision, “We are done right?”

That’s where I find myself this morning, the morning after. I have full confidence that we have followed the leading of the Holy Spirit, to the right couple for this place and this time with this flock. That was not the cause of my panic attack. My cold sweats were the result of the sudden realization that we are not done. We can’t simply make the call, offer the position, come to agreement and get him and his wife moved into the community. Don’t we owe him more than that?

I am left with more questions than I had five months ago. What does this person that I really only know by paper, a few meals together, Skype conversations, phone calls, resume and listening to one sermon, bring to our present congregation. How can we best integrate him and his wife into the existing body of Christ, one that has a history and DNA? One that has a life and a story that he doesn’t know or understand completely? How do we help him fit in while giving him the grace and room to use his own gifts and present his own values and thoughts?

Don’t I (we) have a responsibility to be good ministers to our new minister?

Recipe for a Great Church

Thank you to Janet Collins and Charlotte Burk, who published the 2013 Garnett Family Recipe Book. They asked for a recipe from me, so here’s what I gave them that you can see in the front of the book when you buy yours! Proceeds go to pay down Garnett debt! Ask about the cookbook by emailing Janet: garnettinfo@gmail.com. Get copies at the Tulsa Workshop this weekend or after a Garnett worship Sundays in Cafe Mosaic.
Recipe for a Great Church
by Greg Taylor
 
Ingredients
Wash All Dishes Inside and Out
Add Overflowing Cups of Grace
Blend in One Box of 100% Truth
Pour on Heaping Spoonfuls of Love (To Taste)
Stir in Egg Whites of Encouragement (No Cholesterol)
Melt on Mercy in Abundance
Squeeze in Patience, Fully Peeled
Cover with Kindness (Non-Fat Substitute: Gentleness)
Scoop Patience Even When Grated
Saute Endless Supplies of Forgiveness
Pinch of Salt
Directions
Mix Ingredients Together with Joy
Sprinkle with Laughter
Fold in Godliness in Endless Supply
Have Faith and Let Mixture Rest
Baste in Hope
Bake in the Son
Serving
Serve with The Spirit and While Hot, Never Lukewarm
Enjoy with Fellowship and Hospitality
Optional When Needed: Serve with Crow or Humble Pie (Also Fat Free)
Share Freely with Friends and Loved Ones
Always Makes Enough to Go Around
Recipe for a Great Church by Greg Taylor

Life Pyramid

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jo...

Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John, affirmed as "beloved Son" by the Father, and blessed by the Holy Spirit's presence.

If you could boil down the teachings of Christ and all of Scripture to 10 words and put them in a pyramid, what would they be? Put one on top, two below that, then three, then four on bottom. Be creative, don’t cheat . . . much.

I’m going to pick a word to begin that means God, Christ, Spirit to cheat a little, but what I mean by that is what theologians have meant by it for centuries: that God is relating in three persons and out of that relationship we are created and invited into that communion.

Here’s my Life Pyramid that will continue to be revised. I’d be interested to see what you would put in your Life Pyramid.

Triune
Love  Sin
Justice   Rescue  Covenant
Transformation  Resurrection Creation  Kingdom

Are you preventing children from coming to Jesus? Part 1

Our Lord Christ said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them.” We sneer at those villainous religious leaders–or even disciples–who prevent children from approaching Jesus.

But we have to ask the question, “Do we hinder children from coming to Jesus?”

And when we ask that question in the negative, why not put it in the positive sense also: “Do we do much intentionally to help our young children come to Jesus in our families and churches?

I want to do some sweeping through Christian history, Scripture, a couple of studies of practices related to conversion or faith-shaping of children in the last century, and make some conclusions or applications and issue a challenge to us all. Continue reading

A Step Toward Unity

The following is the text of my sermon delivered Sunday, August 21, 2011 in which my goal was to motivate Garnett make a choice to fellowship Connection Church and partner in children’s ministry.

I want to help each of us–our church–take one step closer to other Christians in our city and learn to live out the prayer of Jesus in John 17:20-23, our scripture text for today.

To do this, I want to start with a story . . .

Rewind to the early 80s in Bartlesville High School . I’m arguing with a Baptist over “once saved always saved” and “worship styles.” One issue hasn’t been solved in 2,000 years and one is a red herring (worship styles) that doesn’t deserve our distraction.

When I got to college, I’m not sure what Jill saw in me, but I was a judgmental pharisee who profiled sinners. I rejected Christians of other kinds. Maybe she loved the way I dressed.

In graduate school, the more I learned about God, the church, my own sin, the less it seemed I know about this incredible God and his world.

I read studies about church growth, one said combining efforts with other churches doesn’t seem to cause churches to grow. So I became indifferent to unity efforts.

Over the years I’ve lived with Mennonites, played basketball with Catholic Priests, and worshipped with Nazarenes and Baptists.

I grew through these experiences and have learned so much from many Christians of many stripes. Does this mean I swallowed everything whole from everyone I met? No. Neither do I swallow the bones when I eat a whole fish. Eat. Spit out the bones.

I’ve moved from rejection to tolerating to indifference to mere acceptance to learning from other Christians.

And just when I thought the Holy Spirit had moved me far enough, Jesus had fed me quite enough humble pie, I read Jesus’s prayer in John 17:20-23.

    20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 
What are we supposed to do with the prayer of Jesus? And who’s he talking about? Other churches like ours? Other churches like ours didn’t exist until 1,800 years after Jesus worded this prayer. So we live it out more broadly but how?

Read and pray it again at each stage in life. It keeps changing me each year.

And the more our church reads and prays Jesus’s prayer, the more the Holy Spirit moves and changes us.

In the last decade we’ve hosted Believer’s Church and a dozen more and now host five.

But some of your stories are like mine. You have this little buzzer that goes off when the door of unity cracks open and you feel anxious like the door is going to blow you over and kill you.

But there’s this prayer of Jesus. What do we do with it? Keep praying it. And there’s this prayer we keep praying every week. What does it mean if not that we are seeking a kingdom bigger than ourselves and just our church?

If our church is a grain of sand, the kingdom is all the sand on every beach in all the world. It’s the rule and reign of God that every church must come under, not people like me, not church traditions.

And these days it seems lots of people keep knocking on our door believe God is doing something big here. Beth West says she loves being here because God keeps bringing amazing opportunities to our doorstep . . . literally.

Today I want to tell you about one of those opportunities, and then call you to make a decision.

There is a 2-year-old church called Connection Church that meets in Rosa Parks Elementary School.

For many reasons, they needed to find another meeting place.

This became such a quest for the pastor of this church, that he developed anxiety attacks.

So he decided to go on a 40-day fast.

He became so hungry during this fast, and he came across these words of Jesus in John 4:34: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me to finish his work . . . open your eyes and look at the fields. They are ripe for harvest. The sower and reaper are working together to reap a harvest of eternal life. Thus the saying goes, One sows and the other reaps is true. So . . . I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

What could this mean? Others in the church had sensed that God wanted Connection Church to do something big, like two sides of a civil war coming together in unity.

Brad began to believe that God was leading Connection Church to come alongside another church in some way but he didn’t know how.

Rewind 15 years. Brad and his wife Laura used to live in East Tulsa. When driving home from their church they would pass Garnett. Traffic was stopped and we were pouring out on the 2-lane road. He nicknamed our church, “The Church That Stops Traffic.” Sometimes it’s a bit embarrassing how other people see us.

Well, back to this year–just a few months back Brad was driving by our church again, feeling anxious, praying, and something or someONE said, “Go in.” Really, uh, go in the “Church That Stops Traffic”?

He felt a strong urge to come in, and there he met Kay Hanna who then introduced Brad to our staff and to me.

That was Spring this year, and since then we’ve gotten to know each other through lots of conversations and dreaming and praying.

Jill and I, Brad and Laura met one night for three hours at a Subway, just wondering why God somehow brought us together. Our staffs had lunch at LaMansion. Our Children’s Ministries of Garnett and Connection Church even met to discuss how to love and teach children better because we’d discovered in talking that we use the same curriculum.

We found our common ground of being called to East Tulsa and people needing the Lord here gave us confidence that Connection Church meeting here would be a great fit.

They really liked Phillips Hall and our Children’s Hall, so after months of prayer and discussion in their church and getting to know us, Connection Church would like to begin meeting for their worship on Sundays at 11 am in Phillips Hall.

Basically their worship would start about the time we’re going out to classes.

They do not have adult classes but do have a separate kids worship/class time during their adult worship.

So then we had a problem. We do our classes at the same time now–11:15 am.

Could both churches compromise their times and move their worship times . . . so am I asking you to change the time we meet again? No. Think bigger.

And that’s what we tried to do. Think bigger kingdom of God than just our churches. What is God calling us to do?

Well, the Children’s Ministry team came together and I put the problem to them . . . Then one of them said, “Since we use the same curriculum and we have space, why don’t we have combined classes for our children?”

What? Wow . . . What church does that? Do we even have a model for that? Sure we’ve had churches meet here for a decade but we’ve never combined something as important as children’s classes or long-term teaching.

If that was going to be a proposal that would fly, we had more due diligence to do.

One thing is that we need to know who they are and what they believe. Watch this video and our ushers will pass out a page with our core beliefs and theirs on the other side.

This video is great and feel good–in fact, they have baptized more people in the last year than we have. New church plants seem to reach people more effectively and I want to see how revival can come to our church and for both churches to grow in numbers, baptisms, and spiritually in every way.

Another piece of that due diligence is for the elders of each church to be aware and make congregations aware of the core beliefs of each church, so if we do anything together, we know what we are dealing with.

So we put together a page, front and back, that has our core beliefs and Connection Church’s core beliefs, and we want you to look it over.

Connection Church, as you can see on the handout, is based out of the Nazarene Church. Our beliefs are a lot alike. Not exactly, but two Churches of Christ couldn’t write two exact papers if they tried. Still, these core beliefs are vital to each church. We keep our distinct identities, beliefs. We are stubborn about that and so is Connection Church. I’ve heard them talk about it. In matters of faith, unity, in matters of opinion, liberty. In all things charity.

Now, you may be asking, “Are we talking about combining churches?” Nope. Having joint worship? Nope. But if you want to worship together with Connection Church–go for it. This is a great way to continue our commitment on Sundays to the heritage value of acappella worship while also giving an opportunity for worship with Connections Church that has a praise band.

Or you might be wondering, “Is one church taking over the other?” Absolutely not. If both churches took the step one day of dissolving their denominational ties into union with the Kingdom of God, Jesus Christ is the authority who takes over–you might think that’s quaint or naive, but I’m talking about Jesus’s teachings and life being the shaping factor for everything rather than squaring up everything according to traditions and heritage of denominations.

Others of you might be saying, “When did we ever get asked our opinion about this?” We have talked extensively about this with our shepherds, staff, and several of you in the congregation including children’s team and others.

You may think, “Greg, why don’t you tell us these things sooner so we can either get excited or shoot you down?” You wouldn’t like it very much if I brought you current on every thought in my head before it bakes. We as leaders have to do some due diligence before bringing an idea to you, then still ask for input, wisdom, and then we still have to come back and make a decision as a leadership team.

What our Children’s Team has decided is that they are willing to try this. Our Children’s team excels in teaching. Connection Church excels in vision and direction of Children’s Ministry, so our people want to teach and Connection wants to use that curriculum we both use and set a big vision for teaching kids Bible foundations and leading them to Christ. We’ll do that a little different in our church, families, but the Holy Spirit will help us work that out.

Some may be saying, “Well, it’s already decided, so what’s the choice?” The church meeting here is part of a decade-ago decision by leadership before most of us were even here. The choice we have today is this:

Connection can be just another church that meets here . . .

Or they can be your friends and perhaps your brothers and sisters in Christ.

And do you have a choice to say something about the proposal our leaders and children’s team and Connection has been simmering on, to combine children’s teaching time on Sunday? Yes, we want you to ask hard questions, pray about this, give us your input in the month before Connection Church comes to meet. How should we go about decisions for Christ differently in each church? What is the Bible teaching plan for the children.

You have a chance today right after our worship here in the auditorium during our ScreamFree class to ask questions and give comments.

What would we ultimately be teaching our kids by example? We would be teaching our kids something they can get in few other places on the planet: two churches could come together and teach the basics of the faith that leads to decisions for Christ, baptisms, and fully devoted followers of all ages, and be unified in that.

Does Connection Church want that for their kids and adults? You bet. Do we? You better you better you bet.

Connections Church has chosen to believe there is something incredible happening here and they want to be part of it with us.

Once again it’s interesting to see how others view us. Connection Church sees us as a body of Christ unwilling to give up on the dream of people far from God becoming fully devoted followers right here in East Tulsa.

Now, I want you to see how excited Brad is for the church coming here along with a hundred and a half Christian servants who will be shining their light for Christ here.

http://vimeo.com/connectionwired/greencountryeventcenter

Connection Church believes they are “Movin’ On Up” and their plan is to begin meeting here Sunday, Sep 25.

Connection Church wants to help us rebuild. I have to say honestly that part of this sounds intimidating or offensive to me, that another church would take a step beyond just needing a place to saying they really want to help us grow and rebuild. They want to come alongside of us and reach people far from God and help them become fully devoted followers and run to the poor and hopeless and give them hope in Christ.

As Beth West said, “What a beautiful picture of the unified body of Christ this is! Not without a good dose of tension that is healthy as well, to hold to convictions yet be open to the Spirit’s leading.

One thing we’re learning as people either far from God or very close knock on our door is that sometimes what we’re called to do is get out of the way and say, “OK God, do your thing.”

Is God bringing the harvest that Brad had read and prayed about, the words of Jesus in John 4? Is God calling us to live out his prayer for unity in John 17? I think we’re going to be blown away by what God wants to do here, but it’s going to take more reapers. We’ve been here holding on, and I truly believe that God is telling us, “Look at the harvest of 10s of thousands of souls, people who come here every day who need the Lord.” The fields are white here in East Tulsa.

What Connection Church Believes

1. We believe in one God revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

2. We believe in Jesus Christ. Born of the Virgin Mary, he suffered and died on a cross, and was raised to life. By his death on the cross he made a full atonement for all sin.

3. We believe that everyone has sinned, fallen short of God, and is separated from him. Whoever repents of their sin and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved.

4. We believe in the Spirit surrendered life. Christ followers are called to submit their lives fully to the Holy Spirit.

5. We believe in the Holy Bible. The scriptures are the inspired Word of God and contain all truth for all mankind.

6. We believe in the Church universal. The body of Christ is called by God to worship together and join in the redemptive work of Christ in the world.

7. We believe in baptism. Baptism is the declaration of ones faith in Jesus Christ.

8. We believe in the Lord’s Supper. Communion is the remembrance and appreciation of Christ’s death on the cross.

9. We believe in divine healing: We believe in the prayer of faith to heal the sick.

10. We believe Jesus Christ will return, the dead will be raised, and the final judgment will take place.
The ICN has over 1.8 million members worldwide and ministers in 159 world areas.
The ICN continues to be one of the largest missionary sending denominations.

What Garnett Church of Christ Believes

God
We believe God is the creator and ruler of the universe. He has eternally existed in three personalities–God the father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Christ
We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He came to earth and lived a perfect life, as God and man. Through his death, burial, and resurrection we can claim eternal life, freedom from sin, and access to God. Through faith in Jesus Christ we become children of God.

Holy Spirit
We believe that the Holy Spirit is a gift from God and lives in the heart of each believer. The Holy Spirit’s power is to help each Christian to understand and accomplish God’s will. He is our comforter that provides peace in times of loss, grief and despair. The Holy Spirit works through the Bible and the body of believers to guide us, reveal God’s plan for us and bring Glory to our heavenly Father.

God’s Word
We believe that the Bible is God’s word to us. Human authors under the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit wrote the Bible. It is the supreme source for Christian beliefs and living. It is the only written authoritative voice of God on the earth.

Baptism
We believe that baptism is a part of the salvation experience. We believe in the practice of baptism by immersion in water.

Salvation
We believe that all mankind is sinful and falls short of God’s glory. We can never make up for our sin by self-improvement or good works. Only by following Jesus Christ can we enjoy the benefits of salvation.

Communion
We believe in observing the Communion as a way of celebrating what Jesus did for us on the cross and anticipating His return.

Love
Our faith in God is displayed in our love for each other.

Reading: Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor

Cover of "Leaving Church: A Memoir of Fai...

Cover of Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith

“. . . the call to serve God is first and last the call to be fully human . . .

“Like every believer I know, my search for real life has led me through at least three distinct seasons of faith, not once or twice but over and over again. Jesus called them finding life, losing life, and finding life again, with the paradoxical promise that finders will be losers while those who lose their lives for his sake will wind up finding them again.”

–Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church

Edward Fudge on John Stott

From Edward Fudge (gracEmail)

John Stott: Model of Kingdom Greatness

He chose the bachelor life to devote himself more fully to the gospel–but when he died last Wednesday, thousands mourned the loss of their beloved “Uncle John.” Although Chaplain to the Queen of England, he lived in simple quarters. He was “one of the 100 most influential people in the world,” Time magazine opined, yet he traveled in a sm all car that was second-hand. Those who knew him best recall his humble spirit and recite his deeds of quiet service. And last Wednesday, July 27, 2011, a few close friends and relatives at his bedside read aloud the words of St. Paul who also fought the good fight, finished his course and kept the faith. Then, as strains of Handel’s “Messiah” overflowed the room and wafted heavenward to Him who reigns for ever and ever, ninety-year-old John Robert Walmsley Stott fell asleep in Jesus Christ to await the resurrection unto immortality and eternal life.

For half a century, John Stott ministered in association with All Souls (Anglican) Church, Langham Place, London–as curate, rector and, most significantly, as rector emeritus commissioned to serve as pastor/teacher around the world. Stott had known All Souls since childhood, when he and his Lutheran mother went together to the parish church in their neighborhood. Stott’s father, a knighted but agnostic London physician of prominence, did not join them. Truth be told, young John was not always an exemplar of piety either–often sitting in the balcony, from which he sometimes dropped paper-wads on the hats of the ladies sitting below.

Cover of

Cover of Basic Christianity

The true legacy of John Stott is immeasurable by human perception. He wrote more than forty books, all in longhand with pen and ink. Best known is Basic Christianity, which has sold more than two million copies in more than 50 languages. In 1974, Stott masterminded and then convened the International Congress on World Evangelization which drew believers from 150 nations, until then likely the most wide-ranging meeting of Christians ever held. Stott chiefly wrote the Lausanne Covenant, a theological declaration resulting from the Congress–calling Christians both to evangelism (the Great Commission) and to social responsibility (the Great Commandment). The Langham Foundation, also Stott’s creation, continues serving the Third World church by its twin programs of training pastors and distributing books. Whether delivered in person or in print, John Stott’s biblical exposition was meaningful, clear, and uncontrived.

A decade ago, I was privileged to hear John Stott preach. True to reputation, his messages were simple and filled with power. l also was touched by his deep personal kindness. At the conclusion of the first meeting, I waited in line to shake his hand. “Dr. Stott,” I said, “my name is Edward Fudge, and it is such a pleasure to meet you in person!” A smile came over his face as he asked, “Are you my friend Edward Fudge?” Although honored worldwide for two generations of solid biblical teaching, Stott had recently come under intense attack for stating that he “tentatively” believed that those finally lost would be totally annihilated in hell rather than suffer unending conscious torment. His question reflected his familiarity with my book, The Fire That Consumes. “I hope so,” I replied, honored for h im to call me his friend.

Hugh Palmer, the present rector at All Souls Church in London, remembers that Stott often began sermons by asking the Father that “Your written word of Scripture may now and always be our rule, Your Holy Spirit our Teacher and Your greater glory our supreme concern, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” For fifty years, God was pleased to answer that prayer. Glorifying God by serving him faithfully defines true greatness in the kingdom of heaven. The life of John Stott remains a model of such greatness.

Is God listening?

In my twenty years in ministry I’ve heard myself and many I walk alongside asking the question, “Is God really listening?” Great question. Let’s dig in. In the next few weeks on my blog, I’ll reflect on a few of the pressing questions we ask as human beings.

Is God Listening?

Hagar was Father Abraham’s second wife, and his first wife Sarah didn’t care much for her and nagged Abraham till he send Hagar away.

Sent into exile, the trembling Egyptian servant girl huddled in the desert between Kadesh and Bered where an angel of the Lord appeared to her. The angel said she should name her son Ishmael, which means “God hears.” The angel added, “for the Lord has heard of your misery.”

In her passion and misery, she gave the Lord a new name: Beer Lahai Roi, which means, “You are the Living God who sees me.” For she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

The stories in Scripture intend to sweep us into their drama and get us to ask the same questions. Does God really follow lonely people into the desert? Does God enter the cancer ward, 11th Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a brothel where forced sex workers cry out to God like Hagar?

Does God listen to us? Most of us don’t really know. Why?

The biggest reason we don’t know if God is listening is because we don’t speak to him, don’t know how or find the whole enterprise intimidating and lack the patience to learn how to speak to God.

A few years ago a book came out called, How to talk so your teenager will listen and listen so your teenager will talk. What if we put that in terms of talking to God. What would it be like if God spoke so his creation would listen and listened so his creation would talk?

Through Hagar we learn God does listen and see us. The prophets are exemplars of what it looks like to be crazy enough to believe that God is really listening and interacting with us.

The psalmists believe God is listening but they also apparently believe it’s OK to question the fact simultaneously. It’s almost like the whole exercise of writing poetry/songs implies that belief that God is listening but the words themselves make us wonder otherwise.

David cries out in Psalm 39:12, “Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were.” Psalm 5, David reminds God to listen. So is it OK to remind God to listen? According to the psalmists, it sure enough is. Have you reminded God to listen lately? We often talk about God, as I’m doing in this post, chunking back and forth ideas about whether he listens, whether he doesn’t. What if we got about the business of reminding God to listen?

Did Jesus remind God to listen? Jesus believes that God listens, and in the Gospel accounts we find Jesus taking time to climb mountains and find solitary places in gardens to speak his heart to God.

Jesus also knew the psalms and would have prayed them like Jews of his time did in worship assemblies. He even talked back to God on the cross, quoting Psalm 22. “My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?”

One way to find out if God is listening is to pray psalms and call on him to listen. God’s word to us in the psalms is also humanity’s words to God, many times asking God to give an ear to our cries. Pray the psalms. Take Psalm 5 or Psalm 39 and call upon God to listen, to give ear to your cries. Lift up God’s name and his qualities of lovingkindness and goodness.

The words of the psalms give us a voice when we often lose our voices. The psalms are a collection in the middle of our Bibles that teach us to talk to God and reminds God to listen. If it bothers you that you’d have to remind God of something, then quit complaining that he’s not listening or wondering if he does. Speak that doubt and that reminder to God who can be entrusted with your heart’s deepest, darkest doubts.

Some of these reflections come from working through the book, Talking Back to God by Lynn Anderson. I’m preaching through the book this summer at Garnett, and we’d love to have you come and join us 10 am Sundays.

Good Soil

“Don’t scoff at the idea of a pastor who is also a farmer writing about Jesus’ parable of the sower. Robinson is the real deal–a farmer who lived off the land for two decades, raising children with his wife and without electricity. . . . The book resonates with the injunction to live simply so others can simply live and has a profound simplicity of message and tone. . . . In a gently admonitory tone the author offers a radical call to all believers to join in the harvest of a healthy crop of followers in the fields of the Lord.”–Publishers Weekly

What our church is reading

We’re working through several books in our church right now.

1. We’re doing a Route 66 study on Wednesday nights. Each Wednesday we survey another Bible book. We’re on Jonah this Wednesday night. I start each class with, “Well, Jeremiah (or whatever book we’re studying) is my favorite book.” God’s word is incredibly powerful and rips apart our assumptions and changes us. When we read it again with open hearts, we find we are not reading as much as it is reading us.

The Leader's Journey

2. The leadership team (shepherds and staff) are reading The Leader’s Journey right now. The book is by three authors out of Houston, Jim Herrington, Robert Creech, Trisha L. Taylor.

3. Our Garnett staff is reading Seven Practices of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner, Lane Jones.

Women, Slaves, and Homosexuals

4. Finally, one of our church classes is reading Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals to help us with reading and interpreting Scripture on roles of women in church and life.