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.

What a Preacher Wants: Part 1

A friend is part of a search committee for a preacher at his church. They’ve been searching one year and they are getting close. He asked me to interact some about what a congregation can do to help the preacher.

He says, “We want to be ministers to our minister.” So my friend asks, “What do preaching ministers truly need from their congregations to be and do their very best?”

Great question and much appreciated, and I’m going to shift here to first person as if I’m talking to my own church, and I’m also operating on the belief that my church has already given me many of these things, but my voice is the voice of “any preacher” and the needs he or she may have in a congregation. I’m going to also in this list assume some of these things are elder-led, committee led, congregation led. It is targeted to all those groups generally.

  1. Pray for me. I need you to pray for me. When you pray for me, it calls on God to divinely guide me in the word, preaching, and pastoring work I do daily. It also helps move the pray-er from an erstwhile critic to a genuine confessing sinner redeemed by Christ who is praying for a fellow confessing sinner redeemed by Christ who is the preacher.
  2. Give me a very narrow role. Please don’t give me a three-page job description. I’m already dealing with Post-Traumatic-Messiah-Complex-Syndrome (PTMCS). Many preachers want to fix people, but I’ve learned I am not the Messiah but point to Him who IS The Messiah. I can’t fix people, so I don’t need to be set up in a place where I’m going to fix the problems that exist in the church right now. If I can’t love people right now without fixing them, I need to not be at this church.
  3. I don’t just work on Sundays. One of the funniest jokes people love to say either behind preacher’s backs or to their faces is, “Well, you only work on Sundays, right?” So funny . . . again! I’m sure there are preachers who play golf, sit at coffee shops, waste time and get a lot of time off, but I don’t know many. If preaching is going to be great, I need time to prepare weekly. It usually takes me up to 20 hours to read, study, mentally prepare, rehearse, and preach a biblical sermon. When you consider that a lot of that time needs to be uninterrupted for the most part, that makes the preacher into a fair recluse for a big part of the work day. If he is preaching biblical, Christ-centered, God-honoring, Kingdom sermons, that’s the time that’s needed, so give me time to prepare and do the best I can possibly do at preaching the Scriptures.
  4. Be sure I’m preaching not Relevance but Revelation. But on the flip side of that coin, elders, be sure that I am preaching and proclaiming the gospel, preaching Christ and Him crucified and resurrected Messiah of Israel and the Nations. Make sure I am reading, studying, and preaching from Bible texts and not the texts of needs, wants, and feelings or pop psychology or culture-driven concerns. There is a big difference between relevance and revelation. Make sure revelation is happening in the preacher’s life by digging in the word daily.
  5. Support me with a great staff. Believe me, a lot comes my way from a congregation being born, living, dying, getting married, having family crises, falling into addictions and sins, the need for Christ-centered counsel, critiques, church problems, communication, projects, the list goes on. Listing is not complaint but simply fact: a big group of people seeking a spiritual leader in times of crisis and times of celebration as well as weekly or more than weekly, puts one person in a 24-hour state of alert that is exhausting. I need staff to deflect, take on, execute ideas into practice and success, do all sorts of things that continually distract me from my primary mission: to preach the gospel of Christ to the church and community. Not that those other concerns are not important, but if I fall back into fixer or Messiah role, I’m going to take on stuff I have no business taking on. Staff helps me not do that. You want me to keep sermons relatively short? OK then, I need administrative staff that knows how to keep a story in the office short as well. I need staff that solves more problems than are caused. I need a staff that does not gossip, that knows how to handle problems without complaining or constantly running them up the chain of command. Does staff sound important? Yes!

In the next post I’ll name four more things “a preacher wants.”

What’s Next @ Garnett Church of Christ?

My co-worker and good friend, Wade Hodges, will be leaving Garnett Church of Christ effective March 1 to follow his dream of planting a church in Austin, Texas.

Wade is one of my best friends and has personally challenged me in every area of my life, from my faith to my health to my thinking. He has challenged our church’s and larger Christian community’s narrow assumptions of faith and what it means to live the Christ-life and has prepared us to be a church that embodies the kingdom life he’s preached for six years. Wade, your jokes will be missed by a few of us. But missed by all will be the way you drive deep the sword of the word to penetrate heart and soul and bone marrow. Wade, we will miss you. Thank you.

Heather has been a great co-worker as we’ve worked together in outreach, and her skills as a counselor and administrator have been invaluable as we’ve reached out to the Hispanic community in Tulsa. She has launched and help to grow the Garnett Bilingual Preschool to sixty students, with instructors in Spanish and English, leaving a legacy of a solid ongoing program that impacts dozens of families in our community. She has been both a good friend to many in and outside our church, and she knows how to get things done. Heather, we will miss you. We will miss Wade’s and Heather’s sons, Caleb and Elijah, but we know this great family is following their hearts and dreams, and we’re happy for them.

In some ways, the Hodges and Taylors are trading places. Jill and I came to Garnett with seven years of experience with a church planting mission team in Uganda. We know what it’s like to have a burning in our hearts to start something bold and new in the name of Jesus Christ.

Garnett will continue to support Wade and Heather for a time while they launch the new church in Austin, and we encourage others to support them financially, spiritually, emotionally, with prayer as they seek out people who are searching for Jesus and what it means to follow him today without many of the trappings of traditional religion. See Wade’s blog to follow him and email him if you want to know more or support what they’re doing in some way.

What’s next for Garnett?

March 1, I will move to lead minister at Garnett Church of Christ. I want to thank the shepherds for their confidence in me. I’m honored and humbled and have accepted their offer to lead the staff and preach. Would you please say a prayer for Wade and Heather today in their church planting mission? And would you please say a prayer for Jill and me and our children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob, today?

The Hodges are following their dream, and I’m ready for the challenges ahead in leading and preaching at Garnett. I’ll continue my focus on outreach to the community but will hand off some other duties to other capable people in the church as I move into weekly preaching. Wade’s such a great preacher, he’ll be a tough act to follow, but with God’s help I can be myself, tell the truth, and make a different kind of impact that’s helpful in the kingdom. I’ll end below with some great words of commissioning from one of our shepherds, Loy Johnson. Thank you to Loy, Rusty Anderson, Robert Garland, John Dickmann, and Jeff McIlroy for how they laid out the transition to Garnett congregation Sunday. As one person said, their leadership was “comforting” and at the same time challenging to the congregation, and they did that credibly, humorously yet sincerely. Thank you guys for a job very well done.

Jill is a full-time math teacher at Wright Christian Academy and teaches adjunct at Tulsa Community College. She also volunteers in the children’s ministry at Garnett. My deal with her and the churches we’ve served is that I have no stereotypical “preacher’s wife” expectations of her, and I ask our church to also allow Jill to carve out her own niche, as she has already done in the last three years here volunteering as a great Bible class teacher in children’s programs. Feel free to contact Jill directly if you’d like to encourage her or know how she feels right now. She is also on Facebook.

Finally, I want to end with an excerpt of Loy Johnson’s “Charge” to me.

Wade’s calling was one of pronouncement. Greg, yours is one of implementation.  It’s been said that a church takes on the personality of it’s pastor.  While the mission here at Garnett will remain the same, we understand that under your influence, the way it’s fleshed out is likely to reflect your passions and your personality – and we encourage that.  As Shepherds of this congregation, we give you the following charge:

  • Help us bring about unity, healing, and stronger family relationships within our body.
  • Help us practice what we preach.  Show us ways we can take an active role in healing the community around us.
  • Help us develop the same heart for others that you and Jill have already displayed.
  • Work within your giftedness.  Pursue your passions, but know your limits.  Focus on your areas of strength and allow others to serve within their’s.
  • May your ministry here at Garnett be marked by an expansion in God’s kingdom.  Through your efforts, may many people, both inside and outside of these walls, grow in relationship with Jesus Christ.