Malcolm Tyree

A collection of thoughts on things that matter

Archive for the category “pastoring”

Pastor Appreciation Month: Brad Kendall

My time was nearly complete. I had reached that place that many 20-somethings dream of: I was in my final semester of college. In looking over my graduation requirements, it turned out that I needed to complete not only the courses I had signed up for, but I also needed one more community service project. Yes, the private Christian college I attended had each of us serve somewhere around 15 hours a semester for six semesters of our enrollment as a graduation requirement. In looking over my records, it turned out that I had satisfactorially completed the requirments of level II and level III service projects, but I was only half way there on a level I project. For those of you who were there during that time or who have known me, I know you are struggling to imagine that I had only partially fulfilled the level I type project. After all, level I is the observation level. I am quick to move from observation to action and this proved true during my years at Mid-America Bible College (now Mid-America Christian Universtiy).I was a senior, what was there left for me to observe? Hadn’t I seen it all already? After 21 hours of college credit under Cliff Sanders; multiple hours with professors Greg Robertson and Marvin Middlebrooks; countless hours volunteering on campus; working with a small congregation 20 miles from the college; hadn’t I served and learned enough? What more was there for me to see? Yes, I can be a bit over-confident in my abilities and knowledge.

Fortunately, my good friend, Shannon Smith, was short on the same type of service that I was. We both needed a level I observation style community service project. Shannon was older and smart enough to know when to sit back and take an easier path. He was married and had three kids. The last thing Shannon was looking for was a service project that would eat up too much of his time. So, I signed on board with Shannon and the two of us began our semester of community service level I: observation.

The question remained, what would we observe? We both knew we would be graduating soon and that meant we would be potentially entering into ministry employment, church work. What would it look like to start a new role at a church? What would it be like to be a new pastor? What would some of the transition issues be like? How would a pastor shape his staff? How would the congregation respond? These questions led us to the newest Church of God pastor in Oklahoma City: Brad Kendall.

 

Brad and Kristel Kendall

Brad and Kristel Kendall (picture from Facebook)

Brad was in his first months of serving as the new senior pastor for Shartel Church of God. He had come from Indiana after serving as senior pastor there. Brad was well connected in the Church of God. His father, Paul, had been a Church of God pastor. His brother, Gary, and his brother-in-law, Rolland Daniels, were each well respected pastors in the movement. Brad and his wife Kristel had the right pedigree of Church of God heritage and connections.

Shannon and I chose to observe Brad.

We met multiple time throughout that semester trying to get a behind the scenes look at what the transition looked like. We heard about the meetings with the board memebers. We witnessed the hiring of staff and the stuggle of what to do with exisiting staff who were well loved but not fully in alignement with Brad’s style of leadership. We began to grasp how a family would be welcomed into a congregation as its leader.

Brad had a unique style of humor and was big on smiling. He was not quick to dismiss others and really wrestled through the struggle of trying to bring people together. Brad worked long and hard to please others while being faithful to his calling as a minister.

After my semester of community service, my wife and I stayed a part of Shartel and Brad was our pastor. As I wrestled through my search for a place of ministry, Brad was there. He prayed and encouraged us in the process. He knew how hard it was to find a congregation. He knew the challenges before us. As we announced our impending move to Odessa, Texas, Brad celebrated with us. As we packed up, Brad and the Shartel Church, blessed us with a baby shower for our first born who wouldn’t arrive for another 6 months.

Brad was the last pastor I sat under week to week, voluntarily, for 12 years. Since then I have only chosen to sit week to week under two other pastors. Both of those proved to be temporary in arrangement as I would soon be employed in church ministry after listening to each of those men for a short season of six months or less.

Brad is now a chaplian in Texas. I am looking forward to the days where our paths cross in this great state.

One of the things I learned from observing Brad was that there is still more to learn, even when you think you’ve reached the end.

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Pastor Appreciation Month: Cliff Sanders

College can be an intimidating place. You walk into a lecture hall, the podium up front has a microphone and there’s a large screen on the wall for a series of points to a lecture. The professor starts up, “Ahem!”
Profs with a hoary head of gray hair, goatees, and spectacles tend to capture the imagination of their students. When the prof has a commanding presence and leads you to see a subject or an idea in a different way, it’s really easy for the student to fall into awe of the prof. You can almost see the prof as beyond human. That is until you have lunch with them.

When I went to Mid-America Bible College (now Mid-America Christian University) in the fall of 1997, I enrolled in a required course for all traditional students at MBC; Biblical Life & Witness. The professor was in his mid 40’s and loved tweaking with the minds of the incoming Freshmen. Unbeknownst to me or my classmates, we were about to embark on an upheaval of the way we perceived God and ourselves.

 

picture of Cliff Sanders

Cliff Sanders, D. Min. (photo from Facebook)

 Cliff Sanders was my professor at MBC. In my time as a student, I had seven course with Cliff; 21 undergraduate hours. From Introduction to Old and New Testament and Biblical Life & Witness to the three inductive Bible study method classes and How to Teach the Bible, Cliff shaped (warped) my mind into a new way of viewing the sitz im laben of the scripture stories and how to draw out practical applications for today.

I admired Cliff and thought one day I might be like him; a college professor shaping young minds. Cliff had served as a pastor prior to coming to MBC and carried with him real world thinking as well as what I perceived to be a solid rational thinking about how to interpret the Bible. With his Masters of Divinity and efforts at earning his Doctorate in Ministry, I found myself looking at Cliff and wondering what it would be like to be him.

Part of what drew me to Cliff was his willingness to go beyond the classroom and lecture hall. Cliff would eat lunch with the common folk. Nearly everyday, Cliff would hold court at a table in the cafeteria. Carefully wrapping his salt and pepper shakers with a napkin as he seasoned the “delicacy” of the day, Cliff would joke, laugh, talk smack, and engage students, staff, and faculty around the table. It was at those many roundtable lunches with Cliff that I first experience the power of eating together to form community.

Even though Cliff was working on his doctorate, he was more than willing to have lunch with 18-22 year old punk, know it alls, like me. He welcomed us to the table and treated us as equals. He did not come across as “better than us.” Sure, Cliff would brag a bit too much about the Texas Longhorns in the room filled with fans of SEC teams or that University just south of the campus; mocking the fight song “Boomer Sooner” in a horrid cry. I am sure the cafeteria staff was glad to see the table empty of Cliff and his fans because it meant the room would quiet down and they could finally close up for the day. But as a member of the table, I miss those lunches.

Cliff carried such influence for me, that I went a step further in my gluttonous learning from him. I asked Cliff to provide pre-marital counseling for me and Christy. He was quick to sit us down and tell Christy how difficult it was going to be for her. He recounted stories of how he could see similarities between me and him, and therefore knew some of the challenges we might have. Cliff shared how he had to learn to love his wife, Becky. He was straightforward with me about how I would have to be intentional not to “forget” Christy in my daily life.

Though Cliff was not formally my pastor, he was one of my pastors during my years at MBC. 

I was honored to serve at MBC alongside Cliff when I graduated and worked in the Campus Ministries office. I remember being a part of the faculty and staff prayer time each week as we would pray with one another. I watched Cliff wrestle with Becky’s cancer battle. I was allowed to see my professor as vulnerable and transparent. We had grown beyond the loud antics of lunch and the debates in the classroom to the place of colleagues, friends, sharing life together. 

In many ways, my relationship with Cliff has helped me move from being intimidated by God to seeing that I am welcomed at his table, for lunch, prayer, and friendship.

Pastor Appreciation Month: Steve Williams

“Do you wear blue jeans?”

That was it. That was my brilliant question to ask in the candidate forum for the new pastor for the First Church of God in Clarksville, Tennessee.At the time I asked the question of the candidate, I was one of the youth leaders, the guy who mowed the church lawn, and who changed the sign. I had become in the mind of some “the church mouse” as I had worked and found my way around everything at the church’s building. It seemed like I was there nearly all the time. This was an awkward season for First Church. The long time, well-loved pastor Gene Lanham was retiring (or so he thought) and the congregation was looking to find a new pastor. The transition schedule was like you might expect for the President of the United States. We, as a congregation, were filtering through candidates, and then voting accordingly, while expecting that Bro. Lanham’s last Sunday would be followed by the next pastor’s first Monday.

The candidate was like most pastoral candidates, different than the previous guy. Bro. Lanham was like a grandfather; the candidate was a young 30-something father of two. Bro. Lahham was comfortable and easy going; the candidate quick and intense. Bro. Lanham was walking on the journey; the candidate was a crusader.

If you know much about me, you can likely see why I would have been drawn to the candidate. 

So, as the congregation assembled to ask questions in the open forum for the candidate, I couldn’t think of anything particularly deep or theological. My question was practical. Looking back on it, the question was theological. At the heart, I was asking the candidate “are you like me?”

A few days later, we voted yes, and that fall, Steven Williams became my new pastor.

 

picture of Steve Williams

Steve Williams in 2014 picture from Facebook

 
Steve was my first glimpse of what it looked like to be a pastor and a dad at the same time. Stephanie and Luke were young kids. I don’t think Luke had quite started school. Luke was a bit of a challenge at times. I remember him going pee outside the church’s office one day because he was too impatient to wait for the restroom to become available. I also remember Steve having to step down in the middle of a sermon, escort Luke to the lobby, and then return a few awkward moments later to finish the sermon. The tears in Luke’s eyes indicated that Steve had quickly switched from pastor to dad back to pastor.

Steve was a crusader. He was passionate about the Church of God Reformation Movement. He ran a publishing company out of the church’s attic where we would reprint and ship classic Church of God writings by the likes of FG Smith, Lily McCutchen, Arlo Newell, and others. He was also heavily involved in the conservative association of ministers known as Pastors’ Fellowship. Steve’s publishing company worked closely with Pastors’ Fellowship to distribute the early teachings of the movement.

Steve was a fiery preacher. His passion for truth and commitment to the teachings of the church came through again and again. Steve also loved Bus Ministry. He introduced that chaos to our congregation and I gladly jumped in. Steve wanted to see a men’s ministry happening to compliment the Women of the Church of God (WCG) that met regularly. I was glad to see this take off. We needed a college-age Sunday School class, after all we had an emerging group of 20-somethings; so I stepped in to offer to lead it. An opening came in the Children’s Church; Steve tagged me to lead it. Needless to say, if there was an opportunity, Steve knew he could ask and I would likely say “yes.”

Steve saw a willingness to serve in me. He challenged me to consider going to Bible College to get a degree so that I could professionally serve in the church. He encouraged me to head off to Mid-America Bible College (now Mid-America Christian University) instead of floundering around at the state university in town. 

I knew Steve to be hard charging, passionate, and motivating. He pushed me out of the comfort of Clarksville, Tennessee, and into the adventures that I would experience because I went to Oklahoma City and Mid-America Bible College.

After I left in the summer of 1997, things with First Church and Steve began to change. The passionate charging ahead began to wear folks down. Steve’s marriage was hurting too. Near the end of my first year at Mid-America, Steve discovered his wife had been having an affair. It was heart breaking for everyone. Steve resigned and moved.

Steve has since remarried, become a grandad, and is still a crusader. Steve was my pastor who challenged me to go.

Oh, yes, Steve did wear blue jeans.

Steve sliding

Steve having fun in recent days, much like we did in Clarksville together. (picture from Facebook)

Pastor Appreciation Month: Gene Lanham

I grew up in a typical American family. My parents divorced when I was five. My dad remarried when I was 10. I have two younger siblings, a brother nearly 3 years younger and a sister just over 14 years younger. My Dad served in the Army, was a part of Operation Desert Shield/Storm. My moms worked. My parents had grown up with a bit of church in their lives, but as a family we didn’t go to church, pray, or even really talk much about God and faith. We went about our business of work, school, and living life.

As a high schooler in the early 90’s I was introduced to the theology of Garth Brooks. His music had a way of capturing my imagination and my thoughts of the time. I won’t forget how true I believed the song “Unanswered Prayers” to be. Probably more than any other thing I had heard up to to that point, Garth Brooks was shaping my theology.In my Junior year, my best friend got a bug to try out a church in town. I tagged along, because that’s what friends do. I was probably a bit too pious in my Brooks theology and nearly created a fight in Sunday School when I asserted the wisdom of “Unanswered Prayers” to a class of seasoned church goers. Needless to say, we didn’t go back.

Nearly a year later, I went with the same friend to a different church. He had been attending there for a few months without me. The church’s building was located close to a mile from my house. One day my friend invited me to join him for a Friday night movie at the church. I went; mostly because I didn’t have anything else going on. 

After that night, I found myself returning to the church Wednesdays and Sundays. The 200 or so member church was led by Bro. Lanham. He was a distinguished looking guy with his finely trimmed mustache and silver hair. He would wear short sleeve button up shirts with a tie and a jacket on Sundays. I can’t recall ever seeing him wear a pair of blue jeans. He would preach every Sunday and often sing. He liked a country and western styled Gospel music. His wife, Sister Lanham, was the church secretary and leader of the women’s ministry. She was often found wearing a dress and a big welcoming smile.

On Easter Sunday, 1993, I went forward in the church and prayed. It is that day that I accepted Jesus’ work on my behalf and asked him to change my life.

In June of ’93, Bro. Lanham baptized me, my best friend, and our classmate who had led my best friend to attending that church.

 

picture of the Lanhams

Bro. and Sis. Lanham


Bro. Lanham was my first pastor. 

I can’t recall anything special about what he preached. Nor is there anything special about the way he preached. He made it all seem pretty simple. He would remind us to love and serve God and be holy. Looking back, I think he extended a simple plea for us to be saved and sanctified, week after week. Bro. Lanham was never overly stern. He was gracious and humble. 

Bro. Lanham was brave enough to let me cut my teeth in ministry. It started with mowing the church lawn. I’m sure it was really hard for him to give up that responsibility. Then I asked if I could change the marquee sign. When our youth leader left, I volunteered to teach the lessons on Wednesday. All the time, Bro. Lanham said “yes.” I am sure there is more to these simple memories on his side, but for me that is how it seemed. He even let me “sing” solos and gave me my first opportunity to preach. 

Bro. Lanham had a first name. It was a long time before I knew it. Turns out, he didn’t even go by his first name. My guess is I learned his first name, not long after I learned the name he went by. But for me, his first name was “Brother.”

I am honored to have had Leslie Eugene “Gene” Lanham as my first pastor. His ministry at the First Church of God in Clarksville, Tennessee, shaped me in my earliest days. Like a baby learning to roll over, crawl, walk, talk, and run, Bro. Lanham was like a parent in my faith.

Today, as I sit here typing this out, I am still impacted by his life. You see, what I didn’t mention is that Bro. Lanham began praying for me before we even met.

One Christmas season, Bro. Lanham was working at the mall as Santa Claus. One of the ladies working as Santa’s Helper was a mom to two teen aged boys and a toddler girl. He prayed for that family and the oldest son wandered into the Church of God and moved out of the Brooks school of theology because God answers prayer.

Conflict – It’s Inevitable: Choose Your Sides Carefully

It happens in every household: “Mom! Dad! He won’t stop!”  Something has happened with the kids, a conflict has emerged, and now one or the other is calling in support for their side.  It drives parents crazy but it happens again and again.

The scary thing is it doesn’t stop with kids!  As adults it is less likely someone is going to call for mom or dad (less likely doesn’t mean never), but it doesn’t stop someone from bringing a “friend” into a conflict to support their side.  Sometimes a person can even be drawn in to the conflict unwittingly.

Here a quick word of advice about conflict – choose your sides carefully.

Odds are, after the conflict is over, you will find yourself in relationship with both sides.  Try to avoid making that an awkward place to be.

How do you avoid being drawn into a conflict?

What secrets do you have to keeping a relationship with both sides of a conflict?

A Quick Review of the Books I Consumed in 2014

Books have a way of opening our mind to experiences beyond our day to day lives. They allow us to think from different perspectives and glean from the learnings of others. I do enjoy fiction books, I principally take in non-fiction works.

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Here is a run down of the books I’ve worked through in 2014.

41 – George W. Bush’s look at his father’s life. – This was a fun and insightful look into this family which has dominated the political landscape for a generation or more. Without a doubt, George H. W. Bush has lived an amazing life and W paints the story well. I took a particular liking to the way W describes the family’s time in Odessa and Midland, Texas. Oh, if you’re looking for great quips, W quotes Barbara Bush in all her honesty and humor.

You Heard Me – Colin Cowherd of ESPN rants about his observations on life and sports. I like the way Cowherd is able to draw understandings about systems and approaches to life through breaking down sports. His unique perspective of being on the other side of sports industry helps us to see, it’s just life. If you like his radio show, you’ll enjoy the book.

Daring Greatly – Brené Brown’s stellar work on living life full on is my book of the year. Brown works through the paralyzing nature of shame and how it keeps us from living full lives. Her insights into vulnerability and courage will make you weep and inspire you to dare greatly.

A Farewell to Mars – Brian Zahnd walks through his understanding of how Christ-followers should live an alternate lifestyle when it comes to war and violence. This book will challenge your patriotic and American system sentimentalities. Zahnd sees our worship of war and violence as being an act of idolatry.

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt – Edmund Morris walks us through the extraordinary life of Teddy Roosevelt as he makes his way to becoming President of the United States. Seeing sickly Roosevelt overcome one adversity after another to become the man of courage and strength was exciting and it is easy to see why he is among America’s favorite Presidents. He was bull headed, fiercely devoted, and unwavering. Morris describes him as the embodiment of America at the turn of the 20th Century.

Zealot – Reza Aslan’s look into the life of Jesus was a insightful perspective into some of the political tensions and class systems of the First Century. I was intrigued in how Aslan sought to uncover the “true” Jesus, one he describes as more of a political revolutionary than a religious leader. For me, I found his description of James and Paul’s relationship to be some of the more challenging features. I does not appear to me that Aslan has a great appreciation for Paul’s contribution to the understanding of who Jesus was/is.

Leaders Eat Last – Simon Sinek’s exploration into how a leader’s behavior influences his followers is extremely insightful. Using examples from the Military and other fields, along with working through the chemical reactions that occur within our bodies, Sinek paints a picture in which servanthood really is the best form of leadership, especially when the servanthood is inspired by a greater purpose. I highly recommend this book.

Divergent – Veronica Roth’s post-apocolyptic teen drama is filled with a gritty world that wrestles through relationships and morals. The way Roth wrestles with the temptation to play each of us in our categories is quite interesting, especially since we are a mix of so many factors and features, so of which are in great conflict with one another.

Short Stories by Jesus – Amy-Jill Levine seeks to unpack some of Jesus’ parables a part from the anti-Jewish sentiment that they are often interpreted through into the church today. She seeks to show us how First Century Jews would have connected the words to other stories, events, and situations of their day.

Overrated – Eugen Cho is one of my favorite guys to follow on Twitter. I appreciated Cho’s call for us to be more than just talk regarding our Christian convictions, but to actually recognize that some of the difficult situations we find ourselves in are a part of how God is providing an opportunity for our convictions to be lived out. Cho pushes us to do more than just love the idea of changing the world, but to actually live out the process, even though the only world that changes may be our own.

Planting Missional Churches – Ed Stetzer is another guy I follow on Twitter (along with almost anyone else interested in church planting and leadership). This book is a reminder that so much of what we have done in the past is try to extract Christ-followers from their neighborhoods and points of life and bring them into the church, when in fact we should be helping Christ-followers see how they are to be incarnational in the places they already live.

Family-Based Youth Ministry – Mark DeVries seeks to offer a different way of youth ministry because there is a rising understanding that the traditional youth ministry model is not producing adult disciples of Jesus. DeVries is challenging the short-term nature of Youth Ministry and is hoping to help us place youth ministry within a greater context of discipleship, particularly as a part of the family’s discipleship.

One Man, One Time – Kelly Barcol is a friend and fellow church planter and this is his story. Barcol takes a honest look at his faith journey and how it is so strongly related to the time that one man, one time, loved him enough that Barcol was able to see Jesus.

The Purpose Linked Organization – Alaina Love seeks to help individuals and organizations work within their strengths. This take on personalities and strengths was helpful for me to cast in a fresh light the type of personality, temperament, and perspective I have when it comes to work. I working hard to keep my preferences (purposes) in alignment while not imposing them upon others.

Flesh – Hugh Halter is one of those guys who is just flat out honest. Yes, Halter is a pastor and church planter, but he is also someone you’d expect to find at the MMA fight or at the local pub more than leading people to follow Jesus. I guess that’s what we really need isn’t it? More regular people leading other to follow Jesus. This is as much an autobiography as it is a how to book.

Viral Churches – Ed Stetzer & Warren Bird remind us that following Jesus should involve a multiplication of followers of Jesus. Essentially, as individual grow as disciples they in turn will lead others to be disciples, which will lead to the need for more congregations/churches. So the key for the church expanding and going viral is not programs and events, but disciples making disciples.

Counterfeit Gods – Tim Keller is one of the leading Christian apologetics in the United States. Living in the heart of a culture capital, Keller sees clearly how money, sex, and power control our lives making them gods that we pursue. Keller writes, “When we are completely immersed in a society of people who consider a particular idolatrous attachment normal, it becomes almost impossible to discern it for what it is.”

Better Together – Jim Toberlin and crew explore the dynamics of a church merger. Using case studies they identify the marks that lead to a healthy merger, while being honest in stating there’s not just one type of merger. The indicators are that more churches will merge in the coming years so this is a helpful read for those exploring or leading others through this process.

So that’s what I have consumed in 2014. I’m working through Rob Bell’s book The Zimzum of Love. This book is about marriage and how we feed it to strengthen it.

In case you are wondering, I finished most of these. I either read these via Kindle or listened to them through Audible.

Change the World | Jesus is the Subject

Have you heard? Church of God Ministries wants to help you live out your dream of changing the world! Through the contributions of an anonymous donor, General Director Jim Lyon has formed the Innovation Trustees to award grants (up to $20,000) to new and engaging projects across the North America that help change the world.

The Innovation Trustees are looking to empower individuals and small groups to try the bold ideas God has given them. For many of us, all we need is to know someone else believes in us. The Innovation Trustees believe in you. This belief is grounded in the words of Jesus, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the works I have done and even greater….” (John 14:12).

Watch this video by Geremy Dixon announcing what is going on.
Why would I promote this? First and foremost, I believe in finding new ways of equipping everyday people to make a difference in our world, particularly in the name of Jesus. Second, I’m one of the Innovation Trustees.
This second video is from McDowell Mountain Church as an example of a video application submission.
To apply for the grant, go to www.jesusisthesubject.org/change-the-world. Submit your grant application today! You can even do it via video. The deadline for submissions is September 15. Don’t miss this opportunity to change the world you live in! Share this news with your family, church, and community. This grant is not restricted to pastors, ministers, or clergy. The grant is open to all.

Don’t delay, apply today!

Change the World | Jesus is the Subject.

To See More Clearly, Know More Dearly, Feel More Nearly

In 1997, I moved from Clarksville, Tennessee, to attend Mid-America Bible College (now Christian University) in Oklahoma City. As a new student I was required to take a class called Biblical Life & Witness taught by Cliff Sanders.

I had come to MBC like most 21 year olds, arrogantly. I had been involved in ministry for about 30 months or so and thought I knew all I needed to know. After all, I had experienced a successful ministry and my pastor was sending me to college to get the necessary degree so that I could get a job at a church. Little did I know, how little I knew.

Bib Life (as we called it) challenged my view of God. The class provoked me to ask myself if I really knew the character of God and if I allowed him to know me. And Cliff’s teachings inspired me to live a life of evoking the imagination of others as they think about God.

This video message is a summation of Bib Life. I still have my notebook from the course, though I really don’t need to look at it. The course set me on course in such a way that I can recall much of it without even looking.

Cliff’s prayer at the end of this message is one you should stick around for, as is the entire message something that can move you in the right direction.

I realize one message won’t change your life. I was fortunate (ahem) to have Cliff as my professor for seven courses while at MBC. The messages were only part of my journey down a better path. Witnessing Cliff’s life for nearly five years was another significant part. So, don’t just listen to this message by Cliff. Connect with those who will challenge you to know God more deeply, see him more clearly, and feel him more nearly. Spend time with these people. Share life with them. Together, you will inspire others to imagine God as he wants us to see him.

The Jesus-Shaped Life – Sanctuary on Vimeo on Vimeo

via The Jesus-Shaped Life – Sanctuary on Vimeo.

a New role in Life’s journey, teaching Bible with a new Fellowship

Many of you have been curious as to what’s next for me and the family and our role in ministry. Here it is: IMG_0978 Earlier in July, we moved from Odessa, Texas, to Midlothian, Texas. This suburb located about 30 minutes south of the metroplex is centrally located between Dallas and Fort Worth. For our Odessa friends, you’ll be happy to know we can get to Rosa’s in about 15 minutes. Christy’s parents moved here in May and we opted to join them.

Though we’ve not had a lot of time to settle in, we are enjoying this small town and are excited about the upcoming school year and getting to know our new neighbors. I haven’t made plans for Halloween, but I’m sure we will find a way to have a fun time.

Since moving Christy’s parents to Midlothian, we’ve been visiting the Church of God congregation in Dallas with them. Pastor Ken Merrifield and I have known each other for nearly 10 years. I was fortunate enough to be on a team of ministers welcomeing Ken to Texas when he first began pastoring in Dallas.

On Sunday, July 20, the elders of the New Life Bible Fellowship in Dallas, announced they have identified me as a candidate to hire to be a member of their pastoral staff. The congregation will officially decide on August 17.

Should NLBF elect to hire me for the pastoral team, my focus points will be working with teens and emerging adults as well as developing ways for the congregants to engage in the mission of God in their daily lives within the greater metroplex area. I would appreciate your prayers as we navigate through the relational introductions and assimilate to the patterns and systems of the congregation. I would also appreciate your prayers because should this come to pass, these relationships and systems will be challenged with change. The next few weeks will be filled with expectations, questions, and uncertainties.

I’m excited about the possibilities that are ahead. NLBF has a solid history of kingdom interest. I’ve had the privilege of observing the fruits of their youth ministry for some 15 years. I am honored at the possibility to partner with this group at this time in this way. Ultimately, I am further committed to make myself available to our gracious God who has equipped me to equip others.

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Christy and the kids are excited about the possibilities ahead. NLBF members have welcomed us into their homes and Caitlyn and Andrew are quickly finding friends in the Sunday School classes. Breanna has quickly won the hearts of people. Her quick smile and blue eyes make it easy for people to join in her “goos!”

Christy and I are grateful that we already know several members of the congregation through our time at Mid-America Christian University, working with the Texas State Youth Convention, and summer youth camps and Camp Powers. This has certainly made it feel like we’ve been here longer than we actually have.

In the meantime, if you are in the greater DFW area, come out Sunday, August 3, to New Life Bible Fellowship, 3727 W Kiest BLVD, 11am. I’ll be teaching for the worship gathering that day. I’d love to see you there.

Be sure to click “follow blog via email” on your right so you can stay up to date with our adventures. My posts will go automatically to your email and you won’t miss an update. Occasionally, I post a meaningful or random thought too!

No Prayer at Graduation

This year’s graduation ceremonies in at least one Texas school district were the subject of the latest round of censorship. Or maybe not!

The school district announced a week before graduation that it was changing the program and the selection method for students participating in the program. The district would no longer schedule an invocation or benediction. And students would no longer be voting on whom among their peers would deliver these prayers.

Effective immediately, the district would comply with state guidelines and randomly select a graduate to deliver opening and closing remarks. If the students who are randomly selecting choose to make their remarks a prayer, that is perfectly acceptable.

As one might imagine, there was a bit of a dust up in the community concerning the change in the official programming of the ceremonies. Some cried “foul!” Some cited this as one more level of “religious persecution.”

My guess is, if the district had not announced the change, very few, if any would have noticed that no one was officially praying at the ceremony.

Without a doubt, I’m in favor of prayer. Yet, I question the use of it in per functionary ways. Invocations seem odd to me, especially when trying to get the Christian God’s attention. Didn’t he say he’d always be with us?

And when the occasion is a mix of belief systems, how do we respond when the person praying is of a different belief system?

Prayer is a conversation. I agree we should be thankful and offer prayers accordingly. But the prayers don’t have to be public or for show.

Jesus challenged his listeners to pray in secret and not on the corner for all to see. (Matthew 6:5ff)

Prayer has not been outlawed. Instead, prayer is encouraged rather than required.

Possibly, this type of prayer will be more genuine , especially when willingly offered by a randomly selected High School Graduate if he or she so chooses.

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