Preaching at Garnett

I’ve let the news of Wade Hodges leaving Garnett to plant a church in Austin, Texas settle in for a while and now want to tell you a little about how I’m feeling about preaching at Garnett Church of Christ in Tulsa.

I love Garnett Church of Christ more today than ever before, and I’m very happy to preach and help lead the church alongside very capable and loving shepherds, staff, and other servants in the church.

I grew up in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, so I’ve known of Garnett for decades. The Tulsa Soul-Winning Workshop was a rite of Spring, and I have fond memories of my mother, Charlotte Taylor, and my aunt, Karen Williams, spreading out picnics in the Expo when it was cold and rainy and at Woodward Park when it was sunny and the azaleas were about to bloom.

For twenty years I’ve wanted to preach and help lead a church going through a neighborhood transition, and Garnett has been doing that. East Tulsa was growing with new housing when the church built near 31st and Garnett many years ago. Now the neighborhood is revitalizing with new stores and active neighborhood associations and Community Schools that we partner with, including Briarglen and Cooper Elementary Schools. What I mean by this is that some churches either grow old and die or they move to the suburbs, but Garnett has stayed put through neighborhood transition economically and ethnically, and this has been a dream of mine to help a church like this transform to serve God right where we are.

In the past several years, the church has declined in attendance but has grown stronger in other ways, including the ability to dream again, creatively use our resources, stop gossiping and speak face to face with people and not behind their backs. Other areas of growth are Garnett’s outreach to the community, continued small group participation, and an element that has been true of the church for a long time: joyful worship and good preaching.

With God’s help and illumination of his word and gospel, I plan to continue that tradition of good preaching. In the weeks leading up to Easter we will finish the Sermon on the Mount series, and we will have special events for youth, for families, including a showing of the film, Fireproof, and ongoing classes such as Single Parenting led by Jo Morton and Robert Garland, Better Life 101 led by Jim Roberts, Hebrews led by James Lawrence, and Following Jesus led by Greg Taylor.

We have classes both Sundays (9 am) and Wednesdays (7 pm) for cradle to high school and for adults. We also have a free meal called Neighborhood Kitchens, and all are welcome from 5-7 pm. Just come in the West entrance and we’ll welcome you there. We’d love to see you come to our worship at 10 am Sundays, and we’ll welcome you and show you around and enjoy worshiping God with you.

Greg Taylor
Preacher, Garnett Church of Christ

My Bank

Going to see my banker recently I saw police cars and “Emergency Closing” sign on the door. This was the 12th bank hold up of the year in Tulsa and the second at this particular bank branch.

Today I visited with two of employees who were there and traumatized, so I gave them my cell number and they said they’d call because one felt angry (man) and the other not safe (woman).

By Greg Taylor Posted in 1 Tagged

Immigration is complex

Just back from a seminar called “Immigration 101” taught at Tulsa University by Attorney Laura Bachman. One thing is clear. Immigration in the United States has no easy answers. She started with the question, “Why doesn’t someone just get their green card?” She answered by showing the complexity of the law and the long process of becoming a U.S. citizen. At minimum, it takes 3 years and can take a decade.

One of our neighborhood elementary schools that we partner with in Neighborhood Kitchens called the church this week asking if we could help a family in crisis. The mother of three children was unable to work because she is undocumented, and her husband is out of work. (I’ll call her Maria.) Maria was desperate and needing assistance. Together with two school workers, who both speak Spanish, we outlined the process she would have to go through in order to help her children.

Her goal was to get social security cards for all of them, and she lacked one. This allows her to apply for WIC and food stamps.

We helped her with groceries, some money, and I prayed for her there in the school room we were using. But the road ahead for Maria is long.

In general, people in our neighborhood in East Tulsa have fake ID cards. They obtain them from various places in East Tulsa. A person can attempt to use this to get social security or other forms of ID or assistance. Sometimes people get caught using them and are naturally nervous.

What would it take for someone to get a legit ID?

Two or three forms of ID. And most people don’t have that, a birth certificate, a passport. For someone from Mexico, they would have to apply for an $18 ID from Mexican consulate in Little Rock, Arkansas, or they could apply for a passport for $200. Many opt for getting fake IDs. I don’t know how much they cost.

Those who are undocumented, not legal permanent residents or citizens are living scared. And some say well they should since they are breaking the law. But how does a kindergarten child break the law? How is a mother who is brought illegally to the U.S. and is forced to remain home bound for 10 years breaking the law?

Most of us are not lawyers or immigration officials, so we need help in this area, and that’s why I went to this seminar. But when I told my wife, Jill, a little about the complexity of becoming a citizen, about Maria’s plight this week, she asked, “What do we do?” That’s always a great question for us, and sometimes we can’t do as much as we’d like, but here are some suggestions.

  1. Get in touch with someone in your city or state who is an authority on immigration.
  2. Find out lawyers who deal in immigration law or take clients who are seeking to immigrate.
  3. Love people without doling out easy answers. Don’t assume someone can “just get their green card” or that they are maliciously not fully legal.
  4. Help where you can give assistance to people struggling, and encourage each person to do the right thing, not to use fake ID, and help them get resources, legal advice to know the process that will protect their rights but also lead them down the path of legal immigration.

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.

Anna’s baptism

Just after Anna's baptism. See Facebook for video.

Just after Anna’s baptism. See Facebook for video.

Our 12 year old, Anna, was baptized Feb 1, 2009 at Garnett Church of Christ. Grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins and Garnett family witness and blessed her with words and hugs and the repeated exhortation, “Arise, shine, for the light of the Lord is upon you.”