I’m paying $100 for the best family story submitted to my blog. Submit by emailing me. The person with the best story will be paid $100 if I include in my next book on family life.

Submissions should be 500 words or less and include your email, physical address (only by email) and phone number.

Deadline: October 1, 2011

Announcement of Winner: November 1, 2011

$100 for your family stories

Exchange of ideas and community

Cover of "Community: The Structure of Bel...

Peter Block's Community: The Structure of Belonging

Just handed Bill Campbell Down in the River to Pray (revised edition) he was asking about and Chris King just handed me Community: A Structure of Belonging by Peter Block–we are in the midst of our own mosaic of broken people here at Garnett and searching for God‘s vision of the world around us, how he wants to put us back together, how Christ wants us to live out his prayer for unity in John 17, how Paul encourages us to play harmony and be united in one thought and purpose (1 Corinthians 1:10).

I’m really glad to be in a community network of leaders like Bill Campbell and Chris King.

Hell and Mr. Fudge

Rob Bell, the internationally known church and thought leader and author with his recent book, Love WinsA Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived has caught fire in more ways than one. 

But Bell’s is not the only one who’s written controversial books on heaven and hell. My friend Edward Fudge has written at least two books on hell that could be more helpful than the tangents Bell’s book has led many to–whole book-length responses have been written, web sites such as have been started.

Before I tell you more about Fudge and review one of his books, take a look at this sample of footage from an 2012 movie on his life called, Hell and Mr. Fudge.

Fudge’s work helps us deal with the texts of Scripture on hell to determine based in a view of who God is what hell then might be like. Fudge assumes a hell but seeks to find out what the Bible says and doesn’t say about it. His first book a quarter century ago is called The Fire That Consumes. His view is called annihilationist, the view that God is going to destroy unrepentant evil doers completely rather than eternally or endlessly. A decade ago Fudge squared off with Robert A. Peterson in another book on hell called Two Views of Hell.

My review of that book is below. Continue reading

Oh, That’s Bad

When someone in Uganda dies, people say, “Nga Kibi” (Oh, that’s bad!). There is little attempt to dress up the death of a loved one or friend. The first thing to say is, “That’s bad. That’s just terrible.”

Today is one of those days for a friend here in our community. Nga Kibi.

We are sad with Pastor Steven Vang whose wife passed away yesterday. She had a two year battle with illness that ended yesterday peacefully with Steven by her side. Friends Tim Schweikhard and Scott and Shari Norvell and many others from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, were by Steven’s side and praying for them in her last moments in this earth life.

Steven has been a leader in the Hmong community for several years while they have held events and coordinated activities here at Garnett’s event center. Pastor Vang, May God bless you and keep you and make his face to shine upon you and give you peace.

Care for some fresh news from heaven today?

Detail from log cabin in Rendalen, Norway

Detail from log cabin in Rendalen, Norway

One day Francis was attending mass at Church of the Portiuncula, outside of Asissi, when the text was Matthew 10:7-9.

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts—”

When Francis heard the words of Jesus to his disciples, to go and preach and take no money, he stood up, according to Celano (Celano, First Life, IX.22), the biographer closest to Francis, and said, “This is what I wish, this is what I seek, this is what I long to do with all my heart!”

Francis threw off his shoes, wrapped a rough cloth around him and started preaching repentance (Lawrence 1989, 246).

This story about Francis struck a cord with me, because my half-uncle, five times removed, John Chapman, made a similar renunciation of wealth and commitment to preaching.

One day Uncle Chapman heard a man preaching on the frontier, “Where is the modern day John the Baptist, who dresses in hides and preaches repentance!?”

The next day, Uncle Chapman walked up to the preacher and the brush arbor meeting dressed in a skin, with no shoes, and proclaiming good news. His good news was that the earth and everything in it is God’s and so he preached, gave up his shoes to those in need, and planted apple trees for the frontier people to have the much needed use of apple cider for canning, drinking, and well, some pioneers I’m sure fermented the cider before drinking.

Uncle Chapman would often be invited into a homestead and would take a seat on the floor or a humble seat and with a Bible in his hand would ask the question, “Care for some fresh news from Heaven today?”

People called Uncle Chapman “Johnny Appleseed,” but his real name was John Chapman, my great, great, great, great, great, half uncle. That’s enough to claim him–many people claim ancestry of famous people with less than that!

Care for some fresh news from heaven today: Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

21st Century Restoration: Will you join?

The community was surprised when rough and tumble “Spike” Walker converted to Christ at a brush arbor meeting. Spike—my great grandfather—my grandparents and parents were all baptized in Oklahoma and Kansas Churches of Christ.

But in the seventies, about the time I was baptized, a scandal broke out in my family. My uncle and aunt, Rudy and Kathy Taylor, transferred from a Church of Christ to a Christian Church—a painful move because many family members viewed them as leaving The Church.

Rudy’s father—my grandfather—then resigned as elder of the church. “He and my mother truly believed I had ‘left the truth,’” Rudy said. “And they moved from the community where we all lived because of what they perceived as humiliation. My father was disappointed in me, and I in him for his response. He gave up the greatest responsibility in life because he thought he was no longer qualified as having ‘believing children.’”

But something a woman in the Christian Church said to Rudy has always stuck with him: that he ought to be thankful his parents and family cared enough that they would take a stand, even if it was wrongly handled. Rudy says he holds no grudges—just grief for what was lost. “My parents didn’t see me baptize our children. It was so sad for me to listen to my children tell their grandparents about being baptized, obviously thinking that would bring a smile and congratulations. Their news was greeted by silence. It always took some parental explaining when we left Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house,” Rudy said.

And many of our families and churches have some explaining to do.

Embracing a New Worldview

The worldview that Churches of Christ have a privileged place above denominations, insider knowledge of scripture, and a unique place in history is flawed. These notions cause or at least contribute to rifts in families and churches like mine. Leaving one Christian church for another Christian church is not the same as leaving Christ or the truth. My uncle and his family were seeking Christ and truth at least as much as my relatives staying in Churches of Christ.

The worldview of my “church upbringing” taught me to suspect and debate the Methodist and Catholic alike, to reject forms of worship unlike ours and in most extreme cases to view anyone outside Churches of Christ as not truly Christian. At times in our history the idea of making converts shifted away from reaching people who did not know Christ to those who worshiped in ways different from us. And we believed convicting others of our views was tantamount to converting them to Christianity.

In spite of this, the stubborn autonomous streak in us has allowed some communities within Churches of Christ to break free from this conceit and become learners again. And though I’m proud of my family and Stone-Campbell heritage, I want to see our movement grow into a new future faith—one that drinks from wells dug by our faithful fathers and mothers, digs new wells, and questions stagnant thinking of the past and today.

This story is personal and risky for me, but this is where I believe new restoration begins: with a change in worldview that brings us to our knees before God and each other, honestly reflecting on our past and imagining a new future.

So my wife and I believe and teach our children that we are part of the larger body of Christ, and that God is much bigger than Churches of Christ and the Stone-Campbell Movement. I know this is no news to many reading this, but I also believe what I’m about to say will challenge all of us in the Stone-Campbell family. We want to fellowship with and participate in the life of Christians worldwide and in various denominations.

We want to focus on Christ and why the world cannot live without him, to unite and be faithful to Christ’s prayer that we be one (John 17). Living in Uganda and fellowshipping with people of diverse ethnicity, denominations, and politics did more than anything to change my worldview. People with these differences can and will journey together in Christ. This is not just part of the gospel—it is the result of God’s work in Christ and our duty to be faithful participants. Our worldview is different from that typical of two or three generations of Churches of Christ. For example, my ten-year-old daughter asked, “What’s the difference between that Methodist church and ours?” I said there are no differences important enough to explain right now. “Both believe Jesus is God’s Son and the Holy Spirit lives in us.”

The world is changing and our worldview ought also to change. Rather than asking, “Are the Baptists or the Catholics right?” millions are asking a question on a completely different plane: “Is Jesus the Lord or should I follow Muhammad?” I’m more concerned to tell Muslims and sinners about Jesus than I am debating matters of precise doctrinal formulations with fellow Christians. I’d rather show a wanderer the gospel of Jesus than “convert” an Episcopalian’s view of scripture to mine.

Will there be backlash for this attempt to change our worldview? Different tension points for the next generations? Certainly, but we believe in unity and dialogue with Christians across denominations, across the Protestant and Catholic divide. Unity will expand the kingdom of God, help us become missionaries in every land and culture, and bring people to Christ, who teaches that unity and love draw people to himself. This is already happening. The next generation imagines giving up their lives for Jesus—not with bombs strapped to their chests but with clothes of Christ wrapped around them, in faith that the kingdom we seek penetrates bone and marrow by the sword of the incredible life of Jesus, the God of the universe made flesh once in Christ and again in us.

A new restoration is rising and is broader than the Stone-Campbell Restoration because it includes Christians from most traditions who are discovering Jesus and the Bible like never before through the power of the Holy Spirit, in house churches and large churches and with tools as varied as Bible translations, the internet, emergent learning communities, and Christian universities.

Restoration language echoes through several overlapping movements that include “Missional,” “Emergent,” and “Simple Church.” This new restoration is making disciples un-tethered to specific denominations but still moored to and fueled by ancient Christianity.

They want to break out of the box of modernism and not march to denominational drumbeats. They want to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world.

This new restoration of “simple Christianity” is not simply full of fads and methods but inspires Christians to live at intersections such as Hollywood and Vine and to wonder what would happen if inhabitants of the city set on a hill stepped into the red light district. For example, two ministers decided to start to call men out of addiction to pornography and women out of the sex industry. They were criticized by fellow Christians for going to porn trade shows to call people to new life in Christ, but they endured. They have helped tens if not hundreds of thousands of people rise out of sex addictions and have led porn stars to Christ—who says to them “where are your accusers” and “go and sin no more.”

A woman decided to start a program for prisoners being released to help them learn not just job skills but how to start their own businesses. A micro-loan helped one man buy a food cart and eventually to purchase two catering trucks.

A Christian rock group is helping with water wells, mosquito nets, education, and training in African countries, which many believe will send more missionaries abroad in the next decade than developed nations such as the United States.

These examples only scratch the surface of a new generation of Christians who, like Jesus, are going to sinners, prisoners, and the poor. For too long I have allowed competition and sectarianism to deter me from cheering on Christians of all kinds worldwide. Jesus said, “I want all of them to be one with each other, just as I am one with you and you are one with me . . . Then this world’s people will know that you sent me. They will know that you love my followers as much as you love me” (John 17:21-23, CEV).

I’m ready to truly live that prayer and let it shape me. Are we willing to lose our reputations or die to fulfill the prayers of Christ? Am I willing to die for my faith in Jesus Christ, not in war, but in whatever peaceful, radical form that might take in my lifetime? Am I willing to keep agitating for a better world for the poor, for clean water for one billion who have none? Am I willing to keep advocating for peace as long as there is war? As Ghandi said, may we be “the change we wish to see in the world” as we consider how we can join this new restoration of Christians who are living images of Christ in the world.

Will We Join the New Restoration?

Churches of Christ have come to the valley of decision at the foot of a mountain of sectarianism. We have no denominational charter to dissolve, but I believe this is one of those mountains Jesus said a little faith can move. If Churches of Christ continue to believe we occupy a privileged place above Christian history, scripture, and denominations, we dishonor and fail the Stone-Campbell plea for simple Christianity; we’re dead on the vine rather than blossoming like a field of wildflowers, Christ’s “little ones.”

One ChurchWe’re called to unity with all Christians everywhere who call Christ Lord. When Jesus prayed his unity prayer, he didn’t parse every doctrine and neither will I here. We live the Christ-life and follow the rule of the Holy Spirit to keep that everlasting covenant God the Father has kept since creation. Christ and Paul and our own more recent forefathers such as Thomas Campbell call us to produce fruit and look for fruit of the Spirit in the lives of fellow disciples. Will Churches of Christ, Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, and Disciples of Christ join this new restoration? It is not—and never has been—only our restoration, but rather a plea for all Christians everywhere of all times to reunite the family and mutually claim the fact that we’ve all been adopted and none is the “rightful” heir. But our family can help participants in the new restoration break free from religious molds and live their faith in the marketplace.

I want to see this shift of worldview in Churches of Christ in my lifetime, and I will be “the change I want to see” in the Stone-Campbell Movement and beyond. I will admit I do not stand above other denominations in any way but am a fallible, messed up human being in need daily of immersion in God’s life and words, in Jesus’ cross and resurrection. I will admit I have no monopoly on truth or scripture’s interpretation. And I will join the great mission of Christ with my fellow disciples, showing my neighbors the good news of Jesus through prayer and words of blessing.

I will follow what I call the “Golden Commission”: to preach the gospel as I would have others preach to me—to show a fellow beggar how to get bread.

My uncle Rudy is a newspaper editor and publisher. His writing drips with faith. He says what I want to conclude with:

I grieve for those who have died without fully knowing the joy I have experienced as a sojourner in Christ. I love the Lord Jesus Christ today because my mother and father taught me, took me to church and lived like Him to the best of their abilities. My highest hope and prayer is that future generations will shed the traditions that separate God’s people, and keep the lines of spiritual sharing open for those times when we need to be talking about something more pertinent than what’s going on at 17th and Hillside Church. I pray for the day when His body will stand tall, walk straight, extend its arms, wiggle its fingers and toes, flash its eyes and smile broadly, totally unaware that once its members looked at other body parts as aliens.

A new era is dawning for the Stone-Campbell Movement and a new, larger restoration movement is emerging. Let us join our brothers and sisters in the grand journey of faith in Christ, and in a movement of the Spirit of God that brings us together in ways we never thought possible.

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.

Love  Sin
Justice   Rescue  Covenant
Transformation  Resurrection Creation  Kingdom

So, how do children come to relationship with Christ? Part 3

So, with part 2 in mind, how do we invite children into a relationship with Jesus Christ?

Do we view children simply as non-members until they come of age? Do we consider them prospects for evangelism as soon as they can reason and are able to say a prayer of repentance and submit to baptism? If we believe five or six years old is too young and we choose to wait and view our children as potential disciples, what age is right for disciple-ability or accountability? At what point do they become utterly sinful and ready for initiation or conversion? Or do we view our children as maturing participants in faith and nurture them?

These are not easy questions, but discussing openly can bring us to new understandings. When we do not ask these difficult questions about our children’s spiritual development, we fall back to the least common denominator within our particular tradition. The current least common denominator in Churches of Christ is the unwritten and rarely spoken idea of the “age of accountability.”

One study bears this out. Twelve years old is the average age for baptism among students in a study by David K. Lewis, Carley H. Dodd, and Darryl L. Tippens.[vi] Continue reading

Are we intentionally inviting our children to follow Christ? Part 2

Since there is little evidence of children being converted in the early church, we ought to think theologically from Scripture and work from there.

One big theological idea that can be applied is the long-standing issue of whether an infant is born into sin. This goes way back to early church fathers, associated big time with Augustine and has continued to be discussed into the Reformation and since. The big question is, are children born into sin. Most Evangelicals don’t believe so. So we ask, Must we view children as lost before they can be found? Continue reading

Congratulations Drew, Bran, Hannah: You made it to college!

Seal of the University of Oklahoma

Seal of the University of Oklahoma

Really happy and proud about two nephews and one niece making it to college of their choice! Drew is at Harding University. Brandon and Hannah are at Oklahoma University. Congratulations and I know you are having some fun but also some academic and social and spiritual challenges ahead. God be with you. We love you guys!

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

Down in the River to Pray now available on iPad

If you have an iPad or iPhone and have never read Down in the River to Pray: Revisioning Baptism as God‘s Transforming Work, get it from iTunes in ibooks format. The revised and better edited shorter version of the book John Mark Hicks and I co-authored is available here. Or click the image below.

What is success?

Cover of "Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Succe...

Click to buy at Amazon

What is success? A year after John Wooden died, just short of his 100th birthday, his definition of success still lives on . . .

A few years ago I read a book about an American hero, John Wooden. I reviewed the book in Wineskins and I want to share that here.

Review of John Wooden’s and Jay Carty’s Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks for a Better Life. ISBN: 0830736794. Price $17.99 136pp (Regal, February 2005).

Coach Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” has been used and copied by tens of thousands of coaches over the years, but now he is offering something more in his book: an inside view into the faith behind the man, behind one of the greatest basketball coaches ever.

Wooden teams up with his former assistant coach at UCLA, Jay Carty, who mentored and personally trained Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr. (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) when he was a freshman.

Wooden draws from his forty years of coaching expertise and Carty from his twenty-five years of coaching and teaching in Christian camps and seminars to write this new clear, concise—and most importantly—biblically tested new book, Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.

I read few success-oriented books, but Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is not the typical success self-help book. Far from it. 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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

The Vanity and Laziness of Busy People

This book changed the way I think about being a dad. It hooked me first with the title that I thought was pithy and cheesy, but I realized it referred to the time spent reading the book, that it’s a quick 60-minute read that would change your child’s life.

Well, perhaps it has changed my childrens’ lives–that is a more difficult thing for me to say, but I can say it changed my life and the way I think about being a dad. I read this book nearly every year since my Mom gave it to me nearly two decades ago when I first became a dad. The insights are not groundshakingly new, but as one wise person said, “We don’t need to be instructed as much as we need to be reminded.” And this is a reminder that no one ever had written on their tombstone, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.”

General William R. Looney III, Air Education a...

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Like Coach Tony Dungy, this book encourages men to get off their butts and get their work done efficiently and quickly, not to postpone and procrastinate work then make excuses at the end of the day that we had so much work, honey, that I’m just going to have to stay late today. When the fact for many men is that they went on a leisurely lunch, wasted time on the internet checking ESPN, let others waste their time, and didn’t take charge of their day.

Pastor Eugene Peterson and time management guru David Allen agree that people who do not manage their time well do this out of laziness and lack of vision for what they are doing. So they let others “tell” them what to do by checking email endlessly for some fire to put out or way to take their time rather than getting busy on the initiatives that move an organization forward or simply getting the job done or tasks a supervisor has already asked you to do.

I’ll close with this searing quote from Eugene Peterson’s The Contemplative Pastor, who repudiates the idea of “the busy pastor” and even titles the chapter this quote is drawn from as “The Unbusy Pastor:

The one piece of mail certain to go unread into my wastebasket is the letter addressed to the “busy pastor.” Not that the phrase doesn’t describe me at times, but I refuse to give my attention to someone who encourages what is worst in me.

I’m not arguing the accuracy of the adjective; I am, though, contesting the way it’s used to flatter and express sympathy.

“The poor man,” we say. “He’s so devoted to his flock; the work is endless, and he sacrifices himself so unstintingly.” But the word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront.

Hilary of Tours diagnosed our pastoral busyness as irreligiosa soicitudo pro Deo, a blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for him.

I (and most pastors, I believe) become busy for two reasons; both are ignoble.

I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands on my time are proof to myself—and to all who will notice—that I am important. If I go into a doctor’s office and find there’s no one waiting, and I see through a half-open door the doctor reading a book, I wonder if he’s any good. A good doctor will have people lined up waiting to see him; a good doctor will not have time to read a book. Although I grumble about waiting my turn in a busy doctor’s office, I am also impressed with his importance.

Such experiences affect me. I live in a society in which crowded schedules and harassed conditions are evidence of importance, so I develop a crowded schedule and harassed conditions. When others notice, they acknowledge my significance, and my vanity is fed.

I am busy because I am lazy. I indolently let others decide what I will do instead of resolutely deciding myself. I let people who do not understand the work of the pastor write the agenda for my day’s work because I am too slipshod to write it myself. The pastor is a shadow figure in these people’s minds, a marginal person vaguely connected with matters of God and good will. Anything remotely religious or somehow well-intentioned can be properly assigned to the pastor.