Women Praying Allowed in Church (Part 3)

Oklahoma is about to have a governor in November that’s a woman, regardless. No matter how you vote. Unless there’s an Independent, or something. Women come to us, and many of you are teachers, and superintendents, and principals of your schools, and business leaders, doctors and nurses.

You lead where you are, and you come into the church, and it seems that there’s a different environment from a natural environment. Why is that? Unfortunately, over the years, these short passages taken from Paul’s letters extracted, have been taken permanently, and extracted from their context, rather than taken contextually, and viewed as temporary injunctions for specific reasons by Paul.

So that a particular group of women can learn, and begin functioning as a body of Christ, gifted to teach, and lead in the mission of spreading the gospel worldwide. Women did that all throughout. Women helped Jesus throughout his ministry. They were right alongside of him, all the way to the foot of the cross.

In fact, women were the majority at the foot of the cross of Christ. There were male followers of Jesus mentioned at the foot of the cross, other than John. Viewed as permanent, these passages still–they’ve caused churches to clearly define leadership speaking as man’s role, and women’s as quiet service. In other areas where authority is not over men. But, taken this way as permanent, it still contradicts these, “What do women do passages?”

In Paul’s own instructions in 1 Corinthians 11:5, where he instructs women and men when they pray, when they prophesied, “Women you should cover your heads.” He regulates it because of some cultural concerns of the way Jews and Gentiles, and different people were experiencing one another. Those head covering issues are still — goodnight, France is still dealing with that problem.

These are cultural things that occur, that Paul was trying to address, but sometimes we get wrapped up in discussions of head coverings and silence, that we forget that he’s talking about how to humble ourselves, men and women, as we come before the Lord to learn as disciples, and then to go out, and lead.

We looked at the context. We’ve looked at Paul’s concern for the gospel spreading. Let’s look at one more aspect of a doctrinal teaching that is super important, and that is the fall versus the new creation. The fall versus life in Christ. That is so super important for us to understand. We’ve looked at these, and we’ll look at three major views of the way we view women in ministry and leadership.

First is the hard patriarchy. Patriarchy, meaning male leadership. Hard patriarchy says that there is a divine order that is ordained for all time, and males should guide and lead, and the females should support and serve. In doing this, peace will reign.

That’s a concept that’s very crucial to hard patriarchy, that if you mess this up, then that’s why we’re getting problems in marriage, and churches, because people have not held to this hard patriarchy.

Soft patriarchy is a second view, and basically where Garnett is, in what I read earlier in our heritage documents.

That’s, basically viewing male leadership as important, but expanding participation of women in leadership, and speaking roles, and praying. To a degree, Scot McKnight says, “Both of the above views, hard patriarchy, and soft patriarchy, to one degree or another, are stuck in the fall of mankind.”

In other words, they take statements like Genesis 3:16 as prescriptions, rather than predictions of the rivalry that is now going to exist under the fall. What does Genesis 3:16 say? It says, “And it is part of the curse.” God curses the serpent after the sin of Adam and Eve. He curses Eve, and then he curses Adam. 3:16 is part of the curse of Eve.

It’s the last line of the curse. It says, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” This is not supposed to be. This is part of the fall. It’s part of the curse. It’s a prediction of what’s going to happen. That males will dominate, and try to rule over women. One of our problems, however, is that we read passages like Genesis 3:16, and we think this prescriptive for all time.

Rather, Genesis is describing a falling condition that God very much intends to redeem in Christ. In the falling state, men suppress, oppress, and abuse women. That still happens, very much today, worldwide. But, women try to work around it. They do a lot of working around. That includes things like, saying one thing and doing another.

While men oppress and abuse, women have had to adapt to that suppression. Sometimes with passive aggression. To live in a new creation state–if we were to live in this new creation, instead of under the fall–it changes every relationship, and gives us news ways to communicate more directly to one another.

If we’re going to do that, we’re going to have to develop those kinds of things, because we’ve been accustomed to learning how to communicate under a fallen state, not acknowledging enough what Christ has done for us. In a fallen state, men yearn to dominate women, and fallen women yearn to dominate men.

Which brings up the question, if a man speaks in the woods, and there’s no woman there to hear him, is he still wrong?

[laughter]

Yes. OK. Get that straight. The story of the bible is about a new creation in Christ, over against the old creation, the fall, and what happened at that time. Christ has come to establish, and return all of us in the church, and body of Christ into a new creation where oneness rules, and not the rivalry, and the enmity.

The third view–there’s the hard patriarchy, soft patriarchy, and the third view is based on new creation. Christ has come to redeem relationships, and the whole creation. Mutuality is the third view. Mutuality, in this view, in the life in Christ returns us to the mutuality God intended for all creation. Mutuality believe that women’s responsibility is to give God glory, to love her husband and children.

Similar, or same as patriarchal views, but also believes the gospel makes men and women one again, in many ways. It doesn’t mean the genders are merged together. The genders are still intact with strengths and weaknesses that we should honor. In church, and society, and marriage, it touches all these areas.

The spirit leads women and men in our roles, and breaks down some of those traditions that bind us, but the spirit must decide that. What are women allowed, and permitted, and gifted to do? In the Old Testament, and New Testament we’ve looked at some of those passages. God created them to be as equals, but opposites for relationships, and companionship.

That’s what happened when the creation of man and woman occurred, but also relationship with God. To bear the image of God, and to bear that image at birth, and marriage, and to honor husband and wife. And for women themselves to reflect the image of God, to be co-creators along with men.

Another quote from FF Bruce, who said–when asked about women participating in church leadership, FF Bruce said, “I am for whatever God’s spirit grants women gifts to do.” That’s what I’m for, is whatever the spirit of God grants women gifts to do. It’s the same as men. We have to pay attention to that in the local church.

We don’t have anybody looking over our shoulder in a local church. We get the honor of being autonomous, and deciding these things for ourselves with our leadership, with input from the congregation. That’s a wonderful honor. Galatians 3:26-28 should guide us in this.

In Galatians 3:26-28 says this, “In Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who are baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Paul is not the chauvinist I once thought he was.

Now, he’s not — I believe — bent on silencing women. Even more, he’s more forward-thinking than his contemporaries, wanting women to learn, and then teach. He’s concerned for the spread of the gospel, and mutuality, and the upside kingdom, returning men and women to good relationships that were intended from the very creation.

When I was young — I’m going to go back to where we began, to that little church where I grew up. A wonderful church. On Sunday nights, and Sunday afternoons, the boys would go to something called Timothy class.

Where we learned to blow a pitch pipe, and wave our hands in some kind of different ways, and lead a song, and do a devotional talk, and say a prayer, but my two sisters were not invited to the party. There was a separate, but equal kind of class for the girls in some churches.

I wouldn’t necessarily call Timothy class spiritually forming, in so many ways, but it was a beginning to a vocation and calling for me in ministry that I value, but my sisters didn’t get to have that. They weren’t allowed to speak. Even to do something as basic as saying a prayer. To communicate with God, publicly, in our church.

Now, these traditional roles of women I mentioned, and many of you have been doing these for so many years. I should be ashamed of myself if I did not emphasize the glory God has received through the gentle hearts of you women who have been serving in this church, and in many churches all over the world for many, many years.

I think of the gentle heart of my mother, who has served quietly in her church for six decades. Creating places for fellowship, cooking, and baking, and doing — no doubt — what would stack up to be a mountain of peach cobblers and cinnamon rolls for the bereaved, and the sick. My mom has done twice the stuff that I’ll ever think about doing in my lifetime.

She taught me how to pray, but she couldn’t get up and pray in our church. I always wanted to hear her do that.

My dad was wise enough to ask her to do that at home. My sisters got to pray at home, too.

The last thing I’d want to do is hurt my mother’s heart or any of your hearts or the body of Christ. Hear me say loud and clear that God has worked and is working and will continue to work in traditional churches, like I grew up in, and he’ll work in this church. No matter what we do as long as we stay close to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

But it’s people, like the faith of my mother, whose voices I believe we ought to hear praying aloud in church. The women at Garnett are some of the most prayerful, intentional and faithful prayers we have in the congregation.

They’ve served and taught and prayed and led ministries, gone as missionaries and do all that male counterparts in Christ do in ministry and service. Women’s group meets specifically to pray over the church.

They met last night. They met today to send forth reapers into God’s harvest to pray for leaders in our community. Why not fully open the door to allow them to pray regularly in our assemblies?

I want something for my daughters and my granddaughters and for all of our daughters, for the women at Garnett, for our sisters. My sisters turned out to be great people, but I want something in addition for my daughters and for yours.

I want them to be spiritually formed and I want them to be able to pray aloud in church without us saying, “Uh-oh.” I know of people who have left the church because we don’t do enough for women and I’ve known some that have left because of the things I’m saying today, the kinds of things.

The concern that Paul has is also the leader’s concern that we have order in our church and so the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be preached. We can all live out our calling and spread the Gospel, including the other 50 percent of our body that we sometimes squelched.

We want to see women spiritually formed and taught and then to lead and voice prayers of the psalms and recite scriptures and pray aloud in our worship, our small groups, our Bible classes. Our shepherds, our church documents and scripture do not prohibit women from praying, let us begin to practice what neither we nor scripture prohibits.

Let’s give women and men, who are taught and gifted, opportunities to pray during worship, to lead the Praise Team Women, lead the Praise Team, that even to take that step in front and do what Shawn’s doing and lead us, lead the whole Praise Team, pray when we have collection and communion and say the “The Lord’s Prayer” and give mission talks.

We’ve done much of that, but it would be great if we could give up that “uh-oh” response. Women and men must both learn in submission of Christ and be led by the Holy Spirit and then freely lead here at Garnett.

Men and women taught the way of life in Christ and led by the Spirit ought to pray aloud. Today, as we enter into the communion, Karen Garland has no desire to stand up here in front of people, but I asked her to do so anyway.

She’s going to come up and say a word and then voice the prayer before our communion. When we go to the tables, we go as equals in Christ, according to Galatians, Chapter 3, Verse 26 and 28. “We are all one in Christ and may we be one.”

May we work out what it means to be the body of Christ today. After Karen’s prayer, if you’d like to stay seated, the ushers will pass the communion to you or you may get up and go to the table.

Karen, go ahead and come on up. Karen’s going to say a few words and then pray for us.

Karen Garland:  Uh-oh.

[laughter]

Karen:  Hello to all of you who don’t know me. I want to introduce myself. I’m Karen Garland. I’m Robert’s wife.

I’m the Garland that does not have the gift of public speaking, but I am, however, the only Garland that truly speaks German.

[laughter]

[applause]

Karen Garland:  I’ve been thinking lately about Greg’s sermons, that maybe I’m not the only woman here that likes to hide behind the unwritten law that we, women, should be silent in our church. When, in reality, I actually greatly fear standing here speaking publicly.

Did you ever consider that when we don’t participate in church by teaching, praying or speaking out loud, that what we’re really doing is failing God? Remember that he told us to be a shining light into the world.

We must not hide ourselves under baskets of our making. We want our children to come to us, to talk to us daily because that’s how we create a strong bond with them.

God wants us to come to Him daily for the same reason. Just as we are expected to teach God’s lessons to our kids and grandkids and even people we don’t know, God wants us to stand up and speak up when the opportunity comes our way.

I know there are many others out there, even among you guys, who are silent for many reasons. We’re just plain shy or think we don’t know enough and we’re never taught how, or whatever the reason is, all of these are crutches.

Trust in God that He can lead you the right way to speak out loud to Him. There are people in this church that can help you, too, if you ask. They can teach and encourage us.

It’s no crime or shame in asking for help. God would want us to do that. The fact is we need to get over it and get on with it and do whatever it takes to participate in our homes, this church and the world, irregardless of our fears.

Why should we pray out loud? Excuse me, I told you. We should pray out loud in our homes and in our church to honor God, trusting that with His help, we’ll get better at it.

We need to step up and not be watchers, but be doers for God. Will you pray with me?

Dear Abba, Father, you’re an awesome God, and I pray to you today, Lord, to confess a sin that I’ve been committing all my life. I’ve been putting myself before you by not learning to pray out loud in church and at home.

I know that each time I do that I fail to honor you. Please forgive me, Lord. Help me to draw closer to you and to honor you by being the kind of child that honors you in prayer, out loud or silently, at home, at church, and in the world.

In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Audience:  Amen.

Greg:  Let’s go to the tables. [whispers] Thank you.

Karen:  [whispers] I did it.

Next I’ll post the audio of this sermon, “Women Praying Allowed,” and then post some further observations and the story of the Garnett Church of Christ’s development in expanding women’s roles in the church since 2010.

 

Acts of the Church 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press Release: Hmong Leaders urge community to love and not to retaliate after shooting

ImageFrom the Hmong American Association that offices at Green Country Event Center/Garnett Church of Christ:

October 16, 2013, Tulsa, OK–There was unfortunate shooting at one of the Hmong Clans New Year Gathering on Saturday night, Oct. 12, 2013, in the Green County Event Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma, causing five injuries. Fortunately, no one lost a life and three of the five victims were released from hospitals on Sunday afternoon, leaving two who were wounded in the torso and on the leg. (Latest report is that all five victims have been released.)

The Hmong community has lived in the Tulsa Metro area for more than 35 years, and sadly, this is the first such unprecedented incident. The Hmong community is shocked and disbelieved by the shooting. Due to the concern of the incident, the Hmong community leaders convened an emergency meeting yesterday (10/13/2013) to discuss what happened and how to prevent it from happening again.

After some investigations, it seemed that the shooting incident was not gang related; instead it was a conflict between two families of one of the 10 Hmong clans in the Tulsa Area. “We urge the Hmong and non-Hmong communities not to be panicked by this incident and the situation is under control,” said Linda Lor, former Executive Director of Hmong Association.

The meeting reached an agreement that each clan leader would go back to counsel the clan families who were involved in the incident not to take any violent action against each other, and to encourage other families to stay calm, and continue to love, and support one another.  And, for future safety of Hmong events, Hmong leaders and the Hmong Association has been and will continue to work with local authorities to provide extra security in the future.

While assistance to the victims is welcome, victims and families asked that their privacy be respected.

Hmong is an Asian ethnic group of refugees from Laos at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, with approximately 250,000 people scattered across the USA, and about 3,500 Hmong are in the Greater of Tulsa

Should you have any questions, please direct them to Xiathao Moua, President of Hmong American Association of Oklahoma and/or Linda Lor.

Recipe for a Great Church

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

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

Larry James coming to Garnett April 19

Larry James, CEO of Central Dallas Ministries

Larry James, CEO of Central Dallas Ministries

We’ve invited Larry James, CEO of Central Dallas Ministries, to return after three years and speak to our congregation April 19, 10 am.

Larry and his right hand attorney, John Greenan, gave us the spark and imagination three years ago to launch the Green Country Event Center, a “business as mission” effort to be good stewards of the Garnett Church facility and partner with God in pursuing our community.

Since then, we’ve been learning and enjoying rubbing shoulders with people from all walks of life, from five different churches that meet regularly, several schools including Union GED/ESL, dozens of businesses and people of peace who have come to use our place. We’re on an amazing journey, and Larry is coming to help spark vision again, this time for another phase that includes land around our church as another part of the mission to be good neighbors and make disciples of Christ in East Tulsa.

Your view of life, the poor, the economy, and the kingdom of God will be challenged by what Larry James has to say Sunday, April 19 at Garnett, 10 am. We’ll have a lunch after worship to talk more about our vision and show a video that Lance Newsom is working on that asks a couple dozen people around Garnett and event center, “What’s God up to in your life and this community?” Please join us for worship and lunch!

Daniel (Mwaza) Fast

During Lent I’m on a Daniel Fast. No, not Daniel in the Bible.

My friend, Daniel Mwaza, in Uganda told me how to lose weight . . . He said, “Stop eating so much.”

So I’m eating half of the normal American calorie intake (which about matches intake of half the world), with about 4 oz of protein a day.

I lived seven years in Uganda, and this fast helps me remember those days when I saw children in villages eat their one meal for the day, a handful of beans and some cassava (yucca root).

Fasting can heighten your awareness of God, lead to deeper prayer and discernment. It can also lead to poor brain function. I could barely make it through a seekers Bible study last night after our Neighborhood Kitchens meal, but God gave me the power to finish when we discussed from Mark 3 the way the evil spirits bowed down in the presence of Jesus. We saw that nothing can prevail against God, nothing.

The last few weeks have been a bittersweet whirlwind with my move to lead minister of Garnett Church of Christ and the exit of my friend and co-worker, our former lead minister Wade Hodges.

I’m very happy to preach and help lead this church under the guidance of our shepherds, the teamwork of a great staff, and in partnership with an incredible congregation that is seeing before us the greatest opportunity in decades–probably since the bus ministry–to reach out to our neighbors through Neighborhood Kitchens, Angel Food, Food Pantry, where we see hundreds of guests and fellow servants seeking the Lord, community, life.

We’re also looking for a full-time children’s minister and rebuilding a great ministry to children as well as continuing an incredible student ministry that Lance Newsom and Deanie Johnson and a band of volunteers run so very well.

Last night, a Garnett teacher taught class, filled with both children from families currently at Garnett and children of adult guests who are checking out what this community is all about. She was headed home and said she was hungry. We had fed more than 200 guests and our beloved Chef Roy was not there to stretch food like he normally does (he was home recovering from surgery). So we ran out of food, and this teacher had been last in line. She was heading home with her boys, hungry but smiling, another kind of fast for the sake of the kingdom and the mission of this congregation.

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

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.

Pray to start your day

How do you start your day?

I get up and think about coffee. A short priestly blessing (Numbers 6) is usually spoken over the kissed heads of my children when we say goodbye. Other than that, I often don’t think of prayer till I get to the office, but it’s my goal each day to start with a time of prayer, and I don’t always start with it but get to a time of prayer at lunch or other time.

I use a prayer guide edited and compiled by Phyllis Tickle called The Divine Hours, recommended to me by Wade Hodges (his practice personally, with our Garnett staff is the true power of the recommendation).

In conversation with several Garnett Church of Christ partners Sunday, a common theme was that people need guidance in their spiritual journeys, with Bible reading, with prayer templates.

For those in this boat, here’s a recommendation for family prayer: we use a very helpful prayer guide by David and Heather Kopp called Praying the Bible with Your Family.

Whatever method of prayer, start your day with prayer, find times to pray during the day, and end your day with prayer. It’s hard sometimes for me to pray at night because I’m so tired when I hit the pillow, but Jill often asks us to pray, and sometimes we’ll pray about something specific or we’ll occasionally say the Lord’s Prayer together.

The Lord’s Prayer is a constant in our church. We’ve been saying it together in each assembly for about two years now.

Sometimes a few minutes of pure silence helps to acknowledge that the day is not about your activity but God’s work all around you, happening even as we are still. My brother said he tries to start each day with five minutes of silence. Lots of us are silent when we wake, but how focused is that silence on the reality of God and his presence?

As I mentioned, that time when I wake is often filled with visions of coffee plums dancing in my head and a desire to get some reading or writing time before everyone else wakes up (not that I’m always first up–my kids and Jill are usually up pretty early too).

Milk and bread and freezing rain

Why does everyone go for milk and bread when a winter storm is rolling in?

How often do you hear thunder in December with a freezing rain? We just heard several peals of thunder, and the rain is almost certain to turn the streets to ice rinks tomorrow.

Memorial Church of Christ canceled their worship this morning and brought Garnett Church of Christ their already purchased donuts. See, good things can happen when you slide into church.

The children are giddy, hoping school will be called off tomorrow. Jill is concerned because her Tulsa Community College students are supposed to take a math final tomorrow. Will they study tonight with the specter of no class tomorrow?

These times when I stay home with the kids, thinking I might get some writing done, I instead get pulled outside with the kids to play hockey or sled, and I nearly kill myself falling. Last year I fell several times and it hurts more after 40 than before.

But falling is a small price for the memories children have of snow days.