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).

A refreshing retreat

Just back from a Garnett staff retreat. One of the best staff retreats I’ve ever been part of. Wade Hodges led us through a new kind of conversation, different from the questions that get us stuck like the time I was out fishing in waders and got caught up to my knees in mud. Those questions focus on problems rather than possibilities.

I bet Wade will be posting something soon about it and maybe he’ll list some of the questions from Peter Block, one of the resources he used in leading a great retreat for our staff.

Thanks to the Hillenburgs who let us use their cabin. What a wonderful place to meet and dream and connect on a deeper level with our staff and shepherd team.