Category: 4 Amarillo (page 1 of 8)

4 Unity of Spirit and Purpose

I’ve told you before how much I love our annual “4 Amarillo” week. This past week was our fifth annual week of service projects, worship, and ice cream with the combined membership of the Christian families at First Baptist, First Presbyterian, Polk Street United Methodist, and us Church of Christers at Central. And it just never gets old.

This year we came together to host Bible block parties for the kids at the Astoria Park apartments in the San Jacinto neighborhood and at the Baptist church community center in the Eastridge neighborhood. And the more hearty among us transformed a vacant lot on South Kentucky Street into a community garden.

 

 

 

 

 

What a blessed joy to work side-by-side with these faithful disciples of Jesus. Our congregations worship a little differently, our churches are structured a little differently, and our denominations have different understandings of some key points of doctrine. But none of that keeps us from being united in spirit and purpose, in working together so that more of God’s will is done in Amarillo as it is in heaven, and pointing as one people to our Lord Jesus as the hope of the world.

I thank God for the blessings of being at Central in Amarillo, Texas at this exact time in history. I praise him that my children are being raised in a church that sees beyond our worship preferences and doctrinal differences and looks to the unity of all followers of Christ. I’m so grateful and blessed to participate in these ecumenical partnerships that we might not be able to pull off in many other places. And I hope and pray our “4 Amarillo” alliance serves as an inspiring witness to our city and beyond that our God really is who he says he is, that he’s bigger than all our differences, and that his Son truly is the Prince of Peace.

I miss having Burt Palmer around. The senior pastor at Polk Street has become a dear friend to me. His quick humor and dry wit, his awkward bike shorts, those nasty half-water-half-diet-coke cocktails he ordered at Burger Bar, his focused leadership, his faithful encouragement and spot-on advice, his commitment to our “4 Amarillo” partnership — all of that matters deeply to me. But the Lord has moved him to Kingwood down in Houston (If you want to be a blessing to Burt, you might send him mosquito nets, a case of OFF!, and a dehumidifier). Burt was a vital part of our friendship among the four pastors and an ardent pusher of “4 Amarillo.” I jokingly told the Polk Street UMC leadership group at one of their meetings that their new guy would have to agree to eat with us once a month and pick up the tab every fourth time. They assured me that their commitment to “4 Amarillo” was bigger and went deeper than Burt’s presence in their pulpit.

Wow. That’s a great thing, huh?

My hope is that what we’re doing together among our four churches is much bigger and deeper than any of us; that this kind of unity and purpose as a testimony to the truth of Christ Jesus transcends all our personalities and leadership styles and subsequent generations of disciples; that this somehow serves as an example for other groups of churches to follow in the future, all over the Texas panhandle, throughout the Southwest, and around the world.

Peace,

Allan

Some Churches

I hope the posts this past week did not give you the impression that I think all churches are alike. They’re not all the same. Some churches are better than others. Some churches are more biblical than others, some are more orthodox than others, some are more healthy, some are more lively, some are more on point with God’s mission — some churches are better than others.

But nobody can make those judgments by looking at the name on the sign.

Now, I’m biased, but I think Central Church of Christ is a pretty great church. We mostly support Church of Christ understandings and traditions. We uphold baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins, we practice a weekly Lord’s Supper, and we enjoy our acappella singing. We’ve got a vision for Christian formation and a mission to serve our city and the world that I believe comes straight from God’s Holy Spirit. This is a great church!

But some of the best ways we’re formed and some of the more significant ways we minister are in partnership with Christians from other denominations. Our “4 Amarillo” worship services and our “4 Amarillo” week of Bible block parties and outreach projects are so important. What an undeniable testimony to the saving and uniting power of God in Christ!

Two weeks ago our elders and ministers went over to Polk Street United Methodist Church to pray with their leadership. Their Senior Pastor, Burt Palmer, is moving to Houston and that church is in an anxious time of transition. So we showed up at their leadership meeting two weeks ago to put our arms around our brothers and sisters in Christ and to put our hands on them and ask our God to bless them during this transition and to bless their congregation.

When people at Polk Street want to be immersed instead of sprinkled, Burt uses our baptisty at Central. This coming Friday, one of Burt’s last acts of ministry in this city is going to be in baptizing two Methodist teenagers in our holy hot tub!

Our unity with all Christians from all stripes and traditions allows us to see and experience just how big God’s Church really is. It drives us to our knees in gratitude to God for the greatness of his salvation activity throughout our city in hundreds of different ways. Central is just one small way God is drawing people to himself. The Churches of Christ are just a tiny part of God’s enormous salvation plans.

Yes, some churches are better than others. But all churches are better when we’re together.

Peace,

Allan

The Light of Life

We’ve posted the video from last month’s 4 Amarillo Thanksgiving worship service on our church website here. If you were a member of the combined choir, there are some really good shots throughout of you singing — some up close! You might especially check out the 5:30 mark where we sing “When We All Get to Heaven,” highlighted by all four worship ministers singing a middle verse as a quartet. Kevin Schaffer leads the choir and congregation in the closing song, “By Our Love,” at the 49:00 mark. And my 21-minute sermon — yes, 21- total minutes! — is at the 28:00 mark. What a wonderful, wonderful night. I praise God for the unique fellowship and undeniable witness of our four churches and for the distinct honor to serve right in the middle of it.

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You know, light isn’t really what we see; light is the very element by which we see everything else. You walk into a dark room and flip the switch, you don’t really see the light as much as you see the coffee table leg that’ll kill your toes and the edge of the wall that’ll take out your kneecap. The light allows you to see reality, to see what’s really happening.

In Jesus Christ, our light, we see clearly what God is up to in the world. We see God at work forgiving and healing, repairing broken lives, bringing people back from the dead, feeding the hungry, defending the accused. We see God restoring and reconciling, calming the sea, driving out the demons, turning empty jars into overflowing containers of eternal joy. God is the only One who can fix things and he’s come here in Jesus Christ to do just that. He’s moved here.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” ~John 1:14

There’s a reason we put candles in the windows and hang lights on our houses and string lights around the trees at Christmas. May the brightness of those lights remind us that the light has dawned — and it is a great light. May the glow of those lights point to the forgiveness, the righteousness, and the holiness that is ours in Christ Jesus. And may the beauty of the lights open our eyes to the matchless wonder of God’s great love for us.

Peace,

Allan

A Special Night at First Baptist

A Baptist church suffered a terrible fire. The congregation immediately launched a campaign to raise money to build a new building. One especially enthusiastic fund raiser called the Church of Christ preacher across town and asked if he’d be willing to donate a hundred dollars to the cause. After a thoughtful pause, the Church of Christ preacher replied, “Friend, you know I can’t give you a hundred dollars to build a new Baptist church in this town. But I can give you a thousand dollars to help you tear down the old one.”

I am so thankful to belong to a group of churches in downtown Amarillo — elders and board members, pastors and ministers, and more than three thousand Christians — that are committed to loving one another, supporting one another, praying for one another, and moving heaven and earth to help one another. I am grateful to God to be in the middle of a group of Christ-followers who are so willing and eager to put our denominational differences in their proper perspective and lock arms and hearts to worship together and serve this city together in the name and manner of Jesus. Every single thing our four churches do together serves as a powerful testimony and an undeniable witness to Amarillo and beyond that our God really is who he says he is and he’s really doing everything he promises he’s going to do.

The “4 Amarillo” churches — First Presbyterian, Polk Street United Methodist, First Baptist, and Central — came together for our fifth annual Thanksgiving Service last night. Our four churches’ praise teams and choirs combined for a hundred-member ensemble that opened the evening with a bouncy “This Is the Day the Lord Has Made” and closed it with a soaring rendition of “By Our Love.” The room was packed — more than a thousand — the energy was up, the spirit was one of enthusiasm and encouragement. Congregationally we sang “When We All Get to Heaven,” “Count Your Blessings,” “Give Thanks,” “How Great is Our God,” and “How Great Thou Art.” Howard Griffin led us in a powerful responsive reading from Psalm 136. Howie Batson’s benediction inspired. And I was privileged to deliver the evening’s message from John 13:34-35, “Love One Another. Period.”

Privileged is the right word. Blessed. Honored by our Lord to be in the middle of something only God could do. It’s hard for me to put into words the significance of what we do together as “4 Amarillo.” I know there must be other places in Texas and certainly around this country where churches from different denominations worship and work in true partnership and fellowship together. There have to be; I just don’t know of any.

I feel especially blessed to experience so regularly here this heaven on earth. Our Lord went to the cross to eradicate the barriers between us and God and between all of God’s people. Jesus’ prayer on earth was that all of his followers would be united, that we would all be one just as he and the Father are one. And we know that on that last day of glory, all of God’s people for all time will be gathered together around his table, to eat and drink in his presence, at the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb. And, by God’s grace, we are doing that right here in downtown Amarillo! Who would have ever guessed? God be praised!

“The time is now: come, Church, arise!
Love with his hands, see with his eyes.
Bind it around you, let it never leave you,
and they will know us by our love!”

Peace,

Allan

Thirty-Onederful Gallons

Last night our annual 4 Amarillo week concluded with our traditional ice cream social here at Central. Thirty-one Central ice cream makers and servers lined up to treat our brothers and sisters from First Baptist, First Presbyterian, and Polk Street United Methodist Churches with their own brands of both traditional and not-so-traditional homemade ice cream flavors. Everything from Bob Patrick’s “Plain Vanilla” and Callie Borger’s “Strawberry” to Jimmy Cobb’s “Sextuple C” and Carrie-Anne’s “Toasted Coconut Cream” (best one).

As part of the fun, we had our four assistant pastors serve as ice cream judges. Kevin Deckard, Murray Gossett, Reed Redus, and our own Greg Dowell faced the difficult task with dogged determination, fearless resolve, and 31 plastic spoons. Here are the official results:

Most Creative – Big Red – Kristin McCarrell
Best Presentation – Strawberry Chocolate Chip – Lenda Burk
Most Dangerous – Butter Brickle – Leon Wood
Best Fruit Flavor – Blackberry – Matthew Blake
Best Mix – Banana Nut – Vickie Nelson
Best Classic Flavor – Strawberry Banana – Scottie Witt
Best Overall – Pecan Caramel Crunch – Connie Crawford

First Presbyterian’s Howard Griffin stole a bit from the CofC’s Max Lucado to illustrate just how much noise a bunch of Christian denominations make when they’re shouting their own names but how clearly the name of our Lord is proclaimed and heard when we shout his. Powerful. We watched a slide show that captured most of what our God is doing through our four churches this week at Habitat for Humanity and at the Bible Block Parties at Margaret Wills and San Jacinto Elementary schools. We passed out the T-shirts, ate a little more ice cream, and vowed to continue working and worshiping, serving and seeking our God together as one united group of disciples of Jesus.

It’s one of my favorite nights of the year — definitely in my top two. Thank you to all who made and served the ice cream. Thank you to everyone who’s contributing their own time and energy this week to the faithful efforts to share the love of Christ with the city of Amarillo. And may our Lord continue to work in us and through us — together! — to his eternal glory and praise.

Peace,

Allan

4 Amarillo & Heal the City

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We believe anytime our four downtown churches come together to worship or to serve — to do anything together! — it is an undeniable witness to our city that our God is bigger than our denominational walls and his Kingdom is here and it’s coming and we’re all in on it. Nights like last night here at Central are proof that God is moving powerfully in our city.

More than a thousand Christians from Central, First Baptist, First Presbyterian, and Polk Street United Methodist Church came together here to praise God, to celebrate our unity in the Spirit of Christ, and to be that testimony to Amarillo and beyond. The combined choir of more than a hundred gifted disciples gave beautiful voice to the spirit of grace and peace between our four congregations. Kim started us off with an energetic call to worship from Psalm 32, Burt gave us the expected one-liners, and Howie’s riveting Gospel narrative centering on the healing work of our Lord Jesus was as inspiring as it was clever. A wonderful, wonderful evening together. Only the Prince of Peace can create and sustain the kind of unity that exists between our four downtown churches. And we praise God for that.

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The leadership of our four churches announced last night a brand new partnership, as a group, with Heal the City Free Clinic. Beginning December 5, the churches of 4 Amarillo will have volunteers at Heal the City every Monday night to provide prayers and pastoral care to the patients.

First Presbyterian has the first Monday of every month, Central has the second Monday, Polk Street is taking the third, and First Baptist has the fourth Monday of each month. We will be there to pray with the patients, to listen, and to provide any spiritual care that’s needed.

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We’re all excited about the potential to join the Gospel work that’s being done at Heal the City. And we give this new partnership to our God for his purposes and to his eternal glory and praise.

Peace,

Allan

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