Category: 4 Midland

The Gospel at the Table

Whitney and I took in Myles Hill’s final Little League game of the season last night and delighted most of all in seeing both Myles and his dad, Brandon wearing Texas Rangers logos. Brandon and Myles are both massive Astros fans and over-the-top Rangers haters. So it’s been a funny bit all season to poke fun at Myles for playing catcher for the Little League Rangers and Brandon coaching at first base. They wear the Rangers’ “City Connect” uniforms, those horrid Friday night home game black and red monstrosities Texas threw at us last year. But, those are Rangers logos nonetheless! Myles did an expert job handling things behind the plate and lined a sharp single to right field in his last at bat in a tough one-run loss. And I’m certain those two Rangers caps are already at the bottom of a dumpster somewhere between Butler Park and Briarwood.



If the Lord’s Supper is the place to experience the real presence of Christ and the real fellowship and community we have together with God’s people–if the purpose of communion is, well, communion–then the way we do it matters. The form of the Lord’s Meal serves the function. In fact, the form IS the function. The medium IS the message.

You can’t hold a Weight Watchers meeting at Golden Corral. Why? Those rolls, man! You can’t ask people to pay for Financial Peace University with a credit card. That defeats the purpose. The form matters.

That’s what’s wrong with the Lord’s Supper in Corinth. That’s what so concerns the apostle Paul: the form, the way they were eating the meal. The form of the meal was working against the purpose of the meal. In fact, Paul tells these Christians in Corinth, the way you’re eating it, it’s not the Lord’s Supper at all.

“When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for each of you eats his own supper without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:20-21

The original Greek text makes this much more clear. Paul says you’re not eating the Lord’s Supper (kuriakon diapnon), you’re eating your own supper (idion diapnon).

It’s important to remember that the Church’s Lord’s Supper started out as a full meal. For the first 300 or so years of Church history, the communion meal was a potluck. The Greek word diapnon is translated as supper, dinner, feast, meal–the word most commonly means the main meal, the biggest meal of the day. We call that supper. And Scripture tells us if we eat the meal one way, it’s the Lord’s Supper, and if we eat it a different way, it’s not.

So, what’s the problem? What are these Christians doing wrong?

“When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for each of you eats his own supper without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the Church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:20-22

The problem here is the breakdown of community during the Lord’s Supper. You’re not waiting for others, you’re not sharing your food with others; people are going hungry, people are being humiliated. The rich Christians are getting full and drunk while the poor Christians are starving and being singled out as not really belonging to the group. People are going back for seconds before everybody’s been through the line once. Some are saving seats. There is selfishness and division, Paul says. Even if they had no idea what the Lord’s Supper is all about, common courtesy demands they don’t get stuffed and drunk while their brothers and sisters in the same room go hungry.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is breaking down barriers and tearing down walls and uniting us together in his holy community. Only thinking about yourself, only worrying about your own needs and feelings at the meal, denies the very Gospel the Lord’s Supper is intended to demonstrate. Paul says it makes a mockery of the Church.

So, what’s the corrective? How does he fix it? By pointing to Jesus. He reminds them of Jesus.


I found out at lunch today that my friend Steve Schorr, the pastor at First Presbyterian, is a big Colorado Avalanche fan. This afternoon, I am re-evaluating our friendship and this whole “4Midland” thing.

Go Stars.


Scattershooting on Opening Day

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to Hank Blalock.

Today is Opening Day! And for the first time in the history of baseball, the Texas Rangers are the defending World Series Champions! It still feels weird and wonderful to write that sentence. Now, how do we do this? What does Opening Day look like when you’re the World Series Champs? For starters, the game begins at 6:35pm instead of the 3:00pm first pitch that was announced when the season schedules were released, and it’s being broadcast on ESPN for the national prime time audience. Usually, I’m taking off work right after lunch on Opening Day to watch the season’s first game. So, that’s a new wrinkle.

Plus, there’s the additional matter of raising the World Series Championship banner at Globe Life Field. That happens at 6:00pm and ESPN’s Baseball Tonight is covering all the ceremonies live. It’s all wonderful and glorious and beautiful in a million ways.

But it’s also complicated.

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day God’s people traditionally gather to remember our Lord’s last supper the night he was betrayed. This is the worship event in which we share the meal with other Christians and remember our Lord’s commands on that evening to love one another just as he loves us. The 4Midland churches are meeting at First Presbyterian tonight, all four of our congregations–GCR, First Baptist, First Methodist, and First Pres–to sing and pray and celebrate communion together.

My plan is to set the DVR to record all the Rangers’ banner-raising festivities and the opener against the Cubs. We’ll start the game once we get home at about 8:00pm. That puts us behind the live action by about an hour and a half, which means it will be almost impossible to flip to the March Madness during commercials. I blame the commissioner of baseball. Or Satan. We were all going to be worshiping tonight with our brothers and sisters at First Pres. It’s baseball that scheduled Opening Day on top of it.

We’re all suffering.


Speaking of March Madness, my bracket is not doing well. I lost Baylor as a Final Four team on Sunday and I’m struggling. I said in this space last week that I would not be counting Carley’s dog’s entry into our family pool. Well, I am counting him as a full participant now, just so I don’t finish in last place. Val and Whitney are neck and neck for the lead heading into the Sweet 16. As for the church office pool, I’m right in the middle of things, almost as close to last place as I am to first. Jadyn is leading the pack right now, with Tim right on her heels.


Carrie-Anne and I spent last night with our GCR Youth Group, planning the summer, playing some crazy party games, worshiping and praying together, and meeting our awesome summer interns Avery and Chloe. When it was over, everybody gathered outside to check out the brand new church vans! We’ve been needing  **ahem** more reliable transportation for a while now, and these new super-tall, super-wide, 15-passenger vans do fit the bill. I don’t know if the vans will spur anyone to sign up for mission trips or camps but, according to the reactions last night, it’s not going to hurt.


Back to the Rangers, they have now joined the 18 other MLB teams with corporate sponsorship patches on their uniform sleeves. I do hate this. It’s so bush-league, so cheesy. Energy Transfer’s logo is on all six of the Rangers jerseys for all 162 of their games, plus playoffs. Energy Transfer? Yes, according to reports, the Dallas-based energy infrastructure company. It doesn’t get more corporate than that. I understand that Energy Transfer was founded by Rangers owner Ray Davis back in the ’90s, but if you’re the Texas Rangers and you’re going to wear a company’s logo on your sleeve, shouldn’t it be a recognized and beloved state brand? Did they even ask Dr Pepper or Whataburger? What’s wrong with 7-11? Dairy Queen feels perfect. I do hate this.


The Rangers have whiffed big even before they faced a single Chicago pitcher. I do not understand why they let Jordan Montgomery sign with the D-Backs in free agency. It’s a one-year, $25-million deal with Arizona when he claimed he wanted to stay in Arlington. You can’t ever lose with a one-year contract. How did the Rangers not get this done?

I cannot wait to watch Evan Carter and Wyatt Langford playing together in the same Rangers outfield. Carter is technically a rookie, since he wasn’t called up until after Labor Day last season. So it’s possible–dare I say likely–that Carter and Langford finish 1-2 for MLB Rookie of the Year. Carter, Langford, and Adolis Garcia give Texas the best outfield in the majors. Tons of range, power hitting, and cannons attached to their shoulders.

Nasty Nate Eovaldi on the hill. Bruce Bochy in the dugout. A World Series championship banner flying above the stadium. The Texas Rangers begin their defense of their World Series title tonight. Let’s run it back, boys! Let’s repeat!

Let’s Go Rangers!
Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap!


We Are Going to Die

A meme was going around this week having a little fun at the weird juxtaposition of Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day. It was a red and pink Valentine’s Day card covered in pretty hearts that said, “We are going to die.” Yes, we are. That’s what Ash Wednesday is all about, to remind us of our own mortality, our own fallen and broken nature, that we are going to die someday and we cannot truly live without the salvation of a righteous relationship with Christ Jesus. Ash Wednesday is not something we Church of Christers typically observe. But this year we began the traditional season of Lent with more than 900 of our brothers and sisters from our three partner churches, by hosting the 4Midland Ash Wednesday service at GCR.

And it was glorious.

We combined the worship teams and choirs from all four churches and sang nearly a dozen songs together. We confessed our sins and listened to our Lord’s words of forgiveness and assurance. We prayed. We sat in silence. And then we sang some more. Pastors and shepherds from all four churches applied ashes from ten stations down front. And I think we sang the whole time.

It was glorious.

We Baptists and CofCers have very little experience with Ash Wednesday–we’re still mostly just sticking our toes in the water at this point and feeling this thing out. Darin Wood opened the evening by holding up the order of service and announcing to the Baptists in the room, “This is a liturgy.” Even the Methodists and Presbyterians seemed a little uneasy receiving ashes in a CofC worship center with no stained glass or kneeling benches. Thank goodness for Steve Brooks who provided the ashes for our service–I wouldn’t even know where to begin! But there was love. So much love. The unity and love was thick in there last night. The smiles and the warmth. The hugs and hospitality. It was evident on every face and felt in every interaction. There was a sweet spirit in the room before, during, and after the event.








I was honored to share the ash-imposing duties (ash imposer? ash applier? there’s got to be a better term for that, but if Steve Schorr doesn’t even know what to call it, maybe there’s not) with our GCR Youth Minister J.E. Bundy and our Children’s Minister Kristin Rampton. However, I realized about four minutes into the ashes part that I was standing too close to Kristin. One of the great joys of applying ashes–there are many!–is in the interactions I have with little kids. Last night I would notice small children in the line, our GCR children, and smile at the thought of blessing them with the ashes and the words of Scripture. But they were all going to Kristin!






I am thankful for Deeann Camp who came down the aisle to me with their two-week-old daughter Clara. Two-weeks-old! It was her first time in church since having the baby, the first time the baby had been to church, the first time I had seen her. How humbling it is, how provocative and eye-opening, to apply a tiny little cross to that itty-bitty brand-new forehead and look that infant baby in the eyes and tell her that someday she will return to the dust from which she is made. I’m guessing that was a powerful moment for Deeann. I hope it was. It was for me.

Methodist ashes, a Baptist-style choir, Church of Christ songs, and Presbyterian prayers.

And it was glorious.

I am so grateful to God to be at a church that sees all Christians as God’s children and our brothers and sisters in Christ and is actively breaking down the walls between denominations. I am so thankful to be the preacher at a church like this. I am grateful to the Lord for the wonderful team of ministers and elders at GCR who believe so much in the Gospel work of unity and labor so hard to pull it off. I am thankful for my friendships with Steve Schorr, Darin Wood, and Steve Brooks. I am thankful for the vision we share of a more united Body of Christ. We took this picture just to prove that not every single time we get together is for cheeseburgers.

God bless our four churches during this important season of Lent. God bless our brothers and sisters in Christ at First Methodist, First Baptist, and First Presbyterian. And may our worship and service partnership together be an undeniable witness to the power of Christ’s love to tear down every barrier between us and God and between us and one another.



Ash Wednesday in Midland

We are hosting the 4Midland Ash Wednesday service at GCR tonight. At 6;30 this evening, nearly a thousand Christians from First Baptist, First Methodist, First Presbyterian, and GCR CofC will come together in our newly remodeled worship center to begin the ancient Christian practice of Lent. Ash Wednesday is a bit out of our comfort zone for Church of Christers, but we’ve asked our congregation for more than two years now to participate in this solemn worship assembly with other Christians and just see what God will do.

This is how we live the great Story. This is how Christians, for centuries, have always prepared for Holy Week and Easter, for the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. This 40-day period of prayer and fasting moves our bodies and our hearts into closer communion with Christ and with one another. And it begins with Ash Wednesday.

The ashes placed on our foreheads remind us that we are human and broken, that we are going to die, and we need Jesus to live. That’s why, when they are applying the ashes, pastors will sometimes say, “From dust you were created and to dust you shall return.” Imposed on us in the form of a cross, the ashes also remind us of our sin, our need for redemption, and the truth of forgiveness and restoration in Christ. That’s why pastors will sometimes say, “Repent and believe the Good News!”

We cannot appreciate God’s infinite mercy if we do not realize we need mercy. We cannot understand salvation apart from a recognition of our need to be saved. If our sin is not removed from us, we are forever separated from God. Ashes remind us of this need.

Wearing ashes on our foreheads also acknowledges the sacrifice of Christ Jesus, who substituted his own death for the “burnt offerings” made by the priests to atone for the sins of God’s people.

Four different churches representing four different denominations coming together to participate in these ancient Christians practices is also a powerful witness to our community. We demonstrate the truth that Jesus died on the cross and was raised to eternal life in order to tear down all the barriers between us and God and between us and one another. When we come together in each other’s buildings, when we combine our worship teams and choirs, when we join hands in prayer and recite the ancient creeds, we are declaring that we belong to a Kingdom that is eternally bigger than our churches and that our King really is the Prince of Peace.

If you’re in the Midland area, I invite you to join us at GCR Church tonight at 6:30. If you’re not in West Texas, I urge you to find an Ash Wednesday service somewhere to attend this afternoon or this evening. Give yourself to it. Immerse yourself in the songs and prayers. Participate in the confession and repentance. Soak into your soul the blessed words of assurance. Allow a minister to look you in the eyes while applying a cross made of ashes to your forehead. Let him or her intercede for the Lord on your behalf. Hear the words, “From dust you were created and to dust you shall return.” Hear the words, “Repent and believe the Good News!” Let those words change you. Let the worship move you closer to the Lord. Give the whole thing to God and just see what he might do.



Striving to Obtain It

“What? Shall we pray for a thing and not strive to obtain it?”
~ from Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address, September 1809

Nearly 60 of us ministers and elders from First Baptist, First Methodist, First Presbyterian, and our GCR Church of Christ gathered at First Presbyterian last night for a dinner and prayer meeting to formally enter a unity alliance. It’s a partnership we’re calling “4 Midland,” a commitment to worship and serve together as the collective Body of Christ in our city.

And it was a joy. It was a delight. It was a deep and rich grace from God to be together in that setting and for that purpose.

There were seven tables in that room last night with eight ministers and elders from the four churches at each one. I sat at a table with Carolyn, an elder at First Pres; with Dillon, a First Pres minister; with Valerie, from First Methodist; with Travis, one of my shepherds at GCR; and with Steve Brooks and Darin Wood, the pastors at First Methodist and First Baptist. We read Scripture together and we prayed. We discussed together what the Lord is already doing in our churches (a ton, as it turns out; praise God!), and dreamed out loud about what God might do through us in the future. As we prayed around our table, I couldn’t help but hear Clay praying for unity from the table next to us. I heard Jadyn praying for God’s grace and presence from a table at the front of the room. During our discussions, I could hear Eric laughing from a couple of tables to my right. I watched as Byron and Brandon made the rounds, introducing themselves to about thirty different people. I watched Kristin pray with the church leaders at her table. I was so proud of our people last night, so proud of their eager participation and leadership in this great cause.

Steve Brooks opened things up by telling the story of how he and I first met a couple of years ago. The confession. The apology. The Spirit-led exchange of mutual appreciation and love between us. He led us in a time of meditation and prayer from Ephesians 4, reminding us that there  is just one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, and, while we use different amounts of water, just one baptism. We recognized together in prayer that we are called to be a unified people of God. We acknowledged that God is the Father of us all. And we pledged to commit to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

After those inspiring prayers, it was time for me to outline for the assembled group our plans for worship and service together over the next couple of years. I began by giving everyone a brief primer on the origins of the American Restoration Movement and the Churches of Christ. I talked about Thomas Campbell and Barton Stone, two Presbyterian preachers who got in trouble with their churches and their districts for preaching and practicing a radical Christian unity. I read “Proposition 9” from Campbell’s Declaration and Address, the founding document of the Stone-Campbell Movement, the charter for what came to be known as Churches of Christ:

“That all that are enabled, through grace, to make the Christian confession and to manifest the reality of it in their tempers and conduct, should consider each other as the precious saints of God, should love each other as brethren, children of the same family and Father, temples of the same Spirit, members of the same Body, subjects of the same grace, objects of the same divine love, bought with the same price, and joint heirs of the same inheritance. Whom God hath thus joined together, no one should dare to put asunder!”

Towards the end of the great document, Campbell issues the call, “What? Shall we pray for a thing and not strive to obtain it?”

The Churches of Christ are a Christian unity movement started by a couple of Presbyterian preachers. As a group, I confess, we have strayed far from our roots. It is so beautiful — poetic, even — that we were together last night in a Presbyterian church building. It was meaningful for me and for us from GCR. It was symbolic to embrace our roots in that significant way. We’re hugging Presbyterians!

“What?  Shall we pray for a thing and not strive to obtain it?”

I outlined our plans together. We’re going to worship together in combined settings with all four of our churches at least three times per year: Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday/Good Friday, and the Sunday night before Thanksgiving. We’re going to rotate hosts churches, combine our worship teams and choirs, and praise our God as one Body of Christ. We’re going to bring the very best of what our four churches and our four faith traditions have to offer together to bless all of us and to honor our Lord Jesus. And all four of us preachers are going to swap pulpits once a year, beginning on that Sunday morning before Thanksgiving, November 24, 2024.

I then led us through a time of brainstorming together at each of our tables for a combined service project we can do late Spring or early Summer to work side-by-side to bless the city of Midland. We received a couple of dozen excellent suggestions that we’ll be discussing together in the coming weeks.

After that, Steve Schorr reminded us of Psalm 105:4, “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” He recalled a few past ecumenical efforts in Midland that started strong, but lost their focus. These unity initiatives began to emphasize big names and big crowds and large platforms and lost their sense of the presence of God and his leadership of his people. Steve encouraged us to move forward together, seeking only the face of our God and his leading. It was heart-felt and honest. Moving. Inspiring.

After one more time of prayer around our tables, pledging to give our unity and our efforts to God for his purposes, Darin brought it home with an encouraging charge and benediction. He thanked everyone for our willingness, our eagerness, to put aside our differences, to tear down our walls, to come together in Christ for the sake of our city.

“What? Shall we pray for a thing and not strive to obtain it?”

I am so thankful to for the growing friendships I’m blessed by God to share with Darin, Steve, and Steve. I am so grateful for the ecumenical spirit of our four churches and the commitment we share to worship and serve together in the name and manner of our Lord Jesus. This partnership will shape us and make us more like Christ. All of us. Everybody in our churches. And it will proclaim in undeniable ways the love and grace of God, his healing and his joy, to a divided world that needs to see and experience what being one together in Christ looks like.



4 Midland

Four guys walk into a bar: a Baptist, a Methodist, a Church of Christ, and a Presbyterian… that’s a joke.

Four sets of ministers and elders walk into a church building to pray: Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ, and Presbyterian… that’s not a joke. It’s the holy will of our God and a magnificent witness to our city of the power of Jesus! And it’s happening this evening!

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through [the apostles’] message, 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. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” ~John 17:20-23

We believe it is God’s will that all his children, all disciples of his Son, be reconciled. We think God’s great desire is for all Christians to be brought together as a powerful witness to the world of his love and peace. You know, this is in our Church of Christ DNA. It was established in the opening lines of Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address, the charter document for our Restoration Movement, written in August 1809:

“That it is the grand design and native tendency of our holy religion to reconcile and unite men to God and to each other in truth and love to the glory of God; and their own present and eternal good will will not, we presume, be denied by any of the genuine subjects of Christianity.”

The whole document is about reconciliation, the kind of reconciliation that drives God’s eternal plans. The very ministry of reconciliation he’s given those of us who profess our faith in him. The words in this document are bold and aggressive and they ring with undeniable beauty and truth. They call for a swift end to all divisions among those who follow Jesus:

“Has the Captain of Salvation sounded a desist from pursuing this deadly enemy that is sheathing its sword in the very bowels of Christ’s Church, rending and mangling his mystical Body to pieces? Has he said to his servants, ‘Let it alone?’ If not, where is the warrant for a cessation of endeavors to have it removed?”

Campbell claims that tearing down the walls and uniting with all our brothers and sisters in Christ is a matter of universal right, a duty belonging to every citizen of the Kingdom of God. And while the work will be difficult and the opposition will come mainly from within the church establishment, Campbell says it is God’s will. It is the Church’s will. It is the will of those who’ve gone before us:

“Both the mighty and the many are with us. The Lord himself, and all that are truly his people, are declaredly on our side. The prayers of all the churches, nay, the prayers of Christ himself, and of all that have ascended to his heavenly Kingdom, are with us.”

I thank God for the Campbells and the Stones and the other giants of the faith who latched on to God’s holy will as revealed to us in Scripture and would not let go. I thank God for the ecumenical spirit of the GCR Church toward our brothers and sisters in other Christian churches in our city. I’m grateful for the willingness here — the eagerness! — to unite with other Christ-followers.

This evening, the GCR elders and ministers are meeting at First Presbyterian Church with their elders and ministers and the elders and ministers from First Baptist and First Methodist to spend two hours together in dinner and prayer. We are forming an alliance, a partnership. We’re calling it “4 Midland.” It’s a hopefully obvious play on words. Four churches breaking down our walls, putting aside our differences, to unite together for the sake of our city.

We’re not 100% sure what this looks like yet. We know it’s going to be a worship and service partnership that brings our people together side-by-side in order to bless Midland. We want to worship together at least three times a year, beginning this next Spring: Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday/Good Friday, and the Sunday evening before Thanksgiving. We’re still figuring out which churches are going to host each worship service. We also want our four preachers swapping pulpits with each other once a year, probably on that Sunday morning before Thanksgiving, November 24, 2024. As for an annual service project in our city, we’re still taking suggestions. That’s one of the things we’re going to pray about together tonight.

We do believe this partnership between denominations will be a powerful witness to our city that Jesus really is the Prince of Peace, that he really does possess the power to reconcile and unite. Jesus says in the middle of Matthew 18 that if two or three of his people will come together and agree on anything, he’ll show up just to see it! And we believe he will.

Whatever good comes from this alliance, we know it must begin in prayer. So that’s what we’re doing tonight at First Presbyterian. We’re going to pray. We’re going to commit to one another — all four churches — as brothers and sisters in Christ. We’re going to pledge in prayer that we will not be competitive, that we will not be territorial, that we will see our area of Midland as the part of the Kingdom of God we’ve been given to serve together. And we’re going to submit the whole thing to him. In prayer, we’re going to give our partnership, our efforts, our projects, all of it to our merciful Father for his purposes and to his eternal glory and praise.

It starts tonight. I have only hopes and dreams for where it might be going. But it starts tonight.