Category: Central Church Family (page 1 of 47)

Church Innovation

We’re doing what we can around here to make sure the mission continues. God is not quarantined. The Gospel is not sheltering in place. Yes, we’re having to adjust. We’re doing things we never thought we’d be doing. Nobody taught me about live stream and Zoom and podcasts at seminary. I never took a course on infectious diseases. But our God is still very much at work in Amarillo, Texas and in and through Central Church of Christ.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” ~John 16:33

Peace,

Allan

Virus Purpose

“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me.” ~John 9:4

We have a tremendous opportunity to point to our Lord Jesus in the ways we behave during this virus crisis. Our perspective is reframed by Christ. We don’t complain or criticize, we don’t point fingers and blame. Like our Lord, we share and sacrifice and serve for the sake of others. There is such an opportunity right now to really stand out as generous and kind.

Whether you go to Wal-Mart eight times a day or once a week, you could knock three or four doors on your street before you go. Ask your neighbors, “Can I get anything for you? I’m going to the store, what do you need?” Maybe you could give toilet paper away on your street. There’s a Seinfeld episode about not being able to spare a square. Maybe you can start a trend by sharing a square, sharing a whole bunch of squares!

The point is: When this thing is over, do we want to be known as greedy hoarders or as generous sharers? At the end of this crisis, we don’t want people to remember that the Christians were the ones buying up all the toilet paper and hamburger meat. We want people to think, “You know, I may not agree with their position on abortion or divorce or whatever, I may not fully understand everything they do on Sundays and why they do it, but those Christians are so kind. They’re so generous. They kept checking up on me. They shared valuable resources with me. They really care about others.”

That’s what brings glory to God. That’s what displays our God’s work in the world.

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We dropped another podcast here at Central yesterday afternoon: a 15-minute conversation with one of our home-school moms, Danna Lagan. She provides helpful tips and encouragement for everyone who became home-school parents for the first time this week. With our schools shut down across the country,  many folks are now stuck at home with the kids and trying to help them with their online learning. An increasing number of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren are now trying to figure out how to help a grandchild with 6th grade math! Danna addresses these things, as well as schedules, power struggles, and outside resources on this podcast. You can access it by clicking here.

Peace,

Allan

Virus Priorities

“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me.” ~John 9:4

When the grocery store shelves are empty, when your work hours have been cut in half, when the banquet has been canceled, and you don’t even want to look at your 401k — when the news is always breaking, always urgent, and always bad — it’s easy to think only of yourself. It’s tempting to concentrate on your safety, your security, your possessions, and your lifestyle. But Jesus resets your priorities.

Jesus walks into Jerusalem and gives this blind man his sight and brings glory to God. Jesus repairs what is messed up and points to God’s work in the world. Fixing what is broken, making right what has gone wrong — that brings glory to God. Notice how this man’s healing, his circumstance, becomes a display for God’s work. The man publicly testifies that Jesus is from God. He confesses his faith: “Lord, I believe.” The Pharisees accuse and criticize this man. “Give glory to God!” they say. And the healed man responds, “I am! Look what Jesus did for me! I was blind, but now I see!”

Our elders at Central made the decision nine days ago: No matter what happens with this virus, our priority is to love our neighbors, to protect the vulnerable and those at risk, and to minister to the marginalized. That’s the Christian thing to do. That what our Lord Jesus does and that’s what brings glory to God.

Not meeting together as a church right now is a way to love our neighbors. Even if you’re in your 20s and you run a half-marathon twice a month, even if you’re young and completely healthy and you think the national and state response is a bit overblown, not meeting for a while is a faithful attempt during this uncertain time to love neighbors you don’t know and protect vulnerable people you may never meet.

It’s like getting a flu shot. You don’t get a flu shot just for you. You get the shot so you won’t get the flu and pass it on to somebody who might not be able to handle it. If you get the flu, it may only knock you out for a couple of days; but you could then pass it on to somebody it might kill. So you get your flu shot because you love those vulnerable people. You do whatever you can to keep from getting it and spreading it to others.

That’s what we’re doing as a church right now. We are joining our community in trying to flatten the curve. We want to work together so that the peak of the infections will be smaller and more spread out. I’m not sure it’s ultimately going to keep people from getting the disease. But it might slow it down long enough to save more lives.

So we’re not meeting as a group right now. Our Sticky Buddy event for this Sunday night has been canceled (that was a no-brainer; it was at the bowling alley, probably not the most sanitary place in Amarillo). The Evening of Chocolate for tonight has been postponed (there’s a whole bunch of chocolate in this building somewhere; I just haven’t been able to find it). But that doesn’t mean we are not still the Church.

Church is not a building we use once a week on Sunday mornings. Our gatherings are suspended, but our ministries are not. We’re still providing dinner at Martha’s Home and studying and praying and encouraging our sisters there. Loaves and Fishes looks a lot different, but we are still handing out a bunch of groceries on Thursdays. The procedures for Snack Pack for Kids has been modified, but we’re still getting food to the students at Bivins Elementary. Our Sunday morning prayer breakfast was tweaked, but everybody who showed up got a free meal. Our Care Central process is not the same, but we’re still paying water bills and getting state I.D.s and giving out gas cards and praying for everybody who walks through the doors.

We made the decision last Monday. The rule of thumb for us is if it protects the vulnerable, if it comforts the grieving, if it ministers to the marginalized, we’re going to keep doing it. Absolutely. “We must do the work of him who sent me.”

Peace,

Allan

Virus Perspective

I’m not sure any of us knows exactly what’s happening right now or what’s driving it. I spent over two hours last Sunday going to more than twenty stores looking for toilet paper and I couldn’t find a square! Carrie-Anne actually ordered toilet paper online. I’m not kidding. That’s actually a thing. And we did it.

My daughter’s college graduation has been postponed, March Madness has been canceled, and the Whataburger’s closed! We were two people away from me singing soprano on the praise team yesterday! What kind of a world are we living in?

Now, I do believe that everybody’s doing the very best they can. I really do. I believe everybody who’s making decisions for us are doing so with pure motives and in the best interests of the most people. But, still. I don’t feel like I actually know anything. Do you know anything for sure?

Is it just the older people who are suffering or are younger people beginning to get sick? How exactly is this thing transmitted? Do we have testing kits or not? Is this going to be a two-week thing or a two-year thing? Is all of this virus scare and the shutdowns and closings overblown or underappreciated? Is the government doing too much or not enough? Am I going to have any money left when this is over? And what about this tickle in my throat? What’s that all about? You know? These are anxious times. Things are unstable at best, and maybe even chaotic. People are frustrated. And nervous. And scared.

There’s a lot we don’t know for sure. A lot. But I believe our Lord Jesus gives us the proper perspective for dealing with this outbreak.

In John 9, Jesus and his disciples come upon a man born blind. When the disciples see this guy, they view his situation in a certain way. What’s their perspective? They want to blame somebody. They want to point fingers. They want to turn this guy into a theological case study. Who sinned? Whose fault is this? This is a bad thing that’s happened here — who messed up? Who’s right and who’s wrong? Let’s get after it!

And while the apostles are pulling out their commentaries and word studies and their grandfather’s lectureship notes, Jesus completely reframes the whole conversation. Jesus says nobody sinned. Nobody did anything wrong. That’s not why this man is blind.

“It happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” ~John 9:3

Jesus says this man born blind is going to be a banner, a display, a huge billboard for the glory of God and everybody’s going to see it! God is going to work through this man’s particular circumstances and God’s name is going to be praised!

The disciples are asking the wrong questions. They’re looking to point fingers and to lay blame. Their instinct is to criticize and complain. But Jesus refocuses their perspective. He reframes how he wants his followers to see a crisis. What can God do with this? What is God going to do with this? Those are the right questions. That’s the proper perspective.

I know every five minutes it seems like more places are closing down, more events are being cancelled, and more activities are being suspended. But the Gospel is not suspended. Jesus Christ has not been stopped. The Church has not shut down and the mission has not been slowed down. Our God is still very much at work and his name is still to be glorified and praised.

Do you see God at work in this virus? Have you seen evidence of his love and grace in the middle of this mess? Are you looking for the proof of his presence in this crisis? Are you looking for it?

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While we’re not physically meeting together right now, we’re doing everything we can to keep connected as a church family at Central. We’ve started a weekly podcast of Central people talking about Central things and each morning we’re livestreaming our church staff’s regular Word and Prayer time. We’re making lots of phone calls and producing lots of videos and resources on the fly. Most of this is new, some of it is quite challenging, and all of it is being used by God’s Spirit to draw his people closer to him and closer to one another in a really strange time.

Peace,

Allan

Prayer of Petition

For the past two years, my mornings with the Lord have been guided by my little blue book. I was given the book, “A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants,” at the Transforming Community in Chicago. For each week of the year it contains the Lectionary readings, some inspirational writings, a hymn, and some prayers. (When I don’t know the hymn, I sing it out loud to the tune of “Amazing Grace” which, somehow, usually works.)

What follows here is the prayer for the week offered in my little blue book. I have prayed this prayer out loud every morning this week and I used it to close out the podcast we recorded yesterday for our church family. It seems divinely-ordained to be used by God’s people this week. It’s attributed to William Barclay. And I’d like to share it with you.

O God, our Father, we know that the issues of life and death are in your hands, and we know that you are loving us with an everlasting love. If it is your will, grant us to live in happiness and peace.

In all our undertakings,
grant us prosperity and good success.
In all our friendships,
grant us to find our friends faithful and true.
In all bodily things,
make us fit and healthy,
able for the work of the day.
In all the things of the mind,
make us calm and serene,
free from anxiety and worry.
In material things,
save us from poverty and want.
In spiritual things,
save us from doubt and distrust.
Grant us
in our work, satisfaction;
in our study, true wisdom;
in our pleasure, gladness;
in our love, loyalty.

And if misfortune does come to us, grant that any trial may only bring us closer to one another and closer to you; and grant that nothing may shake our certainty that you work all things together for good, and that a Father’s hand will never cause his child a needless tear.

Hear this, our prayer;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Stacey and Gary

There’s a Toot ‘n Totum gas station and convenience store on 15th and Washington, about two blocks west of our church building. I’m in that store almost every morning getting my large iced tea and, when I’m having a certain kind of day, in the afternoon for a Diet Dr Pepper. Stacey is the manager there and Gary¬† is one of her clerks.

The location of that store means there are all kinds of people who come in: those experiencing homelessness, the economically disadvantaged who live in the area, the transients coming and going on I-40, and all those on their way to and from work. It can be a three-ring circus in there sometimes. There’s the occasional drama in the parking lot. And Stacey and Gary consistently demonstrate grace and kindness to everyone.

Everybody knows Stacey and Gary by name and they know all their customers by name, too. It reminds me of the TV show “Cheers.” Everyone is warmly greeted when they walk through the door, most by name, and everyone is made to feel welcome. It’s a great way to start the day.

The #sentbycentral missions envelope I received in church Sunday contained a $10 bill and I used it this morning to provide a hot breakfast for Stacey and Gary. Ten dollars is not going to change anybody’s life, but it’s all I needed for a Christian act of God’s grace. So with the temperature outside in the teens, I took Stacey and Gary a classic Whataburger breakfast: egg and sausage sandwiches on jalapeno-cheddar biscuits and bacon and sausage tacquitos. And a large Diet Dr Pepper for Stacey.

I told them how they reflect God’s glory in the way they treat all their customers. I told them how they bless me and everyone who walks into that store with their kindness and generosity. I expressed my appreciation for the way they show such concern for their customers and how they try to make and maintain connections. I told them that what they do gives everybody in this neighborhood a place to belong, a sense of community, and that’s also in the category of what our God wants for his children.

When I got to the church building I called the Toot ‘n Totum headquarters here in Amarillo and bragged on Stacey and Gary and their store at 15th and Washington. I told the woman on the phone that the way Stacey runs her store is a blessing to all of us. I told her that store is a tremendous asset to the neighborhood. The woman said she was glad to hear my compliments because she normally only hears complaints.

So, yeah. It seems really, really small. It’s breakfast in a bag on a random Wednesday morning. My prayer is that God uses the breakfast and the compliments to bless Stacey and Gary, to give them a small taste (literally and figuratively) of the goodness of our God and of his love and grace for them in Jesus Christ.

I pray that folks all over Amarillo are being blessed in similar ways this week through Central, in the name and manner of Jesus. Praise him.

Peace,

Allan

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