Category: Legacy Church Family (page 2 of 36)

Ordained by the Community of Christ

Larry Lemmons of channel 7, the ABC affiliate here in Amarillo, produced a nice piece on the “4 Amarillo” churches that aired on Christmas night. You can view the three minute video by clicking here.

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Worshiping with the Legacy church last Sunday got me to thinking all this week about my ordination as a proclaimer of God’s Word. Yeah, I believe with all my heart that our God has been preparing me my whole life to preach the gospel. Yes, I went to seminary and studied Greek. And, of course, I do feel ordained by the Lord to do what I’m doing. But I don’t think those things alone give anyone the right to preach. I’m beginning to understand more and more that the community of faith must ordain its preacher in order for the relationship between proclaimer and listener, preacher and congregation, to work.

So, who ordained me? The elders hired me and prayed over me. But how does a preacher really become ordained to minister with a particular church family? It has become clear to me this week, especially since seeing all those wonderful people at Legacy and visiting with all those dear friends. It’s both a one time event and a lifetime progression. It’s both formal and relational.

At Legacy, Tom ordained me when he asked me to baptize his daughter Sarah. She was the first person I baptized at Legacy. I asked him why he wanted me to do it and he replied, “She needs to be baptized by the preacher; and you’re our preacher.” A similar thing happened with Brooklyn, who greeted me this past Sunday with happy tears in her eyes. Don ordained me when, after a particularly tough sermon in which I challenged a couple of long-held practices of ours, he told me, “Allan, you are my friend, you’re my brother, and you’re my preacher!” Louise ordained me from her wheelchair when she promised me, “I pray for you every single morning.” And I believed her. Jim and Elvera ordained me when they asked me to marry them. This widow and widower had more than 90 years of marriage experience between them when they asked me to preside over their wedding. Dan ordained me when he walked in to my office one day and asked if I could help him with some specific spiritual questions he had. He’s older than me, been a Christian much longer than me, but he said he needed my wisdom. Paul and Jean ordained me when their son was killed in that car accident. Alene ordained me when she asked me to do Bob’s funeral.

I think ordination is both positional and relational — it must be both. Tom didn’t really know me when he asked me to baptize Sarah, but he trusted it was the right thing to do because I was the preacher. Louise didn’t really know me at the time, but she vowed to pray for me every day. Don and I had disagreed about several things during my first couple of years at Legacy, but when he called me his preacher, it was a sign of love and respect that had taken some time. Brooklyn’s ordination of me was in relationship. So was Jim and Elvera’s. Paul and Jean’s was through a shared experience of tragedy. Alene’s affirmation and trust was forged in hours of prayer together.

It’s both. I think the congregation has to say — collectively and individually — this is my preacher, given to us by God, and we’re going to support him and love him and trust him because he’s been placed here with us by Christ. In the same way, the preacher must make the same commitments: these are my people, my church family, given to me by God, and I’m going to support and love and trust these people because Christ has brought us together for his purposes. It’s both formal and relational.

It’s been very helpful to me this week to recognize the many ways I’ve been ordained. Here at Central, Eldrena anointed me with oil one hour before I preached my first sermon here. John Todd and Kami ordained me by bringing us dinner and providing a microwave for our apartment the first night we spent in Amarillo. Lanny ordained me by asking me to perform Judy’s funeral. Nick and Sara ordained me by asking me to do their wedding. Jim and Becky ordained me through some tough conversation and prayer in their kitchen. Wesley ordained me by reflecting on our sermons with emails and cards. Every week I’m ordained by these faithful Christians at Central in living rooms and hospital wards, at lunch and in my study, through phone calls and emails.

And I could keep going. All the dozens of people throughout my childhood and teenage years who told me how wonderful my prayer or my sermonette or my devo talk or my communion meditation or my song leading was, even when it really wasn’t very good at all. The Room 208 class in Mesquite. Kevin’s pushing me to leave radio and pursue preaching and putting his money where his mouth was. Jason and Dan encouraging me through that stressful transition. Donna Steward asking me to baptize her gardener, my first. Lee Ann Clark asking me to do her mother’s funeral, my first. God himself ordaining me by thrusting me into pastoral situations whether I was ready or not: praying over an unconscious Berrilyn Daniel at that WinterFest, moving David Griffin out of that horrible situation in south Marble Falls.

Play with the semantics all you want: God ordains and the congregation affirms, the elders ordain and the church family confirms, whatever. But I know now that it’s both a one time event and a lifetime progression. It’s both formal and relational. And a preacher in God’s Church couldn’t do the job with it being any other way.

Peace,

Allan

A Preacher’s Honor

Preachers are a blessed bunch of people. We don’t deserve our blessings, we don’t earn them, we don’t seek them. But the blessings from our God and his people fall on us and overwhelm us quite regularly. We are honored above most other groups of people. And we would do well to be more aware of those blessings and honors, to recognize them and appreciate them when they arrive.

The people in our churches honor us by sharing their lives with us. They give us glimpses into their hearts that other people never see. They allow us to look into their very souls, they open up their emotions to us, they come clean with us about their struggles and doubts, and they share with us their greatest joys.

And, why?

God only knows.

I was so incredibly honored this past Sunday to perform the marriage ceremony for Landon Brightwell and Taylor Bates, two precious kids from the Legacy youth group. Honored. My first real exposure to Landon was the day his dad dragged him into my office and asked me to talk to him for an hour about some trouble he was getting in to. Landon and I were both very uncomfortable. He mainly listened and fidgeted in his chair while I tried to inspire him with stories from the gospels and hypothetical situations involving his uncertain future if he didn’t shape up. I was terribly ineffective that afternoon. But his dad trusted me with his son. His dad thought I could help and he trusted what I might say.


 

 

 

 

 

Over the next three years I watched as our Lord began to speak to Landon and his friends and to work in them and through them in astounding ways. These three guys began showing up to the Tuesday men’s Bible study, blessing the old men in the group, asking all the right questions, speaking deeply from their hearts. They began taking regular shifts during Legacy Morning Prayers, blessing our elders and ministers, being blessed by Quincy, growing in their faith in God and in their trust in his Church and in one another. They pranked my house, put live goldfish in the bed of my truck, planted apple trees on my front porch, and put living room furniture in my front yard. And they prayed with me before I left for Amarillo.

I’ve only seen Landon maybe once or twice since we left; I haven’t talked to Taylor at all. And when he called me over the summer to ask me if I’d marry them, it completely blew me away. Why? Why do want me to do your wedding?

“Because you’re our preacher.”

I’m not sure a preacher can hear any more encouraging and affirming and honoring words than those. It’s humbling and it’s flattering. But above all, I believe it’s an honor.

To be able to share this most important day with Landon and Taylor, to be right in the middle of this foundational day with them and their sweet families, was such a blessed honor for me. And I know it has very little, if anything, to do with my sermons or my teachings or the things I believe. It has nothing at all to do with any special talents or abilities. It’s only because I just happened to be their preacher when they were growing up. I was their preacher.

Carrie-Anne and I worshiped with the Legacy church family Sunday for the first time since we left a little over three years ago. And we were honored from the moment we walked in until the moment we drove off to lunch with the Byrnes and Cindy Pope. We were hugged and kissed, appreciated and encouraged. Lots of people expressed how much they miss us. A few pointed out some things we started at Legacy that are still continuing today and are very much a part of the church’s DNA. Several thanked me for something I had done or said in the past. Three people asked me to pray for someone in their family.

Whoa.

What an honor. Because I’m a preacher.

Preachers don’t deserve the trust people put in us. We’re not worthy of receiving the parts of their lives others choose to share with us. All of it is a gracious gift from our God.

Lord, please help us recognize and appreciate those honors as the gifts to us they are, to more fully understand the position you’ve placed us in and how you’re working through us for your purposes and glory.

Invitation to Possession

I see movie trailers all the time teasing the next big demon-possession flick: based on a true story. Movies about demon-possession: based on historical events. Books about demon-possession. Newspaper and magazine articles about demon-possession.

You ever heard of an angel possession?

Why is it always the demons?

See, the Spirit of God is not interested in a violent takeover. Of anything. God’s Spirit will never enter your heart or your head or your body and cause you to do things against your will. That’s not how our God operates. God’s way is through invitation.

“Come and see.” “Come and eat.” “Come follow me.”

Gracious invitation.

“Give me your burdens.” “Cast your cares on me.”

Gentle, loving invitation.

The ways we act with each other and with the world will reflect our views of God. Our thoughts and deeds will communicate our understanding of our Savior. A kind invitation will always go a lot farther than an aggressive assault. And it’s much more in line with Christ-likeness and godly behavior.
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This past Sunday may have been Mother’s Day at your church. Here at Central it was Delta Day!

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 Yu Darvish finished one out away from a no-hitter at the temple Friday night and there were ten of us in the seats down the third base line to witness it together. It was probably a little weird for Brock since his dad and Greg Dowell and Spruce and Hub-Daddy were all there. It probably felt like we had made the trip for an intervention. But we just had an absolute blast. Greg ate for the cycle. Danny kept threatening to take off his shirt. I won $13 dollars from the rest of the guys on Martin’s homer in the 5th. Lanny tried to double-down on the Dot Race. I think Hub was actually rooting against the little kid running the stolen base promotion. And Andy was oblivious to all of it because he kept his eyes laser focused on the field the whole night.

It was so good to get caught up with Byrnes and the Drakes. And, yes, Darvish is impressive. Wow. I’ve been to countless hundreds of baseball games in my life. Still never seen a no-hitter.

On a side note, wouldn’t the Rangers be really, really good if Darvish could pitch every night?

Peace,

Allan

Raised with Christ

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” ~Colossians 3:1-4

Our youngest daughter, Carley, was baptized into Christ Jesus on Sunday. She publicly renounced the ways of the world and confessed the ultimate lordship of Jesus and her commitment to him. She was buried with him — symbolically, sacramentally; she was raised with Christ — symbolically, sacramentally — to walk in newness of eternal life with our King. She has been forgiven by God of every sin she’s ever committed and will ever commit against his great holiness. She is now indwelled by God himself in the form of his Spirit — symbolized by the first huge breath she took after coming up out of the watery grave. And she belongs exclusively to our heavenly Father. She is his and he is hers. Forever. Amen.

As we talked and prayed with Carley this past week, she asked me almost every night, “Who’s going to do the ‘Since then…?'”

The “Since then…” is the congregational reading of Colossians 3:1-4. It’s a baptismal tradition/liturgy at the Legacy church we initiated with the opening of the new worship center there in 2008. As soon as the newly baptized follower came up out of the water, the congregation would recite those words of blessing and challenge, of affirmation and commission. It was — and still is — a powerful way for the church to participate in the baptism and for the wet Christian to feel the strength of belonging now to a baptized community.

Well, we don’t do that here at Central.

Yes, we clap and cheer and sometimes even stand and shout when someone is baptized. Several people are usually waiting backstage to pray with the newly baptized brother or sister afterward . For teenagers, as many as thirty or forty people will crowd back there to offer congratulations and prayers. But our worship center is built and our baptistry positioned in such a way that congregational participation in a baptism event itself is all but impossible. Our baptistry is some 25-feet up in the air, far removed from the church itself. People on the very front pews are still 75-feet away from the water and are forced to watch the baptisms on the giant screens. Folks scattered around the giant room are even farther away and have no choice but to watch it on the screens. I was dismayed Sunday to walk out into the water in front of our church with my wife and our youngest daughter, and look out into our loving congregation to see 99-percent of them not looking at us, but watching on the screens. And we’re in the same room! Our building has turned baptisms into a spectator event.

But I asked our brothers and sisters to read the “Since then…” to Carley when she came up out of the water. We put the words on the screen. And they did it. It was beautiful. It was powerful. It honored us as a family. And it meant the world to Carley.

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you, Central Church of Christ, for loving our daughter and our whole family the way you do. Not a day goes by that we don’t recognize how blessed we are to be with you. Thank you to our small group and Carley’s middle school Muddle families who blessed us so wonderfully at our home Sunday night. You poured truth into our daughter. You affirmed her; you challenged her; you read God’s Holy Word to her and promised to always love her. Thank you. Thank you to the Popes and the Marshalls who drove thirteen hours round trip from Legacy to rejoice with us this weekend. Your friendship is a testament to the faithfulness of our God. And thank you to Carrie-Anne’s mom and my parents who sacrificed a lot to be here this past weekend. You received the Christian faith from your parents, you passed it on to your children, and you are blessing us as we pass it on together to your grandchildren. Thank you.

Carley, you now belong to our God. Paul told the Christians in Galatia that you are a daughter of God by faith when you clothe yourself with Christ by baptism (Galatians 3:26-27). When you were baptized Sunday, you put to death the old Carley. You killed that girl; you buried her. And when you came up out of the water, you were a brand new creature. God has created something brand new inside you Carley, so that by his Spirit you will experience all of life in a brand new way. Death has nothing on you now, precious daughter. And neither does sin.

Our prayer for you, Carley, is that our God will bless you richly with his grace and peace, his protection and provision. Our great desire is to see you become more and more like our Lord. Our eternal hope is that you walk with him faithfully, all the way to the end.

We love you. And we are so proud of you. And we know your life in Christ is going to result in praise and glory to God. May his holy will be done in you and through you, Carley, just as it is in heaven.

Love, like you just can’t believe,

Dad

Great Night for Great Cities

Whoever had the idea of hosting the annual DFW area fundraiser at the Ballpark in Arlington deserves a raise. Unless it’s Kelley.

What a magnificent time we had Friday night at the Rangers Hall of Fame with Jim Sundberg and about 600 of our good friends, eating delicious barbecue and raising a lot of money for Great Cities Missions. For Carrie-Anne and the girls and me, we experienced several worlds colliding as we ran into a bunch of great friends from Legacy, Central, Dallas Christian, and Oklahoma Christian. Yu Darvish struck out ten and the Rangers bats finally woke up in an enjoyable rout of the Mariners. And I ate for the cycle: barbecue, nachos, cotton candy, and ice-cream.

Yes, I admit it, I was gushing a bit when I introduced Jim Sundberg to the crowd and engaged in some Q&A with the Rangers’ legend. Darryn Pope accused me of almost kissing Sunny and Craig Gladman said the whole thing was a disgusting spectacle. But we all learned about Matt Harrison’s back injury, we heard what it was like trying to catch Charlie Hough, and we auctioned off nearly $3,000 worth of autographed baseballs. All told, Great Cities Missions raised right at $73,000 Friday night for the support of missionaries and the planting of churches in Latin America.

The following morning, Saturday, I was blessed to join the GCM board of directors for their meeting. I was honored to be invited to deliver the devotional at the beginning of their meeting and intended to use my time to praise and encourage this impressive group of faithful men and women who work so tirelessly in the Kingdom of God. But, in the end, I was the one who came away the most encouraged and inspired. Man, there’s a bunch of really great people at Great Cities Missions. What they are doing is God’s work. They see people the way God sees people and they turn their lives upside down for the Gospel.

Everyone Jesus met, he saw them as beautiful. Beautiful because of what they were meant to be. Beautiful because of what they were created to be. Beautiful because he saw in them what they were actually going to be. And the folks at Great Cities Missions embrace that kind of thinking and doing every day with everything they’ve got. They partner with and train and support the men and women who are giving their very lives to the great cause of Christ. They organize and raise money and pray and travel and sacrifice and serve for the ultimate promises of God in Christ. They don’t just believe in the mission; they are grabbing it! They’re investing in relationships, they’re making themselves vulnerable, they’re taking the risks, they’re holding nothing back.

At one point in the meeting, while listening to another trainer and church planter tell another powerful story about a missionary family working in a foreign field, I leaned over to John Todd and said, “Man, the people in this room, they’re all in, huh?” He said, “Oh, yeah. Every one of them.”

Yes, these people get it. They see the beauty of the street kids in Fort Worth and Brazil. They see the beauty of the lost people in Chile and Arlington. They see the beauty of the hurting men and women in Columbia and Mexico. They see all the people of the world not just for who they are and what they are, they see them for what our Father in heaven created and intended them to be.

The God who began a great work with Great Cities Missions is faithful to continue that work and, on that great final day of eternal glory, bring it to completion.

Peace,

Allan

Bold and Stouthearted

“When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted.” ~Psalm 138:3

The Word we preach and teach, the Gospel we proclaim and practice, the Kingdom of God we live in to and out of is mind-blowing, history-changing, earth-altering Truth. We declare the unmerited love and favor of the Almighty Creator of the Universe. We proclaim a righteous relationship with this Holy God through the selfless sacrifice of his perfect Son. We preach the unsurpassed power and authority extravagantly given to us by his Holy Spirit. It is the greatest news this world has ever heard. It impacts all who hear it. It transforms all who respond to it. And preaching and teaching it, practicing it and living it comes with a price.

Allow me to tell you: Hang in there. Don’t stop.

“I will praise your name for your love and faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your Word.” ~Psalm 138:2

The name and the Word of our Lord are highest above all other things. Exalted. In Truth, in power, in beauty, in holiness, in everlasting glory, the name and the Word of our God are above all else. Yes, we know it. Yes, we believe it. But it’s not easy. In fact, proclaiming it and living it are very difficult. Marva Dawn has much to say about this in A Royal Waste of Time:

“If we are truly passionate about the texts and the Lord of the texts when we preach, it will cost us. We are painting a vision of the Kingdom of God in opposition to the reign in this world of other powers, so it is a spiritual battle we are fighting, which will also physically exhaust us. We have to allow ourselves plenty of time to recover, a Sabbath of rest. We might also have to fight the darkness of doubts, the fiends of seeming failure in society’s terms, the monsters of personal hang-ups, the demons of misunderstanding on the part of those who hear or refuse to hear.”

Dawn is addressing preachers in that passage. But all of us — yeah, you, too! — need to pay attention to it. Most of the time, our words don’t come close to matching what’s in our hearts. Most of the time, our sermons and lessons don’t live up to the power of the Truth. Most of the time, our best efforts to live the Kingdom of God fall woefully short of the splendor of our King and the beauty of his love and majesty and reign.

Hang in there. Don’t stop.

God is doing something wonderful with you.

For all of you who teach and preach; all of you who cook and clean, plan and pray, sacrifice and serve; all of you who give of yourselves day in and day out for the glory of our God and his holy Kingdom:

“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for you; your love, O Lord, endures forever — do not abandon the works of your hands.” ~Psalm 138:8

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The room was packed, the energy was electric, and the anticipation was high. The Sharks concert in our worship center Saturday night had been sold out for weeks (most free concerts are) and the thousand or so in attendance (preacher’s count) were not disappointed. Johnny Weems belted out the crowd favorites while Kelly Utsinger maintained the tone of the evening with the harmonica and the corny jokes and the rest of the Sharks — a little wider and a little grayer than when they were tearing it up back in the ’80s — performed each of their musical and entertainment roles beautifully. It was a great trip down memory lane for the Sharks and their die-hard fans. But it was a wonderfully powerful night for thousands of folks in Kenya who’ve never even heard of Elvis or Buddy Holley, or the Coasters.

The Sharks were attempting to raise $10,000 at Saturday’s show to benefit Christian Relief Fund’s efforts to dig a single water well in the drought-stricken and famine-plagued area of Turkana, Kenya. The numbers are in today and the total has been announced as $19,500! With money still trickling in!

Thanks to Kelly and the Sharks, thanks to the generous hearts and open wallets of the Christ-followers at Central and all over Amarillo, thanks to our gracious God in heaven and his faithfulness to the cries of his children, CRF is going to be drilling two wells now in Turkana, not just one! Doppler Dave made the plea on behalf of CRF Saturday night. But our God is the one who moved his people to respond to his call to bring his love and goodness to those in need.

Except for the awful fish jokes, praise God for everything that happened here Saturday night and for everything he will do for the starving people in Kenya tomorrow.

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My heart goes out to Beth Bobo. She and her husband, Elvin, were great encouragers of mine during our time at Legacy. Whether praying together in my office, sharing laughs over funny stories and pictures, kidding each other about sermon length and yet another story about yet another cruise, Elvin and Beth cared for me. They cared for the young people of our church, faithfully teaching and volunteering in our children’s programs. They cared about the older people in our church, tirelessly planning and coordinating more events and functions than you could imagine. They cared about the needy and the marginalized of our community, setting up and serving and tearing down and cleaning at every single Give Away Day. They cared about the lost of the world, giving and giving and giving to our local and foreign missions efforts. Elvin and Beth cared about God’s Church. And they cared about God’s Gospel preachers. And they went way out of their way to care for me.

Elvin died early this morning. And my heart goes out to his sweet wife, Beth.

There is in store today a crown of righteousness for my brother, Elvin, awarded to him by our Lord, the righteous Judge. Elvin has finished his race. And he ran it well. He ran it very well.

Grace & Peace,

Allan

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