Burritos, Bounce Houses, and a Band

Central Church Family, Ministry No Comments »

When you’re moving your church’s traditional back-to-school picnic from your building on a Sunday morning to the campus of the nearest elementary school, when you’re inviting that school’s 550-students and their families, and when you’re doing this to communicate to your city that God’s Church is a community partner with them for the sake of good things, how do you guarantee that you’re going to get a crowd? Free burritos, bounce houses, and a live band.

Putting the school’s principal and the church’s preacher in a dunking booth didn’t hurt.


Central’s first “The End of Summer’s No Bummer” bash at Bivins Elementary last Wednesday evening was a roaring success by anybody’s measure. We gave away 450 burritos, ate and jumped and dunked and danced with a ton of people from our nearby community, and shared a whole lot of good will together in the name of our Lord. Principal Benny Barazza has given us almost unlimited access to his school, his students, and their families, and we’re doing our best to use these opportunities to share the generous love of Christ.

Today’s Amarillo Globe-News features a front-page, above-the-fold story about the Bivins event and all the local ministry projects sparked by Central’s “Ignite Initiative” (click here to read the AGN story). Our church has given away $125,000 over the past five months to five different non-profit organizations, we’ve supplied those same organizations with volunteers and summer interns, and we’re beside ourselves with anticipation over what God’s going to keep doing with these new mission partnerships. Lauren Koski’s story in today’s paper captured all of that with great pictures and interviews with Mary McNeill, our children’s minister, Benny Barazza at Bivins, Valerie Gooch, the executive director at Panhandle Adult Rebuilding Center, and Tyler Lovett, our summer intern at The PARC.

More and more, “missions” at Central is starting to mean both foreign and local ministry, it’s about both what God is doing overseas and what he’s doing across the street. And our community is taking notice. Christ’s Church is here to make an eternal difference in the lives of men, women, and children in our city. We’re here to serve others in the name and manner of Jesus.

Peace,

Allan

Joy in the Lord

Carley, Carrie-Anne, Central Church Family, Faith, Giving, Ministry, Valerie, Whitney No Comments »

You don’t necessarily have to turn on the evening news. In fact, do people even turn on the evening news anymore? All you have to do is not have your head buried in the sand to know that there is a great deal of anxiety and worry in our society. The state of things right now can very easily drag you down and steal your joy. How is it that the Bible commands children of God and disciples of Christ Jesus to always rejoice?

Well, where are your eyes? What are you looking at? What or who are you listening to?

As followers of Jesus, we are very well aware of all the things God is doing in us and through us. We can always rejoice in the knowledge and experience of God working among us. And that’s always constant. That never changes. God is always at work. We see the evidence of his great work, we sense the working out of his redemption and reconciliation plans, we feel his hand at work in us and through us, saving and changing lives all around us. The Lord is always at work among us and that is always reason to rejoice.

I see it in the Central teenagers who stop by my office on the way to Chick-Fil-A for a free promotional sandwich. Ellie and Justin are pouring into those kids the same grace that God has shown them and the kids are eating it up. I see it in the 30 men from Canadian Church of Christ with whom I had the great honor of hanging out with in Angel Fire this weekend. God is on the move with these men — moving in them and through them — and they are on fire for God’s mission in this world. I hear it when Valerie, our middle daughter, calls me from Arlington to tell me she’s changing her major from childhood education to youth ministry. God’s Spirit is changing Valerie forcefully and beautifully into a dedicated servant of the Gospel. I sense it when Carley, our youngest daughter, shows up in all the pictures from the Sao Paulo mission trip — painting, laughing, serving children, worshiping, leading. She’s finding her gifts and settling into her place in the Kingdom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I see it when my brothers and sisters at Central join forces to do good deeds for people in downtown Amarillo. We’re making gift bags for the staff and clients at CareNet and Gratitude House. We’re cleaning the carpets and painting the doors at PARC. We’re painting the storage shed and spreading new wood chips on the playground at Elwood Park. We’re giving away 200 books and reading the children at Bivins Elementary. We’re treating the ladies at Martha’s Home to a dinner out at a nice restaurant.

 

Our God is working in and through everything that’s going on around us. That knowledge and that experience gives us a stable and deep-rooted joy — an inner joy — that enables us to not only cope with disappointments, but to see things as they really are. In any and all circumstances God is always at work among his people. And that is always reason to rejoice.

Peace,

Allan

Moving Away From the Tomb

Ephesians, Ministry, Resurrection, Romans, Salvation No Comments »

I’m struck by the fact that nobody saw Jesus at the empty tomb. Clearly our risen Lord didn’t hang around the cemetery once the Spirit resurrected him back to life. It seems he got out of there as fast as he could. Yet, here are the women, looking for their living Lord among the graves. The angels ask, almost incredulously, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Good question.

Sometimes good faithful Christians can be stuck. We’re dead. Or, at least, we act like we’re dead. Some of us have followed Jesus to Jerusalem. We’ve endured suffering and pain in his name. We’ve carried the cross. Most of us have died on the cross of Christ and, even though we’ve been baptized for the forgiveness of our sins and received the gift of God’s Spirit inside us, we’ve never really been resurrected. Some of us don’t live like we’ve been given the gift of eternal life by the almighty author of life. We live like we’re still dead. We’re still knocking around in the dirt and dark of the grave. And we’re surprised when we have a hard time seeing Jesus. We’re surprised when there’s no experience of Jesus.

The resurrection is not just about heaven someday — it’s about a full life today!

But some of us are still buried in a tomb. We don’t sing. We don’t work. We don’t explore or experiment. We don’t accept challenges or tackle new tasks. We don’t grow. We don’t laugh. Singing and working and exploring and growing and laughing are what you do when you’re alive! If you’re grumpy all the time, you’re not living the resurrection life. If you’re negative all the time, you’re dead.

What are you thinking? God’s going to fix my attitude when I get to heaven?

“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ!” ~Ephesians 2:4

“Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life!” ~Romans 6:4

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” ~Romans 8:11

The death and resurrection of Jesus is not just about my sin and Jesus taking my punishment and now everything’s great. We’ve been given eternal life. We share in Christ’s resurrection so we can be holy, royal image-bearers, so we can be ambassadors for Jesus and partners in his Gospel.

But I want to play it safe. Better safe than sorry. I don’t want to take any risks. I don’t want to go out on a limb. I don’t want to change or grow.

Man, you’re living in the dark and cold of the grave! And that’s not really living. Follow Jesus away from the grave and into the warmth and light of his resurrection life!

Once the disciples moved away from the grave, they most certainly did not play anything safe. There was no hiding or sleeping. No stagnation or status quo. They started preaching and teaching. They sold their possessions to give to the poor. They violated city ordinances to proclaim the good news. They took mission trips on broken down boats and prayers. They sang praises in prison chains. They turned the world upside down for the Kingdom of God! That’s resurrection living!

It’s like a wonderfully talented musician on the verge of his own worldwide concert tour. He plays beautifully. He’s awesome. He’ll inspire thousands. But he’s caught up in a terrible crime and is thrown in jail. But, then, by some miracle, the governor declares a general amnesty and the great musician is released! His response is not just, “Whew! Thank goodness I don’t have to go to jail!” It’s, “Now I can play like I was born to play! I can perform like I was created to perform!”

Christians sometimes are too preoccupied with not going to jail.

Listen. If you’re in Christ, YOU’RE NOT GOING TO JAIL! So now you can really live!

This is good news, not good advice. This is the Gospel.

Peace,

Allan

Outstanding!

Central Church Family, Ministry No Comments »

Central Church of Christ was named Outstanding School Partner at last night’s Amarillo School District Partners in Education Banquet at the downtown civic center. Of the 26 nominees — churches, rotary clubs, foundations, etc., — Central was recognized as tops for our on-going partnership with Bivins Elementary.

Our children’s minister, Mary McNeill, accepted the award along with Connie Crawford and our daughter, Whitney. Those three are very familiar faces in the hallways of Bivins as they deliver Snack Pak 4 Kids every Thursday. I was more or less forced to join them on the stage last night for the picture. But I made it clear to everyone that these ladies do all the work; I just sit back and applaud.

I’m very proud of Central for what we do with Bivins. Seventy-three percent of the students there are classified as economically disadvantaged. A lot of these kids are in foster homes, domestic violence shelters, and other temporary living conditions. Our church has stepped in every year with thanksgiving dinners, an annual school supplies drive, and summer painting projects. But now our Ignite Initiative is providing Bivins with more than $20,000 worth of equipment and supplies for their music and P.E. departments, desks for special needs students, and updates for their computer lab. Central volunteers are starting to serve next week as crossing guards, lunchroom and playground buddies, and Bivins Bucks store cashiers.

We believe that our God in Christ Jesus is redeeming this whole world. He is actively restoring everything back to its Garden of Eden perfection. And we are honored to partner with our Lord in providing these 550 students and their families with the necessities they need to level the playing field as they make their way in this world. To serve this nearby school in the name and manner of Jesus is our great privilege. To lean into his glorious future and reclaim this part of our city for his glory is a blessing. To be recognized by A.I.S.D. is pretty cool, too.

Peace,

Allan

Ignite for Bivins Elementary

Central Church Family, Ministry No Comments »

Four weeks now into our Ignite Initiative here at Central and I am so proud of and so grateful for our church’s great generosity and faith in what our God is doing in us and through us for his Kingdom. The early response has been almost overwhelming — the Lord has blessed us with a ton of money up front! And that has allowed us to start immediately with our top priority ministry partnerships.

This week we are spending a little more than $20,000 to purchase some much needed equipment and supplies for Bivins Elementary School. We are providing twenty desks for special needs students, replacing worn out or missing equipment for the Music and P.E. departments, upgrading the school’s computer lab, and creating a “Maker Space” for interactive learning.

In addition, we’re looking for a few volunteers to commit to spending one or two hours per week at Bivins from now through the end of the school year in May. If you can help kids cross the street, open up a juice box, or supervise a game of freeze-tag, we need you.

That volunteer component is really the most important part of what we’re doing with Ignite. It’s much easier to write checks than to commit the time and energy necessary to do incarnational ministry — we need both. All five of these local ministry organizations are telling us they need people to be a Gospel presence for the people they’re serving. They need our members to be part of the fabric of their support. The kids at Bivins, those ladies at Martha’s home and Gratitude House, the families at CareNet, and the men and women at The PARC — most of them have never experienced the love and encouragement and support that you and I probably take for granted. That’s what they need the most.

This is exciting! Bivins Elementary is giving us access to their kids and families we’ve never had before. It may be unprecedented for a school to give a church this kind of leeway. It might be illegal! How fun is this?!?

If you want more details on what we’re doing together with Bivins Elementary, click here.

The idea is to change lives in the name and manner of Jesus, to make a deep and significant impact on the families all around us, to change the trajectory of generations of men and women in our city. If they think buying a glockenspiel will positively impact the children at Bivins, then we’re going to buy four! Two large and two small glockenspiels! Done!

Peace,

Allan

Godly Fasting

Fasting, Isaiah, Ministry 3 Comments »

Fasting is not the purely personal thing you might think it is. Fasting is never between just you and God.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the traditional kickoff of forty days of prayer and fasting leading to Easter Sunday. This is the day to confess, the day to throw off the sins that hinder, the day to begin fasting in order to tune yourself to God. A lot of people give up red meat for the Lent season, some sacrifice their iPhones or their TVs, others fast from caffeine or cursing or Little Debbie snack cakes.

That’s good. Fasting and praying to pay better attention to the voice of our Father during this holy season is commendable. I highly recommend it.

But while you’re giving up these physical and tasty delights, why not consider giving up what our Lord gave up.

Instead of just thinking about it, why not begin living it?

Christ Jesus gave up the glory he shared with the Father to redeem us. He gave up all power, all dominion, all wealth, to come to earth to rescue us. Jesus gave up all his rights, he gave up his own honor, he sacrificed his own security and health, to restore us. He gave up his very life.

How about while refraining from chocolate over the next few weeks, you also give up your right to be offended? Since you’re giving up red meat for a season, how about you also try to keep from saying anything bad about anybody else? No caffeine? Sure! How about no asserting your own way for a while? How about sacrificing your demand for fairness for yourself and seek justice for somebody else? How about considering the needs of others more important than your own?

How about making your Ash Wednesday / Lent fast about something more than just you and your self-improvement? It’s not just about you and it’s not just about you and God. Fasting and praying should always result in Christian ministry to others. It should always lead toward meeting the needs of other people.

“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter,
when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”
~Isaiah 58:5-9

Fasting doesn’t do anybody any good unless it leads to doing somebody some real, physical, tangible good in the name of our Lord Jesus who gave up everything to do lasting, eternal, salvation good for us all.

Peace,

Allan