Category: Unity (Page 1 of 4)

Rugged Commitment

My great friend Jim Martin posted this in his weekly email encouragement to a bunch of us ministers who rely on him for regular shots of wisdom and strength. I’m re-posting it here word for word.

I was getting ready to officiate at a wedding in Central Texas. Preparing for this event caused me to think about marriage in general and my own marriage in particular. Beyond this, I had already been thinking about some of the fragile relationships within congregations and the relational challenges we have faced over the last year.

Some of these challenges have resulted in the fragmentation of relationships within congregations. Church members argued about the pandemic, wearing masks, getting vaccinated, the presidential election, racial issues, etc. For many, this has been quite painful.

Yet, as we look to the future of our congregations, it is important that we recommit to one another by loving with a rugged commitment. By “rugged commitment,” I mean a love that is willing to do what is hard and messy. This is a love for another that is much like the steadfast love of the Lord toward his children. This is a love that is willing to go the distance for another.

Can we love each other with a rugged commitment so that we forebear one another in love, even when we strongly disagree?

Can we love each other with a rugged commitment so that we seek to lighten the load of church leaders instead of making life so difficult for them?

Can we love each other with a rugged commitment so that we put our identity in Jesus above any other identity?

This rugged commitment is necessary for a lasting friendship, for a growing marriage, and for any congregation that wishes to stay together, in spite of the pressures that threaten to rip it apart.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Our outdoor movie night set for tomorrow at Bivins Elementary has been moved because of all the rain – more than five inches in the past seven days and more on the way. Our Children’s Minister described the field at the school today as “swampy.” It looks like a playa lake. The event has been moved now to our west parking lot here at Central. We’re inviting the entire Bivins Elementary community and our whole church family to park on the south side, bring your lawn chairs and blankets, and enjoy Disney’s Moana at 630pm. We’ll be passing out the candy and popcorn and hoping that whatever is forecast for Friday night misses us.

Lesson learned: If we ever want rain in Amarillo, we need only to schedule an outdoor church event.

Peace,

Allan

So Straight

“I once was so straight that I leaned a little the other way. I once was so strict a Separatist that I would neither pray nor sing praises with any one who was not as I perfect as I supposed myself. In this most unpopular course I persisted until I discovered the mistake, and saw that on the principle embraced in my conduct, there could never be a congregation or church upon the earth.”

~Alexander Campbell in The Christian Baptist, Volume III, 1827

The Tuning Fork

“Has it ever occurred to you that one thousand pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one thousand worshipers meeting together, each one looking to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become unity conscious and turn their eyes away from Jesus to strive for closer fellowship.”

~ A. W. Tozer

A Preaching Event

I am so grateful to my brothers and sisters at St. John Baptist Church for the way they love me and honor me and make Carrie-Anne and me feel right at home and an important part of their fellowship. Anthony Harris, the powerful pastor at this faithful church, invited me to preach in their pulpit yesterday and it was an absolute thrill! Anthony and I have become great friends and partners in the Gospel together over the past year or so. He is a tremendous encourager and a bearer of God’s image to me. And I was so humbled and, frankly, excited, to preach in their church. I’ve never preached in an African-American church before – it felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

You can watch the whole church service on St. John’s Facebook page (the service begins at the 10:30 mark, the sermon starts at the 37:25 mark). But it won’t do justice to the energy and the love and the unity we all experienced together yesterday.

Delivering a sermon in a Black church really is a “preaching event.” And, I must admit, it took me a few minutes to adjust. There’s a timing and a groove, it’s a back and forth, there’s a call and response – the sermon truly is a congregational event. Everybody participates!

First, Anthony arranged for Stephanie Michaels to sing “Because He Lives” right before the sermon (at the 31:05 mark). Goodness gracious! The mighty force of her voice, the conviction in her heart, the compelling connection she makes with every person in the room – whoa! Anthony calls himself my friend, but he cursed me by making me follow her. As I made my way to the pulpit and waited for the piano to finish playing…

…the piano didn’t stop playing. I waited. And waited. I smiled. And then I realized Isaac was not going to stop playing the piano until I started speaking. He’ll fade out once I start speaking over him. And that’s the way it was for the next 30-minutes. I needed to stop after every other sentence as the church responded to what I was saying. I had to learn on the fly how to acknowledge the church as they clapped and shouted “Hallelujah!” while I was in the middle of a thought. I quickly discovered there is no such thing as a rhetorical question during a sermon in a Black church – the church answers out loud! I also realized that if I don’t get a handle on this, it’s going to be a 90-minute sermon!

My brothers and sisters at St. John Baptist come to church expecting to hear a word from the Lord. They’re geared up for it, anticipating it. God is going to speak through this servant in front of us and we want to listen to him and be moved. It’s not just a head thing at St John Baptist, the Sunday sermon is a heart thing, too. The sermon contains facts and truth, but it’s just as full of emotion and feeling. The congregation was preaching the sermon with me, finishing my sentences when I quoted Scripture, answering my questions when I dared to ask them, speculating out loud during open-ended paragraphs, discovering with me the points I was trying to make – I waited on them a couple of times and they slowed down when they got ahead of me a couple of times – exalting in them and praising God the whole time. And it was an absolute blast!

It was thrilling! Completely thrilling! And exhausting. I loved every minute of it, but I’m not sure I could do that Sunday after Sunday, week in and week out.

I am so grateful to my godly, big-picture, Kingdom-view elders here at Central for allowing me – no, encouraging me! – to preach in other churches like this. My shepherds know that anytime our churches can put aside our denominational differences, our racial differences, our puny little insignificant differences, and come together in the presence of God, in the name of Jesus, and by the power of the Holy Spirit to do anything, it’s a big deal. It is so important that people see this and know that it’s happening and experience it for themselves. If we believe Ephesians 2, that Christ died on the cross to destroy the barriers that separate us from God and us from each other, we’d better be all about it. What happened at St. John Baptist yesterday matters. It was a Kingdom of God moment. And I want to be in on more of those kinds of moments.

Thank you to Anthony and Tonya and Isaac and Stephanie and Jasmine and Ed and Trina and all the glorious saints at that important church on 14th Street. I thank God for your faithful witness in our community and for your sacrificial service in the Kingdom of our Lord. I spent all day yesterday relishing the sweet fellowship and Christian unity we experienced together. And I’ll spend a lifetime in gratitude to God.

Peace,

Allan

A Stadium Sanctuary

I’m not going to attempt to describe last night’s “Uniting as One” worship service at the Hodgetown ballpark in downtown Amarillo. All I know is that more than four-thousand disciples of Jesus came together from our city and from many of the Top26 counties, all different colors, all different races, all different Christian denominations, all different ages, and all different backgrounds, to express our love for our Lord and our commitment to the unity of his people. And it was glorious.

 

 

 

 

 

We were asked to wear masks and they had us all spread out pretty good in there. Fifty-percent capacity and assigned seats. But it was glorious.

 

 

 

 

I thank God that he’s got me in this great city with all these wonderful Christian brothers and sisters. I thank him for the opportunity to experience something that most Jesus followers in this country never experience. I’m grateful for the new friendships and partnerships in the Gospel God is privileging me to explore.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m stunned by the way God turned that stadium into a sanctuary — the holiness of what happened in there. I’m hopeful for the opportunities ahead of us together — the energy of last night translating into significant and lasting change. And I’m certain that our Lord is going to bless us as we seriously pursue his will for us to live and worship and serve together in deeper, richer community.

 

 

 

 

 

“How good, how delightful it is when all live together like brothers… For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”
~Psalm 133

Peace and Unity,

Allan

Above the Fold

“Uniting as One” made the front page of today’s Amarillo Globe-News — front page above the fold! — right there next to the city’s proposed tax rate and the latest Covid-19 numbers. The city-wide, all-church, interracial, interdenominational praise and worship service is this Sunday night at the Hodgetown ballpark. We’re expecting four-thousand Christians to join us for this historic gathering, some driving from as far away as Groom, Dalhart, Plainview, and Perryton. We’re going to sing and pray to our God and we’re going to commit to one another that race is not going to divide our Lord’s people in this city.

If you’ve got your tickets, I’m looking forward to seeing you and worshiping with you at the ballpark Sunday. If you can’t be there due to geography, timing, or pandemic, the entire service will be livestreamed on the “Uniting as One” Facebook page.

Go Stars.

Allan

« Older posts