Our spring leadership retreat — all of the Central elders and ministers and our spouses — begins tonight in a different kind of setting than what we’re used to. We’re actually holding the retreat at First United Bank where, Scott Bentley guarantees, if your money is once saved, it’s always saved. Instead of crowding in to the Upper Room or freezing in a cabin in the canyon, we’re meeting in the warm atmosphere of a tastefully decorated conference area. Thank you, Scott! And we’re each going home tonight to our own beds in our own homes. Let the person who committed her life to you listen to you snore, not me!
As an important bonus, the meals are being provided for us at the bank, so we won’t be bothered by that delicate and awkward conversation in which the majority of us steer the rest of the group away from El Camino in Tulia without hurting anybody’s feelings.
For this year’s retreat, we’ve brought in a ringer. David Wray is a long-time elder at the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene. Before teaching and serving as an administrator in the College of Biblical Studies at ACU, he served for 20 years in congregational ministry. Right now, David is serving as the interim director for ElderLink and continually consulting with church leaders to promote healthy congregations and genuine Kingdom living in our communities of faith. We are so thankful to have David with us this weekend. We’re praying that our God will speak powerfully through him and that we would have ears to hear.
We’re in the middle of a very important season in the on-going story of God’s presence with his people at Central. We’re honored by our God just to be here together at this time. We believe we are called by our God to something much bigger than just the Central Church of Christ. We believe that we are meant to aspire to much more than just our own individual hopes and dreams. We believe our Lord has an eternal purpose for us in Amarillo that will result in transformed lives and will dramatically change our city for the Kingdom of God.
David is a big part of this conversation and the planning.
The theme this weekend is “Bearing the Image of Christ for the Sake of Amarillo.” Tonight we’re going to talk about the current realities we’re facing as a culture and a church. David will help us diagnose and properly analyze the post-modern, post-denominational, post-Christendom world in which we now live. And we’ll acknowledge together tonight that, yes, things have changed and so must we.
Tomorrow, we’re going to dive in to spiritual formation. How are we as leaders being formed in the image of Christ? And how are the members at Central being shaped to look and act more like our Lord? In what settings does it happen? What are we doing to foster spiritual growth and how are we measuring it? I have some ideas; I’m anxious to hear David’s.
Then tomorrow afternoon we’ll get down to change and change dynamics in a church. How do we move forward intentionally, with purpose, and not lose traction with what we feel our God is leading us to do? We’ll spend the afternoon dreaming together, setting goals, assigning action items, and praying. Lots of praying.
David will also be teaching our adult Bible classes Sunday morning in a combined setting in Sneed Hall. We’ll be able to explore with our church family the ideas around spiritual formation, bearing the image of Jesus for the sake of others, and what that looks like. Then in Sunday’s sermon, David will challenge our church to witness to all of Amarillo. He’ll push us to be church on Monday, too, and all the other days of the week.
I’m so looking forward to what our God has planned for us this weekend. Our leadership has already been studying and reading, discussing and praying through Seeking a Lasting City. We’re about two-thirds of the way through and have been inspired to move forward with some things we’ve all wanted to do for a long time. We’re into the heart now of our study of Renewing God’s People in our adult Bible classes. And we’re finding that our whole church is excited to reclaim and practice again the very best parts of the original Stone-Campbell vision. Our God is talking to us through his servants Doug Foster and David Wray. And we’re listening.
Would you please be in prayer this weekend for the city of Amarillo and for this congregation of Christ-followers at Central. Pray that our God would bless us richly with his mercies of wisdom and divine leading. Pray that the scales would fall from our eyes and that we would see our God and the holy purposes he has for us in this town very clearly. May we pay attention to God and may we act boldly. During this concentrated season of study and prayer, of reflection and planning, let us depend on the guidance of our heavenly Father, the faithfulness of our Lord Jesus, and the equipping and confidence-bestowing power of the Holy Spirit.
A lot of you know Jake Reeves. He was born and raised in and by the Central Church of Christ. The son of our George and Gaye Reeves, Jake has been “ours” now for twenty years. Some of you reading this post have changed Jake’s diapers (not recently). Some of you taught him in Bible class. You took Jake on mission trips, you hosted him in your homes as Huddles leaders, you patted him on the back and told him you were proud of him when he led a prayer or read a Scripture during the assembly. As a church, we encouraged Jake and challenged him; together we pushed him and corrected him. We loved him. We still do. As a church, we poured ourselves into Jake. He belongs to us.
Today, Jake Reeves is in Kenya. And he’s digging wells and feeding children and comforting the sick and preaching — yeah, Jake is preaching! — in the name and manner of Jesus for the sake of others. You gave yourselves to Jake and now he’s giving himself for others. You believed in Jake as a gift to us from God and now he believes in what our God is working through him to give to others. We acted like Jake was ours and now Jake knows he really belongs to God.
Our children are our most valuable asset. Our kids here at Central are a precious gift from our God. And we’re not raising them to be giants of industry; we’re not pushing them to be superstar athletes; we’re not nurturing them to be popular or wealthy or successful. We’re raising them to understand they belong to our Father in heaven and they have a purpose in this world that’s much bigger than themselves. Much bigger even than their home congregation that loves them so much.
You can read Jake’s blog by clicking here. After you read a few posts and are thoroughly inspired, lift a prayer of thanksgiving to our God for the work he is doing now and will be doing in the future through our Central kids. Then commit to spending more time with our kids, pouring your love and encouragement into their hearts. Our children of Central are a gift from God. And with that gift comes great responsibility.