Category: 4 Amarillo (Page 1 of 9)

Howard Griffin Nostalgia Tour

My great friend Howard Griffin, the pastor at First Presbyterian in Amarillo and my across-the-street neighbor for ten years, drove down to his hometown of Midland today to visit his mom and to take me to lunch at La Bodega. Howard was the first pastor in Amarillo to call me up and take me to lunch when we first moved there in 2011. That friendship quickly expanded to Burt and Howie and blossomed into what we called “4 Amarillo.” And that worship and service partnership between our four downtown churches has been the absolute highlight of my nearly 15 years in congregational ministry.

So, of course, we reminisced about “4 Amarillo” over chicken and cheese enchiladas. We prayed for each other’s families and churches, just like we’ve done together for a decade.

And then Howard took me for a ride back to his childhood. He drove me by Midland Memorial Hospital where he was born and then by First Pres here in Midland where he was born again. He showed me the house where he grew up and the high school where he played ball, the McDonald’s where he ate and the Whataburger where he hung out. He showed me the churches that had changed names and the restaurants that have become something else. I got a lot of “where the so-and-so used to be” today. And then we went back to GCR to see the church gym.

Back when Howard was in high school, the Golf Course Road Church of Christ opened up their gym for pick up basketball several nights a week, but especially on Friday nights in the fall after the high school football games. Some of Howard’s best teenage memories are of late night hoops in the GCR gym. It’s not carpeted anymore like it was back then – we have a nice professional sports floor in there now – but as soon as we walked in, Howard went straight for a couple of almost-fully-inflated basketballs in the corner and started shooting baskets. We shot baskets together for almost 15-minutes, talking about Amarillo church leagues, Tuesday night pickup at the DAC, and his long ago Friday nights at GCR.

I am thankful to God for a great couple of hours today. I got some additional insight into what makes this faithful Christian minister friend of mine tick. And I got a pretty good history lesson on our new city and even on our new church. Howard has fond memories of GCR and of his friends who were members here back in the 80s. I’m pretty sure we’re making some pretty fond memories here right now.



Surely Not I?

All four downtown churches came together for a Maundy Thursday worship service last night at Polk Street United Methodist Church, continuing a tradition that began with the prayerful formation of our “4 Amarillo” partnership eight years ago. Attendance was about half of what it’s been in the past; we were all pretty spread out in Polk Street’s beautiful sanctuary and lots of us were wearing masks. We didn’t walk down to the front to receive communion as is our practice; we were handed those sad little pre-packaged kits to wrestle with in our seats. But, still, every time we gather across our denominational lines for worship and service in the name of our Lord Jesus, it is a tremendous blessing and privilege. Our “4 Amarillo” events are the highlights of my every year. I remain thankful to God for these opportunities that, I realize, not many Christians get to experience. And I never take it for granted.

I was honored by God to preach last night’s message from the account of the Last Supper in the Gospel of Mark. In this telling of the story, Jesus declares to his disciples that one of them will betray him and, one by one, it says, they ask him, “Surely not I?” Last night we focused on turning that question into a statement of loyalty and allegiance to our Lord. It’s not a question mark for us, it’s an exclamation point!

One of you is going to betray me. Surely not I!

Not me, Lord! Not us, Lord! Not tonight! Not tomorrow! Not ever!

Increase my faith, Father, yes. Strengthen my resolve, Lord, yes. Yes, Holy Spirit, give me power to live more fully for Christ, to be with Christ and for Christ. May everything I say and do and think be in the name and manner of Jesus from right now until his day of eternal glory.

May this be our prayer and may this be our commitment. One of you is going to betray me. Surely not I!



So What?

One-hundred-eighty of us from the four downtown Amarillo churches and beyond spent most of yesterday together at Polk Street United Methodist for the first ever 4Amarillo Preachers Conference for Everybody. Each of us four churches brought in the best preacher from our own traditions to preach his/her favorite Easter sermon and then to give us 15-20 minutes of whatever they had burning in their bones to tell a room full of preachers from Canadian and Borger to Plainview and Tulia.

The theme of our two-day worship and preaching seminar was “Easter’s Coming. So What?” And it was fabulous.

Ron Scates took us on an imaginary bus tour across the state of Texas and helped us see our communities as if Jesus had never been raised. Alyce McKenzie described the shock and awe of the resurrection to those first followers who should have seen it coming, but didn’t. Chris Seidman, our CofC guy from The Branch in North Dallas, inspired us by pointing out the significance of the seal on the tomb of Jesus and the breaking of that seal to boldly proclaim that the situation does not belong to Pilate or the soldiers or to even Caesar himself, but to Almighty God who breaks the seal and does exactly what he wants to save the world. And then Joel Gregory reminded us that Jesus appears to the downsized characters on the road to Emmaus, he meets them and us right where we are, in the middle of our doubts and fears and shattered hopes.

The ecumenical spirit was turned up to eleven at First Baptist Sunday night. And the unity and fellowship was even stronger Monday because it included so many from at least a dozen other congregations of God’s people throughout the panhandle.

On top of all that, the optional offerings added up to $1,500 we’re donating to Amarillo’s Heal the City free clinic in the name of the Christian unity our Lord prayed for on that last night.

I am so grateful to Chris for joining us up here for this incredible event. I am thankful to God for the friendship and partnership I share with Howard, Howie, and Mark and our four churches in this city. And I pray that when we worship and serve together, it remains an undeniable witness that our Lord really is the Prince of Peace, and he is bigger than anything that might possibly divide us!



Something New March 1-2

The four downtown Amarillo churches are bringing together four remarkable preachers for the first “4Amarillo Preachers Conference for Everybody” March 1-2. We’re calling the conference “Easter’s Coming. So What?” And it’s open to all preachers, all church leaders, all church members, and anyone eager to reawaken within themselves and their congregations the deep urgency and immense joy in the Resurrection of Jesus.

This is a free two-day event for everyone. Four of the best communicators in our fellowships are joining us for worship, to preach their favorite Easter sermons, and to share their own insights and experiences in proclaiming the Good News.

On Sunday morning March 1, each of the four preachers will preach at his or her host congregation in downtown Amarillo. Chris Seidman, the lead minister at The Branch Church in Dallas, will be preaching with us at Central. The world-famous Joel Gregory will be at First Baptist, Alyce McKenzie will preach at Polk Street United Methodist, and Ron Scates will be at First Presbyterian.

Then Sunday evening all four of our churches will gather at First Baptist for an hour of ecumenical worship with our combined choirs and all four speakers in a panel discussion answering the “So what?” of Easter. What does the truth of Easter mean to a broken world? Why should our city, this country, the world give a flip about the resurrection of Jesus? How does the resurrection make a hill of beans of difference to anybody? Everyone’s invited for the inspiring music, the ecumenical fellowship, and the important conversation.

Then, Monday, for the main event at Polk Street, each of our four preachers will have one hour to preach their all-time best or favorite Easter sermon and then to say anything they want to say about preaching: exegesis, hermeneutics, study, presentation, prayer, formatting a sermon, helpful hints, how not to preach, why preaching is important, personal stories, encouragement, whatever. It’ll start at 8:30 Monday morning, March 2, and we’ll have everybody out of there by 2:00pm. Breakfast and lunch are provided for everyone who attends.

Please click here to check the schedule, to see the speakers and sermon topics, links to the four churches, and to register. It’s free, but we’d like to get a ballpark number on a head-count so we know how much food to prepare. If you know someone who would like to attend, please forward this blog post or the link to him or her and help us spread the word.

If you have any questions or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you.

May our God be praised by the bold and unceasing proclamation of the Good News. And may our Christian unity point the world to our powerful and loving Savior Jesus Christ.



This Week Only

Denver Seminary’s podcast this week features a 40-minute conversation with the pastors of the “4Amarillo” partnership of churches in downtown Amarillo, Texas. We were all so honored and blessed by Don Payne, who came to Amarillo¬† between Thanksgiving and Christmas to record the podcast. And we had a blast doing it.

I would encourage you to check it out. It’s only going to be on the Denver Seminary podcast page for the rest of this week. Even if you don’t have the 40-minutes to listen to it right now, at least download it, save it, and listen to it later.

On this podcast we talk about how our four friendships began (cheese enchiladas!) and then quickly evolved into our four churches committing to worship and serve together on an-going basis. We discuss the origin of the 4Amarillo logo and our first prayer meeting together. We tackle the issues that typically divide Christians and denominations and talk about how our churches and church leaders navigate those things. We’ve very specific about the things we do together: how we plan service projects and worship assemblies, why we swap pulpits and share resources. We talk about how good it is to serve together in the community, how important that is to our Christian witness, but how actually worshiping together in each other’s buildings is like a million times more effective. We also acknowledge the things we learn from each other’s churches and we emphasize, as always, that all we do is intended to point to our Lord Jesus who, as the Prince of Peace, is so much bigger than anything that might possibly divide us.

We’re also asked at the end to suggest a favorite Amarillo restaurant for anyone who might be visiting our city in the future. I am embarrassed by Howie’s suggestion. I am deeply appalled by Mark’s.

As for me being described on the Denver Seminary website and introduced on the podcast as “Reverend,” let me explain. When you hang out with three guys who have “Doctor” at the front of their names and then you’re publicly introduced by another guy who feels like he has to put something in front of your name, you wind up with “Reverend.” They feel sorry for me, I think.

I hope the podcast encourages you and inspires you to imagine and pray for the ecumenical possibilities in your own context. And then to boldly act upon them “so the world may know.” I would also love to hear your comments and any feedback on the interview.



Prayer in the Commons

Our brothers and sisters on the board at Polk Street United Methodist Church came over to Central yesterday to take a tour of our newly expanded spaces and to pray over our elders and ministers and our church.

Take just a second to re-read that sentence. Let it sink in just how gracious is our God and how amazing is the work he is doing in and through our downtown Amarillo churches.

After a quick look around our new entry way and Commons, Guest Central, the fireplace and the coffee bar, our new play space and ministry / meeting room, we held hands in a circle while pastor Mark Welshimire led these Methodist ministers and elders in prayers of thanksgiving and blessing for us. They asked the Lord to bless everybody who walks through the new doors at Central. They asked God to bless all the kids who play on the new equipment, in a safe place to learn about Jesus. God was praised for the long-time faithful witness of the Central church and he was blessed for our partnership together in the Gospel.


I am so grateful to belong to a church that emphasizes the unity of the saints for which our Lord prayed and that works so hard to tear down the walls that divide God’s people. What a thrill! What a unique privilege that not many people get to enjoy!

Thank you to our brothers and sisters at Polk Street for the generous gift of your time, your presence with us, and your prayers. May our partnership continue to grow richer and deeper to the eternal praise and glory of God.



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