Category: Golf Course Road Church (Page 1 of 17)

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There are many, many more Astros fans than Rangers fans in Midland, Texas. And it feels like most of them are members of our church. Some of the louder and more obnoxious among them belong to the Travis McGraw clan. All of them.

So when Travis and his two boys wanted to bet a lunch at Cancun Grill on the results of the American League Championship Series, they found three eager takers in Stephen Lowery, Alan McGraw (Travis’ nephew), and me.

Yesterday was payday and it was delicious on every level. We wore our Rangers World Series gear and crowed for two solid hours over enchiladas and tacos and those awesome jalapenos grilled in soy sauce. The losers proved to be good sports about the whole thing — Travis even wore an old Rangers pullover he had saved from a Missions Resource Network fundraiser from nearly a decade ago. At one point, though, Travis did complain, “It’s like you guys have never won a World Series before.”

Today, I figured it was time to replace my Texas Rangers license plate frame. I don’t know exactly how old this one is, but it’s so sun-faded and worn out, it’s completely un-readable.

I’ve wanted to replace it for several years now, but, you know, I never think about it at the right time and it’s never been a huge priority. Now, the Rangers license plate holders are bright and glittery and they proclaim that Texas won the World Series. So, yeah. Done.

I  think it increases the Blue Book value on my truck.



Striving to Obtain It

“What? Shall we pray for a thing and not strive to obtain it?”
~ from Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address, September 1809

Nearly 60 of us ministers and elders from First Baptist, First Methodist, First Presbyterian, and our GCR Church of Christ gathered at First Presbyterian last night for a dinner and prayer meeting to formally enter a unity alliance. It’s a partnership we’re calling “4 Midland,” a commitment to worship and serve together as the collective Body of Christ in our city.

And it was a joy. It was a delight. It was a deep and rich grace from God to be together in that setting and for that purpose.

There were seven tables in that room last night with eight ministers and elders from the four churches at each one. I sat at a table with Carolyn, an elder at First Pres; with Dillon, a First Pres minister; with Valerie, from First Methodist; with Travis, one of my shepherds at GCR; and with Steve Brooks and Darin Wood, the pastors at First Methodist and First Baptist. We read Scripture together and we prayed. We discussed together what the Lord is already doing in our churches (a ton, as it turns out; praise God!), and dreamed out loud about what God might do through us in the future. As we prayed around our table, I couldn’t help but hear Clay praying for unity from the table next to us. I heard Jadyn praying for God’s grace and presence from a table at the front of the room. During our discussions, I could hear Eric laughing from a couple of tables to my right. I watched as Byron and Brandon made the rounds, introducing themselves to about thirty different people. I watched Kristin pray with the church leaders at her table. I was so proud of our people last night, so proud of their eager participation and leadership in this great cause.

Steve Brooks opened things up by telling the story of how he and I first met a couple of years ago. The confession. The apology. The Spirit-led exchange of mutual appreciation and love between us. He led us in a time of meditation and prayer from Ephesians 4, reminding us that there  is just one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, and, while we use different amounts of water, just one baptism. We recognized together in prayer that we are called to be a unified people of God. We acknowledged that God is the Father of us all. And we pledged to commit to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

After those inspiring prayers, it was time for me to outline for the assembled group our plans for worship and service together over the next couple of years. I began by giving everyone a brief primer on the origins of the American Restoration Movement and the Churches of Christ. I talked about Thomas Campbell and Barton Stone, two Presbyterian preachers who got in trouble with their churches and their districts for preaching and practicing a radical Christian unity. I read “Proposition 9” from Campbell’s Declaration and Address, the founding document of the Stone-Campbell Movement, the charter for what came to be known as Churches of Christ:

“That all that are enabled, through grace, to make the Christian confession and to manifest the reality of it in their tempers and conduct, should consider each other as the precious saints of God, should love each other as brethren, children of the same family and Father, temples of the same Spirit, members of the same Body, subjects of the same grace, objects of the same divine love, bought with the same price, and joint heirs of the same inheritance. Whom God hath thus joined together, no one should dare to put asunder!”

Towards the end of the great document, Campbell issues the call, “What? Shall we pray for a thing and not strive to obtain it?”

The Churches of Christ are a Christian unity movement started by a couple of Presbyterian preachers. As a group, I confess, we have strayed far from our roots. It is so beautiful — poetic, even — that we were together last night in a Presbyterian church building. It was meaningful for me and for us from GCR. It was symbolic to embrace our roots in that significant way. We’re hugging Presbyterians!

“What?  Shall we pray for a thing and not strive to obtain it?”

I outlined our plans together. We’re going to worship together in combined settings with all four of our churches at least three times per year: Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday/Good Friday, and the Sunday night before Thanksgiving. We’re going to rotate hosts churches, combine our worship teams and choirs, and praise our God as one Body of Christ. We’re going to bring the very best of what our four churches and our four faith traditions have to offer together to bless all of us and to honor our Lord Jesus. And all four of us preachers are going to swap pulpits once a year, beginning on that Sunday morning before Thanksgiving, November 24, 2024.

I then led us through a time of brainstorming together at each of our tables for a combined service project we can do late Spring or early Summer to work side-by-side to bless the city of Midland. We received a couple of dozen excellent suggestions that we’ll be discussing together in the coming weeks.

After that, Steve Schorr reminded us of Psalm 105:4, “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” He recalled a few past ecumenical efforts in Midland that started strong, but lost their focus. These unity initiatives began to emphasize big names and big crowds and large platforms and lost their sense of the presence of God and his leadership of his people. Steve encouraged us to move forward together, seeking only the face of our God and his leading. It was heart-felt and honest. Moving. Inspiring.

After one more time of prayer around our tables, pledging to give our unity and our efforts to God for his purposes, Darin brought it home with an encouraging charge and benediction. He thanked everyone for our willingness, our eagerness, to put aside our differences, to tear down our walls, to come together in Christ for the sake of our city.

“What? Shall we pray for a thing and not strive to obtain it?”

I am so thankful to for the growing friendships I’m blessed by God to share with Darin, Steve, and Steve. I am so grateful for the ecumenical spirit of our four churches and the commitment we share to worship and serve together in the name and manner of our Lord Jesus. This partnership will shape us and make us more like Christ. All of us. Everybody in our churches. And it will proclaim in undeniable ways the love and grace of God, his healing and his joy, to a divided world that needs to see and experience what being one together in Christ looks like.



4 Midland

Four guys walk into a bar: a Baptist, a Methodist, a Church of Christ, and a Presbyterian… that’s a joke.

Four sets of ministers and elders walk into a church building to pray: Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ, and Presbyterian… that’s not a joke. It’s the holy will of our God and a magnificent witness to our city of the power of Jesus! And it’s happening this evening!

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through [the apostles’] message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” ~John 17:20-23

We believe it is God’s will that all his children, all disciples of his Son, be reconciled. We think God’s great desire is for all Christians to be brought together as a powerful witness to the world of his love and peace. You know, this is in our Church of Christ DNA. It was established in the opening lines of Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address, the charter document for our Restoration Movement, written in August 1809:

“That it is the grand design and native tendency of our holy religion to reconcile and unite men to God and to each other in truth and love to the glory of God; and their own present and eternal good will will not, we presume, be denied by any of the genuine subjects of Christianity.”

The whole document is about reconciliation, the kind of reconciliation that drives God’s eternal plans. The very ministry of reconciliation he’s given those of us who profess our faith in him. The words in this document are bold and aggressive and they ring with undeniable beauty and truth. They call for a swift end to all divisions among those who follow Jesus:

“Has the Captain of Salvation sounded a desist from pursuing this deadly enemy that is sheathing its sword in the very bowels of Christ’s Church, rending and mangling his mystical Body to pieces? Has he said to his servants, ‘Let it alone?’ If not, where is the warrant for a cessation of endeavors to have it removed?”

Campbell claims that tearing down the walls and uniting with all our brothers and sisters in Christ is a matter of universal right, a duty belonging to every citizen of the Kingdom of God. And while the work will be difficult and the opposition will come mainly from within the church establishment, Campbell says it is God’s will. It is the Church’s will. It is the will of those who’ve gone before us:

“Both the mighty and the many are with us. The Lord himself, and all that are truly his people, are declaredly on our side. The prayers of all the churches, nay, the prayers of Christ himself, and of all that have ascended to his heavenly Kingdom, are with us.”

I thank God for the Campbells and the Stones and the other giants of the faith who latched on to God’s holy will as revealed to us in Scripture and would not let go. I thank God for the ecumenical spirit of the GCR Church toward our brothers and sisters in other Christian churches in our city. I’m grateful for the willingness here — the eagerness! — to unite with other Christ-followers.

This evening, the GCR elders and ministers are meeting at First Presbyterian Church with their elders and ministers and the elders and ministers from First Baptist and First Methodist to spend two hours together in dinner and prayer. We are forming an alliance, a partnership. We’re calling it “4 Midland.” It’s a hopefully obvious play on words. Four churches breaking down our walls, putting aside our differences, to unite together for the sake of our city.

We’re not 100% sure what this looks like yet. We know it’s going to be a worship and service partnership that brings our people together side-by-side in order to bless Midland. We want to worship together at least three times a year, beginning this next Spring: Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday/Good Friday, and the Sunday evening before Thanksgiving. We’re still figuring out which churches are going to host each worship service. We also want our four preachers swapping pulpits with each other once a year, probably on that Sunday morning before Thanksgiving, November 24, 2024. As for an annual service project in our city, we’re still taking suggestions. That’s one of the things we’re going to pray about together tonight.

We do believe this partnership between denominations will be a powerful witness to our city that Jesus really is the Prince of Peace, that he really does possess the power to reconcile and unite. Jesus says in the middle of Matthew 18 that if two or three of his people will come together and agree on anything, he’ll show up just to see it! And we believe he will.

Whatever good comes from this alliance, we know it must begin in prayer. So that’s what we’re doing tonight at First Presbyterian. We’re going to pray. We’re going to commit to one another — all four churches — as brothers and sisters in Christ. We’re going to pledge in prayer that we will not be competitive, that we will not be territorial, that we will see our area of Midland as the part of the Kingdom of God we’ve been given to serve together. And we’re going to submit the whole thing to him. In prayer, we’re going to give our partnership, our efforts, our projects, all of it to our merciful Father for his purposes and to his eternal glory and praise.

It starts tonight. I have only hopes and dreams for where it might be going. But it starts tonight.



Broken Through

Today is the one year anniversary of the launch of our Breakthrough campaign at the GCR Church, officially the halfway point of our two-year plan to jump start our congregation’s vision of “Being Changed by God to Love Like Jesus.” On October 30 last year, we asked our church to give $4-million dollars to fund our commitment to transformation and mission.

Since that day, we have begun local missions partnerships with five organizations in Midland that are doing life-changing Gospel work. As a result, we are paying the salary of the first-ever full-time counselor at Family Promise. We are funding the salary of a 2nd staff person at Young Lives. We have purchased a box truck for food deliveries for Mission Agape and a new vehicle for Opportunity Tribe to transport students. In addition, we have completely renovated two courtyard spaces at Emerson Elementary, we eat lunch and read with students there several times a week, and we fist bump those kids the first Monday morning of every month. In total, we have poured well over one thousand volunteer hours into these five partners.

It was appropriate that last night we moved our annual Harvest Party to Family Promise, an organization in Midland that provides housing and resources to families transitioning out of homelessness. The weather forced us inside where we were a little more crowded than we had hoped. But we painted faces and played games and ate hotdogs and passed out tons of candy to 15 deserving families and had a blast doing it.






This is part of the vision. Intentional, incarnational, relational ministry. Instead of spending nine seconds with two thousand people in our church parking lot, what would happen if we spent two hours with about 70 people where they live? We’re finding out. It’s very different. It’s a little messy. It’s slightly unpredictable. But the stories are gloriously funny and the experience is wonderfully life-giving. I spent 45-minutes at a table last night talking with a foster parent while holding her four-week-old baby boy, learning about Five Nights at Freddy’s from two little guys who were way too into all of it, and joking about how I stepped in it when I asked a boy who taught him how to ride a bike and it turned out to be his dad’s ex-girlfriend. In front of his current wife. I wasn’t the only one having these conversations. I  wasn’t the only one learning about and leaning into the realities of our community with these friendly and gracious neighbors. It was transformational. And missional. And beautiful. Praise our Lord.








These local missions partnerships are a critical part of our vision. But Breakthrough is also about foreign missions and spiritual disciplines and re-organizing our Bible classes and small groups.

In the past year, we have sent 34 of our members on mission trips, hosted 72 of our members at Christian Practices retreats, and placed 165 of our members into twelve new small groups organized around the formation zones of our church vision. We have remodeled our worship center, improved the seating and lighting and sound, and constructed a brand new baptistry and stage that accommodate most of the church family participating in baptisms up close on Sundays.

On top of all that, the Lord has blessed us with a total of 80 new members of the GCR Church since October 30 last year: 53 adults and 27 kids! And in the four Sundays since we’ve been back in our worship center, we have witnessed and participated in six baptisms together!

And we’re not done yet. On October 30 last year, by God’s amazing grace, our church contributed almost $6.2-million dollars in cash and pledges! That’s $2.2-million over our goal! Nearly $4.4-million of that has already come in, and we’re only at the halfway mark! So we have established a team of 15 women and men to discern what the Lord wants to do with all that extra money.

We praise God for what he is doing in us and through us at GCR. It’s an exciting time around here right now. By God’s grace this church is changing. There’s been a fairly significant turnover and it’s not done yet. New faces, new families, new energy, new hope for what our Lord is doing. We are still very much in transition as a congregation. And we are beside ourselves with anticipation over what he’s going to do next.


My policy is that if you can’t say something bad about the Cowboys, don’t say anything at all.


The incredible fact is that the Rangers and Diamondbacks are tied at one game each in the World Series. The hard truth is that Texas has led in every inning in this series but three. That’s right. Of the 20 innings played thus far, if you count Garcia’s 11th inning game-winning homer in Game One, Texas has led in only three innings. They have not led since the second inning of Game One. Not only that, over the past ten weeks, the Rangers haven’t just lost one game and then won the next. When they lose, they lose three or four in a row. Texas hasn’t sandwiched a single loss between wins since late August. It feels like the Rangers have to score seven or eight runs to win tonight. And they can’t do it all on Seager and Adolis home runs.

What’s going to spark this team to get it turned around? Semien and Lowe need to heat up their bats and Mad Max needs to go six innings tonight. But there also needs to be a rally point. Some big play. Some massive unforgettable catch or double steal or hustle play or three-run homer to light a fire under this group and radically shift the momentum.

Semien might be too tired. Evan Carter is too young. Seager and Garcia are too expected. It’s going to be Leody or Garver or Josh Jung. I’m thinking out loud at this point, but I’m going with Jung to do something really important in Game Three to get this thing headed in the Rangers’ direction. I’m calling out the rookie. He’s got to shine tonight.

Let’s Go Rangers!
Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap!


60 Years and Counting

What a fabulous 60th Anniversary and Homecoming weekend at our GCR Church! People came from all over Midland and even traveled from out of state, coming from as far away as Arkansas, Colorado, and North Carolina to renew relationships and catch up with old friends. More than 500 showed up at the picnic on Saturday for burgers and dogs, cornhole and volleyball, and a once in a lifetime total solar eclipse. We held a youth ministry reunion Saturday afternoon, and then a Praise and Pie event that evening in our newly remodeled worship center. And then 873 of us came together Sunday for a time of reflection and thanksgiving, worship, and a catered lunch. At every event I felt like I had never seen a third of the people. There was energy and excitement, gratitude and praise, and lots of laughter.





It was really good for me, personally, to just hang around and listen to the old stories, the formative events from GCR’s past, the really great times and the tough times, to get a better handle on all the connections, and to hear the hope and joy for the present and the future. I’ve only been here a little over two years. I needed to hear about O.C. Collins and those faithful Christians from the North A Church of Christ who planted GCR in 1963. I needed to hear Ronnie White preach — yes, he still knows how. I needed to worship with Andy Spell, I needed to eat coconut cream pie with people who “used to go to GCR,” I needed to look at those old directories and Stream videos. I needed to hear the motivations behind the apartments ministry and the passion for divorce recovery and care and single parent family camp. I needed to be in the same room with these people when they laughed at a 35-year-old memory and when they cried during It Is Well With My Soul and How Great Thou Art.






It’s good for me and for our present day church at GCR to realize that everything we’re doing now, by God’s grace, is done with the same spirit, the same passion, the same drive, the same love for our Lord and his people that has always characterized the Christians at Golf Course Road. This is a grace-oriented, redemption-minded church. Always has been. Still is.






What we’re doing now and where we’re going — these aren’t new things. Our vision is not an innovative thing. Our local missions partnerships and ecumenical efforts are not a new direction or some kind of revolution. It’s an evolution born of the Spirit and what has gone before. It’s our church’s refusal to stand pat, our refusal to allow the status to remain quo, our conviction that our God is at work in and through GCR to his eternal glory and praise.







We’ve got great shepherds at GCR. Holy and godly men who share a unified desire for transformation and mission.

We’ve got a great ministry team here. A tremendous group of talented and dedicated disciples of Jesus who share a unified vision for ministry and service.

We’ve got a great church at GCR. An historically great church. A loving and giving church that wants to be challenged, wants to grow, and shares a desire to impact our city for Christ.

Much more than all that, we have our God. We belong to a mighty God, a faithful God, who has promised to finish in us and through us what he started 60 years ago on Golf Course Road.

The one who calls us is faithful and he will do it.


Nasty Nate did it again yesterday, becoming the first pitcher in these 2023 playoffs with three wins. The Rangers plated four runs on five hits and an error in the first inning, and tight defense and clutch pitching made it stand to take a two-games-to-none lead in the ALCS. Eovaldi worked masterfully out of a bases-loaded, nobody out jam in the fifth inning, and finished with nine strikeouts and one walk in six outstanding innings to earn the win. That’s 24 K’s against one walk for Big  Game Nate in this postseason. And that’s seven straight playoff wins for Texas, six of those games on the road. Now the Astros and Rangers head north up I-45 to Arlington, where Mad Max takes the hill tomorrow night in Game Three.

No team has ever won the first two games of a league championship series on the road and gone on to lose that series. The Rangers need to win two games out of the remaining five to get to their first World Series since 2011. And the next three are in Arlington.


Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Chargers

Mike McCarthy really said out loud last night after the Cowboys squeaker over the Chargers that he intentionally allowed the clock to run down so they could kick that field goal from the 14-yard-line at the end of the first half. The referees and the time keeper had stopped the clock at eight-seconds, assuming McCarthy would take one of his two remaining timeouts and throw the ball into the end zone. If it’s caught, it’s a touchdown. If it’s not, they kick the gimmee three-pointer and go to the locker room. The referees even asked McCarthy, “You don’t want the timeout? Are you sure?” They’re begging him to do the right thing! And he declined, telling reporters after the game he’s all about getting the points. The Cowboys had committed a holding penalty earlier on that drive and he just wanted to make sure nothing was going to mess up that automatic field goal.

He’s all about getting the points? That does not explain McCarthy’s going for it on 4th down inside the red zone two other times last night. It confuses the whole conversation. It must be madness for Dak having McCarthy in his helmet for three hours.



Ready for GCR60

The GCR Church family celebrates our 60th Anniversary and Homecoming this weekend with an all-church cookout, a youth ministry reunion, and praise and pie tomorrow, followed by a Sunday morning of reflection and gratitude and worship, capped by a catered lunch.

The foyers are decorated with flowers and balloons, the tables and chairs are set up in the Gathering Space and the Family Center to handle 800 for lunch, and there are old photos displayed and old video loops running in almost every public space. Andy Spell is coming back to help Cory Legg and Eric West lead our worship and the great Ronnie White is back to bring us an inspiring lesson from God’s Word.

As we look at old pictures and tell and re-tell the old stories, as we reflect on all that’s been accomplished since 1963, we remember we belong to a much bigger story of God and his people. Our focus is on what God has done and what he is doing. We rejoice in the indescribable  mercies and grace our Father has lavished on us. Our souls bask in his great love. Our spirits sing of the power of his salvation.

We are being changed by God to love like Jesus. That’s worth celebrating this Sunday at GCR.



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