Category: Golf Course Road Church (Page 1 of 20)

Blended Worship

Here’s my calendar for the next two weeks:

Wednesday May 22 – Dallas Mavericks Western Conference Finals Game 1
Thursday May 23 – Dallas Stars Western Conference Finals Game 1
Friday May 24 – Dallas Mavericks Western Conference Finals Game 2
Saturday May 25 – Dallas Stars Western Conference Finals Game 2
Sunday May 26 – Dallas Mavericks Western Conference Finals Game 3
Monday May 27 – Dallas Stars Western Conference Finals Game 3
Tuesday May 28 – Dallas Mavericks Western Conference Finals Game 4
Wednesday May 29 – Dallas Stars Western Conference Finals Game 4
Thursday May 30 – Dallas Mavericks Western Conference Finals Game 5
Friday May 31 – Dallas Stars Western Conference Finals Game 5
Saturday June 1 – Dallas Mavericks Western Conference Finals Game 6
Sunday June 2 – Dallas Stars Western Conference Finals Game 6
Monday June 3 – Dallas Mavericks Western Conference Finals Game 7 (if necessary)
Tuesday June 4 – Dallas Stars Western Conference Finals Game 7 (if necessary)

We’re a long way from this–we’re only halfway through both of these championship tournaments. But what if Dallas becomes “Title Town” and the Cowboys have nothing to do with it!

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Here at GCR Church we practice what a lot of people call a blended style of worship. Blended worship. Some people call it mutually miserable. With blended worship, we are equal opportunity offenders. Everybody’s miserable part of the time. There’s some part of this worship service you’re going to hate–we guarantee it!

I make fun of it. But, most of the time, I’m pushing for it. Because, if nothing else, it’s a way of driving home the point that we are not a monolithic church of just one style or one generation or one approach. We’re a diverse family of Christian disciples. So, every Sunday, we sing a pretty good mix of newer contemporary worship songs and older classic hymns. We do it all.

It helps us, I think, to emphasize that our Christian faith and our community of faith at GCR is not a one-track deal. We’re trying our best to foster a culture where everybody connects with God. We’re not perfect at this. But we try to communicate with our blended styles and practices that everybody is invited, that everybody is welcome, that everybody can hear and be heard, and that everybody can sing their song.

And that God will transform us when we sing somebody else’s song.

Peace,

Allan

Promote the Mood

Colorado is done. It’s most likely going to happen tonight. If not, it’ll be Friday. Certainly over the next two games, the Dallas Stars will vanquish the Avalanche and advance to the Western Conference Finals for a second consecutive season. The Stars are playing their best hockey of the year right now. Since dropping those first two home games to Vegas a million years ago, Dallas is 7-2 and absolutely romping on offense and completely locking things down on defense. Oh, man, they are fun to watch right now.

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Today’s post wraps up most of my thoughts on the Lord’s Supper right now. Thank you for hanging in there with me over the past couple of weeks. I believe the communion meal is the most important thing we Christians can do on a Sunday. It’s the primary reason we come together in the presence of God on his day: to share a fellowship meal at his table with him and with one another.

But this is really difficult for us. We struggle with this. Not just here at GCR and not just in Churches of Christ. All Christians and churches in the West have a hard time with this. We’ve been conditioned by our culture and, honestly, by our churches for centuries to view the Lord’s Supper as an individual act, a very personal moment between God and me.

Yes, there are times for private introspection and reflection. There are times for silent meditation on the death of Jesus at the cross. Yes, there are times for personal moments between the Lord and you. There must be! But the Lord’s Supper is not that time. The Lord’s Supper is intended to be the time when God’s people express and experience real community with God and one another.

That’s difficult because we’re not sitting around a big table together on Sundays in the Worship Center. There are 500 of us in there, sitting in straight rows, staring at the backs of each other’s heads. So, logistically, it’s hard. We can’t eat a full lunch with 500 of us inside that room every Sunday. That’s where your small groups come in, I hope.

During our Sunday worship assemblies, we can’t provide the food, but we can promote the mood.

Even though it’s just one bite and one sip, we can act like we’re sharing the meal the bread and cup represent. We can look each other in the eye, we can pat each other on the back, we can share encouraging words up and down your row. “God loves us. Thank you, Lord Jesus.” Or, “Hey, we’re forgiven and we belong to together at this table with Jesus!” If we’ll embrace the mood of a family meal, if we’ll foster that culture of community, the Lord’s Supper will shape us. It’ll change us. It’ll force us to recognize the body and serve each other instead of ourselves. It’ll be a transforming encounter.

We try this every now and then at GCR. We’ll ask our folks to say something to the people around them as the trays are being passed, to remember Jesus together, to share a Scripture or to talk together about your experiences with Christ. And we want to do more of that. Sharing. Fellowship. Koinonia. We want to put the communion back in communion.

We also want to set up a dozen tables around the room two or three times a year and ask our people to gather around them to promote more of the mealtime mood. There’s the bread and cup, but there’s also other little bites of things to enjoy and experience together and room and space and time to really serve one another, to share the food and drink, and to encourage one another. To talk. To hug. To welcome. To include. To remember Jesus and more fully express and experience the communion we have with God and each other.

And here’s something we started this past Sunday. We are working on a church-wide understanding that nobody eats alone. We’re making a commitment that nobody sits by themselves in our Worship Center and eats and drinks communion by themselves. If anyone is sitting alone on Sunday mornings, our folks have committed to getting up and joining them. Whether you know them or not–especially if you don’t!–we’re going to sit together for the Lord’s Supper. We’re going to make connections. We’re going to be encouraging. We’re going to communicate that belonging together the meal is intended to demonstrate.

I wasn’t sure it was going to happen–we’re asking people to really step out of their comfort zones. But during the song before the communion meal on Sunday, several people left their seats to join those who were sitting alone. The movement was scattered all over the Worship Center, in the front and the back. It happened. And it was beautiful. A clear demonstration of the realities of the Gospel of Christ.

At the Lord’s Supper, we are invited to sit down for a meal with the crucified and risen Savior of the World. We are all invited–all of us–which means we are reconciled not only to God, but also to one another. We are one body. A communion of the redeemed. And we’re all equal. Together. There aren’t any box seats at the table, no reservations for VIPs. We’re experiencing and expressing the Gospel of Jesus Christ at this meal. And we’re practicing for the ultimate potluck, the coming feast, rich food for all peoples, the best of meats, the Bible says, and the finest of wines. And, I can only assume, big bowls of banana pudding.

We’re not just remembering the acts of the past that secured our salvation in Jesus; we’re experiencing and expressing the present realities of our unity and community together in Christ.

Peace,

Allan

Three Things

Three unconnected thoughts on a Monday afternoon.

1) The Dallas Stars are doing what it takes to get to the Stanley Cup Finals. Last night’s opening round finale against Vegas was everything a Game Seven is supposed to be: a full-on-two-and-a-half-hour-heart-attack. Radek Faksa’s sublime backhanded tally early in the third period proved to be the game winner, but only after a spectacular shut-down by the Dallas defense, concluding with those last two-and-a-half minutes of a one-goal game when the other team has an empty net and a man advantage. Whew! Jake Ottinger is calmly brilliant between the pipes. Wyatt Johnston and Jason Robertson are leading the offense. Seguin and Benn are providing the veteran leadership. Stankoven is looking to be the postseason hero nobody saw coming. Stars coach Pete DeBoer is moving the pieces perfectly. It looks like everything’s in place. With the series win over Vegas, the Stars avenged last season’s loss to the Golden Knights in the conference finals and they exorcised once and for all the Adin Hill demons that were swimming around in their heads. Up next is the longtime Western Conference rival Colorado Avalanche whose scoring success in the first round against Winnipeg is frightening. But there’s no way they keep up with the Stars. Vegas was the toughest draw for Dallas.

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2) The new limited edition Coconut Cream Dr Pepper is the first tricked-up flavored Dr Pepper that didn’t disappoint me. I didn’t know anything about Coconut Cream Dr Pepper until today during a lunch with all our ministers. So, of course, I hit two grocery stores on the way back to the church building so we could all try it together. H-E-B had nothing and all I could find at United Market Street was one 12-pack of the Dr Pepper Zero. Good enough. In the great 10-2-4 Dr Pepper tradition, we gathered in the break room at 2:00 for the tasting. And I think it’s really, really good! Overall, the reviews were mixed. Unsurprisingly, the Dr Pepper haters hated it. Brenda said it was nasty and called it coconut-flavored prune juice. Jadyn declared it amazing. Kim called it yummy. Tim said Dr Pepper is a unique enough flavor on its own that adding anything to it only messes it up. And–breaking news–Ryan didn’t even try it. My problem with all the flavored DPs is that the added flavor isn’t strong enough, it’s barely there. But you can definitely smell and taste the coconut in this new one, and it’s truly wonderful. Jim says it tastes like suntan lotion.

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3) Church humor is funny. The HVAC system in our church offices blew a gasket late last week and for two days the AC was blowing extremely frigid air at a high velocity and nothing could be done to shut it down. We were all freezing. Once the situation was remedied, one of our ministers sent the church staff this picture of the thermostat in his office with this caption: “I told you it was cold as hell in here!”

Peace,

Allan

Thinking Out Loud: Baptism

Two Sundays ago was “Baptism Sunday” here at GCR. Six beautiful people confessed Christ Jesus as Lord and were buried with him in the waters of baptism and raised to walk in newness of eternal life with God and with his Church. It was a glorious day. It was a testimony to our Savior and a glory to our God. Six baptisms.

And the preacher didn’t preside over any of them.

Six different people baptized these six new Christians. What was taking place was described to the church in six different ways. Six different things were said as the converts went under and came back up. Most of these people hadn’t baptized anyone before, so there was minor floundering and forgotten phrases and awkward hand-to-nose coordination.

And it was beautiful.

You know, it wasn’t that long ago–maybe just 20-25 years ago–that the preacher would have handled all six of those baptisms. The preacher did almost all the baptisms all the time; it was that way for decades, even centuries. And, not surprisingly, the baptisms were all very much the same. The same preacher said the same correct words and confidently used the same motions and expertly put the person under and brought the person back up in the same way. Every time. And I wonder if that didn’t help perpetuate the ideas among us that baptism is foremost something we do. A decision we make, a command we obey, an act of faith or a good work that we initiate and execute with precision. It’s a little too tidy, it’s a little too controlled. We’re in charge of baptisms and the preacher does it right. He’s the minister, he’s the “authority,” he’s the one who does it right.

No. God is the One who acts at baptism. This is God’s work, not yours. Not ours. God is the one doing the calling and the saving, the forgiving and the restoring. We don’t do anything in baptism, we don’t achieve or accomplish anything. We receive everything! It’s got nothing to do with my goodness or your correctness or the right words being said by the right person or the right amount of water being used or how much or how little I know about what’s going on. This is God meeting you in the water and making you an eternal child of his forever. Anything that adds to or takes away from that is legalism and denies the very Gospel of Jesus.

And I think our baptisms today communicate all that a little better than they used to.

It’s a teenager and his youth minister, it’s a couple of co-workers, it’s a child and her two parents demonstrating their faith by jumping into the water together and trusting that God is going to save. Giving themselves to the Lord, fumbling through the words, getting each other too wet or not wet enough, almost drowning each other, forgetting what to say–believing that God is the one in charge.

Just thinking out loud here. This seems like a really healthy development.

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So, the Cowboys have their running back for the upcoming season. Ezekiel Elliott. For real. In Elliott’s last year with Dallas, he ran for 3.8 yards per carry, the worst of his career at that point. Last season with New England, he ran for 3.5 yards per carry. Jerry Wayne told us last week that he saw something in the last part of last season that gave him confidence Elliott could still be an effective runner. Well, in his last six games with the Patriots, his average per carry was 2.9 yards. This is what it looks like for Jerry to be “all in.”

It’s more like, “The window is closed, again, and I’m not spending any more money on this mess. Good luck to Dak and Lamb, go do the best you can. Mike McCarthy, go ahead and line up some interviews because when this season is over I’m firing you and bringing in Belichick.”

Peace,

Allan

Baptism Sunday at GCR

You are not baptized by yourself. Baptism is not a private deal. When you’re baptized into the name of Jesus Christ, you are baptized into his community. You become a part of God’s redeemed people. Baptism is not just unity with Christ, it is also very much unity in Christ.

“You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” ~ Galatians 3:26-28

That’s why we do baptisms on Sundays when the whole church is together. That’s why we cram as many people as we can up on the stage and we all stand as close as we can to the water, so you know this is not just about me and God. This is not just about me and my close relatives or me and my best friends. I am being joined by God into this community. God through Christ is now making me a part of this worldwide, universal, eternal community of the saved in Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

I love the way our Spiritual Formation Minister Jim Tuttle says it when he baptizes someone. As soon as he brings them out of the water, he grabs them and says, “I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is now you are an eternal child of God. The bad news is (gesturing toward the whole church) this is your family!”

This past Sunday was our first ever Baptism Sunday at GCR. I had never done one of these before. I have thought about it and wanted to do it for years, but haven’t been able to pull it off. We gave our church two weeks to think about baptism. To pray about it. To talk to others about it. To listen to God about it. If you have never been baptized or if someone you know has never been baptized, we’re going to spend these two weeks preparing for it and then we’re going to baptize a bunch of people on the 21st.

And, by God’s grace, we did.

Six brand new Christians put on our crucified and risen Lord Jesus in baptism on Sunday. We knew about four of them last week, we learned about one of them Saturday afternoon, and one guy didn’t decide to be baptized until after the second one had happened. Coy was standing¬† on the stage with the rest of us and leaned toward J.E. and said, “Will you baptize me?” Melinda baptized Jayce, one of her co-workers she’s been bringing to church. Matt and Stacey baptized their teenage daughter, Kylie. Lan and Cassie baptized their adopted son, M.J. Philip and Caitlin baptized their two daughters, Madison and Mabel. We were laughing and crying and praising God together as a united community of faith around the waters of baptism. And each time a new Christian came up out of that water, we charged them and blessed them in unison with the opening lines from Colossians 3:

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, you also will appear with him in glory!”

It was a glorious day. Those of us who’ve been baptized for a long time remembered our own baptisms with thanksgiving and renewed our commitments to Christ and to one another all over again. And we thanked God for the privilege of participating in these six baptisms together as a church family. We ate and drank the communion meal together and prayed over these new disciples, still literally wet behind the ears, dripping with God’s forgiveness and grace, and filled to overflowing with his Holy Spirit.

May our God bless these brand new Christians with his love and grace. May they look back often on their baptism at GCR and remember what God has created in them. And may they walk with him, together with us, faithful to the end.

Peace,

Allan

Surrounded

“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” ~Hebrews 12:1

We are “Running the Race” together at GCR on Wednesday nights, five straight weeks of intentional intergenerational mixing up of our ages and groups for worship, games, Christian practices, and desserts. This past Wednesday we attempted a demonstration of affection and encouragement for the older runners among us.

We asked everyone in our church family who was baptized 50 years ago or longer to wait in the foyer. We wouldn’t let them come into the Worship Center. While the rest of us gathered inside, our older brothers and sisters were outfitted with makeshift “runners bibs,” big marathon numbers to wear on their chests declaring how many years they’ve each been running the race. Meanwhile, I prepped those of us waiting on the inside for what would come next.

The first verses of Hebrews 12 are serving as a theme verse for these five Wednesdays and we’re observing that we have our own cloud of witnesses right here at GCR. There are faithful disciples of Christ right here in our own church family who have endured, persevered, fought the good fight, and run the race marked out for us. We have wonderful models of faith and courage, sacrifice and service, right here in the building. And as they run the race before us, as they show us the way, as they wrap up their races by finishing strong and handing the baton to those of us who are coming behind, let’s really cheer them on. They deserve our encouragement. They deserve our affection. They deserve our love and respect. And they deserve to know how much we appreciate them.

At that point, Jackie opened up the doors at the back of the Worship Center and here they came! Right down the long center aisle! 60-year Christians. 70-year disciples. A couple of 80+ year followers of Christ. And we let them have it! A standing ovation. Clapping. Cheering. Whistling. Stomping. The “Chariots of Fire” theme song blaring. High fives. Hugs. Pats on the back. Spotlights dancing. Yelling and hollering. Confetti and streamers and noisemakers. Lots of smiling and laughing. These older saints entered our place of worship to a roaring welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

It took a little longer than I thought it might. But if it had lasted an hour, I’m convinced we would have kept clapping and whistling. And everybody in the room would have kept smiling.

After everyone finally got seated, we stood up to worship our God together, I talked a little about the blessings of being surrounded by these older saints, and then we surrounded them in prayer. We crowded around those who are running ahead of us and showing us the way, we knelt before them and put our arms around them, literally, and lifted them up to the Lord in thanksgiving and blessing.

Then we played “Human Bingo,” a game J.E. and Jadyn devised to intentionally get our different generations mixing together. Beautiful.

As a Christian community, we’re called to lives of mutual encouragement. Christians have a high calling to care for one another spiritually and morally. Our attention should be riveted to always looking out for ways to encourage others within the community of faith.

I’m always strengthened when I consider those who’ve been faithfully running this marathon longer than me. And so much better. With more grace. And courage. And faith.

I pray we were able to return some of that strength and encouragement Wednesday night.

Peace,

Allan

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