Note to self: Be very, very, very, very, very, very careful with what you say in the pulpit!
One of the many things I love about our church family at Legacy is the sense of humor here. Everyone—especially here in the office—seems to be equally as comfortable on the giving and receiving end of good natured barbs and ribbing. I found myself on the butt end of it this morning. And I’m not certain yet as to the individuals who actually instigated it. But, I’ve got a general idea. And, rest assured, the revenge plotting has begun.
In our push up to Missions Sunday on March 30, we’ve been asking a few of our missionaries to address the assembly the past couple of Sunday mornings. Yesterday I had asked Salvador Cariaga, our main man in Cebu, Philippines, to speak for five or six minutes in the middle of our sermon about being God’s fellow workers. Salvador passionately spoke to us about the preacher-training and the church-planting that’s taking place in the Philippines. And he mentioned that they’re giving goats to the new preachers and to the churches there with the aim of becoming self-sufficient. They can give a preacher there one pregnant female goat and within a few months turn it into a real money-maker. After Salvador sat down and I got back up to finish our sermon, I noticed Jack Roseberry, one of our elders, sitting in the back. And I flippantly said, “Jack, don’t get any ideas. I don’t want a goat.”
I got the obligatory laughter I wanted and proceeded to finish the lesson.
At 11:00 this morning, Jack and Kent and Barbara McAlister and Bette Lowry and John and Betty Royse and Chris Courtney and several others paraded right into the offices with a giant metal cage containing a large goat and a sign that said, “To Allan Stanglin, C/O Legacy Church of Christ, Here’s Your Goat!”
Jack said the goal is to have a self-sufficient preacher.
Everybody was having their laughs and taking their pictures. I mentioned goat fajitas in connection with our Wednesday night dinners. I threatened to leave it tied up to a tree outside to meet the coyotes later this evening. But I was getting more than a little nervous. They kept telling me it really was my goat. Jack teaches one of our Sunday morning Bible classes and they had taken up a collection following my comments, jumped on line, and found this goat in Azle for about $30. And they kept saying, “It’s a gift. It’s yours. We really did buy it for you.” I don’t even let the secretaries’ dogs come into my office. And now I’ve got this huge goat! And I’m out of candle!
Carrie-Anne happened to show up to make some copies for school tomorrow. She was less than thrilled with the prospect of loading that thing up in the van and taking it home.
But I couldn’t get anybody to admit that it was all a big joke and that they really had a place for the goat. For 45-minutes this morning I wasn’t 100% sure it wasn’t really my responsibility. I spent most of that time preparing in my mind how I was going to ask Vic Akers to take it for me.
Finally, Barbara confessed that she was taking it back to their place. They had gotten my goat. Figuratively and literally.
Next Sunday I’m telling the congregation I don’t want a new truck.
Regarding yesterday’s sermon, a couple of you have asked for a copy of the passage I read from Eugene Peterson’s Working the Angles. I used a couple of paragraphs from the beginning of his book to describe the Church when, instead of looking at what God is doing in the world and jumping in to join him in that work, we decide what we want to do and ask God to join us. We ask God to bless us in our works even if those works have very little or anything to do with God’s eternal work of salvation.
Written from a Presbyterian point of view, the passage is critical of pastors. In our Church of Christ heritage, I would apply it to preachers and elders and anybody who’s a leader in the Lord’s Body. And I’d apply it seriously. Here it is:
“It is bitterly disappointing to enter a room full of pastors whom you have every reason to expect share the quest and commitments of pastoral work and find within ten minutes that they most definitely do not. They talk of images and statistics. They drop names. They discuss influence and status. Matters of God and the soul and Scripture are not grist for their mills.
The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeepers’ concerns—how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the good so that the customers will lay out more money.
Some of them are very good shopkeepers. They attract a lot of customers, pull in great sums of money, develop splendid reputations. Yet it is still shopkeeping; religious shopkeeping, to be sure, but shopkeeping all the same. They’re concerned with image and standing, with what they can measure, with what produces successful church-building programs and impressive attendance charts. The marketing strategies of the fast-food franchise occupy the waking minds of these entrepreneurs; while asleep they dream of the kind of success that will get the attention of journalists.”
And the CareerBuilders.com TV commercial I referenced? I used it to illustrate how sometimes the Church can be like the monkeys swinging on the light fixtures; that just because we’re Christians and children of God in a Christian Church that belongs to God doesn’t always necessarily mean we’re doing the work of God. Here’s the commercial I had in mind.
Jack, I don’t want a clothing allowance.
I need to reverse a position I took out on the flag football field Saturday morning. Darryn Pope, needing some support and encouragement following the last of his three wide-open drops of certain touchdown tosses, asked if Jesus would have dropped those passes. I immediately said, “Yes. Jesus would have dropped passes. Of course Jesus would have dropped passes. Jesus was human.”
Upon further reflection, I must correct that opinion. Darryn’s drops were so bad they were sinful. And the Scriptures are clear that Jesus was without sin. So, Darryn, no. Sorry. Jesus would never, ever, have dropped those passes.
I’m out tomorrow. Jim Martin, a long-time family friend and the preaching minister at the Crestview Church of Christ in Waco, has invited me to a preacher’s forum at their building all day Tuesday. Jim and I ran into each other a couple of years ago at the Austin Grad Sermon Seminar and promised to keep in touch. His blog, A Place For The God-Hungry, is a weekly source of encouragement to me.
There will be a dozen or so preachers at this event tomorrow. And we’re not really sure what we’re going to do or what’s going to result. I do know it’ll be a time of mutual encouragement, and that’ll be enough for me. Plus, I’ll be the only one there with a goat story.
Jack, I don’t want Cowboys season tickets. Or a suite at the Rangers game.