504 Java Profile

504 Java Profile
Two of my favorite things

Monday, February 7, 2011

On Christian Counter Culture

There is much in the news about the turmoil in Egypt. I was scheduled to go on a trip with the seminary in March, but obviously it is uncertain to the point that it was canceled. Because of my upcoming pilgrimage, I have been reading and studying both the ancient and modern culture. At seminary, we received a letter from a friend and doctoral student who is the pastor of a Baptist church in Cairo. He described the situation in Cairo as one of turmoil (obviously) and great opportunity. He spoke of hope--that whatever takes place as a result of the unrest will mean that the church will have increased opportunity to serve and minister to their community. Based upon news reports, it is evident that the people of Egypt, particularly young adults, will not allow the status quo to continue.
The willingness of the church to adapt to the changing cultural landscape is going to be the key in the effectiveness of their ability to minister to the culture. Oh wait, am I talking about Egypt or Baton Rouge or Atlanta or Dallas? The same can be said of any church in America that can be said of First Baptist in Cairo–the willingness of the church to adapt to the changing cultural landscape is going to be the key in the effectiveness of their ability to minister to the culture.
I am about to begin a series at my church on the Sermon on the Mount. It is the New Testament perspective of how the church fastens tenaciously to the teachings from Scripture, while at the same time creating an environment for authentic conversations with persons in our community who have not grown up in our traditions.
John Stott, in his introduction to his commentary on the Sermon, says that,

The Sermon on the Mount is probably the best-known part of the teaching of Jesus, though arguably it is the least understood, and certainly it is the least obeyed. It is the nearest thing to a manifesto he ever uttered, for it his own description of what he wanted his followers to be and do. To my mind no two words sum up its intention better, or indicate more clearly its challenge to the modern world, than the expression, “Christian counter-culture.”

As our church looks into its future, the same challenge faces her as faces a church in Cairo, Egypt. Let me give it a label–rooted-ness and relevance. We need to move into our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and families as mature disciples, rooted in the truth of the Bible but relevant in the needs of the culture. The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ idea of how that might happen.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

On Legacy and Dunwoody Baptist Church

To the Youth of Dunwoody Baptist Church, Atlanta Georgia

Lately, there has been talk of a reunion of the Dunwoody Baptist Youth Group, of which I was the Minister with Students from 1989 through 1994. So much has changed in the lifetime of these "kids" many of whom have children of their own. All of the youth ministries I have been privileged to lead have been special, but Facebook is blowing up with this particular band of young adults.

Which brings me to my stream of consciousness.

I remember moving to Atlanta with my beautiful bride of now over 27 years and our 11-month old son who is now 22 years old and well over six feet tall. I remember meeting all of you on a fall retreat after being there for less than a week and all of us wondering if we were going to make it. But we did.

You guys were amazing. I got to be with you for some incredible moments. I learned from you and maybe you learned from me. I remember praying with the Meroney family and later baptizing Dennis and Katy together. I remember memorizing Scripture with many of you, particularly during "Student Church." I remember Amy Keels bringing me a broken bottle top as a "Stone in the Jordan" in Detroit indicating her understanding that she was called to ministry (did any of you know that Amy and I co-authored an article by that name in a major youth ministry magazine?).

I remember staff relationships with Dave and Greg and Laine and Wes and Daniel and Dennis and Marjorie--I still tell my youth ministry classes that when we had youth camp, we closed the church because the whole staff went to camp. Somewhere is the picture of all of us in our "Just Do It" t-shirts to prove it. By the way, I lost that one and about 30 years worth of youth camp t-shirts when my house flooded in Hurricane Katrina. Probably best as over the years they must have shrunk because they wouldn't stretch over my new and expanded physique.

I remember Kim McNamara challenging me to be better as she brought friends. I remember the Power Source Band with Pete (sorry Pierre) Kimball and Seth Remaley and Darren Pyle and Adam Jones and my three chords and a capo which was as close to being in a band as I ever got. I remember youth week, with over 100 students teaching the Bible to youth, adult and children's classes. I remember youth camp and Disciple Now, mission trip to New Orleans, emergency room in Panama City, being kicked out of go-cart tracks in Branson and creating fire out of the exhaust pipe of the rented U-Haul truck in San Diego.

I remember After Hours and somebody's famous pizza dip. I remember Rich Mullins at Fall Retreat. I remember Toccoa Assembly, combining with fellow youth minister Andy Stanley for another fall retreat (with Louie Giglio speaking). I remember epic football games (no flag football for us, no sir-ee--Chris Edgar, I bear scars today...). I remember revival with Rick Stanley, hiking the Appalachian trail, and night skiing at Boone, whitewater rafting on the Ocoee. I will never forget the moving conversations with Greg Mann, Todd Crowder, Jenny Edgar, Todd Copper, and so many others as you understood that God did care what happened with your life. I remember the line dance we had at a DNow with many of my youth ministry friends wondering if I would get fired. I remember Pepto busses.

I remember Joel Vestal, Tom Riley, Joe Beckler and Mike Thomas, in the same Disciple Now home, trying to ask questions that Stan Greene couldn't answer. All of you are still in ministry along with Amy Keels, Mark Knight, Elizabeth Atkins, Kevin Miller, Adam Jones, Jimmy Carter (who wrote a book based on his testimony!), Matt Ferguson and Lydia Cotten--please forgive me if I forgot you. I remember thinking Pritchett Cotten was amazingly creative and an authentic friend. I remember Jessica times two (Gray and Handley) and their insightful questions. I remember Eugene Kim's leadership and the laughter of Dee Dee Lindsey, Luisa Stone, Liesl Allen, Matt Redd, Rich Butler, Charlie Moore, Missy Lindsey, and the quiet confidence of Russell Bailey, JT Ware, and Bret Wingfield. I remember the compassion of Cheri Smith (who now gets to practice it on her triplets). I remember how far Roy David Williams, Matt Russell and Derek Jackson could hit a golf ball.

I remember adults--Joy and Winfred, Sam and Bev, Bob, Nancy, Billy, Barbara, Jim, Margie, Betty and Marty (who would have thought that Marty would be the chairman of the Board of Trustees at a pretty major college!); John, Bev and Jerry, Norman, Steve, and a host of others. I remember Jenny, and Meredith and Cheryl and Blair and Susanna and Heidi, generally involved in some form of mischief. I remember Matt and Kevin and Clay and Danny and chicken biscuits at Hickory House.

I still grieve thinking about "my" students who died before their time--Ben Eberbaugh, Mike Flake, Stephanie Jackson. I remember helping with weddings for so many of these incredible young adults. I get sad when I hear of marriages that didn't work out, I sigh and smile when I see on facebook how wonderfully successful you are as adults.

Which brings me to the point of this little stroll down memory lane. In every ministry I have been privileged to lead, including the seventeen years teaching at seminary, I have memories of people, places, and opportunities that make me smile and know that God is in the business of legacy. Paul told Timothy to remember the things he had learned and the people he learned them from because God is linking generation after generation with His message of grace and His plan of discipleship.

I am embarrassed that I didn't mention every single one of you as you all I would love to hear the stories of how God continues to work in your lives. If the hope you once had has grown a little weary, please be encouraged. God still comforts, teaches, provides, corrects, communicates. I have been so blessed to have been along for the ride in the early '90s. I look forward to the reunion. Continue to leave a legacy!