Yesterday’s Ordination – “Charge to the Minister”

As some of you know, yesterday was the official Installation/Ordination hoorah here at First Christian Church. It was great. Some additional friends and family were there. And the Milligan College Concert Choir was there… that was a nice touch!

Anyhoo, especially for some who couldn’t make it due to sickness, work, and weather, here is the text of the “Charge to the Minister”, which was led by Charles Reese, former FCC Senior Minister, 2000-2007. By the way, I did in fact, say, “I will” at the end.

The Christian ministry is both a great joy and a solemn responsibility. Jesus called the twelve to be with Him, first of all, even before sending them out to preach and to serve (Mark 3:14-15). So, we charge you, first of all, to love God supremely. The intensity of this relationship will determine the spirit and motivation and performance of your entire ministry. Cultivate that love for God that you are now experiencing through secret devotion, constant prayer, and the careful study of God’s Word. God does not share His Lordship with another. Let every demand upon your time and strength be subjugated to the growth and development of your life in its intimate relationship to Jesus Christ.

We charge you, secondly, to be a servant of God to people. The calling of the Christian minister is primarily that of a servant. Guard against the multiplicity of ministerial duties which will tempt you to choose the non-essential functions and so fragment your ministry that it dissipates its very strength. It will behoove you to remember that people are more important than things, institutions, rules or schedules. Yours must be the work of the preacher, an evangelistic voice interpreting God’s Word in apocalyptic days; yours must be the work of a pastor, whose heart never becomes hardened through intimacy or familiarity with the congregation; yours must be the work of an administrator who maintains a constant vigil over the organization, carefully delegating authority to others so as not to become encumbered with the endless detail of the administrative office, and yet not shunning the menial task, as if it were below your calling.

Finally, we charge you to keep the spirit of the ministry as Paul presents it in his second letter to Timothy: “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

So, will you pledge, as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness? Will you love God supremely? Will you serve these people? Will you preach the Word? And will you work hard to extend the Kingdom of God by promising to support the church and its worship and work to the best of your ability?

If so, will you please echo your agreement by saying, “I will.”

Tommy’s Here!

Our new Minister of Youth and Family Life, Tommy Staggs and his wife Leslie are here… and I’m elated. End of post.

FCC Staff out to Lunch

FCC Staff at Chuckwagon BBQ

Now, don’t take the title too figuratively, people. Just thought I’d share a picture of our staff eating at a really awesome BBQ place here in Greeneville called Chuckwagon BBQ. Tommy, our new Minister of Youth and Family Life, made a good choice! (With some coaching, of course.)

FCC Newsletter – “Scott’s Thoughts” – Taming the Tongue (James 3:1-12)

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, has lectured throughout the country on the powerful, and often negative, impact of words. He often asks audiences if they can go 24 hours without saying any unkind words about, or to, another person. Invariably, a small number of listeners raise their hands, signifying “yes.” Others laugh, and quite a large number call out, “no!”

Telushkin responds: “Those who can’t answer ‘yes’ must recognize that you have a serious problem. If you cannot go 24 hours without drinking liquor, you are addicted to alcohol. If you cannot go 24 hours without smoking, you are addicted to nicotine. Similarly, if you cannot go 24 hours without saying unkind words about others, then you have lost control over your tongue.”

The problem, according to the book of James, is that “[o]ut of the same mouth come praising and cursing” (James 3:10). Much like when people wonder, “You kiss your mother with that mouth?!” it can be, as James points out, like “a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body” that “corrupts the whole person” (James 3:6-7). Yeouch!

Like the rudder on a ship, James says, even though it is small, our tongues can steer our whole lives in a helpful or a hurtful direction.

So it is crucial for the Christian that we learn to control our tongues. Our witness to the reality of God, as individuals and as a church, depends on it!

So, how can we aim our “rudders” in the direction of helping? Might I suggest we practice. Captains of ships don’t just instantly become captains and take over the wheel their first time out. They have to learn. Likewise, using our words to help and to heal isn’t natural for most of us. It takes discipline and practice… not just empty prayers that ask the Holy Spirit to magically become the “Great Navigator” of our tongues while we idly wait for a miracle from on high. That was the error many committed when they marveled at Jesus’ powers as an easy fix that didn’t require them to change. Since when did exhibiting Godly behavior not take real work or effort? It’s why Jesus said in Matthew 26:41 that the “spirit is willing, but the body is weak” and Paul admonishes us to discipline our bodies.

So, how ‘bout this? Let’s try, as a body of believers, even if for only 24 hours, to go without saying any unkind words about, or to another person. Make a conscious decision and effort to do that one simple thing. And, over time, as we increasingly give ourselves to Godly patterns of behavior by using our speech as a bandage rather than a bludgeon, God will be glorified in our church.

Then, we won’t have people questioning out of sneering surprise, “You praise God and follow Jesus?” But they’ll declare out of genuine admiration and wonder, “You praise God and follow Jesus!”

A First for the First Christian Church Pulpit

Scott Preaches in Basketball ShoesI kinda tweaked my ankle a little bit this past week. The pathetic part is there’s no interesting story to tell other than to say that I have torn ligaments in both ankles over the years of basketball and soccer (and now, walking), so all it takes it a misstep around the corner or down the stairs, etc. And, no, a visit to the orthopedic doctor will not turn up anything other than a prescription to “take it easy” and stop playing sports that “people with aged ankles shouldn’t be playing” (“You mean 34?”). Anyway, when I woke up and got dressed this past Sunday morning, I put on my dress shoes, took a step and knew instantly that wasn’t gonna work. I need some significant support and cushioning when my ankles are hurting, so… I offer visual evidence of my solution… complete with gratuitous use of books in the background to provide that very official and pastoral “boy-he-must-know-a-lot” effect.

FCC Newsletter Blurb – Why We Pursue Excellence

Figured I’d share some of what I’m writing in the church newsletter. I think I’m gonna have to use snippets from my vocational production (How stilted sounding is that?!… What the heck is “vocational production”?) in order to consistently have fodder for blogging and, at the same time, not add more time than it’s worth (i.e., drive myself crazy with yet another to-do list item that I will never get done.)

Why We Pursue Excellence
When Vince Lombardi took over for the Green Bay Packers, they had lost all but one of 12 games the previous year. They were an organization needing inspiration. Don’t worry, the metaphorical similarity to First Christian Church doesn’t begin there! :o) On the contrary, we’ve been blessed with many years of servant leadership the likes of which many churches never enjoy, and I am fortunate to begin my ministry as your preacher on the shoulders of many who have gone before. First Christian Church has been faithful to God’s calling since its formation in 1926 and, Lord willing, has many great years ahead of it. Friends, we’ve got good stuff to work with and, in many ways, there’s not a lot to “fix.”

But Lombardi did see untapped potential and, in his first speech with the new team he declared with a tone of purpose and confidence, “Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence.” He paused, stepped up within a foot of the front row of players, and then he said, “I am not remotely interested in just being good.”

Wow! What challenging words for a team looking to win a few games! And while I’m certainly no Lombardi and First Christian Church is far healthier than a team coming off a one-win season, I am excited about pursuing excellence together because of the potential we have together. Not because we want to build a big church. Not because we want to be the coolest church in town… But because we want to communicate to our community and world the excellence of God. As God’s people we are called to spread a passion for the supremacy of God, and in light of that high calling, I don’t have much interest in just getting by. The glory of God is too important.

A lofty goal? Yes. But I’d rather fail trying to attain excellence than be successful at mediocrity. And while we certainly won’t always win, aiming high means we will catch excellence (and a quite a few not-yet-Christians) along the way!