My most memorable communion experience was watching you tear up as Noah dipped his bread for the very first time. My second was a few months later when SJ did the same.
Every Sunday at The Bridge we received Holy Communion. As pastor, I always stand
off to the side while others serve and greet/pray with people as they come
through the line. One Sunday morning, Erica came through the line holding Noah
and he pinched his piece of bread, dipped it into the cup and then ate it.
All by himself!! I was overcome with emotion and almost busted into tears
right there. It was incredibly moving for me.
After he got through, he came over and wiped the great juice off his hands
onto my shirt. Still a good day.
Last night our youth had their first lock-in during my tenure as pastor of Union. I was amazed that there were well over 30 youth’s attending. It was quite a site to behold. It was not long ago as we were at our last church that I vowed to give up doing lock-ins. It was a New Years event and I’m just getting to the point that I enjoy my sleep way too much. However, events such as these have such great attractability to young people. Here is my thinking on Lock-in’s:
- Events such as these truly connect the youth to one another. They get to know each other better and the stronger their relationships are the stronger their group grows, thus the stronger their faith journey.
- It is a perfect connect point for those who don’t attend our church to come. It can be kinda awkward for youth to invite their friends to church but an even such as a LOCK-IN/5th quarter/etc is a different story. It is easy to invite them to something “fun.” Last night I did recognize a great many people at the church, praise God.
- It is a great opportunity to share the Gospel. Last night, we had a young person accept Christ for the first time. What else needs to be said.
I’m starting a new sermon series next week. Would love for you to join us and bring a friend.
There is a new show (Undercover Boss) in which the CEO of a company works different jobs within the organization “Undercover” to find out more about the day-to-day work that goes on in their company. What if our boss, Jesus, was to come and join us for a day? What would he observe and would it be pleasing to him?
Over the next several weeks, we will explore what it means to be the Christian that God calls us to be. Why is this so important, so we can experience all that a relationship with God through Christ has to offer.
There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to rebuild.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A Time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to lose.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak up.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)
This passage and the author’s obvious knowledge about change that happens in life has brought me comfort and peace throughout the years. Change is something that we as individuals tend not to like very much. It is when something changes in our lives that our “fear chord” is struck and reverberates. We get nervous when the company that we have worked for changes ownership. I remember going off to college and the fear of the unknown scared me to death; I remember the re-org at State Farm that frightened the willies out of me. This is a totally natural human response to change. We don’t like it. Yet, change still comes. Sometimes it’s silent, quick and other times it’s a long drawn out process. Sometimes, the end result is better than what we had originally hoped for but one thing is for sure, as Christians there is always change if we are seeking God’s will and not our own.
Three years ago, we began an experiment in change and we called it The Bridge. Many of us made changes in our lives, our churches, our spiritual journey and we allowed God to use us to help people change their own lives. The goal of the Bridge has never been to stay the same but to change in the finest, most minute ways in our own lives so that we could become more like Christ.
This morning told the congregation of another change. Jill and I have requested to be moved. I can assure you that our reasons are personal and not due to anything with the Bridge nor the North Alabama Conference. There are many factors that weighed in and we decided the best decision for our family was to request a change. Please don’t take this as we don’t want to serve with you because that is not the case. We love you and are so proud of what has been accomplished here at The Bridge. Yet, I will never be able to share with you the difficulties and stress that starting/leading a new church places on a person.
When we began and throughout this journey, we have focused our vision/energies on three points:
1. Building Relationships
2. Developing Disciples
3. Empowering Ministers
I truly believe that we have succeeded in these. Think about all the new relationships that you have invested in since you have been apart of The Bridge. There is a love and family here that is incredible and I applaud you for making this happen and give glory to God.
I know that we have all grown in our relationship with God through Christ. None of us are the same person we were when we started coming to church here and in a nutshell that is what we wanted to accomplish.
Just to think about those who have been empowered in their ministries that have traveled through the door of The Bridge. Daniel McIntyre who has moved his family to Honduras to be full time missionaries; Zach who is going on to seminary, Eric and his approach to coaching with his girls, and Hugh just to name a few. But wow, what a great testament to the work God has done through this group of people.
Now, a new season is dawning and the question is on the table. What happens to The Bridge? The Bridge as we know it is coming to a close. The Conference will not be appointing a new pastor to The Bridge. I will continue to serve The Bridge as pastor until March 28. I will then be on Sabbatical until I move to my next appointment on June 15. This will give me the opportunity to spend time with two new family members, and a time to de-compress.
I, along with Hugh, Rachel, and Zach, have been in conversation with Todd Henderson from Aldersgate UMC. Todd and I have been friends since his arrival in Huntsville and he has been a close confidant and even a mentor to me as a pastor. He is a person whom I greatly respect and someone with whom I look up to as a pastor and as a person. He is also someone whose theology is very similar to my own. Todd approached me in late October/early November regarding the possibility of partnering with Aldersgate. Their situation is that they have outgrown their facilities and we were exploring the possibility of shifting some or all of their contemporary worshippers to The Bridge. As Jill and I made the decision of what was best for our family, our talks began to include our District Superintendents and what was best for The Bridge, Aldersgate, and the Conference.
Aldersgate is spending the next month praying and discerning God’s call for their next step. The Conference has offered them financial support if they will use what we have started to continue reaching out to the community in this area. We don’t know if the name will stay, if a lease for this building can be worked out, or how all the pieces fit together. What I can assure you of is Todd’s leadership and vision. He has a heart and a deep desire to introduce people to the Gospel and help them grow closer to Christ. I hope you will pray about this and spend some time in reflection. Knowing Todd, the vision of what we have set out to do will still happen, so don’t get caught up in a name or a place. The destination is the same (growing people in Christ). Aldersgate is entering a process of discerning God’s call and invites you to join with them in a process of discernment and discovery of God’s call. Todd Henderson and some Aldersgate leaders want to gather with us Tuesday week, and then throughout the next weeks, as part of that process in order to flesh out what the future may look like as together we reach and grow disciples.
I will never be able to thank you enough for traveling this path with my family, and me and I hope you have some understanding of what you mean to us. We have cried together, laughed together and grown closer to Christ together. Now please continue the work that Christ has begun in you. Continue to grow in your faith and helping someone else grow in theirs. Remember, you may be the only Christ someone sees this week.
Grace, Peace and Love,
One of the blessings of being a part of the body of Christ is that we care for one another. Our family has experienced the blessing and grace of an incredible congregation. One that is growing in their faith and growing in their love for one another. As you know from my post, our family has been stretched pretty thin lately with back surgery and the upcoming twins.
The Bridge congregation has blessed our family by providing meals for us. I cannot begin to tell you how much this has meant to us but also how much it has helped take a huge load off of our family. Jill and I thank you for your love and your willingness to go out of your way to help us out. The kids have also greatly appreciated it also because they haven’t had to eat chicken fingers and wings every night.
Thank you, you are all awesome!! And we love you.
Scripture: James 1:22-25
Focus: What does your actions and lifestyle say about your Christian character?
Synopsis: A couple of years ago, I made a good many people upset with me when I un-invited them to be counselors at camp. Some of these were people who had worked for me in the past and there was one simple reason that they were not asked back. The photo’s and other things that they put on Facebook, MySpace, and LiveJournal did not represent the character that we were looking for in people that would be leading our campers. More and more employers, colleges, fraternities, and other organizations are going to the social networks to help make a determination as to what type of person you are putting on display. As I directly ask some of these people about what I saw on their social network, their response was, “That’s really not who I am.” So, you’re one person here and another person there? Sounds a great deal like people who come to church on Sunday morning and act one way but are totally different the other six days of the week. That’s not what being a Christian is about. Christianity is about accepting the love and grace of God through Jesus Christ. It’s about life change…the kind of change that happens as you grow closer to God through your relationship with Jesus. Each day becoming less like the old you and more like Christ (We Methodist call that Sanctification). Some times this growth happens quickly but most often it is slow and steady. So, what can we do to grow closer to Christ? How do we become more Christ-like?
1. Don’t Listen to the Word and Trick Yourself: You cannot experience life change and be someone different Monday through Saturday. We often will trick ourselves or even try to justify our actions. When this happens, all that God has to offer is not experienced.
2. Look at the Perfect Law
- Read your Bible. It’s life’s instruction Book and written to help you discover and live a life that will bring glory to God.
- Go to Church. We need to be connected with the Body of Christ. This is not a solo sport
- Join a Small Group. We need the support and accountability of other Christians.
3. Continue to do this.
- “I’ve read the entire Bible from cover to cover” Great!! Do it again.
- Spiritual Growth does not stop. Whenever growth stops, death begins.
- Continue the spiritual disciplines and increase them over time.
4. Don’t Forget
- We have a tendency to forget what we’ve heard.
- We have a tendency to forget whose we are.
- We get with our friends/co-workers/different environment and it becomes easy to forget our Christian character.
- As you become more comfortable in your faith, there are going to be parts of your life that become more uncomfortable.
- As I become more comfortable in my faith, I became less comfortable going to the clubs/using foul language/hanging with some of my “friends”
5. Be a Doer
- As you grow in your faith, there is going to be something that wells up in you and you won’t be able to contain it. You will want to do something. You will need to put action to your faith. In the Great Commission, Christ begins it with the ACTION verb GO into the world. Our faith is not something to be sat upon and Christianity is not about sitting on the bench. It’s about getting out onto the field and into the game.
As you begin to incorporate these things into your life, people are going to see your character. A character that is shaped by and for Christ and others will see the light of Christ shining brightly through your life.
Wow is about the only word that I can come up with right now after seeing all the video and photos coming out of Haiti. I’m just taken back and don’t have words that would accurately describe my feelings. If you want to help (like I do) here is a link to UMCOR. UMCOR is the relief agency of the United Methodist Church and 100% of your donations will go directly to the Haiti Relief Effort.
We are going to be taking up a special offering at Behold this weekend and this offering will be going straight to UMCOR. We will also be taking a special offering at The Bridge.
Scripture: Romans 8:29-30
Focus: What info do you put out for the world to see? Is this your true character and is it pleasing to God?
Synopsis: Facebook has quickly become a social phenom the likes of which the world has never seen. We now have the ability to be connected faster, more openly and to more people than ever in human history. When I was a teenager and wanted to send a note someone across the country, I had to write a letter, seal it in an envelope, put a stamp on it and put it in a mailbox. Then I had to wait at least a week to get a reply. Now, we can do that in an instant. It has open up a whole new world to us with just a few strokes of the key pad. Facebook reports the following:
- More than 350 Million ACTIVE users.
- 50% of the active users log on to Facebook in any given day.
- More than 55 million status updates posted each day.
- More than 2.5 BILLION photos uploaded each month.
- Aver user spends more than 55 minutes per day on Facebook.
I have found that the fastest way to get information out at the Bridge is through Facebook. Why has Facebook become so BIG? It’s because it taps into some of our basic needs as people.
1. Taps Into Our Need To Be Connected. We have a need and a desire to be connected with others. We want to have friends. Think back to a time when you entered into a place (a new job/a new school/a new church) where you knew no one. For most of us, it is a very uncomfortable feeling. We have a desire to belong and to be in relationships with others. This goes all the way back to Adam and Eve. Adam was in the Garden and had all he needed. He was living in paradise but God knew that something was missing and that was a partner. Thus, He created Eve.
As Christians, we have the same desire and need for one another. That’s why the church family is so important. The Church is the connection of Christians.
2. We Want To Be Known. Facebook says that 35 million users update their status each day. We want people to know what is going on in our lives. How many times have you seen or updated your status, “Going to lunch. BRB” Does anyone other than us really care? Why do we put on our Facebook that “We’re single and looking for a relationship?” Because we have a desire to let other know what is going on in our lives. We want to be known. When we have an announcement to make, we put it on Facebook. This is how Jill and I announced that we were having twins and we had to tell those whom we told personally (our parents), “Don’t put this on Facebook!” We knew how fast it would get posted.
God doesn’t need Facebook to know what’s going on in our lives. He knows us intimately. In our scripture we hear, “For God knew his people in advance” We as Methodist believe that God loves us and knows us before we know God. We call it Prevenient Grace and its the foundation for our baptizing infants. Even before we are old enough to love God, God already loves us. God knows every thing about us even the number of hairs on our head. He knows we are single and looking for a relationship without reading Facebook.
3. We Want to Know. We enjoy getting all the juicy gossip and we love reading the status updates of others. There is a part of us that wants to know everything about everything. The Scripture we are studying says, “and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.” As Christians, we are called to grow toward becoming like his Son. Our goal is to become like Christ and as we do that we are going to discover a Godly wisdom. As we progress on our spiritual path, we are going to see things in ways that we have never seen before and experience things that we have never had the Godly wisdom to realize.
Focus: Our choice in friends plays has a huge impact on our spiritual journey. What does Scripture say about how to choose friends.
Synopsis: One of the main features of Facebook is the ability to accept Friends. My own Facebook has 507 friends and I realized that I don’t know 507 people. What is common on Facebook is to accept anyone and anybody as a friend and yet in real life many of these people are not our friends. We have been created with a desire to have friends and we need friends Ecc. 4:9-12 states that we are stronger with friends. In this life, we need friends. However, we must be cautious and discerning as to who we choose to be friends with because they can have a great impact on our lives and who we are.
1. We have to be smart about choosing who to be friends with. Proverbs 17:17 John Maxwell states, “The person we are going to be in 5 years is greatly determined by our friends, the books we read and TV shows we watch. Since our friends have such an impact on our lives we must be smart about choosing who we become friends with.
Often times we become friends/boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse of someone with the intention of changing them. This does not work. Getting into a relationship with someone whom you hope will be different is only going to have a negative impact on your life in most cases. This scripture tells us that a friend is someone who is loyal and loves at all times. They are not fair weather friends and their not friends with you because of what you can do for them. They are not friends who are “Fair Weather Friends” but those who will stick beside you when times are bad.
2. Choose Friends Who Will Be Honest with Us No Matter What (Proverbs 24:26) We want to chose friends who will be honest and tell us not what we want to hear but what we need to hear. A true friend is someone who can’t stand to see you be anything but what God wants you to be.
3. Choose Friends Who Will Hold You Accountable and Help You Grow In Your Relationship with God (Proverbs 27:17) This is a tough role to play really demonstrates a true friend. It can be very difficult to hold someone accountable for their actions/behavior/habits and yet we all need this for without accountability we are more likely to deviate from the path that God placed before us. AA is a great group that has found some of its success by members holding members accountable. Alcoholics know that when they go to a meeting, their going to have to share with the group how long they have been sober and I have heard from many alcoholics that there is a great deal of motivation found in this.
This is also why small (LIFE) groups are so important in our spiritual walk. Having a group of people whom you can hold accountable/be held accountable is extremely important in the life of a Christian.
Here is a letter that I received from a church member.
Wow what a year this has been and you have been such a big and important
part of it. Thank you for everything you do for my family through the
Bridge, if you ever doubt your success as a Pastor, look no futher than my
house. John, I’ve always thought the world of you, but this year you’ve
become so special. You are my Pastor, my friend and like a brother to me. I
Love you and your wonderful family so much, I can’t imagine life without you
guys in it. I hope and pray (often) that God will shower you and Jill with
all the gifts he has in store for you, all that you deserve and more. Your
leadership has taken me to such a wonderful place……in the presence of
Our Lord and Savior. May 2010 be an even better year for the Bridge and the
growth of all of us as we walk with God. In my heart you are irreplaceable!!
This past Sunday, I preached a sermon on Resolutions using Col 3:12-16. I
approached it by looking at our path as Christians and becoming more like
Christ. How do we do that? Scripture tells us 7 ways and I challenged
myself and the congregation to use these as part of our new year
It looks like an easy list but as one starts to put these into real daily
living practice, you might be surprised at their difficulty. However, you
will see your life experiencing a holy change like you’ve never witnessed.
As you probably know, social networking has become a way of life in our
society. I have found that it is faster to get a message out to the largest
number of people within The Bridge by posting on Facebook. I don’t think
this is a fad that is going to go away but continue to expand and be used
more and more. And I thought it might be a good idea to be productive with
all the time that I spend on Facebook. So, how about a sermon series? How
does something like Facebook and Twitter fit into our walk with God. In
January, we will explore if and how it does.
Wow, what a day this turned out to be. We had the grand opening of The
Bridge new location and it was extra special. We had about 60-70 people who
Mayor Tommmy Battle attended and help cut the ribbon for the opening. It
was really a wonderful day.
It’s great being a United Methodist Church and to see the connection of churches in action. Today at the Bridge, Hartselle United Methodist Church spent the entire day painting and decorating our new children’s room. This is work that we couldn’t have done without them and is so very appreciated. Will add some photos later! Thanks Robert Sparkman and all your congregation members.
Right now, we are in the middle of a series entitled “Thriving in the Midst of Change” and how appropriate this is for what is going on in the life of The Bridge. Last week, a decision was made to move out of our “new” building that we had been renting since February. We quickly were able to find a place and had our first worship in the new building last Sunday. It was wonderful and all the response that I have received has been very positive.
We have been worshipping for more than a year now and we are truly putting on the full court press to get The Bridge into a more self-sustaining position. However, we can’t do that without the help of others. I’m encouraging all those who are “Bridgers” to put make worship attendance a priority in their lives. Why? 1. Christians need and grow from a corporate worship experience. 2. We have reached that time in the life of a new church when we are being observed to se if this experiment is being successful and productive in spreading the Gospel. One of the ways this is done is through our worship attendance. Each Monday, I have to turn in the number of people from the past Sunday. This is one of the ways that we are being held accountable to the Conference.
Accountability is one of the ways that we as Christians continue to grow and we are in a transition period right now. What are we transitioning toward has not been written yet.
Today was one of those days that turned out to be better than I could have ever planned or imagined. It all started with a sermon that I had been working on for the better part of a week and I felt pretty good about it. I was going to video it in order to send it in to the Board of Ordained Ministry and so I even got dressed up this morning. (Always want to put my best foot forward for the BOOM.) Yet, when I got to the school it just didn’t feel right. We had an extremely small crowd this morning and I just felt that what was planned wouldn’t be what was best for those who was there. I also didn’t feel that I could give it my best for the video. So, we sat around, we sang, we got closer to one another and we talked about how we have seen God working in our lives. We talked about real life stuff and how God has had a direct impact upon it. It brought us around to talking about how life tries to distance us from God to the point that often we overlook some pretty cool things that God is doing and then we wonder why God is not there. It’s not that he isn’t there, it’s that we aren’t looking for Him.
Then the kicker, during the service, Zach had his Bible blow open to a piece of scripture that he read and it was right in line with what we had been talking about. Then Eric, had the same thing happen to him TWICE!! His passage also went right along with what we were talking about. Incredible stuff. Thank you to all who were there and for your willingness to share what God is/has been doing in your life.
A great discussion has been started in our Bridge Core groups regarding our goal to build relationships with anyone who desires to draw closer to God. There have been a great many “What if someone comes to The Bridge who is (you fill in the blank)? This is my response…We welcome all people to The Bridge. No matter what kind of baggage they may be carrying, they are welcome to The Bridge and we want to help them bridge the gap that exist between them and God. At the Bridge, you will find love, caring, a place to grow spiritually (and to help others grow) and a place to belong.
There is a belief at the Bridge that all people are of sacred worth and that ALL people fall short of the glory of God. We all have sin in our lives and just like the apple in the Garden of Eden created a gap between Adam, Eve, and God; the sin in our lives does just the same. The founder of Methodism (John Wesley) wrote in his sermon “The New Birth”, “Unless we are born anew, none of us can even be happy in this present world. In the nature of things, it is not possible for us to be happy if we are not holy. The reason is obvious: All unholy attitudes are unsettled attitudes. Hostility, hatred, envy, jealousy, and revenge create a present hell in the heart. At the same time, so do even the more gentle passions, if they are not kept within proper bounds. They give a thousand times more pain than pleasure.”
Realizing that all people have sin and fall short of the glory of God, another realization takes place that we are all in need of the grace and forgiveness that is received through Jesus Christ. It is often said in AA that the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem.
Left message for Daphne Baker at Byrd Smalley and Evans in Decatur to call in regards to the Bridge and her being our CPA.