Nothing like spending an hour plowing through Google Reader and realizing how much an idiot I am compared to so many guys doing so much really good work in theology, church planting, counseling, equipping, etc.
Not that it's not good for my pride, but hell's bells if I don't need to go get in the Scriptures and remember the gospel.
During a conversation with some other planters/lead pastors of Acts 29 churches, Kevin Jamison of The Oaks Community Church in Middletown, Ohio put something into words that I thought was both dead-on and helpful.
He mentioned that he's found that doing church in a religious town (and Watkinsville-Athens would most definitely qualify) requires most people to have three conversions:
A conversion to Jesus.
A conversion to the local church.
A conversion to the kingdom of God.
The first conversion - to Jesus - is the type of conversion most evangelical churches talk about. My concern, based on observation and what I hear from others, is that it's not just outsiders that are in need of this type of conversion. We're also seeing a need for gospel renewal among people currently in and around the church because religion is so prevalent in the southern suburbs. We need churches in which people will believe that obedience is a response to divine love, not the other way around.
The second conversion is a movement away from an unhealthy and unbiblical preoccupation with a 'personal' relationship with Jesus towards a more accurate understanding and posture of saying that we belong to Jesus AND to each other. This is a massive issue with our students at UGA and with people who have the means to live flexibly and travel often - simply put, your life is not your own and not joining in the life of a people called the church is unhealthy for you and everyone else. My suggestion would be for churches to be crystal clear on their expectations for members, push membership in appropriate ways and work to create a culture in which community means more than an occasional covered dish supper after gathered worship.
And then the third conversion is to the kingdom of God. Simply put, Jesus didn't save us to (just) get us into heaven. And he didn't call us to just hang out with other people who we think are Christian because they follow our set of rules. We've been saved to join God in his mission of putting broken things back together - serving as salt and light, walking into the hard places and doing life with hard people - so that the world might be stunned by the greatness and goodness of the God we know as Jesus Christ.
I think Kevin's right in that a lot of people in a place like ours have made one or maybe two of those conversions, but rarely do you find people who have made all three. So maybe you're a Christian, but your life with Jesus is compartmentalized and disconnected from anyone else except the time or two a month that you show up at a church. Or maybe you show up at church (because some people still do that as part of their tradition and heritage in the South) but you don't know Jesus and your life is spent on building your own kingdom rather than Jesus' kingdom.
I look forward to the day when churches in our area work together and grow in both size and influence because these three conversions regularly take place.
About two months after Lindsey and I started dating, we started talking baby names. Couple of crazy kids with absolutely no idea what we’d gotten ourselves into with each other. And now here I am a good eleven years later, sitting in my office on the night before Lindsey gives birth to our second son. I’m thankful that she’s the mother of my boys but I’m thrilled that she’s my wife. Beautiful. Wicked smart. Sexy. Funny. Hot. I know more about the love and grace of God because of her love for me – a love that isn’t blinded by my rugged good looks or my jaw-dropping athleticism; a love that’s seen me at my worst and given me her best.
It took us awhile to come up with our first son’s name, and by the time we decided on Jonathan, we already had the name picked out for another boy if God brought one our way. So for over three years, we’ve been sitting on a name that we love because it provides us the opportunity to honor three sets of men that mean the world to us.
William Gregg Adair was born on August 21, 1952. I’ve been hanging out with him since sometime around the end of 1975. He taught me how to ride a bike, throw a curveball and the value of being there for the people you love. About twenty years ago, I wrote Dad a note at Christmas, trying to express how lucky I was to be his oldest son. It’s not Hemingway but he still has it in his office at home. Next time you’re there, read it – I still mean every word of it. What I can add to that is that he’s allowed me to grow as a man – I think it’s fair to say that we’re friends – while providing the encouragement and advice that only a father can provide to his son.
I’ll let Lindsey handle this next name – The name William (and its derivatives) has also been a part of my family for many years--Will shares a name with both of my maternal great-grandfathers, Willie Hudson Moore and William Earl Moody, and with my maternal grandfather, William Boyd (Bill) Moore; we chose the name William for our second son in part to honor these men and this side of my family. I did not have the chance to know either of my great-grandfathers, but I did know and love my grandfather Bill Moore very much. He had many characteristics that I would wish for Will to share; I will always remember him as, in addition to a wonderful grandfather, a hard working man who had great integrity and a very independent spirit--he was truly someone who lived up to a name that means "strong-willed warrior"!
She used the word ‘derivative’ – told you she was smart! I had to use spell check – twice – to type it correctly.
I’m not sure when Alan Carter was born. I’m not sure he knows either because I don’t think calendars had made their way to Brookhaven, Mississippi on the day God brought him into the world. I went to work for Alan at Faith Presbyterian Church in Birmingham seven years ago and I left there almost four years ago. I’d still take a bullet for that man. A crooked stick who has always pointed me to the narrow way of Jesus while also showing me how to love your wife, love your boys, and love the church Jesus gives you to pastor. Alan has two sons who have the privilege of carrying on the Carter name – I hope they won’t begrudge me the privilege of having one of my boys carry on the name of Alan. It’s a good name – a good reminder of a good friend.
So by the time you read this, I’ve already held, cried over, and prayed for Will. Depending on whom you ask, his name means protector, warrior, stubborn, handsome, a little rock, harmony. Our dreams for him are fairly simple – that he might know that he belongs to Jesus and is here to join God in his mission of putting broken people and a broken world back together.
Thanks to everyone who has encouraged us throughout the eighteen months of trying to get pregnant and then the last nine months waiting for Will to get here. Keep praying for him, ask Jonathan about the new plastic tools he got as a big brother prize, and know that we’re thankful to be able to share our lives with you.