Is It Worth It?

Sometimes when you try to care for people, they won’t care for you. Sometimes you will wonder if anything you do makes a difference?  You will ask, “is it worth it?”

The truth is that the world we live in is a world full of broken people. It is a world that is so broken that the very people who we are trying to help, will sometimes try to take advantage of us. They may even hate us. But in those moments, as Christians, we must remember that it hated Jesus first (See John 15:18-25). We must remember that we serve a God who loved us while we were still sinners. God came down and took on the limits of human flesh and let us kill him so that in that sacrifice, we could experience redemption and the assurance of a new life. He showed us how perfect love overcomes evil.

In the memory of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., I cannot help but think that there were many times in his life where he asked that same question. I imagine there were times where he felt like his efforts wouldn’t make a difference. But he didn’t let that stop him from trying. He did what God was calling him to do, even when it hurt. And the result was a world transformed by his love and sacrifice.

In a society where the people we try to feed will steal our salt and pepper shakers, we need to work to try establish a world where those people have their own salt and pepper shakers. In a world where people feel alone, unloved, and forgotten, we need to be a force for unity, love, and remembrance.

Thank you Rev. King for reminding us of what love looks like in the face of adversity. Thank you for walking in the footsteps of Jesus. May I do the same.

But I can’t do it by myself. I hope you will join hands and heart with me as we lead with the love that the Spirit affords us. I pray you will listen to God’s urging to help make this happen.

What do  you think of this? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

A Church for Nonbelievers

I was challenged awhile back about my intention to develop a church in which nonbelievers could remain nonbelievers. Well, I feel like I need to go on record to clear this up: It’s true.

In the church I grew up in, there was a pretty strong emphasis on converting nonbelievers. Back in the early 80s, I learned how to ask the question, “If you died today, do you know whether you’d go to heaven?” In hindsight, I think this tactic did more damage than it did good. What I now realize is that Jesus never told us convert nonbelievers into believers. Looking in the gospels, the only place I found Jesus using the word “convert” was him criticizing the Pharisees for their emphasis on traveling the land looking for people to convert.

Jesus commands his church to make disciples, not converts. The book of 1 Peter instructs us to always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope we believe in. That whole “ask” part seems to counter the idea of aggressive evangelism. It seems to tell us to live our lives in a way that will draw others toward the faith.

That’s who we want to be at the Douglas branch of Wickline. We don’t want to convert people. We want to love people. In fact, we want to set the standard in what it looks like to live in love by radically caring for each other and the world around us. And we think that’s something non-Christians can do with us.

Growing Strong, Branching Out

Ok, so if you watch the video below, you’ll know what I would look like with blue hair. But you’ll also get an idea of what it means to do church a little differently.

The people who have been hurt by the church are usually pretty disinterested in talking about church. They don’t even like the word. That’s usually when I switch sides and bash the idea of church with them. I can do that because the things they don’t like about church are usually the same things I hate about church. I am part of a religious institution, but I don’t believe that institution is the church. The people are. And when people have been hurt or feel judged by that institution, those of us within the institution should hate that right along with them.

At the Douglas branch of Wickline, we are launching a missionally-central model of church instead of a worship-central model of church. We believe that if we can truly embrace the command of our Lord Jesus Christ to radically love one another and the world around us (John 13), people won’t feel hurt and judged. In fact, we see people who aren’t religious wanting to participate in what we are doing.

What are we doing? Two things. One, we grow strong in Christ by gathering together intimately for worship and small group. That’s the behind-the-scenes stuff. But the second thing and what we really want to be known for, is how we branch out through relationships by coming alongside other people, getting to know them, and loving them the way Christ loves us.

If you want to be a part of what we’re doing, click the JOIN link. That puts you in the communication channel so you can know all the cool stuff we do and come participate whenever you are able.

 

How to make teachers laugh and cry

In the video below, one of the teachers glistened up with tears. “I’m gonna cry,” she said and then laughed to keep her emotions in check. But she couldn’t hide this fact: simple words of affirmation when combined with tangible acts of kindness allow us to experience the love of God.

For me, that’s what it means when Christians utter the words, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” during the Lord’s prayer. Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is at hand. That must mean it’s something available to us right now. While we may not experience it fully until after we die, that’s not the only place we get to enjoy it. I think it looks something like the video above.

That’s because when we use our spare time to care for others and they use theirs to care for us, the earth becomes a place that operates under the command of God to love one another. This is kind of what the first church looked like as described in the Bible. It’s also what the launch team at Wickline Douglas hope the church will look like again.

Why don’t you help us make it real. Click here to sign up for texts and emails so you don’t miss out on our monthly opportunity to show love to those who need it. As a bonus, you’ll also get in the know about the other stuff we do, whether getting together for a meal, a day of bowling, a dinner worship, a small-group Bible Study, or whatever.

Hope on Wheels

A couple Saturdays back, a handful of us from the Wickline Douglas launch team joined about 1500 other volunteers at the Convoy of Hope in Oklahoma City. This event is a no-questions-asked gift of love to anyone and everyone. Setup in a park downtown, there was a carnival for the kids, free haircuts, professional photo service, health screenings, free shoes for the kids, job-connection tent and more. While the Douglas team split up a a bit, Nina and I (also Sam and his wife from Kaleo) hung out in the last tent before people received two free sacks of groceries and offered prayer to anyone who wanted it.

I thought this would be the tent most people would pass by. They came for the tangible goods (free food, haircuts, etc.), right? But, I was wrong. Apparently, the “Connections Tent” was one of the most favored tents in the park. People who are struggling to meet their daily need want prayer. They hunger for hope. Even if it comes on wheels.

I started almost every prayer session by telling the person that this whole event was designed for the sole  purpose of reminding them that they are loved by God. At that exclamation, I saw hard faces grow soft. I saw tears. One lady who was homeless with her 8-year old son after having escaped an abusive marriage heard my statement and her face went blank with an expression of shock and disbelief. I’ve followed up with her since. She still needs a safe, permanent place to stay, a job, and transportation, but she at least knows I’m praying for her.

This kind of ministry is at the heart of who the Douglas branch of Wickline is determined to be. We are not a building. We are a people who radically care for each other and the world around us. That’s what Jesus told us to do.

Something new is coming… and it looks like this.

Sanctuary Sadness

A couple nights ago, a member of our launch team met me up at the old Douglas Blvd. UMC building (closed Jan 2017) and we began removing the pews from this room to begin preparing it for the next chapter in its life. And if you don’t know what pews are, they’re the wooden benches in a traditional sanctuary. Now, if you’ve seen my other videos, you know I have been championing the idea that the church isn’t a building. It’s a people. And the main product of church shouldn’t be a worship service, but instead should be a community of people radically caring for one another and the world around them like Jesus did.

I’ve said before that there is nothing holy or sacred about this room. Jesus destroyed what was considered the holiest of temples by the Jews with his death and rebuilt in in three days so that the community of believers together become the temple of God. According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 3, that is the only sacred temple.

But for a guy like me who grew up and was nurtured by the traditions and hallmarks of the traditional church, this is hard to see. I mean, it was from a pew that I first learned to worship God. I was taught that the sanctuary was where you go to encounter God. The sanctuary was holy.

I now know that’s not Biblical, but the traditions of the church are still important to me. The way a trinket from my grandmother can cause a surge of fresh emotions and feelings, the traditions of the church can help bring me into a state of vulnerability and humility so my spirit is receptive to the Holy Spirit.

But if we are going to obey Jesus’ command to love others and share testimony to all the world, we can’t do it from within the safe shelter of our stained-glass sanctuaries. If the outside world isn’t crossing our threshold, we need to cross theirs with acts of love and service. We cannot sit idly by and ignore the fact that there are thousands of sanctuaries across the USA that the only thing they collect on Sunday morning is dust.

That is our call to arms at Wickline Douglas. We are called to be a force of love in a world that seems intent on being overrun by evil. Won’t you join us? Click the “join” link and get on the communication channel. Then come attend an event. Hang out with us. Serve alongside us and help us bring the Kingdom of God on earth like it is in heaven.

What if this was church?

Imagine getting a gym bag full of snacks, candy, and toys from a group of people who care enough about you to give up their Monday nights so they can hand-assemble something to remind you that you are loved and cared for. That is one example of what church looks like for us at Wickline Douglas. We partnered with a few other churches and helped the Kaleo Foundation create 626 bags to be distributed to Oklahoma Autism. We got to be (literally) the hands and feet of Jesus for the world! Every disabled child in Oklahoma who receives one of these bags will know that they are unique and important and loved by God.

We are the Wickline Douglas launch team and we are planting a different kind of church. We don’t believe church is a building or is something you “go to.” We believe church is a community of people radically loving each other and the world around them the way Jesus did. In technical Biblical terms, it is an ekklesia, or an assembly of people called out by God. In fact, did you know that much of what we think of church is actually outside the scope of the New Testament and wasn’t practiced until after the apostles were long dead? Most of it is modeled after the Pagan religious practices of Rome, right down to the layout for our modern sanctuaries. Some well-known Christian researchers and writers have even argued that what most Christians do on Sunday morning more closely resembles pagan religions than it does the church of the New Testament!

We are devoted to BEING the Christian church for the world. We do meet and worship together to nurture our faith, but our worship service is more relational. And that service will NEVER be our main product. We believe that if we make the command of Jesus to love our first priority, the church will be renewed.

Does this sound intriguing to you? Why don’t you click the join link and sign up to get our text notifications and emails. That way you can keep in the loop about what we are doing and maybe even come join us when we do cool, community-changing stuff.

Show and tell

Here is a clip from one of the many teachers who received a special bag yesterday at Willowbrook Elementary School. This reaction was not uncommon. We live in a world where people don’t get reminded how loved and appreciated they are near enough. We at Wickline Douglas UMC hope to change that by creating a community devoted to loving each other and the world around us. We’d love to have you help us do it.

We are in the infancy stages of the church plant, but we are already learning how to be family together. We believe the best way to show love to the community is by working alongside them. On Monday, 9/18, we will be gathering together to partner with the Kaleo Foundation to put together mission bags of supplies for the impoverished.  In addition to local community mission, we are creating small-groups and a once-per-month worship service.

Click the “Join” link to get on the email and/or text list.

 

Does it really matter? 

Pastor David reflects on a video documenting the efforts to remove a cross from the top of the Chapel at Southeastern University in Ada, Oklahoma. Have we really accomplished anything more than forcing people to tolerate a religion for which they don’t want to be a part? 

How can we stand for something that changes those opinions so that people welcome the cross on top of buildings? This is the real problem. People outside the church see the Christian church as irrelevant and impotent at doing anything more than standing up and using their political power and influence to force them to accept their values and religious agenda (agendas and values that they can’t even seem to agree upon or uphold themselves). 

Now, any church-going Christian should know that the church is responsible for an enormous amount of compassion and good across the world. The building of hospitals, schools, and the championing of justice issues used to be the products of the church. How have we gotten to the point where those outside the church see our main product as fancy worship services, hypocrisy, apathy toward local issues, and shallow proselytizing of non-Christians?  

It’s time to change public opinion. Let’s return to the commandment of Jesus to love our neighbors radically. Let’s live and walk like Jesus did so that people welcome the Christian cross rather than reject it. 

That’s the challenge ahead of us for the Wickline Douglas community. Will you help us? Go to https://branchpastor.blog and join us as we plant a church that isn’t about a building, but a people intent on radically loving one another and the world around us as Jesus did. As told us to do.