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.

If you had the power to change the world.

What if you had the power to change the world? What would you do? Have you ever thought about that? I’ve been to many churches of good people who somehow have become apathetic to the world outside their walls. How many broken lives do people pass by on their Sunday drive to church?

Imagine the possibilities available to a group of people who unite around world-change in the style of Jesus – coming together and then actually getting out and doing the work. I believe a people whose hearts were united like that can change the world. Don’t you?

You have that power. What are you going to do with it? Com alongside us and let’s not waste it. Click the join link and get connected to the communication channel.

 

Painting, Chair, or Church?


We had our first launch team meeting last Saturday. During the meeting, we talked about the church-planting process and the next steps we need to take to accomplish the vision. Post that discussion, a realization came over me. Because I have been so busy learning how to plant a church ( attending trainings, reading best practices, etc.), church planting for me has become this external process. In reflecting on the team’s discussion about getting all the right pieces and putting them together in just the right way to create this vision we have for church, I realized that a church cannot be built the way a carpenter might build a chair. The launch team cannot “build” this new church. Community cannot be crafted as an external object. It is something that we must become.

I had been thinking and acting as if we can create this community as an add-on to whatever else we are doing, as if we could “tack-on” church planting to our to-do list of projects. I am convinced that nothing is a better recipe for failure. While we certainly will need people who will offer their gifts of service because they want to support the new church, that is supplemental help. Alone, that will be insufficient. What we really need most are people who are committed to seeing a church community reborn from the inside out. We need people who are willing to be in community with one another. We need people who are passionate about helping one another in this journey of life.

That’s how God did it. God showed us love by becoming one with us. For this church plant, we need to do the same.

Why another church?

In talking to people, I have been asked, “Why another church?” When anyone interested in church has plenty of options in Midwest City, why give them another one?

My default answer to that question is that I’m planting a church for people who don’t like church. It is for people who don’t find church relevant to their current lives, or at least not relevant enough to bother going. They think there are better ways to spend their time. In other words, it’s for people who think there’s something better than church. But why will people come to this church that wouldn’t go to another church?

The answer is that it won’t be a church. At least, not in the contemporary sense of the word. Most people in our culture think of church as a place. It is where religious people attend. The main product of these places are worship services. So, when I say I’m planting a church, most people think I’m planting a worship service in a building somewhere.

Except, I’m not.

Now, there is nothing wrong with worship services. In fact, they are a vital part of faith formation for practicing Christians. To routinely engage in praising something greater than our own self-interest and pleasure is fundamental to a healthy Christian faith. But, you don’t start there and you can’t force it.

But if you read the Bible and pay attention to what Jesus says, you’ll never hear him telling his followers to go plant awesome worship services or erect stained-glass sanctuaries. Instead, you’ll hear him telling them and commanding them to love one another. In fact, he even says that their love for one another should be how people know they are his followers.

I believe that’s what the main product of church should be. So, the church I’ve been called to plant will not be a worship service, or a Bible study, or a building. It will be a people – a community known for the radical way they love one another and the world around them, just like Jesus did. My launch team and I will work together to create a community whose focus is on initiating and facilitating relationships, then celebrating acts of love as they are lived out within that community. It will be a community where, no matter who you are or what you believe, you will be welcomed with the grace Jesus Christ offered us. It will be a community that takes seriously the critique of 1 John 2, where those who claim to be in Christ must walk as Jesus walked.

That’s the basic idea. That’s the elevator version of what I’m doing. In a world where people have 1,000 friends on Facebook, but spend most nights feeling alone; where they are members of online groups with published stories, but don’t have any community to whom can share their actual story, I believe a church like that is just what this world needs? What do you think? How does that sound? Let me know.

And if it sounds good, why don’t you join me in creating that kind of community? You don’t have to commit to more than you are comfortable doing – even if that is just attending the events – and there will always be the opportunity for a graceful exit. But the truth is nobody can build community alone. It takes people. Will you be one of those people?

If you think you might be interested, click this link to sign up for our email and text list. We’ll keep you abreast of the events. You can also choose to get launch-team emails and texts, in case you feel like you might be interested in that as well.

Also, please share this page/blog with anyone you can. Let’s get the word out. Thanks and may you experience the grace and peace of God.

Always love.

The Actual Boardwalk

I visited the Boardwalk while in New Jersey. It is beautiful, amazing, and inspiring. It’s way cooler than the little blue cardboard game piece from Monopoly. Join me in this video as I walk along the Jersey shore on this giant wooden walkway and muse how the actual boardwalk is different from the game piece, and how the actual church needs to be different from the way people currently perceive it.

If you want to help change the image of church to those who are outside the church; or if you are one who is outside the church and don’t like the church, come join our community. Text the word “douglas” to 84576 to get updates of events. You can also opt to join the launch team and help us create a new type of church.