Archive for July, 2006

19
Jul
06

Two Sundays, Four Churches

Thank you, CrossPoint, for allowing me to take my vacation during the month of July. Even though Papa Rick’s death altered our vacation plans, I am still enjoying my time off and away. I needed the break, and I think you needed the break from me as well.

The last two Sundays of worship without responsibilities have been pleasant. The first Sunday I worshiped at FBC Pell City, where Dr. John Thweatt is pastor. I attended their contemporary worship at 9:30 AM. John hit a home run with a timely message on fasting. Then, on the way home, I stopped by another church before their worship concluded.
This last Sunday my friend Buddy Gray and I drove to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to worship with our friend, Dr. Ron Ethridge, pastor of Woodward Avenue Baptist Church. We arrived much earlier than expected, and were therefore able to worship at another church. Ron used John 13:1-17 as his text, while preaching about the blessedness of serving others. He did a great job preaching.
So, in two Sundays I have attended four different worship celebrations. And each church has been totally different. Of course my favorite experiences where with Drs. Thweatt and Ethridge. Both men are great communicators, and both serve very friendly churches.

The other two churches surprised me. One church had a large facility with a small congregation. The other church had a small facility with a large congregation. Neither of the two pastors impressed me with their messages. However, the second church—with the smaller facility—was very friendly. After finding a seat at the second church, someone offered to slide over on their pew so Buddy and I could sit together. You may think that is an insignificant act, but I felt like it was a great gesture in welcoming us. I soon realized that it was not the preaching ability of the pastor that drew so many people to that family of faith as much as it was the sweet spirit of the people.

While visiting these kingdom enterprises I have asked myself more than a few times the following question: “What do people think of CrossPoint when the visit us?” Read the question one more time for clarity. I am not asking what we think of ourselves. I am asking what our guests think of us. You will agree with me there is a world of difference between the two questions.

Thank goodness many of our guests have a way of letting us know what they think of us. Some guests use our webpage to post their thoughts. Others are thoughtful enough to return our “First-Time Guest”[1] survey we drop them in the mail the following week. The number one strength they mention about our church is not our worship, neither is it the preaching.

Any guesses on the number one response? The number one item most guest list as to what they like about our church is the “friendliness of the people”. I think the friendly nature of the church has more to do with adding to the kingdom than any other trait.

Next weekend my plan is to attend two more churches on Sunday morning. Who knows where that adventure will take me? I am confident of this: I will certainly learn something either from the pastor or the people.

[1] The First Time Guest Survey asks three simple questions:
1) What did you notice first?
2) What did you like the most?
3) What did you like the least?
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18
Jul
06

Here She Comes!

On the evening my mother and I planned Papa Rick’s life celebration, she asked me to recount the story on dying that I used at her brother’s funeral almost three years ago. For the believer and follower of Christ, this account from Henry Van Dyke on dying is so accurate:

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!”

“Gone where?”

Gone from my sight. That is all.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!” There are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: “Here she comes!”

And that is dying.

For the Christian, death is not the end; it’s just the beginning. Thank you, Jesus.
17
Jul
06

Call Me Naïve

When I entered the ministry, I did not realize the assignment of conducting funerals, weddings and baptisms for my family would sometimes be my responsibility. I knew that as a pastor I would be serving others, but it never once crossed my mind that I would be called on in that regard for my family. I assumed their pastor would do the serving. Little did I know I would become their pastor? Call me naïve.
The call to serve as pastor to my family came again last week when my step-father, Papa Rick went home to be with the Lord. The strange irony of conducting his “homegoing” service was that less than 24 hours later my niece, Manda, asked if I would lead in her wedding celebration sometime in 2007. Of course I said yes.
The circle or cycle of life is strange, isn’t it? One day my family was planning a funeral, the next we were planning a wedding. That is another way God revealed His eternal hope to us during our time of mourning.
Once again, thank you for ministering to my family during this time of sorrow and grief that is always grounded in the hope of Jesus Christ.
14
Jul
06

May the Name of the Lord Be Praised

I want to express my sincerest thanks and appreciation to the entire CrossPoint family for caring for mother during this time of loss. You proved to me once again why CrossPoint is such a great family of faith. I believe we may have the sweetest spirit of any church in the kingdom. Thanks, CrossPoint. You make me proud.

My mother is such an incredible woman. She reminds me of her mother and father in so many ways, the greatest reminder is in the way she expresses her faith.

My mother’s faith is not an on-again, off-again kind of belief. She’s not the kind to trust God when times are tough and then go off to do her own thing when times are good. My mom has always been a woman of consistent faith. She’s always been a woman who trusted God no matter the circumstances.

A mighty example of mom’s faith would be what she did on the night Papa Rick went home to be with the Lord. Those who received the news gathered at the hospital to comfort mom. After an extended time of crying and weeping, mom quieted us in order to recite this biblical promise. She said with great confidence,

“The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”

What a mother; more importantly, what a God who has taught my mother to trust Him in all things so that His name is always praised.

The grief over Papa Rick’s death has finally hit me. I guess I was acting as son and pastor so much to my mother, that I suppressed the heartache. Today, the heartache is very real and extremely close. However, as I said yesterday at the funeral, my grief is not without hope. Every time the clouds of despair start crowding in, I turn to the same promise my mother quoted last Sunday night and I try to say with the same confidence, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
12
Jul
06

Funeral Arrangements

The funeral for Rick Rickerson, stepfather of Pastor Ryan is scheduled for Thursday, July 13 at 2:00pm at CrossPoint.

11
Jul
06

Pray for Ryan and His Family

Hey folks. I’m Vaughn, the blog administrator for www.justonemore.info. If you are not aware, Pastor Ryan’s stepfather, Rick Rickerson, passed away this past weekend. I am not aware at this time of the funeral arrangements or any other details. Please be in prayer for Pastor Ryan, his mother, and the rest of the family at this time. This came at the end of his summer vacation so Pastor Ryan will resume posting as soon as he gets back in the swing of things.
09
Jul
06

The Need for Improved Parenting

So, I am reading this book The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. As I mentioned earlier in the week, the focus of the tome is the convergence of change we are experiencing so early in the 21st century. With approximately 100 pages remaining, I am looking to finish the book and turn to another volume on my vacation list. Then, like a lightning bolt out of a blue sky, Friedman surprises me. Remember this is a book about 21st century facts and bringing them all together to expose the breakneck pace of our age.

While espousing social activism and retail reform, Friedman drops this bomb:

No discussion of compassionate flatism would be complete without also discussing
the need for improved parenting.

Do what? Did he just say that if we are going to succeed in the convergence and collaboration that is flattening our world, we need to improve our parenting? You better believe he does; and he has something worth repeating as he elaborates.

Friedman adds,

…Helping individuals adapt to a flat world is not only the job of governments and companies. It is also the job of parents. They too need to know in what world their kids are growing up and what it will take for them to thrive. Put simply, we need a new generation of parents ready to administer tough love. There comes a time when you’ve got to put away the Game Boys, turn off the television set, put away the iPod, and get your kids down to work (p.303).

Wow! Pow! Directly in the middle of a book about economics, politics and social agendas, Thomas Friedman nails it.

Here is my take on Friedman’s angle. Parents have the huge responsibility to get involved and stay involved in the lives of their children. It is not the schools’ job or the governments’ job or the villages’ job to raise children. That job belongs to the parents. Parents are accountable to God. They are also accountable to society. As the family goes, so goes society. As parents go, so go their children.
Friedman adds:

The sense of entitlement, the sense that because we once dominated global commerce and geopolitics—and Olympic basketball—we always will, the sense that delayed gratification is a punishment worse than a spanking, the sense that our kids have to be swaddled in cotton wool so that nothing bad or disappointing or stressful ever happens to them at school is, quite simply, a growing cancer on American society. And if we don’t start to reverse it, our kids are going to be in for a huge and socially disruptive shock from the flat world. While a different approach by politicians is necessary, it is not sufficient.

Imagine what would happen if parents acted on the author’s advice. We would have better schools; that’s for sure. We would have stronger family values. Our moral system would not be so debased. I think our churches would even be stronger.

I find it interesting that a purely secular book espouses the need for stronger parenting. This is a good reminder for the church. It is also a good reminder for me. It reminds me, first, to stay involved in the lives of my children—not coddling them, but disciplining, training and coaching them to be the man and woman God has called them to be. It reminds me to stay on point in my message to the church. Parents are called by God. We better take that task more seriously.