Pictures of a happy church.

camera-photos-048This is Terry on his way to the office.

camera-photos-054

A Terry wannabe.  Just not happening.  It’s a Ford and the wannabe ain’t as pretty as Terry.  Keep trying.

camera-photos-053One of the boys in our youth group with his nurse.

camera-photos-052Y.A.M.ers (Young Adult Ministry)  Lord help me!

camera-photos-060And I guess you better help them too.

camera-photos-058Our very first YAM activity.

camera-photos-068Terry practicing what he preaches.  This lady literally wandered into our building looking for someone to baptize her.  Terry studied with her and you can see how it ended.  I believe the Holy Spirit led her to Terry because after years of experience He trusts Terry to make the most of every opportunity.   It’s just one of the things I hope to grow in during my year of ministry renewal at Memorial Drive.

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A happy church.

Memorial Drive is a happy place to be.  You can feel the joy when you enter the building.  Lots of laughter.  Lots of energy.  Lots of hugs.  Lately I’ve been wondering why this is true.  What is it exactly that makes Memorial Drive such a happy church?  Did we get lucky?  Was it an accident?  Or…?

I can’t speak for the Memorial Drive that existed before 1997.  However, I can point out what I’ve observed about us over the last eleven years.  Here, in no particular order, are a few of the essential ingredients that make Memorial Drive such a delicious place to be.  In my opinion.

–  We have no agenda.  No one is grinding an ax.  No one is trying to re-invent the wheel.  No one is trying to shove change down our throats.  We’re just not very trendy.  No one is telling us we must be a community church, a missional church or whatever the latest new word is to describe where exactly we are in the narrative of how God works in our lives today blah, blah, blah.  We do spend a lot of time talking about Jesus.  We do talk about being a place where people can start over.  Somehow it works for us.

–  Our preacher.  Our preacher is a happy man.  Our preacher likes to laugh.  Our preacher acts like a kid in the candy store.  Our preacher loves people.  Our preacher preaches with exclamation points and not question marks.  Our preacher tells us what we can believe- with great passion, humor, love and conviction.  Our preacher practices what he preaches.  Our preacher is sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and not afraid to say so.  If your church is looking for a minister here’s some advice.    If your candidate says visiting the sick, shut-in’s or just hanging with members all play second fiddle to the huge amount of time he needs to prepare a thirty minute sermon then keep looking.  It’s not rocket science nor does that attitude have the faintest resemblance to the ministry of Jesus Christ.  If your candidate admits he’s not a people person don’t hire him.  If you want a happy church then hire a happy man.  If you want an outgoing church then hire an outgoing man.  If you want an evangelistic church then hire a man who is actually teaching lost people one-on-one how to know Jesus.  At Memorial we’re so very blessed to have a preacher who is all of these things and much, much more.

Our elders.  Oddly enough our elders are happy men too.  Hmmm, I’m detecting a trend here.  Our elders and church staff meet every Monday morning at 6:30.  This morning was no exception.  The meeting opened with genuine belly laughs (thanks Shane) and was filled with laughter throughout.  This is one of the primary benefits of being agenda-free.  They have time to laugh because no time is lost sharpening their axes.  They don’t have to devise clever ways to force open the clenched jaws of their lambs for the purpose of force-feeding them their latest positions on this or that.  Nor do they busy themselves memorizing the newest definitions of church growth terminology.  It’s very freeing actually.  What they do talk about are the needs and hurts of the individual lambs charged to their care by the Holy Spirit.  It’s a beautiful thing to watch.  And comforting too.

–  Our buck stops in the right place.  Lest what I just said about elders lead you to believe ours are mindless fops with nary a care let me be clear in saying they are the bishops who have been granted divine authority by the Holy Spirit to rule the flock of God.  And ours do rule-wisely.  On this point I am revealing a pet-peeve of mine.  Oftentimes we are hell-bent on mimicry.  Whatever seems to be working someplace else we seem keen to import into our fellowship.  Some of it is good.  And some of it isn’t.  In my opinion an example of the latter is the trend wherein our lead ministers are being accorded the powers of something akin to being a De facto CEO.  Danger!  For him.  For everybody.  Preachers bring glad tidings.  Bishops rule.  Preachers seek employment.  Bishops employ.  Some preachers don’t like to hear this because they think the divine call of ministry separates them from the mundane matters every other person in their congregation endures in the workplace.  It doesn’t.  For their own well being they shouldn’t be allowed to fall into this trap.  If they do it will destroy them in the end.  And some churches too.  At Memorial Drive our Bishops rule the flock.  I know- they fired me once.  As I’ve said elsewhere it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  I can tell you that when I was fired there were a few people who weren’t to thrilled with the elder’s decision.  They were very angry in fact.  However, in the end they surrendered their anger, their opinions and their doubts to the God ordained authority of our Shepherds.  No one left.  No one continued to bad mouth them.  No one bucked their authority in this matter.  As a result- we were all blessed in the end.  One of the things that makes Memorial Drive such a happy church is the ministers, the staff and the sheep have been trained by the Holy Spirit to live in submission to their divinely appointed shepherds.

–  Our lack of reaction.  Memorial Drive doesn’t define herself today by being negative about who we were yesterday.  We do not exist as a reaction to what was.  We do not speak in negative terms about our heritage.  We do not make fun of God’s people of yesteryear.  We do not dis-like the church of Christ.  We extend to those in our past the same grace we hope will be extended to us by those who follow when they consider the silly things we do or say.  I’ll be honest-  over the years I’ve heard a church of Christ preacher or two preach with such sarcasm or biting humor or scalding contempt in regards to the church of Christ that I’ve wondered why they’re still with us.  I also wonder why they wonder why their congregation’s are shrinking. Sometimes they come across to me as being so mad or so superior that I believe we’d all be happier if they simply left.  At Memorial Drive our ministers hold us accountable for who we are today irregardless of yesterday.  Not talking so much about the past gives us more time to focus on who we need to be today.  And more time to talk about Jesus.  Our preacher is brilliant at striking a graceful balance in describing who we were and who we are and who we need to be.

–  Finally, I think Memorial Drive is a happy place because we’ve decided it’s better to make mistakes of mercy rather than judgment.  When in doubt- we accept-  we love-  we extend the hand of fellowhip.  If we are wrong in any particular case I think we agree that we’d rather stand before the Throne of God with the accusation of being too merciful ringing in the air.  The same thing was said of Jesus.

I hope you are in a happy church too.