Be A World Changer in One Minute

So often I look at the dreadful status of the world around me and sigh and wish that I could change things in a significant way. This moves me to join with organizations that are making a difference either through participation or through contribution. That is not a brag… I’m far away from being able to brag about myself in this matter.

I wonder how often we fail to make a difference in the world because we’re always looking at some IMMENSE problem that demands a GIANT solution? What if we could change the world in one minute or less in a simple way?

I don’t know if she knew this was going to happen but Ashley C. Ford (Twitter @iSmashFizzle) did just that back in December. One area that touched her heart was the unpaid lunch debts at the schools around her. So she just made a suggestion in a tweet:

A cool thing you can do today is try to find out which of your local schools have kids with overdue lunch accounts and pay them off. (LINK)

Depending on your experience with Twitter, you may know that thousands of tweets float by in the universe every hour and you won’t see the vast majority of them. But sometimes they catch your eye.

At the time Ashley had  66,000 followers.  Enough of them saw and retweeted so that this simple suggestion began to grow wings.  By now that tweet has been retweeted more than 13,000 times.  Every time it is catching someone’s eyes. 

Lindsey Bell noted that Kristina Arwood, a resident from Evansville, Indiana, helped raise $20,000 to pay off lunch debts in her area. She told CBS News, “It really hit home for me. . . . I grew up on free and reduced-price lunches, but even that 40 cents was hard to get together with four kids. There were times I wouldn’t eat because I didn’t have money and didn’t want to be labeled as the poor kid.” (LINK)

The Today Show ran with the story and you can read some of the amazing results of this tweet HERE.

What touches your heart? What is it that catches your breath when you hear about it? 

I’ve been blessed to know a number of these influencers. One person I’ve never met in real life but who has had a great influence in my world is Mike Ellis. He’s one of those who doesn’t let anything keep him from reaching out and helping others. Another world changer is Aaron Reddin who was inspired to love the homeless people of Little Rock. His world changing idea was to buy a van and stock it with stuff the homeless need and take it to them. This has grown as others have gotten on board. Or Mike Baumgartner who refurbished an RV and turned it into a kitchen and goes where disaster strikes to make food for victims and helpers…and this has also evolved.  Quincy Gardner has gathered around him an army of helpers who come to the aid of people truly in need. 

Stack of Cards from Love in the Mail Group!

I once had an idea that if I could get 100 people to agree to send 1 card with 1 dollar to 1 person per week that we could change the lives of 52 people per year. So I started a group on Facebook called Love in the Mail. We’ve sent cards and dollars to over 100 people now. We still don’t have 100 participants, hovering around 70. But to me that’s a simple plan, a simple idea, that makes a big difference. Let me know if you want to join in!

The one thing all of these people have in common in the beginning is that they had an idea of a way to help someone and they just put it out there. There is, in most people, a heart of compassion that needs an outlet. 

So what idea have you had that might change the world in one minute? Why not just tweet it out or share it on Facebook or call a friend and ask if they want to join in? I have a little project right now that I’m about to ask some friends to join in and help. Maybe I can help change someone’s world in one minute. 

I’ll be watching for your world-changing idea!

You should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you – Jesus, Matthew 7:12

Thanks for reading. JD

Lighting the Way

Sean Rogers and Joel Jordan

You know how you sometimes have people in your life that are connected in several different ways…but you’ve never actually met them? In today’s social networking world that happens a lot. Today I was privileged to meet Sean Rogers, affectionately known by many as “brother Sean”.

Sean is one of those guys that is hard to describe… he is part monk … part cheerleader for the downtrodden … part lifeline for the desperate. He is a bigtime dreamer who puts hands and feet to his desire to lift up the fallen.

I guess my first connection with Sean was through Joel. Now I’ve known Joel since he was a teen at Gulf Coast Bible Camp way back when. In May of 2008 Joel had organized some of the teens and college students at Central Church of Christ in Pascagoula to make peanut butter and jelly sammiches (my favorite spelling, please forgive). They were going to Mobile to meet up with Sean and pass these lunches out to the homeless. On the Wednesday morning before they were to go, John Robert died. That weekend the teens still went because they knew that John would have wanted them to go. And he would have really been excited about going himself.

Over the past few years I’ve had phone calls, emails, Facebook chats and other contacts with Sean. Sean’s story? I am sure I barely know the half of it. A year and a half ago he moved into an extended stay motel in downtown Atlanta that was populated by druggies and prostitutes. He felt called by God to move there, he wasn’t exactly excited about it though. His first inkling of what a difference he could make was when he helped a young prostitute make her way home to Nebraska. Sean was shining the light of Christ in that dark place, and Christ made the difference. Nowadays it is a clean and decent place to live.

But across the street the darkness still reigns: massage parlors, head shops, strip joints, and whatever else you can imagine.  So Sean is moving ahead with his light, having an outdoor worship on Sunday afternoons right in the middle of it all. His first Sunday was last week. 25 gathered there.

Sean does a lot of other things. He has an ongoing interest in Skid Row in California. Like I said, I doubt I know the half of it. Sean’s passion is the value of life. He doesn’t talk long before he begins talking about abortion and the death penalty – two issues he feels strongly about. His hero is Sister Helen Prejean. Her ministry is known popularly for it’s portrayal in the movie DEAD MAN WALKING. Sean has an appointment to meet and talk to her tomorrow in New Orleans. He and Joel will go to the 9th ward to show love to the hurting there, and then meet with sister Prejean.

Here is a video of Sean talking about his trip.

It’s always a joy to see Joel. He is currently living in the Shreveport area and leading worship for the Airline Drive Church of Christ along with a great team of singers. He is a talented musician and songwriter and performs often at the Naked Bean in Shreveport. It is no surprise to me to see Joel and Sean hanging out and working together. They both have a big heart for those who cannot escape the bondage of poverty and all the issues that go along with that.

Sean and Joel and others like them are lighting the way. Finding ways to join them and reach out to God’s broken children is something that belongs in our prayers.

You can befriend Sean on Facebook HERE.

You can follow Sean on Twitter HERE.

Sean’s Deep Waters Ministry website.

You can befriend Joel on Facebook HERE.

You can follow Joel on Twitter HERE.

You can hear some of Joel’s music on MySpace HERE.

Would you say a prayer for the people that Sean and Joel will talk to this week? I look forward to the developing ministry of light that Sean is shining into dark places.

Thanks for reading,

JD

Getting to the ‘Why’

In response to yesterday’s post, a friend wrote the following:  

We have a soup kitchen here in town. Bums come to it for lunch. They ask, “Is this all there is?” or “Can I have seconds?” before others have firsts. We have a food pantry. Locals use it as if it were a Grocery Store. It is for emergencies, and not to stopile lazy people’s cupboards. People driving across country stop at the church for gas and cash, always with a horrible sob story, usually smell of cigarettes or booze or both. How do you deal with these folk, John? Do you have some formula that works so you do not encourage those who do not work and who should not be fed? …  What can the person in the pew do to address what you have mentioned below? … I do what I can do when I have the opportunity. What is your better approach?

This paragraph really does get down to a good point … but you have to wade through some attitude to get to it. Every Christian who has made the effort to love and help the poor has stories like those above. Every preacher can recall a dozen people who have either tried or did rip the church off, appealing to the nature of Christians who desire to be of support. Now, my friend is not trying to dismiss himself from serving … not at all. He is a kind servant. He is tired of being lied to, ripped off, and feeding the problem instead of offering a solution. I think we all are. And it’s easy to go from there to being a bit snobbish and feeling that people have just made their own bed, so now they get to lie in it. At the same time we hope God does not view our problems in that way! What good point are we attempting to reach? We must get to the WHY we are to care for the poor … and then the HOW / WHAT IF questions will find their own answer.

The answer is not complex. We care for the poor because Jesus does. We seek to alleviate their suffering and let them know they are loved because this seems to be how Jesus operated. It is not our goal to see all men rich, but to see all men with basic needs met. This isn’t always easy. Overcoming barriers between the haves and have-nots will take time, but we will do this by demonstrating true concern and compassion. If Jesus cared for the poor, downtrodden, rejected, and mistreated, then so must we. And we will if we are allowing God’s Spirit to reign in our hearts.

There are many things the “person in the pew” can never do. We can never eradicate poverty. We do not have the financial power to fill someone’s bank account. We cannot buy houses and transportation for those who have none. We cannot change the mindset of someone who only knows homelessness. We cannot give education and experience with handling money so that better decisions can be made. We can nudge others in these directions … but we cannot make it happen.

We could, and I think most do, just watch for opportunities to do small things. I believe that is a very Jesus-like approach to life. Be open to those serendipitous moments when a spare dollar could make a big difference in a stranger’s life. But I’m not sure a co-incidental benevolence is all that helpful in the overall picture.

There are many things we cannot do alone that we can do with the association and help of others. And that is where the church comes in. We are to live in community … in concert with one another. The greatest shame of division isn’t that we get our feelings hurt, but that we diminish our availability to those who need us. Not just “those” who need us, but JESUS who needs us.

In our case, a hurricane drew many of us together to do things we never thought possible. Before Katrina if you had asked me if Central would head up a functioning relief operation wherein there would be food and housing for volunteers, warehouses full of materials to distribute, homes rebuilt, and that it would be headed up by David Kilbern…I’m telling you … I would have asked you what kind of dope you were smoking. God has such plans … so majestic we cannot believe it. But if we had all decided that we would NOT serve, God would not have made us.

I don’t know who you will have to partner with to make it happen. Perhaps within the local church there are enough willing people … or maybe you’ll volunteer with Red Cross or Habitat for Humanity. It’s possible that the volunteer chaplains at a local hospital or the activities director at a nursing home are praying for someone just like you to come and help. Perhaps you can bring others with you. The local soup kitchen is filled with souls who are exhausted. Maybe you’ll run your own soup kitchen. Maybe you’ll do like my friend Al and join with a local child advocacy organization. I think this calls us to more than the occasional quarter tossed in a beggar’s cup, don’t you?

No time to serve? Too much going on in your life to be concerned for others? That is a matter for prayer. 

Ultimately, if our WHY is in the right place, our HOW will be provided for us! What do you see happening in your back yard?

Podcast interview with Dusty Rush

It seems several bloggers have preachers on their mind.

Jim Martin reflects on ten things he’s learned as a preacher.

Craig Hicks encourages everyone to encourage their preacher.

Trey Morgan talks about why preachers quit being preachers.

Greg England writes about how it feels leaving his life as a preacher.

Jeff Slater thinks about what preachers are called.

Thanks for reading!

Katrina Relief Update

This week we have groups in from Snellville, GA, Columbia, KY, and Savannah, TN. Like most all of the groups we have had here working, these teens are just awesome. They are so considerate and helpful. The youth leaders took turns speaking tonight and they all did a super job.

Sam Staggs is with Columbia Christian Church. He is here via Teen Missions. Actually Sam is on the board of Teen Missions. His message tonight was that discipleship involves much more than just talking and thinking about Jesus, but also acting like Jesus.

Josh Schwartz is from the Savannah, TN church of Christ. He talked about the first few chapters of 1 Corinthians … working together for the cause of Christ and that time would tell the true story of our good works.

Chris McClure is from Snellville Christian Church in Snellville, GA. He is also working via Teen Missions as well. I commented that with all of the groups we have had in through Teen Missions, I still don’t have one of their cool t-shirts. Chris is working on that for me. Chris talked about being of service in our own home towns and not giving up the mission.

I hope to post some pics of these guys sometime in the next day or so on my picture page.

Next week we will have a pretty good crowd in … then an empty week … and then a small group will be in. Is this the end? David doesn’t think so. I just want to be clear that even though we are only working one week per month in hurricane relief, we still do want to work that one week. So if you’re thinking about getting a group of workers together – do it! Remember that you do not have to have a large group. A group of three or four can do a lot of work in a few day’s time. Also, we can help funnel you into working with another group in town if you want to come sometime when we’re not working. There’s plenty of work to do on the Coast …and there will be for a long time.

Thanks again to everyone who has participated in the relief effort. Some churches are deciding to empty their Hurricane Katrina funds. One such church is the South Huntington St. Church of Christ in Kosciusko, MS. Their minister Les Ferguson and one of the elders, John Gardner, brought down a very generous donation last week. It was good to see two old friends … and we appreciated the funds. They will be put to good use.

I’m thankful that the Atlantic Hurricane Season has thus far been very quiet. Of course September is the peak, and we have a ways to go before we can start breathing easy. Keep us in your prayers.

Thanks for reading!

A Call To Love the Homeless and Poor, 2

 

What Does God Want Us To Do About the Homeless and Impoverished?

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12

For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.   Matthew 25:42-43

I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. Matthew 25:45

A Critical Problem: Christians Are Apathetic. Our church benevolence budgets are miniscule. Yes, we could empty our bank accounts helping the poor. Can we really do like the rich young ruler and walk away sadly from the impoverished while we have enough in our bank accounts to last us several months if we never took up another offering? Compare your missions budget with your benevolence budget. These two items are likely at the bottom of the list anyway … but I would guess that benevolence is in last place.  The level of Christian involvement in local community relief efforts is minimal. Contributing to this is a refusal by many churches to cooperate with other churches in providing relief. Ever heard a sermon on the “sin” of giving to the Salvation Army? That same sermon never mentions the “sin” of turning away from the needy and the church’s nearly total absence of compassion ministry. One reason Christians are apathetic in caring for the poor is that we see nothing to GAIN from this ministry. The world has given us our view of the homeless, not Jesus. The church as a whole has failed to acknowledge and minister to the homeless. The sheer numbers of homeless people in America is a staggering testimony against the self-obsessed & wealthy church community.

Remember, Jesus Was Homeless and Lived in Poverty. His life was not characterized by substance abuse and some of the other problems we see among contemporary homeless people, but he never owned a home. He depended on the kindness of others.

What Can We Do?

  • Join with others in offering relief – Soup kitchens, Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, Red Cross, Food Pantrys, Salvation Army, Relief Agencies in your city. They always need help with a variety of needs … even cleaning up after offering service to others. Why re-invent the wheel?
  • Make A Call to a local mission … perhaps they would let your group come and sing one night … or bring needed toiletries … or offer prayer. Just ask … there may be something very simple that they need help with.
  • Collect furniture and other needed items for homeless families that enter back into housing. Network with Red Cross, United Way, and other agencies that help people get back on their feet. Become known as a “go to” person for these needs.
  • Churches can establish new outreach opportunities to target unmet needs in certain areas. HOMELESS CHURCH is a ministry in San Francisco that uses busses to distribute materials, have worship services, serve food. Use your imagination. Some churches have busses loaded with clothing sorted by sizes for easy distribution in the neighborhoods that need them.
  • Share What you have with others. We might have yard sales of all of that ‘stuff’ in our houses and donate funds to organizations that serve the needy. There are many Christian organizations that specifically help homeless and the serverly impoverished. Dry Bones Denver is an excellent one that helps young street people in the Dever area.
  • Pray for God to lead you into opportunities to bless the lives of other people who have little.
  • Do Not Be Discouraged by the immense challenges of serving and helping others. The homeless are often criticized … and so are those who help them. This is a problem that is not going away any time soon. Don’t give up!
  • Seek to relieve one burden for one hour. If you can lighten the load of another human being for just a short time, you will be demonstrating the love of Christ for that person.
  • See people with the eyes of Jesus. How would Jesus love this person?
  • Seek out poor and needy people in your church and find ways to relieve their burdens.

These are just random ideas … there are perhaps hundreds more. Leave more ideas in the comments. God needs a generation of believers who will love all people just as much as He does. Christianity is more about DOING than THINKING. Let this become your life’s passion.

You Will Always Have The Poor Among You…” John 12:8. The mission never goes away.

LINKS

Matt Dabbs shakes us by the collar.

Neva reminds us not to be spiritual vandals.

Danny Dodd wonders if we’re smarter than a Sunday School teacher!

Gary Kirkendall makes a case for the contemporary.

It’s Friday the 13th! Are you superstitious? Do you know how to spell that word? It’s also Fidel Castro’s birthday. Good thing we don’t believe in luck, good or bad!

Thanks for reading!

john

Transitions

Today we have big thunder and scattered showers on the Coast. There was severe weather in Mobile this afternoon with injuries.  A tropical wave dubbed “96L” has formed in the mid-Atlantic. I’m not saying we should panic. I’m only noting that we are in hurricane season and sometimes these storms form an awful long way away from home. Sometimes they find their way to our homes.

Hey…TEACHERS are needed in Pascagoula! Come join the mission!

I do intend on writing some more on the Twelve Steps, but I do not think that will happen today.

_______________

TRANSITIONS

Just thinking out loud here, but at Central we are facing a transition of sorts … and it will be here before we know it. On August 9th a team from Hillsboro Church of Christ (Nashville) will head home. We have no volunteers scheduled until December (at this point). David is confident that there will be groups coming in during that time, and there may be.

A larger concern for me is “what do we do now?” I know what I do not want to do.

  • I do not want our church building to become a “chapel” – a place for people to come and worship once a week. I do not want our focus to be on the one-hour-per-week worship time. Isn’t that one hour the thing we argue the most about? I have an idea that the reason for this is that it is the predominant hour in our spiritual lives. Reading the New Testament I do not get the idea that the worship hour is to be predominant.
  • I do not want us to be focused on serving only ourselves, loving only our own, and extending friendship only to people just like us.
  • I do not want us to imitate hip and trendy things that other churches are doing in hopes that we will grow like they do.
  • I do not want us to be afraid to try new (for us) ideas that fit our gifts, personality, and ability so that we can minister to people’s needs.
  • I do not want us to ignore the plight of the poor, hungry, divorced, addicted, incarcerated, confused, depressed, blinded, hurt, struggling people around us. How many of these people are in their predicament primarily because they did not know what to do … and in their own wisdom chose the very things that brought them harm? These are things that God’s Word could have given them guidance in … things that God’s People could have loved them through.
  • I do not want us to ever ever ever GO BACK to what we were before Katrina.
  • I do not want us to be shackled by traditions or what others may think of us … opting instead for the freedom found in Christ and serving HIM alone.

There’s an old saying that I think is just as true now as it was when it was first uttered: People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. We must ask ourselves the question: DO WE CARE? Don’t be hasty in answering, because our lives are a testimony of the things that we really care about. We know the right answer, but what is the true answer? The Epistles point us to every day life … relationships … struggles … temptations … our need for genuine relationships with those around us … and the hope of bringing the gospel to all of the lost within our sight. The message and mission of the cross must be our lighthouse … guiding us onto the shores of God’s Kingdom.

In my thinking, our facility should be a center of activity, ministry, love, support, and meaningful interaction on a daily basis for our community. Lost, saved, irreligious, fervently religious, and those suffering from religionphobia need to feel welcome at our facility because they are a part of this community. If we do not connect with people on a daily basis, I do not think we have much of a flavor of the church Jesus established. “Flavor” is a good word … in truth the evangelical church at large does not have a taste for daily ministry. It’s not just churches of Christ. We are already moving toward some things … following Christ’s light into troubled areas where His power can bring hope and healing. I’d like to see:

  •  Some informational / relational class offered every night of the week to help people cope with the dilemmas of life. We currently have addiction recovery and divorce recovery classes meeting. A parenting class will be offered starting next week.
  • Still on the drawing board … I’d like to see a ‘Bible basics’ class offered, for those seeking first-exposure information to the Scriptures. I’d also like to see some other classes offered … grief recovery … coping with the issues of aging … something for teen discipleship … and a senior citizens class offered some morning.
  • A consistent youth-night offering for fellowship, learning, fun, music, and to plan service projects. 
  • A coffee-house type event with light refreshments, live entertainment, candle light, lots of opportunity to sit around and enjoy the company of those who are present. Here’s an idea that is singing my song! Excellent!
  • Service as a hallmark of our identity. Steve Sjogren has been promoting this for years … although I’ve only known about it for a few years. He has several books out (including Conspiracy of Kindness) that promote service projects that have outreach potential. It will be interesting to see how this develops with his new church in Tampa, scheduled to launch on Valentine’s Day, 2008. Trey Morgan’s church recently had a WATS Sunday – “We Are The Sermon“. Chris Lockhart’s new church is also designing their activities and existence around serving others.  Service needs to be “out there” not “in here” … and it doesn’t have to be difficult … it could be something as easy as passing out cold water at a park or visiting a nursing home.
  • Central needs to be an “Open Door” church … with the doors as open and welcoming as the Kingdom of God itself. Everyone should feel welcomed and comfortable to come and worship, develop relationships, learn of God’s will for their lives, and join in the projects.
  • There ought to be cars in our parking lot seven days a week.

How does a transition like this happen? It won’t be easy. Everyone may not be on board. Again, these are my thoughts on parade … not anything set in concrete.

  • We’ll need to all review … pray … think … decide how involved we are willing to become … and where our focus has to be.
  • Everyone needs to be challenged … and at the same time serve from the center of their hearts. We do not need to exhaust ourselves once or twice … but to comfortably find natural ways to develop friendships, offer service, and encourage people to follow Jesus.
  • Everyone will need to find the area of service that demands their talents and work hard within them. I think the living picture of all of this will be shaped and painted by all of us putting our gifts to work within the Body. We all have ideas about what we would like to see happen. Ministries should naturally spring up around us as people put their talents to work in His service. 

 I’d like to hear your thoughts on these thoughts. It’s a big time of transition…. or is it? Will we now step up to the plate and answer God’s call … or will we comfortably sit on the sidelines and watch? Or is there some middle ground?  

_______________

Interesting theory on the unabomber.

Neva shares how out of heartbreak comes new realization of God’s love.

Interview with Rob Bell.

 VOLUNTEERS: Here are the open “Work Camp Weeks”. If you need to come a different week during the month, let us know and we will see if we can work it out.

SEPTEMBER 2-8

SEPTEMBER 30 – OCTOBER 6

NOVEMBER 4-10

DECEMBER 2-8 – Hope Missions, Tom Hixson, Pennsylvania

 JANUARY – NO WORK CAMP

 FEBRUARY 3-9

 MARCH 2-8

Thanks for reading,