Next Steps

The countryside of Athens, Tennessee.

I left yesterday’s post with a cliffhanger:  I’ll speak for myself, and what I see Central doing ‘from here’. Tomorrow. I’m sure you’ve all lost sleep over what Dobbs was going to post next. Actually this may not have been a cliffhanger for you, but it certainly is one for me. It’s one I’ve been anxious about for well over a year now. I wish I could just be the medium and channel a Word from the Lord here on the blog and wake up to find the trek given by divine guidance. But since that’s evidently not going to happen (I’ve been waiting here for a few minutes), then I’ll share a few thoughts. These are not going to startle you with originality, but I think they are self-evident in importance.

*Central Must Love the Hurting. On his first trip to Pascagoula (or ‘Pasky’ as he likes to call it), Marvin Phillips suggested a slogan: This church wants to be the best friend this community ever had. It really did fit, and it really is right.  The post-Katrina needs will be here for at least a decade. But many of these same needs existed before the hurricane. They are just the needs of humanity…needs Jesus did not overlook in his ministry. This attention to the community not only touches those who live here, but also the hearts of those who come to volunteer. Often they tell us that they have decided to go home and serve there in some capacity.  It would be easier to ignore the needs around us and exist to simply repeat our beliefs to ourselves, but we would not be Christ’s church.

*Central Must Love The Lost. The mission of the cross must always cast a shadow over everything that we do. Humanitarian efforts are wonderful, but when a lost person finds Jesus Christ in their lives, it is a glorious moment! This is not always comfortable. It demands that we spend time with lost people. It calls us to be more concerned about others than we are about ourselves. Our hearts should be driven to reach those who do not know Jesus. We must always reach out, even when it is a struggle, to show our neighbors the love of Christ that would not let us go.

*Central Must Love Without Bias. Love must be genuine. We can love people because they are created by God! I’ve met a lot of different kind of people since Katrina destroyed the Coast. I have met homeless people – and actually gotten to know them – for the first time in my life. I have now made friends with drug addicts. I know people who function somehow in society with barely a mental connection to real life. I have met people of every color, various languages, and different nationalities. I have spent time with people who do not know where they will sleep tonight. I know people who have been in jail a few times since the storm. I have talked with people who, from all evidence, do not know what deodorant is and do not regularly bathe. Some can’t. I have met some really old grouchy ungrateful people, and I have met some really old  sweet, delightful, beautiful people. I’ve met some young bucks who thought they shouldn’t have to work in order to live, and I’ve met some hard working young people who work too hard, make too little, and need some help. Reaching out to all of these kinds of people is not easy. I’m not saying that I’m good at it. This requires a demonstration of divine love. Many may disappoint us, and many may never consider being a part of us … but we love them without bias … we choose to love them all.

*Central Must Die and Christ Must Live.  Our aim cannot be to restore the Central Church of Christ. Whatever glory or good that was done in the past is now in the past. God is here and now. Our job is here and now. It is God who is recreating Central into something new, yet ancient. The message is the same. The Gospel is still being rehearsed, lived, and shared. The population of the church has changed. It changed before the storm. It has changed since the storm. People searching for only God knows what come and go. There will be those, though, that are reached who become a permanent part of our lives. These precious ones are God’s gifts to our church. Being a church of Christ is much more than what is printed on the sign out front. A submissive spirit and willingness to yeild to God’s will is what makes a church ‘of Christ’.

As I said, these are not startling in their originality, but I think these are some areas that we could overlook by placing our focus elsewhere. A Long post, I know. Thanks for hanging in there!