I have a unique opportunity to share with you during the upcoming Advent season…
A few years ago, TFUMC (as part of the Advent Conspiracy movement) launched something called Advent Revolution. We asked our congregation to spend $50 less on Christmas gifts per person and give that money to an international cause. We chose World Help - an organization that helps fight poverty, disease, and lack of education in over 40 countries. We have raised roughly $25,000 each year to build homes for orphans and families affected by the Rwandan genocide. It’s been one of the most rewarding events our church has ever undertaken. Along with our yearly Advent Revolution ministry, we have sent groups of missionaries to help build the homes and minister to the locals on a personal level.
The most rewarding part of the process is the personal connections we’ve made with the people of Rwanda. We’re no longer giving money to an idea or concept or even images on a brochure cover. We’re now giving to people with names and faces who know us as well. For example, recently a church member gave money to help a former prostitute named Diana finish her university education. Since Diana’s personal conversion, she has also led several women out of that same bondage. Our team met Diana on our last mission trip and heard her testimony of receiving Christ. She brought a friend with her that day and the team prayed with him to receive Christ as well.
We’ve managed to cause a stir in the process. The United Methodist periodical The Interpreter is featuring Advent Revolution in this month’s issue. We’re excited about the exposure the ministry will gain – but more importantly, we hope other church (Methodist and otherwise) will join in. Visit our website www.adventrevolution.com for more details on the movement and how it’s impacted our church in such a significant way.
I officially served communion for the first time this past Sunday - the first Sunday of each month. Since we have five ministers on staff, one of us rotates. I observed the first time out and I’m glad I did. The contemporary service handles communion similar to how I have administered it before, with intinction as the method – similar to the Baptist and charismatic churches I’ve been apart of. But First Methodist’s traditional service is very much a “high” service, including responsive reading and choral singing before administering the Eucharist. Everyone kneels at the altar and two teams serve about 30 people at a time.
Of course, you want your first communion in any church to be memorable…but not really in the way it was for me today. As I was passing the “blood of Christ” in tiny little plastic cups down the altar, something happened. If you have served communion before, you know that those little plastic cups can settle in the holder to the point where they are difficult to get out. One poor soul couldn’t get his cup out of the holder. So, I stopped mid-pronouncement: “This is the blood of Christ shed…try another one.” He said, “Does it matter which one?” I said, “It’s all the blood of Christ, man.” Yes, I actually said that out loud.
And he did - one that was right in the middle of the tray. This one wasn’t coming out either. So he decided to put some muscle into it…and that tiny plastic cup exploded all over the place. Plastic shards flew. It was hilarious, people. It took all my will power not to start laughing and he did the same. Ahhh, the beauty of serious church services…
I saw him a little later as he was picking up his kids. He was mortified and started apologizing. I said, “Yeah, we had to call an ambulance. One of the older people punctured his esophagus when he accidentally drank one of the plastic shards that landed in his cup. It looked pretty bad for a moment, but I think they have him stabilized by now.” All the color drained out of his face, “Really?” “No, man! Everything’s fine – don’t worry about it!” But for some reason, I don’t think my little joke helped very much.
I guess that brings new meaning to “whoever drinks this cup in an inappropriate/unworthy manner…”
I have a very busy week in front of me. I’m one of those guys that gets a little nervous looking at what has to be done in a certain amount of time. It freaks me out. I somehow get everything done, but can never seem to remember that as I head into another busy week. This week is one of those.
I went and visited a children’s ministry in Crestview, FL two weekends ago. We are planning on restructuring our children’s ministry extensively. Of course, that’s gonna take some time, but I’m gathering ideas and input from people along the way – no need to reinvent the wheel, you know. This whole restructuring thing falls under my job title: Director of Discipleship and Family Ministries. While visiting the church, my wife briefly spoke with the lead pastor there and they discussed why we were down in Crestview. The lead pastor said, “So Sam must be the children’s pastor?” Beth said, “No, he’s the Family and Discipleship Pastor.” “So what are his responsibilities?” the lead pastor asked. ”He is over areas of discipleship like small groups, member assimilation, and jointly responsible for broader areas like adult spiritual formation. And he’s also over children’s ministries and family enrichment. So he’s involved in everything from the nursery to marriage retreats,” Beth explained. “Wow -that’s alot. It must be a smaller church then.” the pastor said. Beth replied, “No, it’s 1200 members.” The lead pastor said, “What!!” and started laughing, probably questioning my sanity all the while.
So, I’ve come to understand the phrase “broad job description” in a new way. Luckily, I would rather be busy than not. And changes that are made at Thomasville First Methodist takes months to implement – some take years. Though I’d like for the church to turn like a speed boat, it’s more like turning the Titanic. I was laughing with the nursery director today that though I try to be systematic and focused, working at a church is more like floating in a lake surrounded by objects. The objects that run into you the hardest usually get the most attention. Most of my day is spent bouncing into issues and obstacles. And sometimes the larger goals can get lost. But it’s still true that an elephant can only be eaten one bite at a time. So that’s what I’m doing: one big bite a week.
The youth director gave me some advice my second week there. He said, “Make sure you do your research and when you implement or restructure something, do it well from the beginning. You don’t have to do everything tomorrow, but when you do it, make sure you do it right.” Good advice.