Redefining the Parish Church

For centuries, churches divided communities into parishes. In the UMC we still find evidence of this heritage in our Pastor-Parish Relations committee (though it is quickly disappearing in favor of Staff-Parish). So just for the record, Wikipedia defines parish as:

…a local church; it is an administrative unit typically found in episcopal or presbyterian churches. It refers to a local, ecclesiastical community or territory, including its main church building and other property.

However, a parish can also be:

…an administrative area of civil government. Parishes of this type are found in England, Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, parts of the USA, Estonia, and a number of island nations in the region of the Caribbean.

In a more cursory reading of history, it seems to me, parish churches saw their responsibility as the area around the church, the community, as part of their care. In essence, there was an involvement by the church in the civil life of a community.

However, the 20th century in the USA, appears from my perspective, to have shifted the focus from the parish, the “local, ecclesiastical community or territory, including its main church building and other property,” to the “the main church building and other property (and I’ll add) and its membership.”

I may be off base here, these are just my observations after all. Yet, coming from the UMC, with a leader in John Wesley who had no problem about stepping on toes when it came to both social injustice and spiritual negligence, I’m wondering how we became so timid in the marketplace of ideas?

I know in starting Crossroads UMC, I have stepped out in areas where other clergy are not regular. I’m in business associations and involved in the local chamber. I’ve gone to community action groups and currently serve on community committees. I’ve sought to be involved and make my voice heard…but only so far.

This idea of the parish has been bouncing around for a while but it was in discussion with Mark that he asked a very pointed question (among a few):
If you don't agree with one of these Christian leaders, have you let anyone know? I ask this because silence implies agreement. I know it is impossible to counter every little silly thing that a person might say…but I still think it is important to say something - even if you do feel like you're merely tilting at windmills.

This really resonates with me. I don’t necessarily like it but this in part is what our UMC heritage brings us to does it not? We are called to take stands not just in private but in public. Wesley stood against poverty, ignorance, slavery and political corruption. Mr. Wesley also stood firm against antinomianism and other heresy as well as standing for education, free grace, authority of Scripture and the use of reason, experience and tradition as part of our faith journey.

I am not sure it is just a matter of speaking against other Christian leaders (or community leaders for that matter). It is a matter of what one is speaking FOR that truly counts. There is enough of the former in all areas as evidenced in our current political climate. For the voice of the Church to matter, there needs to be more emphasis on the latter.

I think the 21st century and the current generations of leaders beginning to come of age, there is an opportunity to revisit the place of the parish church. The more I consider this time, the more I am growing hopeful. Here at one crossroads in history, a new Crossroads is beginning in our neighborhood. Only God knows how this storyline turns out but I know, we’re about to begin a journey of discovering what our parish will become in the years ahead that we’ll have a role in shaping what it will look like.

May I Ask: Where is your parish? What community are being called to live in?

May I Suggest: Figure out your parish. Learn the community. Walk the streets. Meet the people. Love it and live in it!

Bizaro World: Grace

H/T to Steven Manskar for the link.

I have a problem. Okay, laugh if you want. Some of ya'll could write an essay on my problems.

I have a problem with grace. I have a real problem with grace. No matter what I do, know matter how far I wander, no matter how absurd my ideas, no matter how idiotic I sound, no matter where I find myself...ultimately I come back to this point: grace.

Dr. Tom Davis at Due West UMC, introduced the analogy that has become etched in my heart and mind. It goes something like this,

You're driving too fast and get pulled by a police officer. The officer gets your license and he writes you a ticket. That is justice.

Or on occasion...

Instead of writing you a ticket, the officer gives you a warning. That, we call mercy.

Of course, there is bizaro world...

Instead of either of those options, the officer comes up to your car and hands you an all expense vacation to your favorite destination. That, is grace.

Are you with me here? Does that make little to no sense at all? It makes as much sense as this story here:

"[It] is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. "When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. "And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' And so they went. "Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. "And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he *said to them, 'Why have you been standing here idle all day long?' "They *said to him, 'Because no one hired us.' He *said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.'

"When evening came, the owner of the vineyard *said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.' "When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. "When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. "When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.'

"But he answered and said to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 'Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 'Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?' "So the last shall be first, and the first last." (Matthew 20:1-16 NASB)

I have a problem that I can't ever seem to offer grace like the way Jesus did. I don't seem ever to be as gracious as I want to be. I don't extend the benefit of the doubt like I'd like to.

Justice, I know and respect. Mercy, I've seen and honor. It is grace that causes me problems. Maybe it is this that causes me problems; that though grace has been offered to me, it is not by my nature to give it.

May I Ask? What in the faith journey causes you problems?

May I Suggest? Be authentic with yourself. Name it and then search out more info and insight. Don't take my blog as an end to my journey, it is just a lay over.

A Look Into The Mirror

Some times the faith journey takes you to places that are both challenging as well as comforting. I was a bit more comfortable on my last blog. I've moved over a bit tonight. You see, I've been hanging out with atheists and skeptics online. It all started from a blog I read last year and linked too. Since then, I have read some, posted occasionally but really, hadn't put myself out there.

That changed this last week and I'm glad it did. However, contrary to my normal linking to sites, I'm not going to and I'm going to tell you why. I hope it doesn't come across as mean or rude. If it does, I'll say I'm sorry now. I'm watching out for my friends...all of them.

Here is what I've learned: "Christians" have been acting like jerks. If you've read the book unChristian, this should come as no surprise. If you've read Thom Rainer's books, you may have an inkling of this. I don't think it is too strong to say that I am embarrassed.

I'm not saying there is not blame to go around but I've read what has been left on blogs. I've read the stories. It isn't about "he said" or "she said" or "he did it first!" We are called to be the Church. We are called to be Jesus Christ's body in this world.

When John wrote that God loved the world, we ought to remember it wasn't just those who believe in Jesus he loved, it was all, and it was before any believed. As I wrote earlier on one blog, I wonder that in our faith we take for granted our belief that God cared enough to become human. Maybe we should each remind ourselves of that before we try so hard to be gods.

Just know, I'll be looking in the mirror a bit more intently, looking for grace and mercy enough to share and wondering, how often has my life been the one that threw the first stone.

Best Blog: Behind the Leaf

There are a number of places online I visit frequently, others not so much. Like most of us, I find things that make me comfortable or that I tend to agree with for the most part. I want to try and highlight those from time to time with what I'll call: BEST BLOG.

I want to give kudos to the guys up at Oak Leaf Church in Cartersville, GA for their blog, Behind the Leaf. Do I agree with everything they do? No, I don't. But then, I tend to be one that believes denominations are a good thing because God has created a diversity of people. I think God is big enough to deal with our differences in the Church. But I digress. That is probably for another blog.

What I love about Behind the Leaf, is the transparency of Michael and his staff about what they have learned in starting a church. Constantly they give out their policies and information for use. They share ideas about what works and what does not.

If you are looking for some of the nuts and bolts of what goes into starting a church in the 21st century. If you want a dose of reality as well as some helpful hints and ideas. This is a great blog to explore and search.

May I Ask? What blogs or links have you found helpful recently?
May I Suggest? Share the love on your site and promote someone who has been helpful to you!

On With The Show!

Whew! Another Talk Like A Pirate day has come and gone. I look forward to the year it lands on Sunday! :) I hope you've enjoyed this little trip into things piratical! Time to begin the count down again.

In the meantime, we're preparing for our next excursion...

to Happy Piggy Land!

Mutiny On The Blog

Yaaarrrgggggh! This site 'as been absconded! The Pirate Pastor is now in command!

As ye make preparations for this weeks' Talk Like A Pirate Day, yer friend, the Pirate Pastor, wants yerself to be ready. On each morrow, here you'll find a new word to expand yer vocabulary. Along with that you'll find other things of a piratical nature!

Roll Call On Muppet Treasure Island

Old Tom!

Real Old Tom!

Dead Tom!

Word Fer The Day

Back again are ye? Well then, let the ole pirate parson give ye yer word for the morrow...

No, it don't have a thing ta do with bein' a fan of the Grateful Dead. It really be 'nother name fer a floatin' log. Good luck with that on the morrow!

Muppets of the Caribbean: The Movie

Yer Words For Wednesday

Parents! Yarrrgggh, this har word is fer you. When yer "snotty" (young lad) comes askin' fer coin, tell them...

The Captain Is Not At Home!
This is a 'andy phrase when your savin' your doubloons for rum! It means you're broke.

Fear The Name Of...

For this yar, yer beloved pirate parson 'as a new name...

My pirate name is:

Bloody Roger Bonney

Every pirate lives for something different. For some, it's the open sea. For others (the masochists), it's the food. For you, it's definitely the fighting. You can be a little bit unpredictable, but a pirate's life is far from full of certainties, so that fits in pretty well. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

Be sure to git yer own!

Yer New Phrase Of The Day

Tis a new day and a new phrase fer yer vocabulary and no, tain't really bad:

Flogging The Monkey
Small casks of rum were known as monkeys. Sailors who were desperate for a drink would rinse a "monkey" out to try and get the last of the alcohol out.

On this day, try yer luck with this phrase and yer coffee pot in the work room.

Muppets of the Caribbean

Land Lubbers Beware!!!

So for Monday, try to use this word in conversation, it should be an easy one for you land lubbers...

The word means gossip. Pirates would gather around the water barrel, actually the butt of the barrel which would fill with fresh water. It was here they would share the latest news on deck.

Talk Like A Pirate Day - September 19

Coach Holtz must have been practicing for this weeks' annual Talk Like A Pirate Day. Can I just tell you it is becoming really stressful to get ready for Sunday morning when my Saturdays are this stressful!!! I'm just glad I prepare sermons early in the week when my Pirates play like they did today in their 28-24 win at Tulane. Tulane is better than the score suggests (just look at their game at Alabama last week. Hopefully the Pirates understand how to go about with a target on their back. I certainly do!

Get ready for some changes on the site! ;)

Quote of the night:


Muppet Moment

This Muppet Moment is rated G for all audiences...

A More Mature...Muppet Moment

You haven't seen it until you've seen it done with the Muppets.

Parent Advisory:
As I know some of my readers have kids who view this site, please be aware this video does contain some crude language and violent images.

Wednesday Wonderings

It has been a lot of fun this week preparing for this coming Sunday. Talking with other pastors, we all approach sermon prep differently. Preaching from the Old Testament always seems to push me a little bit more. This Sunday is going to be great!

We've got a great church coming together! The work the launch team is doing is incredible and it has been amazing the people that God has brought together from around the community. I cannot say thanks enough to you.

I'm amazed at the e-mails from all over telling us of the people praying for us. It is just an incredible time of watching God at work. Our Prayer Team is the best! Thank you all!

I keep hearing new church pastors shouldn't be at set-up but I can't help it - set-up rocks! I had a great time mixing it up and running around with everyone in the morning. I am finding it to be a great time to spend with our team.

I love our worship team...every single one of them! I give thanks everyday for Brandon and his passion for God and his devotion for worship. Rob, awesome bass solo!

I hate new cell phones. Okay, that maybe a bit strong but I've not had a lot of fun this week dealing with this. Hopefully, it is about done.

Thank you to Matt and Tony for fixing the trailer jack on our extra trailer! You guys are life savers (literally).

The East Carolina love fest continues. I'm just hoping this boys don't read too much of their press coverage this week. The bull's eye is now on their back.

I was humbled by all the new faces at Crossroads this past week. Thank you all for checking us out and being willing to step out and connect with us.

Graceful or Ungraceful? Christianity in Politics

The religious right is enamored with politics and the opportunity to legislate their version morality.

The religious left is enamored with politics and the opportunity to legislate their version social justice.

Both, in my opinion, place their hope in humanity rather than God. In such a context it is not hard to look at "Christianity" and find it lacking. Yesterday, on talk radio, I heard an individual go off on how "The Left" is afraid of Christianity because it has a set of rules God has given us to live is down in black and white.

I cringed. I got irritated. I turned the radio to country music (anything was better than listening to the other.

On the other side, I've read the blogs (including religious ones) either spewing vitriol or making judgment statements toward the faith of Sarah Palin. I had to switch blogs, I could not read them anymore. I started reading the "love fest" the media is having with the ECU Pirates right now.

"When a [person] begins to grow lukewarm, then [they] are afraid of small labor, and willingly receive outward comfort." - Thomas A Kempis

I said it on Sunday, and I believe it holds true, following Jesus, being Christian, is unique in the marketplace. It is not about being fair or being superheroes of goodness. It is not about rules but about amazing, radical, generous grace. Jesus loves us and God redeems despite mistakes. You are accepted, even when you are unacceptable.

What I see at the heart of it all, is the fear of the small labor. It is a fear to get to know your neighbor, to answer the call to step out of one's comfort zone for a time. I wonder if we're really more afraid to offer grace precisely because we're not really sure if we have received it?

Unique in the Marketplace Podcast

Crossroads is now podcasting! Check out the sermon from this past Sunday: Unique in the Marketplace.

I've also been in the habit of posting a hard copy of my sermons too. If you've been a reader to the blog and would also like that version of my sermon as well or just prefer it, show me some love and let me know below in the comments.

Please keep in mind, we're still new to this and until we get the bugs worked out, we might not always get this out. We're going to do our best though!

Paint It Purple - Week 2

If you would have told me the Pirates would manhandle and dismantle WVU, I'd have said no way. Virtually no respect for ECU. That is now three wins against ranked teams going back to last season. I just don't want the Pirates getting a big head but dude, this is a big win today. And don't tell me that WVU was looking past this one.

Quote of the night:
Josh Tandlich from CBS SPORTSONLINE
"Todd Blackledge, announcing the play-by-play for this game, continues to refer to Pat White as "Heisman candidate Pat White..." Is Blackledge covering this game without actually watching any of it?"

Now, I've got to get ready for Sunday!

"Tracking" Your Faith Journey

Not long ago, I finished my handmade mount for the turkey fan from last springs hunt. Hunting season opened this weekend with the beginning of dove season. I had hoped to join in on the festivities this year, but alas, it was not to be. Still, I did take my day off to venture out into our two Wildlife Management Areas to do some tracking.

Here in Georgia, we do not have a fall turkey hunting season so it may not make much sense to be out tracking turkey. My son says I am obsessed and he may be right. Still, talking with other hunters and doing some reading recently got me thinking it would probably be a good idea to get out.

You see turkeys, like all animals are creatures of habit. They leave behind markings. For a new turkey hunter like me, I need the practice of looking for sign and plus, it is good exercise (I hiked about six miles which was a blast). I found an old turkey feather with some weather and ants on it so I knew it was not fresh. I found dried mud with turkey tracks so again, not fresh. But it told me turkeys had been there and in all likely hood, they would be there again. This proved true about an hour later as I back-tracked and spooked a young jake (a young male turkey) - you cannot get any better sign than that!

On another trail, in the mud, I found the tracks of polts (baby turkeys) which told me turkeys had come through since our last rain last week. I also found a dropping (always fun to talk about) and a tail feather which had me practicing my gobbler yelps to see just how long since the turkey had passed that way.

But it was taking one fork in the trail that really got me thinking. I hiked about half a mile and saw no sign whatever of turkey tracks. A waste of time? Not at all. It told me that next spring, I'm not hauling a gun down that trail! Instead I'll take the other fork where I found a turkey track less than 50 yards down the trail.

I began to consider though, how often we begin to think we have come a long way in our spiritual journey or we've achieved some level of spiritual significance. Yet, do we look at the sign? Better yet, do we ask others to examine our lives to see if there is any sign of the Spirit's work? Have our lives begun to show evidence of the growing fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26) or maturing characteristics of discipleship Jesus described in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12)?

It could also be you are doing your own searching for the Spirits' leading in your heart and life. Have you seen any sign of His going before you? Have you looked to Scripture to see where it tells us how God has worked? Do you look to tradition to where others have found the work of God in the lives of others?

'You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.' (Jeremiah 29:13) I pray this fall that as you search for God's sign, you will do it with all your heart. Be careful to not go far down a path where there is no sign and where you find evidence of His presence, pursue God with all your heart.

May I Ask? When was the last time you examined yourself and your journey? Are you where you really want to be? Are you where God wants you to be? Would you know the difference?

May I Suggest? Find a good friend or two in the same boat. Start meeting together for breakfast once a month. Come up with some good questions to ask one another about life and God. Be tough. Be real. Seek God with all your heart.

Crossroads UMC In the News!

I've got a number of e-mails and people mentioning the write-up about Crossroads UMC, our trailer and preseason. Thank you all for the kind words and to those who have joined our 30 Days Of Prayer...We love you!!

This was a great article and highlighted some key points about new church starts not often talked about. When established churches partner and invest in new church starts, it allows them to experience and take with them some key elements this article points out:

1. Connecting People.
More than anything, new churches allow people to connect to their communities and neighbors not often possible any other way.

2. Portability and Change.
New churches have to be portable and able to change/adapt to circumstances often beyond their control.

3. Task Oriented. Don't confuse with "works righteousness." New churches are mission driven and so are task oriented. The mission of new churches is to connect to disconnected people and connect them to Jesus Christ.

4. Energy and Excitement.
Some times you run on adrenaline and other times on excitement. When you see new faces and people connect to a purpose and find a place to serve Jesus that is meaningful, it changes lives.

Oswald Chambers put it this way,
"Sanctification makes me one with Jesus Christ, and in Him one with God, and it is done only through the superb atonement of Christ. Never put the effect as the cause. The obedience, service and prayer..."

May I Ask?Have you found a way to support a new church start? Has your church been encouraging to new churches?

May I Suggest? Join us at Crossroads for our 30 Days Of Prayer, find a new church in your community and give them a helping hand one week, or better yet, join the team!

Beware the Dark (LOL) Side of the Force...

more animals

Hump day...getting ready for the weekend!

This weekend is another preview service at Crossroads UMC! I am really excited about the message for this coming week and all the work the team has been doing. Set-up begins at 8am, Sunday morning, so come by and give us a hand (and help, not applaud.) We're still needing some help in a couple of other places too so come and find your spot!

It has been awesome getting the support and feedback from people and churches regarding our 30 Days of Prayer. Pass the word and the links!

I'm praising God for Airborne! If you have not used it to fight a cold, dude, you need to. I love the night time version the best, hot cider rocks.

East Carolina plays West Virginia this weekend. I don't forsee any upset here. I think ECU can run with most of the bottom tier teams in the 25 but WVU; nope, we're not there yet (but my fingers are still crossed)!

A Conversation with George Wright

Recently I sat down with George Wright, lead pastor of Cedarcrest Church. This fall, their church is making the move to Allatoona High School. George has been the pastor at Cedarcrest for the past 2 years. He and his wife have three kids. We hung out at Vito’s Cafe to talk about what is happening at our two churches but also talk about life and faith.

Ken: What has been happening at Cedarcrest?
George: The last six months or so has seen a lot of new people we have been able to connect with. Our passion is to connect the disconnected. We really believe the best answer to that is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. We’ve currently outgrown the space at Shelton which has been an exciting, new adventure for us.

We have a vision that the church is here for the community. When we’re in the church, it is easy to think the church is there for us. In reality, what we believe the Bible teaches is that we are here to serve God and serve the community and our people have gotten fired up about that.

Ken: What are some of the hopes you have for our community?
George: We love our community. There is an opportunity to meet a lot of new people and help them connect with the plan God has for their lives. There are obvious issues with growing traffic, infrastructure and all that but that is worthwhile to me. It means there are a lot of new people we can connect with and meet.

We would love to make a difference in this community any way we can. We are trying to live in such a way that we are addressing needs, that we are making this world a better place. We really do care about this community as a whole.

Ken: What is God doing in your life?
George: It is an interesting time in my life. With the addition of a third child, it is a pretty big change. Not only that but Cedarcrest Church was a campus of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church and we’ve had the opportunity to go out on our own, to stand on our own. This has been a big step of faith.

What God has reminded me of is His faithfulness. With some overwhelming changes, at home and church, I’ve been intentional to be alone with God where He has reminded me of His faithfulness. One of my favorite Bible verses is Proverbs 3:5-6. It simply says,
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.

I need to hear that consistently, even as a pastor. If you’re willing to trust God with everything in your life, He is going to show you the way to live. He does have a great plan.

For more info about Cedarcrest Church visit

What you may not know is that Cedarcrest Church has been a tremendous help in helping Crossroads UMC to launch too! My thanks to George for his Kingdom-mindset, his help, but most of all his friendship. Be on the look out for a future interview coming up with J.R. Lee from Freedom Church as they approach their 1 year anniversary of launch.

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