We were on vacation last week when we saw the news of the shooting at the Emmanuel AME church in Charleston. Immediately, there was talk that it was racially motivated, that it was a “hate crime.” Later, we found out the hard to comprehend details about how an individual sat through a Bible study with the very people he would later shoot down in cold blood, all for the purpose of starting a race war. And so began a week of contrasts–of “the worst of times, and the best of times,” as Dickens may have said. The worst was displayed when the political opportunists and media talking heads from the left and right used this horrific event to drive a deeper wedge in our nation’s racial and cultural divide. Once again, there was no shortage of people who would use tragedy to further their agenda. And so, a week later, social media is littered with opinions about flags, while the families of nine brothers and sisters in Christ grieve their losses. We grieve with them, as we do for our nation. Which brings us to the other side of that contrast, so vividly displayed by the family members of victims who stood in the courtroom and spoke to the accused killer, offering words of mercy instead of hatred, of forgiveness instead of retaliation. We also saw light shining in darkness as tens of thousands came together, white and black, to line the streets of Charleston for a memorial to those killed. Make no mistake, the problems in our nation are real. But, as Ed Stetzer said this week, “We have a race problem in America, because we have a sin problem.” Or, as NFL player Ben Watson put it, our racial issues are not so much a skin problem, but a sin problem. With that being the case, there is good news–because we have an answer for sin. Just as with Ferguson and Baltimore and every other city in America, the answer to our nation’s deepest problems comes in the gospel of Jesus Christ, a gospel that was so clearly demonstrated and communicated in that Charleston courtroom last week. The gospel is truly the only hope for real transformation. The apostle Paul said in his second letter to the church at Corinth, that Jesus Christ has reconciled us to Himself, and He has given us the message of reconciliation. The folks from Emmanuel showed us what that looks like; reconciled people practice reconciliation. Forgiven people are forgiving people. I know this: I could never preach a sermon so eloquent as those who offered forgiveness in that courtroom last weekend. History reminds us that a little more than a century and a half ago, these United States were divided, in Charleston, South Carolina, and the very uncivil Civil War began. My prayer is that God would supernaturally use the tragic events in Charleston in 2015 to bring us together again, around the truth of His gospel. May the Lord bless you as you live our the ministry of reconciliation this week. I am praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday. –Pastor Ken
This Sunday, June 21, is Father’s Day. As part of our Father’s Day worship at Shelby Crossings, we will have what we call a Family Dedication time during our second service. We usually do it a couple of times a year, so I guess that means it’s sort of a tradition. In a non-traditional way, of course. To be honest, for a long time I wasn’t much of a fan of baby dedications–even when my own children were babies–and never planned to have them in a church I pastored. There was no particular reason for my disdain, except for maybe a general avoidance of all things ritual and ceremonial. However, several years ago, after a few parents in the church I was pastoring requested a time to publicly dedicate their children to the Lord, I decided to search the Scripture to see what God had to say on the subject. I found that such public commitments of children were a way of life in the Bible, and expected of parents who were a part of the community of faith. They were not just superstitious rituals, or ceremonial displays. Instead they were times of sincere dedication and commitment of children to God, and of parents to the Biblical task of raising those children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” There was also a mutual dedication by the “community” to share in the responsibility of caring for and discipling those children to godliness. And so we decided to go for it, and I’ve been participating in these dedications ever since (including the dedication of all six of my children). Still, the reality is that it’s not so much what we do or say publicly during Sunday’s worship service that will reveal our true dedication as parents. It’s what we do privately, when no one else is looking–face-to-face with our little ones, practicing loving discipline, praying for them, teaching them, and showing them how to live a “God-pleasing life.” Our commitment is evidenced by how we make use of the precious opportunities we are given as parents to make a difference in the lives of our children. That’s what it really means to be a part of the “family” of God. To be dedicated to Him, and to one another. To live out our public commitments in a private way. To be Christian, on Sunday mornings as well as on Friday nights. My prayer for all of us this weekend is that we would truly dedicate ourselves to being all that God wants you to be, and commit our families to Him as well. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. May you know the love of our Heavenly Father, and reflect that love in the way you parent your children. I’m praying for you, as I hope you are for me. –Pastor Ken
At Shelby Crossings, we believe in Small Groups. Whether you call them community groups, cell groups, care groups, life groups, or discipleship groups, we recognize that most genuine spiritual transformation comes in the environment of a small group of caring friends.
We often say around here that our weekly small group meetings are the most important ministry in the life of our church each week. Our groups are where relationships are developed, people are discipled, spiritual gifts are employed, intercession is shared, and the truths of God’s word are grappled with and applied to real life. Accordingly, I sure hope you’re involved in a group at Shelby Crossings. Or, if you’re not, that you’ll come try one out this week.
For those who are regulars in a small group, it’s always helpful to stop and rethink what we’re doing and why we’re doing it in the life of our group. Socrates once said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” So too, sometimes an unexamined group is not worth attending, especially when we find ourselves just going through the motions instead of focusing on genuinely connecting with one another, and with God.
No doubt, it becomes very easy after a while just to “show up” at your group meeting each week, and lose sight of what God wants to do in and through you in your group. It is vital that we constantly re-evaluate our group’s direction and mission, and re-focus our vision for doing ministry.
With that in mind, I wanted to share with you a not-so-serious Top Ten List that you might want to use as a “checklist,” to aid you as you examine the direction your group is going:
Top 10 Signs Your Small Group Needs New Direction
10….The last time your group had a visitor, Jimmy Carter was president.
9….Group members routinely finish one another’s sentences.
8….Nobody in the group wants to build low-cost housing for the poor, but 8 out of 10 members DO want to build a compound eight miles out of town.
7….For a group project, members shave each other’s legs.
6….Every time you ask for new ideas for new Bible study topics, members mumble in unison, “Could we study about stress and spiritual burnout?”
5….Group members share their burdens, and the most empathetic response is, “Stop your whining!”
4….You move your meeting to the city jail because 6 out of 9 members have “accommodations” there anyway.
3….Members ask for coffee the moment they arrive to wash down the No-Doz tablets they brought with them.
2….Joe, the most gentle guy in the group, closes with the same prayer each week: “God, help the powers to be in this group see what a colossal waste of time these meetings are, and how, to a man, each member would rather endure a root canal without anesthetic. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
1….You discover that your host family has moved and left no forwarding address. Here’s hoping your re-examined group life is worth living this week. I’m praying for you, and look forward to seeing you this Sunday. –Pastor Ken