Headlines from First Thoughts

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Missing Healthcare

Video of RAM's Work in Knoxville

Healthcare is the buzz these days. Politicians, pundits, and pollsters have their spin. What about preachers?

Jesus walked by the first century version of a hospital in John 5. The place was the pool of Bethesda. He demonstrated that we can love the missing who are sick, paralyzed, blind, and lame. All needed physical and spiritual healthcare.

The issue of healthcare in America runs much deeper than insurance coverage, pharmaceutical companies, and lawsuits. For Christians, healthcare is a platform for listening to the missing. You can find them at the doctor's office, Emergency Room, clinic, or in the case of one group in Knoxville- the Chilhowee building on Magnolia Avenue. In this video, RAM set up a clinic in Knoxville, treated 920 patients, gave away 500 pair of glasses, administered 94 mammograms, and pulled 1006 teeth. They turned 400 people away.

In John 5, Jesus showed us that for believers, healthcare is about two things--

1.) Showing up. No matter what you think about the political solution, Christians show up during a time of crisis. Jesus demonstrated how to go and be with this one paralyzed man.

2.) Asking a question that invites someone on a journey. Jesus' question, "Do you want to be made well?" is more than just, "Can I fix you?" The question implied, "May I journey with you into your soul?"

For the believer today, the most important question we can ask someone we know in a healthcare crisis is, "May I pray for you?" This question has the same effect as, "Do you want to be healed?"

As we pray, we share their needs with others. People become engaged. We remember the other person's needs. We look for answers together, and most importantly, we listen to their spiritual needs. We provide relationship, friendship, and introduce them to the one who offered something more than a new body. He offered eternal relationship that was worth something in the present.

One person at a time, all of us are made well.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Everyone needs a platform for making friends with the missing.

I preach from a platform every Sunday, but it's not a good place for relationship.

Talking to the missing requires a venue, a location, or a platform.

In John, Jesus' platforms were
Family relationships in a fishing business- John 1
Water Well- John 4
Healing pool- John 5
Business to buy bread for a mountain full of people- John 6
Cemetery- John 11
Beach- John 21

By extension, our platforms can be the natural places of life where we run into the same missing people every day.
Family relationships
Coffee Shop, Starbucks, Panera Bread. A "Third place" in between home and work.

Monday, April 07, 2008

First Baptist Knoxville Receives Award

FBC will receive the prestigious RC Buckner Award for Dedicated Church service this Friday evening in Dallas. For more information, click below.


Read Dr. Kenneth Hall's comments here.....


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Needing the Missing

The most important step a Christian must take in developing a relationship with nonbelievers is in his perspective on the relationship. We actually need missing people.

In John 4, Jesus demonstrates how to talk from a position of need rather than a position of superiority or arrogance. He asks, "Will you give me something to drink?" The question is not a strategy; it's a simple request for help. The question indicates how we should approach nonbelievers. We need them, we want them, they can help us, we can learn from them. The process creates conversations, dialogue, and in the case of the woman, conversion.

Imagine how this might revolutionize our relationships and our churches. We have so much to accomplish as Christians in the work of the gospel. We have good news to share, the poor to feed, justice to deliver, mercy to show. We cannot do it alone; we need our communities, friends, and neighbors. We need believers and nonbelievers alike. Non Christians actually share many of our desires. They want to help the poor, serve communities, make a difference, love neighbors, and volunteer. When we ask them to help us, we create opportunities to have conversations. We give them a chance to change their lives. And we learn again what it's like to follow Jesus' model in relationship with others.

Need the Missing

The best kind of evangelism happens when we show the people we’re trying to love into the kingdom of God how much we really need them. Take one example from my life. Mr. Holt was in charge of the bus ministry at First Baptist Pensacola, Florida, when my parents joined in 1972. They picked up kids in the neighborhoods, brought them on Sunday mornings and had a special children’s church for the bus kids. In the 1970s, this was one of the many popular ways to draw people to Jesus, drive up attendance, baptize a bunch of people, and yes, do evangelism. The church bought 5 used buses from schools, retrofitted them for church, painted them blue, and emblazoned them with large letters, “Follow me to First Baptist.”

Mr. Holt recruited two people for each of the five buses. One was a college student who could knock on doors, invite kids, and maintain order in the back of the bus. The second was an adult driver who could navigate the neighborhoods. For bus number 5, he asked the son of the local district attorney, Jimmy Magaha, to ride along. Jimmy knew every B.J. Thomas hit on the radio especially two that he loved to sing and taught to all the kids—“Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” and “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

He asked my dad to drive Bus #5. My dad was everything a late 1970s conservative Baptist church in the South was not looking for in a member. He drank; he smoked, even while he was a member at First Baptist. He had been married previously. At the time, it was not your average “church leader” or volunteer resume. This was still the era when the Southern Baptists prided themselves on how much better they were than the culture. Somehow none of that mattered to Ed Holt. He needed a driver, my dad was willing, and Mr. Holt knew something. That sometimes the best recruits come from the ones who actually need to be needed.

Mr. Holt could tell that my dad was very good at relationships. He was usually the quiet guy in the back of any party making funny witty comments under his breath. And he had a natural warmth about him around others. My dad wasn’t the type to just sign up to volunteer. Like most people, he needed to be asked because he didn’t think he was qualified for most church positions. Even if they sent around a list, he would not have signed his name. But Mr. Holt did not need a list. He had met him at church, and that was enough to qualify him.

So on Sunday mornings, my dad became the first evangelist I ever met. He never preached a sermon; but because someone needed him, he was willing. He became the best church bus driver there ever was. He drove Bus #5, and I sat side saddle on a small metal box that fit my backside perfectly between the steering wheel and the driver’s sliding window. I’m sure today the police would have arrested us.

Early Sunday morning, we drove the Pontiac station wagon, got the keys out of the church office, unlocked Bus #5, and met Jimmy McGaha. From neighborhood to neighborhood we drove knocking on doors and singing to the top of our lungs, “Like a Rhinestone Cowboy, riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo.”

The bus ministry did not last forever, but the memories, and the legacy, still do. For me, my first good taste of church life did not happen on a pew but when someone had the vision to ask someone in need if he could help meet a need.

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