Headlines from First Thoughts

Friday, May 29, 2009

Platform Construction- Week 1 Report

This is from Russ Linger...

Today wraps up week 1 on the platform construction project. Much
progress has been made, and today two tasks will be performed. First,
the initial sub-flooring structural members have been installed where
the old organ console stood. This will allow flooring to be installed
in the choir loft and for the choir chairs to be re-located in
preparation for Sunday's service. Second, a major cleanup will take
place and black draping installed over the rear choir loft walls where
the monitor cabinets will eventually be installed. It will be obvious to
all on Sunday that something major is going on at the church!

The new organ console is being hooked-up as I write this. A team from
Colby will continue working over the weekend, but the organ will be
ready to perform on Sunday from it's temporary location on the main
floor level, to the left side of the stage, as the congregation faces
it. This will allow everyone a close-up view of the new console Sunday.
For anyone interested, sample of the new choir loft flooring will be in
the choir suite this weekend.

Week 2 activities include continued work on platform structure,
installation of monitor cabinets, and continued work on organ and pipes.

It's been a good week....everyone is on schedule, and no major
show-stoppers at this point.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device from U.S. Cellular

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Renewing a City with Nehemiah

The book of Nehemiah is a memoir of a construction effort on the walls
of Jerusalem. The story opens with a clever refugee trapped in ancient
Susa who leverages his influence to be appointed as a governor in
his family's homeland. Nehemiah supervises a process that leads to
spiritual renewal in the land. Because the people were reformed, they
read the law (not the other way around.) He was about doing justice
for people who were being mistreated by opponents of change in the
city. He was about setting appropriate boundaries for people. Nehemiah
was about reestablishing identity for a community ruled by outsiders.

This sermon series will guide our thinking as we watch the
reconstruction of our platform. As we replace the platform, we will
get organized with Nehemiah to reorder our lives. We will see our city
as the place that God wants us to do justice. We will look to reform
our lives so we can listen again to God's law. We will establish and
shape our identity rooted in the tradition of ancient Israel.

Because after all, it was never about building a wall. It was about
building a community of people.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sanctuary Platform Renovations

The Spiritual Life

We are living with the successful achievement of two modern myths here at the bottom of the great recession. These are the questions that people are trying to answer today. 1.) How can I make my life better for me, myself, my family, and my country so this doesn't happen again? 2.) How can I do that in such a way as not to offend you?

We know that’s preposterous. Humans are not islands so the world can’t be all about me or my people.

Humans cannot live a discernment-free life. We are told that we are either rich and poor, black, latino, and white, democrats/republicans, north/south, red/blue state. But in reality, based on the people that I know across the country, we don't fit in nice little boxes on a census form. We are a thousand different iterations of a thousand different views.

Playing the non-offensive game leads to greater judgmentalism. The only thing that people who are trying not to offend each other do is dogmatically agree on how offensive everyone else is. These are the questions that got us into this problem, and we certainly can't use them to get us out of our society's issues.

Some Christians have been pleased to accommodate these myths over the last 20 years. By retreating to the safe confines of Bible studies, bestselling self-help book clubs, and seminars, we have unwittingly withdrawn from the culture hoping for a better world to come. On the other hand, some choose to just take all their energy taught from faith, form a nice community non-profit keeping their churchianity to a safe hour on Sunday morning. Both of these forms of Christianity are important but cannot be ends in and of themselves.

Pentecost changes all that. The spirit of God is already at work in the world through one visible sign-- the believers in community together. Wherever two or three of you are gathered, you are showing the world a new way. By demonstrating what Jesus preached, and how churches like those described in 1 John lived, we are showing the world a better way.

We join in the victory over the myth of pride with self-sacrifice, generosity, and mentoring people in the love of Christ. We participate in the conquest by giving witness to what God is doing. We report like a herald on the field of battle showing and telling to each other that God continues to overturn society's values with a new all-conquering love through Christ's people. While society competes over the best condo at the top of the tower of Babel, we gently rescue children, orphans, and widows announcing the world, "the kingdom of God is here."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Stop-Doing List to End Chronic Homelessness

The next steps we can take to help our community achieve the goals of the Knox County 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness require no money, resources, or time, and less effort than ever before. These steps do not require a “to-do” list.
We need a Jim-Collins-style “Stop doing list.” As caring citizens, we need to match our good intentions with good outcomes. We need to evaluate whether our good deeds enable a problem to continue or lead to a reduction in homelessness.

Most people see needs and want to do something to fix them. We have learned, however, that this “needs-based” approach does not always fix the problem of homelessness. Just because a person is hungry does not mean he needs cash. Even if a person is thirsty does not always mean the answer is a free meal.

Social workers, faith-based groups, congregations, and agencies are collaborating now in an “asset-based” approach. This approach states that every homeless person has something she can offer, even if all she has is time. Everyone knows the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The asset-based approach takes the golden rule to the level of an iron rule: “Don’t do anything for others that they can do for themselves.”

The asset-based approach requires the helpers to change as much as the clients. Compassionate hearts must be joined with tough love and sustainable practices. To do so, we need a stop doing list: areas where your help is no longer needed.

1.) Giving cash with no strings attached. You know the drill. The pitiful-looking person gives you the sidewalk speech: “My baby is in the car (conveniently around the corner), and I need money for baby formula. Do you have a few dollars you could spare?” Most people have two reactions: pity and fear simultaneously. We pity the individual and are afraid of what would happen if we say no. Statistics tell us, however, that homeless people usually do not attack others. There are resources in the community for people to have food for babies. Formula, however, happens to be a commodity re-sold at higher prices to pay for addictions. A few dollars can go a long way to purchasing the street value of a rock of cocaine that ranges from $10-25. The best answer to the request is to offer to accompany the person to the nearest social service agency, but no means give money.

2.) Giving away food with no strings attached. We don’t need any more free food programs in Knoxville. Just in case you are considering one, agencies and churches offer 3 free square meals every day in our great community. On Sunday, some estimate there are 8 free meals. More free food enables dependence and drains the resources and energy from volunteers that could be trained to coach, mentor, and walk beside people. Local food programs should be evaluated. Are they helping us reduce the number of people in the food lines? Are these programs following Health Department regulations designed to protect everyone in the community?

3.) Sharing dingy clothes and furniture. As Ron Hall suggested at last week’s “Carry the Torch,” banquet, if you wouldn’t wear it, why would a homeless person? Let’s treat these people with the respect and dignity that they deserve. Clothes closets need good clothes, business suits, and professional outfits to give clients healthy self-respect.

By stopping practices that enable poverty, we give each other time, energy, and resources to focus on what works: relationships with people, mentors who walk beside those in crisis, neighbors who treat others with respect, and housing to stabilize the indigent. Let’s match our good intentions and generous hearts with great outcomes. Our homeless friends deserve nothing less.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Created for Each Other

We were made for each other. This place we called First Baptist is the
fulfillment locally of the dream announced in Genesis 1, a community
living out God's creative work together. Our church completes the
mission announced to the Israelites: to be a light for the nations. The
folks at 1B demonstrate through our lives what Jesus commissioned: "Go
ye therefore and disciple." According to 1 John, by the way we conduct
ourselves with each other, we show what Christ's sacrifice looks like.

As Stanley Hauerwas suggests, the most important thing the world needs
from us right now politically, socially, spiritually, economically,
and relationally is to be this kind of church. In modern terms, that
means more than becoming a member of a church. Culturally, the word
"member" sounds more like a fraternity rush or a civic obligation
renewable because the group provides a service to us or is a good
cause to join. The Christian notion of membership, however, suggests a
lifestyle change. I am using this term as Wendell Berry does when
referring to the Port William community's membership. We are the kind
of people who "member (as a verb) one another, that when we're
together or apart, we take a piece of each other with us. The
difference is not between who is a member who and who isn't but who
knows it and who doesn't."

This month, through the lens of 1 John, I'm asking us to renew our
membership vows we made to God and to one another. Community life in
Christ is so different than the paths we were on that we need the
review occasionally. Baptists are good at backsliding into the old
habits of life before joining a community. We fall back into the
patterns of individualism, family life, club membership, self-help
books, friendliness, and random acts of kindness. All of these are
important, but none of them represent the church.

First Baptist Church is a Christ-formed community of shepherds who
move from saved individuals into a community of the forgiven. We take
all of our family ties and learn to grandparent one another in the
faith. We shirk off the self-help advice of bestsellers and engage the
culture with the mind of Christ. We move past friendliness into a
radical hospitality that shapes us as apprentices in love. We allow
the spirit to take our random acts of kindness and form us into a
vibrant community together.

None of this sounds very easy to do, but that's precisely why these
times ask us to thing differently about the commitments we have made
to each other. We were made for such a time as this.

Friday, May 08, 2009

A Culture of Call

Check out the folks who have served as interns at First Baptist. Where are they now? God is using them across the country.

We're looking for more info. If you have served, or know of others, please let us know.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Loving the Church

Christians can't understand the life of Jesus without the church. The church can't understand Jesus without living out the Christ life to and for one another.

As people of First Baptist, Knoxville, I am asking each person to commit to a new kind of membership in the church. You won't find these commitments on the "new member" card when you join. These are the steps members take to and for one another as they grow in their understanding of Christ and their commitments to First Baptist. These commitments are an expression of love that we have for one another as reflected in the book of 1 John. Each step comes with a place where we are now to a place where we are going.

1.) From saved individuals to a community of the forgiven
1 John 1:9-2:2

2.) From multiple generations to grandparents and grandchildren in love.
1 John 2:7-17

3.) From members in a group to owners of a community
1 John 3:16-20

4.) From good advice to engaging the culture
1 John 4:1-6

5.) From friendliness to apprenticeship
1 John 4:7-21

6.) From random acts of kindness to the spirit-formed community
1 John 5:1-12

Google Search