Blessing of Change

I began volunteering on CCC’s preaching and teaching teams in early 2014. In late 2014, Gary stepped out of the senior minister role due to health concerns. (Gary is now one of our shepherds.) Barry, our youth and worship minister, entered the senior minister role. I started teaching in the youth ministry, in addition to preaching. In May 2015, I joined the staff in a part-time position to lead the youth ministry. In early 2017, I transitioned from youth ministry and preaching to preaching and adult education.

Now I do about half of the preaching. This summer, I get to facilitate a preaching team. I get to continue preaching, and I also get to equip other people to preach. We plan to preach the Psalms this summer. The Book of Psalms provides words of prayer for all occasions, from celebration to lament. Dave Bland of Harding School of Theology is scheduled to serve as a guest resource for our preaching team.

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Months of Ministry

As we see in the life of Jesus, ministry can be busy and needs pauses for rest. The last several weeks have been such a combination in my experience.

Summer camp with Sycamore View Church of Christ was a time of fun and formation, as expected, and turned out differently than expected. The week before camp, I got a call from Southwest Tennessee Community College inviting me to teach a five-week, five-day-a-week, summer class starting the week of camp. Although I didn’t want to miss any of camp, I knew the extra money from summer teaching would help my family. The camp director helped me find other people to take my places in facilitating a daily small group and refereeing a daily game. I was able to accept the invitation from Southwest and keep my camp counselor role, driving over an hour back into Memphis in the mornings, returning to camp in the afternoons, attending the evening activities, and spending each night in a large cabin full of middle school students and three other counselors. The camp theme this year was “Move,” and we learned valuable lessons from the biblical book of Exodus.

In addition to camp, we served homeless Memphians again, went on an end-of-summer white water rafting trip, and had Sunday night devotionals (we call them LiFT).

Also, our congregation was one of five (three mostly black and two mostly white) that met together for two combined events. The first was a prayer vigil. We prayed for racial peace in our city, which has been experiencing a larger than usual amount of racial tension. The second was a combined communion service, in which we continued and started interracial relationships in the body of Christ.

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From September 30 to October 2, God blessed me with an opportunity to speak at the fall retreat of the Ambassadors for Christ, a campus ministry at the University of Arizona. The people were friendly. The food was impressive. And the mountains in southeastern Arizona were breathtakingly beautiful. My talks at the A4C retreat arose from the Gospel of Mark, explored the kingdom of God, and encouraged students to live out the kingdom way of life found in Jesus.

The teenagers’ Sunday morning Bible class of Cordova Community Church also has been studying Mark. In this series, we do a modified version of lectio divina (contemplative reading). Although anything contemplative can be difficult for teenagers (or any other age group) in this culture, we listen to the text and invite God to work on/in us through the readings. We try to get ourselves into the text and the text into us with the goal of spiritual transformation.

CCC’s Sunday morning sermon series this summer was “Blessed to Bless.” Barry and I preached about praying, listening, eating, serving, and storying as elements of missional life.

Now we’re in a sermon series called “God and Politics,” in which we explore how the Christian faith can influence our decisions and interactions in a stressful and confusing season of presidential campaigning. Yesterday, in addition to endorsing one of our teenagers as the next President of the USA, I called us to avoid hateful actions and words in our interactions with people who disagree with us about political topics (see Titus 3:1-2; 1 Peter 2:9-17; 1 Timothy 2:1-8; Jeremiah 29:4-7). Thanks to Matt Carter for this photo:

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This semester is very busy for me. I’m taking PhD seminars, serving in ministry with CCC, and teaching college classes. However, as I said in a recent Harding School of Theology chapel sermon, in busy times we must remember spiritual disciplines, including rest. Today and tomorrow are fall break, and I’m enjoying extra time with my family. This weekend we watched two movies at home and spent a couple of hours at Dixon Gallery and Gardens. This morning I got out of bed much later than usual, and this afternoon my son and I went out to snack and play.

To learn how to support this work, click here.

Compassion Party and More

Our summer has been explosive!

Literally.

Last Sunday night several CCC teenagers and a few adults enjoyed fireworks after worship music, snacks, and spontaneous games at the Great American Family Picnic and Fireworks hosted by Bellevue Baptist Church.

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That wasn’t our first picnic of the summer. A couple of weeks earlier, CCC joined Northeast Side Church of Christ for a few hours of cooking and eating and praying and playing. About a week and a half later, the two churches had a joint worship time. These first steps of living the unity of Christ together have been God-glorifying and soul-enriching experiences.

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Yesterday a few of us helped with a summer camp hosted by Raleigh Community Church of Christ. We enjoyed interacting with children. The afternoon fun played into the overall work of the camp that positively influences children in the name of Jesus.

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We also were blessed to partner with Jacob’s Well recently in their homeless outreach called Compassion Party on the Road. We prepared sacks of food and delivered them to homeless Memphians. In addition to several CCC adults and teenagers, a couple of younger children participated. When we delivered meals, we didn’t just give and run. We engaged in conversation with the food recipients. We listened to their stories and offered to pray with them. I was pleasantly surprised when eight-year-old Lucas asked a homeless person, “May we pray for you?” Then we circled up, and Lucas said a beautiful prayer. I so enjoy witnessing young people reaching beyond their typical comfort zones to bless and to be blessed.

Next week some of us will partner with Sycamore View Church of Christ for a week of summer camp.

To learn how to support this work, click here.

Racism and Christianity

“It breaks down racial barriers and lets teenagers put their faith into action.” Last week’s post quoted those words by Kristen Shoulders about Memphis Workcamp.

In my life the topic of racial barriers motivates me to serve in two ministry contexts. In one context, I get to join a congregation in living the Jesus Way in Memphis, a city plagued by a history of racial strife and inequality. In the other context, I get to study and speak about race and religion for academic audiences. The two contexts blend naturally, for practice and scholarship feed each other.

On June 8 I presented my paper, “Antiracist Rhetoric in Sermons by John Allen Chalk, 1968,” at the Christian Scholars’ Conference in Nashville.

In the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Chalk used a series of four radio sermons to speak against racism. In response he received many letters, a few positive and many negative. Instead of speaking only about “safer” topics, he boldly addressed a most crucial social issue.

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Chalk prophetically proclaimed, “Tenets of racism . . . conflict with the teachings of the God of the Bible.”

He continued, “As surely as racism openly flaunts God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, so this idolatry also affects and corrupts our relationship with each other. Instead of ‘loving our neighbors,’ racism invariably promotes human pride, arrogance, and the disruption of any meaningful communication and association with those who differ with us.”

Bringing the Great Commission to his listeners’ minds, he said, “Racism would modify Christ’s words to mean, ‘Go ye therefore and teach your own kind,’ or even worse, ‘Go ye therefore and teach all nations, making sure to keep them in their place.'”

I won’t include the entire paper here, but these highlights can give you a taste of what I was blessed to study and speak about.

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In today’s context of “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” and racial inequalities embedded in social structures, Christians need to hear words like those of John Allen Chalk. We need to face the prejudices in ourselves, and we need to prayerfully and intentionally counter our culture’s injustices by living as followers of Jesus.

I’m glad that I had the chance to study and speak about this in an academic context, but this is more than “ivory tower” scholarship. It’s practical in a deeply needed way.

To learn how to support this work financially, click here.

Thanks to Tanya Brice for organizing the conference session in which I presented.Thanks to Lipscomb University for hosting the conference. Thanks to Bobby Valentine for the photograph of the session presenters. Thanks to the library staff at Harding School of Theology for the picture of Chalk and for access to letters he received in response to his “Race Revolution” sermons. Thanks to the library staff at Abilene Christian University for access to audio recordings and original manuscripts of the sermons.
Thanks to John Allen Chalk for speaking boldly for Christ, providing feedback to a rough draft of my paper, and answering questions in my ongoing research.

Transforming Houses and Hearts

 Workcamp was the first full week of June. About 20 teenagers and adults from CCC joined hundreds more in this five-day event that brought together youth ministries from various cities to bless Memphians in the name of Jesus.

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According to Workcamp co-director Kristen Shoulders, “Workcamp is a chance for our churches to show the city we care. It helps our teenagers understand Jesus’ call to serve. It breaks down racial barriers and lets teenagers put their faith into action. It’s a great hands-on learning experience!”

Scraping and scraping and sawing and scraping and drilling and scraping and painting were more than physical activities to keep teenagers busy. These tasks were ways to open ourselves to God’s transforming Spirit in our lives and in the lives of the homeowners who let us paint their houses.

Click here for a video Logan Pulley made featuring the CCC group, and click here for local news coverage about Workcamp.

To learn about financially partnering in this work, please click here.

Thanks to Stacey Scott for the photos in the slideshow. Thanks to Oscar Tyler, Felicia and Matt Carter, Ken Pulley, Danny and Georgia Sisco, and Mid-South Christian College for hosting workers and helping at the worksites. Thanks to Barry Fowler who could do Workcamp with his eyes closed, and thanks to the God whose eyes never close.

Urban Immersion

Suburbs aren’t always suburbs. Some may fit the stereotype of cookie-cutter houses and manicured lawns. Raleigh and Frayser don’t.

Last summer we partnered with Agape’s Powerlines Community Network to experience life and faith with residents of Ashton Hills Apartments in Raleigh and Pershing Park Apartments in Frayser.

Judith Pruitt of Agape reported, “In a first for Agape, the youth group and chaperones lived in the PCN Ashton Hills Apartments for the week they served the community residents.  This allowed them to immerse themselves in the community they were serving and learn from the residents even as they served. Living within the community also provided the opportunity to see the community and residents and how they live even after program hours. This innovative approach to service walked out: ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.’

Marquis McPherson of Agape said, “I would like to personally say thank you to Bro. Barry Fowler, Bro. Steven Gaines, Cordova Community Youth Group, and adult volunteers (Bro. Nathan and Sis. Lisa) for an amazing week at Ashton Hills. Vacation Bible School was awesome and we really enjoyed the lessons, skits, and arts n’ crafts. Bro. Jim, thank you for opening the doors to Raleigh Community Church, because we realized after the first day we needed more space. The kids from Ashton Hills, Pershing Park, and Raleigh Community had a blast this week. I cannot forget last night’s event, ‘Worship on the Lawn’ at Ashton Hills. It was an epic night! The residents were excited. The kids enjoyed every single moment during the night. Over 70 individuals attended the event. A number of resident surveys were collected.”

This summer we get to do similar work with Jacob’s Well and other groups. The details are still developing, so stay tuned!

And please check out the support page of this site.

 

Painting Memphis

Each summer teenagers and adults of CCC participate in Memphis Workcamp. 

Part of Steven’s 2015 Memphis Workcamp team.

 

This year 16 of us will scrape and paint houses in a low-income area of the city. Workcamp is June 6-10.

Please pray that the experience will nurture friendships that cross cultural barriers in the Spirit of God. 

Click this logo for information about Workcamp.

 Please check out the support page of this site.

Welcome to this Ministry

Welcome to Tennessee
Welcome to the blog portion of this site. Ministry reports will appear here.
I’m raising financial support so I can devote more time to ministry while continuing my education. I serve part-time in preaching and youth ministry with Cordova Community Church of Christ, a small church in Memphis, TN. For more about me, click here.
My current ministry goal is to glorify God by building up the congregation and blessing the Memphis area in the name of Jesus. My teammates and I pursue that goal through prayer, preaching, teaching, and community outreach, including ministry among people experiencing poverty and homelessness. We especially enjoy equipping teenagers and young adults to partner with others in intergenerational and intercultural ministry.
To learn how to financially participate in this ministry, click here. Every gift, small or large, is a great blessing and a meaningful participation.
Thank you for being part of what God is doing in Memphis, a city that needs Jesus.