This Sunday is an important day for our church family. We will be installing four new elders this morning. There are several terms that have been used in scripture and through church history to describe this role: elder, overseer, pastor, bishop. Over the years I have come to appreciate one term over the others: shepherd. Sheep are mentioned more than 500 times in the Bible. A consistent theme is their need for shepherds. The church has that same need.
Usually when the time comes to select new shepherds for a congregation, the two main questions asked are how and who? I would like you to think about a third question: why? There’s the obvious answer of God’s design and the example of scripture, but can we know the practical reasons why He wants the church to have shepherds? Tommy South, minister of the Glen Allen Church of Christ in Virginia, answers the why question in this way.
  • We need shepherds because congregations need leadership. (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1)
  • We need shepherds because congregations need stability, especially in face of opposition. (Acts 14)
  • We need shepherds because congregations need instruction. (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:9)
  • We need shepherds because congregations need models of the Christian life. (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:7)
  • We need shepherds because congregations need protection. (Acts 20:28-31)
I believe that with Greg, David, Brent and Butch we will be adding shepherds who exemplify these answers. They will be a blessing to this church as a whole and to Jeff, Scott, Jack, Richard and Ken who are currently shepherding our flock. Please join me in being encouraging, supportive and patient with these men and their families. Pray for them regularly and for the church that God will continue to bless the work here for His kingdom. And pray that we will all follow the example of the Good Shepherd.
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14

Million Dollar Sunday

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Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. – 1 Timothy 4:12
For ten years as a youth minister, I would plan the Sunday evening each May when we would honor our graduating seniors. More times than not, 1 Timothy 4:12 would be read during the evening either in my comments or as a favorite verse of one of the graduates. Because of the theme of those services, we usually emphasized the word “youth.” That is an important part of what the Spirit says through Paul, but I would like you to consider the word “example” and the ways he explains to be one.
When I was a child, I was not always good at following written instructions. There was one big exception to that pattern: Legos. There was something about the clarity of the Lego instructions that made them easy to follow every time. It was the pictures. I could see from the pictures in each step to understand how it worked. In adult life, YouTube videos have replaced Lego instructions for me. After watching people fix things on YouTube, I have been able to repair everything from the ice maker to my lawnmower to my car. I don’t have any real training in any of those areas. Seeing an example allows me to do things I did not think I could do otherwise. We can experience the same thing in our walk with God.
Think for a moment about the areas where Paul instructs Timothy to set an example:
  • Speech
  • Conduct
  • Love
  • Faith
  • Purity
When you think of each of those words, is there a person in your life who comes to mind that is a great example of those words in action? There are for me. Most of us have people like that. We know we should be people like that, but we often do not live up to it. Where do we learn how to do those things better? We learn from their examples. How can those who do not feel equipped to teach or have the opportunity to teach help others grow in those areas? We can be examples. Even those who do teach can teach better by being examples.
Look for the good examples. Be an example this week.
“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. – John 13:14-16


As we remembered September 11 last week, you may not be aware that September 12 is also a significant day: the National Day of Encouragement. We often underestimated the impact that we can have by being encouragers. This article from Scott Franks, Preaching Minister at the Burnt Hickory Church of Christ is an excellent example of what encouragement can do. – Brian
For 35 years, Floyd Martin was the mailman for the same neighborhoods in Marietta, Georgia. Over that time, he became a daily fixture in the lives of hundreds of people. He always made time to talk and check on elderly customers on his route. He carried along milk bones to give the dogs and lollipops for the children. He’d put $20 in the mailbox for kids who were graduating from high school. Little Mae Bullington loved her mailman so much, she dressed up like for career day at school. (Click here to continue reading at 728b on Facebook.)

A Model of Good Works

A few weeks ago, I shared part of an article from Wes McAdams, Preaching Minister at the church of Christ on McDermott Road in Plano, Texas. Wes has written a series of articles about what he learned by reading the Bible one book at a time. In the first part of his article about the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus), he emphasized ideas for leaders. In the second part of his article, we find something that should be part of the daily walk of all Christians: doing good works.
One of the most important parts of both Timothy and Titus’ roles was modeling good works. If Timothy and Titus taught the truth about Jesus, but their life did not reflect the Spirit’s sanctifying work, then their teaching would be in vain. This, of course, does not mean Timothy and Titus had to be perfect, but it does mean teaching and preaching always brings a level of scrutiny for which these men needed to be prepared.
These are the sort of instructions Paul gave to them.
  • Pursue righteousness.
  • Pursue faith.
  • Pursue love.
  • Pursue peace.
  • Avoid controversies and quarreling.
  • Be kind to everyone.
  • Patiently endure evil.
  • Correct opponents with gentleness.
I love what Paul wrote to Timothy, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” The goal of everything Paul was doing was love. Love that issues from a pure heart. Paul knew that in order for his own ministry to be successful and for the ministries of his protégé to be successful, they had to all model love and work to bring about love in their life of the church.
When love is our goal and good works are our actions, God is glorified. Let’s do the good works God has planned for us to do this week.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16

Letters For the Church

Last week we began a new series about the Pastoral Epistles on Sunday mornings. 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus are referred to this way, because they are written by Paul to ministers in the church. Most of us are not full time ministers, but there is still a great deal to learn from these letters. For that reason, I like to think of them as letters for the church. I would encourage you in the coming weeks to read each of these letters. They are short enough that it can easily be done in one sitting. When reading the letters this way we can often see things we haven’t noticed, and we are much more aware of context.
Wes McAdams, Preaching Minister at the church of Christ on McDermott Road in Plano, has written a series of articles about what he learned by reading the Bible one book at a time. His thoughts about these letters for the church give insight to our study.
Paul’s three short letters to his sons in the faith, Timothy and Titus, might be compared to locker room speeches or a commanding officer trying to inspire his troops. In these three letters, Paul describes the type of work these young ministers ought to be doing. I noticed that there are at least three areas Paul focused on when he described the duty of these ministers.
The Minister’s “Charge”
One of the recurring words, especially in Paul’s letters to Timothy, is the word “charge.” Paul had “charged” both of these young ministers to do a job. He had entrusted them with great responsibility. Timothy had been sent to work with the Ephesus church and Titus with various churches on the island of Crete. Like soldiers sent on a mission, these were their marching orders.
Be A Teacher
The primary area of responsibility on which Paul told Timothy and Titus to focus was teaching. Both communities with which these men were working were plagued with false teachers. So the church in both communities needed men who would devote themselves “to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”
Be A Leader
I find it undeniably true that Timothy and Titus were entrusted with positions of leadership. Like a chain of command, Paul gave marching orders to these two men and they were expected to turn around and command, charge, and entrust various responsibilities to other Christians in their local communities.
It would be easy for people to dismiss these things as instructions for leaders, rather than a charge to all Christians. However as we study through these books, we will learn that there is instruction for all of us to be the church that God designed.
You can read Wes’ full post at Radically Christian.

School Days

The week has finally arrived. Some dread it. Some are excited about it. It’s time for our students, teachers, staff and administrators to head back to school. Because school starts at different times in different places, I have already seen people sharing their first day of school pictures for the last week and a half. In our church family some of us will be taking the first day of school picture for the first time as a child heads off to preschool or kindergarten. Some families like ours will be taking the last first day of school picture for a child starting his senior year. For many of our families, those pictures are just wonderful memories. Like the song says, “Time is filled with swift transition.”
There are lots of reasons to get excited about the first day of school. We get to see friends after the summer break. The rhythm of having a schedule returns. There are more things to learn, sports to play, instruments to master and projects to be done. And wouldn’t many of us who have finished school welcome recess or naptime back into our daily schedules?
One of the best things about the return to school is the opportunity for a fresh start. If the last school year did not end the way we hoped, we can change that beginning this week. We can get up earlier, study harder, be more organized, listen better and make new friends. One of the amazing things God created us with is the ability to change and better ourselves. Who we surround ourselves with has an impact on how this year will go. What can we do to make this school year better than the last one?
Dan Williams, Vice President for Church Relations at Harding University, believes the answer to that question is found in four principles about how we choose friends in Proverbs 1:10-19.
  1. ASSOCIATION (Proverbs 1:10): “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.” Sometimes when we are not even doing things wrong, we find ourselves in the midst of people who are. As a result people get the wrong impression about us. Choose friends wisely.
  2. CONTAGION (Proverbs 1:11-14): “Throw in your lot among us.” As Christians we want to have an influence on those around us. If we are not careful, we may be influenced negatively instead.
  3. SEPARATION (Proverbs 1:15-16): “My son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths.” Sometimes we have to separate ourselves from people or situations to be the people God wants us to be.
  4. DESTINATION (Proverbs 1:17-19): Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.” We go into this school year and our lives with a destination in mind. Are we surrounding ourselves with others who are heading in the same direction?

Not Yet

Every time I read the first half of the book of Acts, I am amazed by the transformation of the apostle Peter. The apostle who denied Jesus after his arrest becomes one of the boldest witnesses for Christ. He is not intimidated by threats, beatings or imprisonment. He just keeps telling the story of Jesus.
According to historical tradition, Peter was killed around 68 A.D. Although he was to be crucified, he did not consider himself worthy to be killed in the same way his savior had been. He asked instead to be crucified upside-down. Peter seems so far removed from that moment when the rooster crowed.
Following the execution of James at the beginning of Acts 12, Peter might have thought his time was about to be up. Each time he was taken into custody, he had to know that authorities were growing more tired of him and his influence for Christ. This time it was Herod who seemed ready to conduct a show trial that would lead to his death. Herod thought that Peter’s execution would gain favor with the people. But that wasn’t God’s plan. He was not finished with Peter yet. God still had work for him to do.
While he was well guarded in prison awaiting his trial, an angel appeared to free him. Herod planned to be rid of him the next day, but God had something else in mind. It’s often during those times that we think we have control, or we are sure how things are going to turn out that God moves and reminds everyone who is really in control. Whether we are struggling with what seems to be an impossible situation or timing that we just cannot explain, sometimes God is waiting to reveal himself. Peter was learning something that Paul would write about later in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Whatever was going to happen in that jail cell, Peter was ready for the next step. This time, that step was to freedom and many more years to live for Christ.

Hang On

Each week our announcements and prayer list are filled with people who are facing difficulties in life. We are surrounded by loss, illness and other challenges. I hope you will be encouraged by this article from Scott Franks, Preaching Minister at the Burnt Hickory Church of Christ. It is a great reminder to trust in God and His love for us. – Brian
Has God asked something of you that seems unfair? Overwhelming? Impossible? You’re not the first to think so. I imagine Noah felt the same. Imagine processing this message from God: • I’m going to wipe all life off the face of the earth. • You are a farmer, but spend the next hundred years building a massive ship while enduring the questions and ridicule of your neighbors. • Two of every kind of bird and livestock and wild animal will miraculously show up here and you will have to keep them alive. • Everything will start over with you.

Fast-Food Christianity

As we have been looking at the book of Acts on Sunday mornings, we have seen a transformation happening in the lives of the followers of Jesus. The measure of the Spirit given to the twelve apostles can easily explain how different they are from the apostles we learned about in the gospels. For the newly converted Christians, the transformation seems to be directly related to what they spend their time doing. At the end of chapters 2 and 4, they are unified in worship and sharing life together. Their walk with God extends far beyond the first day of the week. Unfortunately this kind of daily practice of Christianity does not take root in many churchgoers in our world today.
In his book, D2: Becoming a Devoted Follower of Christ, Phil McKinney believes this is a product of our consumer culture. He describes it as “Fast-Food Christianity.” It resembles the fast-food experience in a number of ways.
  • Replacement of responsibility: Someone else can do the work while the fast-food Christian enjoys the benefits.
  • Choices: The fast-food Christian can choose the church and the level of involvement.
  • Cheap: It will only cost what the fast-food Christian is willing to pay.
  • Service with no strings attached: The fast-food Christian doesn’t have to make long-term relationships and can frequently make complaints without helping with solutions.
  • Quick: The fast-food Christian wants everything done quickly. Sermons need to be short. There shouldn’t be too many songs. If there’s a problem, it needs to be corrected quickly.
  • Drive-through service: At its core, the fast-food experience is a transaction. Fast-food Christianity can be the same. Get in and out of the building as quickly as possible on a Sunday morning, and repeat the next week.
Just the brief contact with the word of God and good people would probably make the fast-food Christian’s life better than it would be otherwise, but that person is missing out on so much of what God has in mind for us. And believe it or not, the church is missing out on the transformed version of that same person. McKinney says that God’s call to discipleship is the opposite of Fast-Food Christianity.
  • Responsibility – Galatians 2:20
  • Costly – Luke 14:25-33
  • Only one choice – John 14:6
  • Service with strings attached – 1 John 3:16-19
  • Slow and sometimes painful – Hebrews 11:32-40
  • Commitment – Luke 9:23-26
Here at Southwest there are many opportunities to serve and get more involved as we grow as His disciples. Even beyond the ministries here, let’s never be content with less than the work God made us to do. We are His disciples all day, every day.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:9