Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What "Bone" Are You?

“Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

“A Church typically consists of AT LEAST SIX BONES:

1.     WISH BONES… those who wish ‘someone else’ would do all the work.
2.    JAW BONES… those who do all the talking but little else.
3.    KNUCKLE BONES… those who knock everything that anyone else tries to do.
4.    LAZY BONES… those who show up as the work is finished.
5.    BUSY BONES… those who ‘belong’ but are always tied up on their own projects and with their own needs.
6.    BACK BONES… those who get under the load and do the work that’s necessary to get the job done.”

What “bone” are you at LaGrange First UMC?  As many of you already know, one thing our church is focusing on this year is “becoming the volunteer church we used to be.”  While we all certainly value and appreciate the work that our staff do year-round, their job is not -- after all -- to DO ministry but to help empower, encourage, and equip God’s PEOPLE (all of us!) to do it.

Do you recall the vow you made when you became a member of LaGrange First UMC to support the work of Christ through your church by your “SERVICE” (along with our “Prayers, Presence, Gifts, …and Witness”)?  This means that while praying, worshiping and being active in a small group, giving financially, and sharing our faith are all important, we are also called to serve others through one or more ministries of our church. 

With that in mind, you’ve hopefully been seeing articles in our newsletter, bulletin, Sunday School news and other places about new places and opportunities for you to volunteer to do God’s work through your church.  Remember: Healthy churches are always looking for volunteers (unhealthy churches simply pay staff to do the work).  As such, we are therefore currently in need of volunteers for:
     1) our Children’s Ministry (Children’s Church helpers, Nursery assistants, Sunday School class teachers and helpers);
     2) weekly setup & breakdown of our “Morning Glory” contemporary worship service;
     3) Audio/Visual ministry, to help run sound, lights, and multi-media during all our Sunday worship services
     4) Seasonal singers to join our Adult Choir to prepare for and sing in our upcoming community Easter cantata.

You’ll see an article elsewhere in this newsletter not only with more information about all of these, but also how you can volunteer for them. I not only invite and encourage but also go so far as to challenge each of you to try one of them out, remembering that as God’s people in God’s church, we are all called to work for the Lord through some ministry in His church.

I pray that you are -- or will consider becoming -- a “backbone” of our church in the coming months ahead, so that others can experience Him through the ministries of which you are a part!

Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Who to Welcome???

“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7)

Recently there’s been a lot of conversation in the news about who it’s appropriate to welcome in our society.  What about illegal immigrants?  What about refugees from Muslim countries?  What about transgender persons in the Boy Scouts? 

While I certainly respect the right of anyone to have their own thoughts and opinion about such matters, those of us who claim the name “Christian” also have a responsibility to look to Jesus for our cues in our responses.

A careful study of scripture reveals that Jesus welcomed harlots and others sinners, people who disagreed with him (such as the religious leaders), people who some considered to be the “enemy” (such as the Romans), and even those who would go on to betray him (such as Judas). Bottom line: Jesus welcomed ALL.

And from that example, we as God’s people are called to do the same, regardless of what our government or pop society do. Welcoming others in the name of Christ doesn’t mean that we have to agree with their beliefs, values, or behaviors.  But it does mean that we offer them respect and hospitality just as Jesus did for all people who he met.

A few years ago, someone shared a blog that (sort of tongue-in-cheek) described this kind of radical hospitality and welcome that we’re to imitate and have as God’s people:

“We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles.  We extend a special welcome to those who are crying newborns, skinny as a rail, or could afford to lose a few pounds.

We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket.  You’re welcome here if you’re ‘just browsing,’ just woke up, or just got out of jail.  We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been to church since little Joey’s Baptism.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast.  We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters.  We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted.  We welcome you if you’re having problems, or you’re down in the dumps, or if you don’t like ‘organized religion” - we’ve been there too.

If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here.  We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.

We welcome those who are inked, pierced, or both.  We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid, or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake.  We welcome tourists, seekers, doubters, bleeding hearts… and you!”
            [--From “Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community, cited in the Blog of Jon Acuff (]

Wow!  Those are tough words to live up to!  But they describe an attitude that we are to offer to all people as God’s church, for -- in the words of Paul’s scripture above -- “just as Christ welcomed [us]… [we are to] welcome one another.”  Dear Lord, may it be so at our church and among all the churches of God! Remember that He loves you and I do, too!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Grow Through Worship. Stave Without It

“Do not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some,
but encourage one another, and all the more as you
see the Day [of the Lord] approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)

I’ve heard it said somewhere that an action repeated for at least 21 days can create a habit.  Well, I want to challenge everyone reading this article to make a “habit” this new year of being in God’s House each week for corporate worship, fellowship, and learning.  Perhaps your life has gotten busy and you’ve “gotten out of the habit” of being in worship.  Maybe you’ve cherished a few extra minutes of sleep on Sunday morning, or have grown accustomed to tuning in to a favorite television ministry or church service in your pajamas, with coffee mug in hand.  Or, you might have unwittingly developed into a “C&E Christian” (attending only at Christmas and Easter).

But as the scripture text above reminds us, there’s simply no substitute in our own personal, emotional, and spiritual life for participating together with sisters and brothers in the worship and praise of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  With it, we experience God’s presence in a powerful way, and lives are touched and changed through it.  Without it, we starve our spirits. The same can be said of not only corporate worship but also in small classes and groups for prayer, Bible learning, and fellowship.  In other words, when we worship, fellowship, and learn together at church, we’re fulfilling our own church’s purpose of being “Christians SERVING in love, CARING with compassion, and SHARING (Christ) with boldness."

So, I hope you won’t miss out on the blessing God has in store for YOU through regular participation in weekly worship and small group fellowship and learning!  I plan on being here, and I look forward to seeing you, too, as we all make a “habit” of “meeting together” at church each week!  Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

New Year's Gift

"If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

“In your hand has been placed a priceless gift. Look at it closely. There is no price maker stamped on it. It cannot be weighed, because no scale can balance its value. A king's ransom in comparison is as nothing yet it is given to beggar and prince alike. The giver asks only that it be used wisely and well.

This jewel, rare and unique, is not displayed in any shop window. It cannot be purchased, cannot be sold. No other treasure holds the possibilities this gift offers -- none can surpass its golden splendor.

Of all gifts, this is one of the most precious. It has been offered many times before; today, from the depths of a limitless love it will be given again. It will be left to you to find the golden thread running through it. Only with great care will the jewel retain its luster. Carelessness, ingratitude and selfishness will tarnish the brilliance, break the unspoiled thread, mar the perfection.

Guard it closely, lest through weak fingers it slip from the hand. Look often at its faultless beauty. Accept it as it is offered from the heart of the giver. Consider it is the most treasured of possessions, for of all gifts it is by far the greatest. It is the gift of the New Year.”

           [--Cited from,  December 27, 2004]

As we begin a new year, I hope and pray that you will keep and use each moment to God’s glory. If you’ve gotten out of the habit of weekly worship, now’s an excellent time to start back. Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

New Preaching Rotation

Beginning January 8, 2017, Pastor Brian and Pastor Blake will experiment with rotating their preaching schedules into four week blocks. For example, one pastor will preach for 4 weeks in our "Morning Glory" contemporary service while the other pastor preaches in both our traditional services in the Chapel and Sanctuary. After their four week series ends they will then switch to preaching in the service(s) they did not preach in during the previous 4 weeks.

Both Blake and Brian are excited about this new rotation because it will:

1) It will increase the momentum during each of their sermon series’
2) It will accentuate both of their unique preaching styles
3) It will allow for both members and friends to choose either the preaching style or worship style that best fits their spiritual needs.

We pray that this rotation will stretch your faith and allow you to experience God’s diversity through our many worship opportunities!  If you have questions or suggestions during this trial period (through the end of Spring), please contact Brian and/or Blake.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

'Twas The Week Before Christmas

“A child has been born for us, a son given to us…” (Isaiah 9:6)

“‘Twas the week before Christmas when all through the town,
Men, women and children were running around,
Giving left signals and then turning right,
Shopping and spending much money all night.

Elbowing in at the counter of toys,
Buying up gifts for their girls and their boys.
The meaning of Christmas is clear in our city:
Mail carriers and clerks never get any pity.

Father is groaning; his checkbook turns red,
While visions of bankruptcy churn in his head.
Mother is baking cake after pie, saying
“If I see one more pastry, I think I will die.”

Only for children it can’t come too soon.
They’ll talk about next year on Christmas at noon.
With all of the holes in our nerves and our shoes,
The meaning of Christmas we almost will lose.

But then comes the strains of that music so light
And soon we are humming the tune ‘Silent Night’.
Our minds take us back twenty centuries past,
And the meaning of Christmas comes through to us at last.

No hurry, no bustle, no trees with their lights,
No honking, no hustle, no toys gleaming bright.
But Jesus our Savior, in Bethlehem born,
Becomes the true meaning of our Christmas morn.”

       [--Author Unknown, cited from an old Fayetteville (GA) First United Methodist Church newsletter]

How do you and your family experience Christmas? I pray that at at least some level, you will make the difficult but rewarding choice to remove yourself from the rat race long enough both to remember and actually experience the true meaning of the season.

As part of that choice, I hope you'll join myself and your fellow church family to celebrate Jesus, "the reason for the season." at one of our Christmas Eve Candlelighting services (5:00pm Family Service with Children's Pageant or 11:00pm Traditional Service with Holy Communion) and/or on Christmas Day for our 10:30am casual Christmas celebration.  Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Travel Tips for Advent

“A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’” (Isaiah 40:3)

The Christian season of Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day) is often called a season of preparation.  Not only are we preparing for the holiday of Christmas physically (with decorations, Christmas cards, shopping, parties, etc.) but also spiritually (by looking within ourselves for how God wants us to grow in our love towards Him and others).

With that in mind, a number of years ago I read an article detailing several “travel tips” that can help us spiritually “prepare” for our “journey” through Advent:

1) PACK LIGHTLY: One of the indicators that our annual Christmas buying neurosis has gone wrong is this idea that those who give the most, and get the most, matter the most.  Such mistaken reasoning leads us to teach our children that Christmas is the annual bash we put on for ourselves, all the while trying to believe Bethlehem’s boy child is the “reason for the season.”  …But this myth can’t be disguised forever.  This year, why not pack lightly?  Rather than “shopping til you drop,” drop to your knees and ask the One Who Comes what he would have you do to make ready HIS coming.

2) WALK SLOWLY: Am I the only person who notices how rushed we get the closer “it” gets?  Was it only a few weeks ago that we started seeing signs saying “only 44 more days”?  Slow down.  Take time to sip cider with your mate.  Hug your kids.  Tell them the Advent-Christmas story and then live the story before them.  Refuse to sing Silent Night from a noisy heart.  Simply put, make the powerful emotions of these days your servants, not your master.

3) LISTEN CAREFULLY:  Someone you love very much is talking, saying something really important, maybe even life-changing.  Listen carefully and, who knows, you may hear the night wind speak to the little lamb saying “a child is born.” I can’t prove it, much less illustrate it, but I’m almost certain that most of us on the journey miss half the joy because we’re too busy talking; the sound of our own importance has drowned out the promise of “I am coming soon.”

4) LOOK WISTFULLY:  Where, you ask, should I look?  My best advice is:  none of the obvious places.  Those who traffic in seasonal things know what easy prey most of us are.  “Get them in the stores, turn on the music and lights, plop the man dressed in red in the middle of it all and, bingo, it’s Christmas.”  But the truth is that only those who look wistfully beyond what IS to the One who COMES really experience the mystery and miracle of Advent.  Why? Because Advent is a journey we take into the reality of the journey God made in Christ.  That journey, which included stops at such places as a stable, a hillside, a cross, and an empty tomb, had one purpose:  to love the likes of you and me back to the God who created us.

So, journey on, fully aware that at destination’s end is the one who loves you and gave himself for you.  “Even so, come Lord Jesus!”
            [--Shared by Dr. Timothy Owings in an editorial in The Augusta
            Chronicle newspaper (August, GA), December 1997]

As we continue to prepare for Christmas this Advent season, I invite you to allow these “tips” to become a reality in your life, as I seek to have them do in my own! Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Monday, November 21, 2016

What I'm Thankful For

 “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

This past year I have had much to give God thanks for.  Here are just a few.  I am thankful...

...for a wife who models the love of God by loving me just as I am, warts and all!
…for a daughter who makes Trish and I proud not only because of what she does but more  importantly because of who she is and the beautiful woman of God she’s become.
…for our daughter’s fiancĂ© who Trish and I will be proud to call “son” next June for being the good fiancĂ© he is to our daughter and the great father he already is for our granddaughter.
…for our nearly 2 year old granddaughter who is so full of life, energy, excitement and curiosity about the new world that she is discovering.
...for parents who raised me in church to love, understand, and eventually follow the ways of God.
...for a church family who loves, supports, and prays for both my family and myself daily.
...for all of my fellow staff members -- Blake, Andy, Darian, Harrison, CJ, Grayson, Avery, Rick, Dodie, Patti, Lisa, Scott, Jordan, Eddie, and Jane -- who, together with me, share in the cause and work of Christ through our church.
…for church members who love me in spite of the fact that we “go over” in worship far too many Sundays due to long-winded preaching!
...for Sunday School and Bible study teachers/leaders who live out their faith in the selfless way they lead and teach.
...for committee and ministry team chairpersons and members who give “above and beyond” to the work of Christ through their participation in and leadership of our church’s ministries.
...for the “behind-the-scenes” members of our sound, multi-media ministries and those who help prepare our bulletins and newsletters in the essential work that they do.
...for the members of our praise team, adult, and children’s choirs for the blessing and inspiration they share through their music.
…for all the volunteers and staff of our church nursery who give tirelessly of themselves to make sure our children are safe and happy.
...for church members who roll up their sleeves and pitch in to be part of "the answer", rather than whining about what someone else is not doing to fix "the problem."
...for all the great volunteers who lovingly help in all of our Sunday night and Wednesday evening activities
...for church members who are willing to make God a priority
through their financial giving to His church.
...for fellow Christians who’re willing to step outside themselves by participating in serving 
and/or sharing ministries both locally and overseas.
…most importantly, for God who gave his son for me to give me forgiveness and salvation when I didn’t deserve it, and for giving me life and hope in the midst of a hectic world!

Of course, there’s many, many more, but have you “counted your blessings” lately?  When you do, I’m sure you’ll find that, like me, you have many things for which to “give thanks.”  Let us all strive to live out our thankfulness this Thanksgiving holiday!  Remember, God loves you and I do, too!


Thursday, November 10, 2016

LFUMC’s “Stop Hunger Now” Event

“When they had plenty to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover pieces, so that nothing will be wasted.’ So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves that had been left over by those who had eaten.” (John 6:12-13)

Some quick facts about world hunger:

● Approximately 792.5 million people in the world do not get the food they need to live a healthy life.  That’s nearly one out of every nine people on earth, with 98% of those living in developing nations. In sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, one in every four people are hungry.

● Hunger kills more people each year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

● Nearly 50 percent of people living in extreme poverty are 18 years old or younger, and poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year.  

● 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone. The poorest 20 percent of the world’s children are about twice as likely as the richest 20 percent to be stunted by poor nutrition and to die before their fifth birthday.
                        [--Sources cited at the “Stop Hunger Now” website]

These figures regarding world hunger are alarming. Thankfully, our world today possesses the science and technology to properly address this dilemma, if we will but choose to do so. That’s why I’m pleased to invite you to participate in a new ministry hosted by our church called “Stop Hunger Now,” a world-wide interfaith initiative begun in 1998 by a United Methodist pastor and designed to help people in developed communities like our own combat hunger and starvation in developing communities around the world.

This coming Sunday (November 13) from 9:30-11:30am in the MMC, we’ll be packing 12,000 meals (2000 packets x 6 meals per packet).  We’ll begin in the Chapel at 9:00am with a short worship celebration, then at 9:20am move into the Fellowship Hall to continue “worship-in-action” through the packing event, which will provide a service great opportunity for appropriate for children, youth, college students, and adults.

Though the event itself will serve in place of both our two early morning worship services and most of our church’s Sunday School classes, our 11am service will take place as usual in the Sanctuary.  Also, while this is the first time our church has sponsored this event, some of you may already be familiar with it from previous events hosted both by LaGrange College and by other area churches.

Remember, Jesus fed over 5000 with the simple offering of one little boy’s lunch.  On November 13, we’ll be preparing meals to feed even more than that!  Perhaps this is what Jesus had in mind when he spoke the words of John 14:12-14, “whoever believes in me will do even greater works than these [that I do].”

So, dress casually and join us at 9:00am in the Chapel on November 13th as we seek to “stop hunger now” in the name of Jesus!  And don’t forget that God loves you and I do, too!

[P.S., to find out more about this initiative, visit their website HERE] 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Top 10 Truths No Matter Who Wins the Election

1.                  The Bible will still have all the answers.
2.                   Prayer will still work.
3.                  The Holy Spirit will still move.
4.                  God will still inhabit the praises of His people.
5.                  There will still be God-anointed preaching.
6.                  There will still be singing of praise to God.
7.                  God will still pour out blessings upon His people.
8.                  There will still be room at the Cross.
9.                  Jesus will still love you.
10.              Jesus will still save the lost when they come to Him.

BONUS: No matter who holds the title of president, God is still KING!!

P.S. God approves this message

(Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Introducing Online Giving & Text-to-Give

“Your generosity produces thanksgiving to God through us.”
(2 Corinthians 9:11)

I’m pleased to announce two new ways that you can now give to God through the ministries of LaGrange First UMC:  (1) Online Giving through our church website; and (2) Text-to-Give through your own smart phone.

Both methods accept donations either from checking accounts (EFT direct debit), debit cards, and credit cards (although we encourage givers to use the checking account method, as this is the lowest cost option for the church and the most financially sound method for the giver).  What’s more is that your giving can be made either as a one-time gift, or can be scheduled as recurring donations with several giving options.  If you are a church member, you can even choose to link your giving to your online member profile via a link emailed to your inbox.

Overall, these new options make life easier for you while also yielding significant benefits for your church:
● Your transactions are financially safe and secure
● Setting up your giving takes just a few easy steps
● Recurring donations help you to create consistent and faithful giving, resulting in a more stable base of income so that your church can more easily focus on its mission
● Online giving helps your church be more efficient through simplified accounting and gift processing
● Your current and past giving records (which only you can see) are immediately viewable online - there’s no need to wait for a paper statement

Of course, our traditional giving choices remain: members and guests may continue to give cash or checks using our paper  envelopes during worship on Sunday mornings, or by mailing them to the church office during the week.  But these two forms simply add two new ways to give.  And in the weeks to come, those using these giving methods can also participate in the Sunday offering symbolically by placing an “I Give Electronically” donation card in the offering plates/baskets.

To give online, simply follow the instructions on the “giving” tab of our church website, or text “LGFUMC” to “73256” to use Text-to-Give.

My wife and I have chosen to use online giving as our preferred method of giving our tithes and offerings to LaGrange First UMC, and I invite you to join us in this if you are so inclined.  But regardless of how you give, know that your giving (your “generosity”) produces thanks to God through your church!  Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

first: putting GOD first in living & giving

“Seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all
these things will be given to you as well”  (Matthew 6:33)

Do we worship idols? The answer may surprise you.  During this month, our church will hear about God’s generosity and our response as we experience our stewardship program, first: putting GOD first in living and giving, developed by author and pastor Mike Slaughter of Ginghamsburg Church.

We are made in God’s image and are meant to be creators of life and hope, not the consumers of our culture’s shiny gods.  We have the ability to change the world and create a legacy that will live forever in the lives of generations to follow. That legacy starts when each of us takes the hard steps of financial discipline and fulfilling the call to generosity that God has placed in all of us.

The goal of this stewardship program is not to make anyone feel guilty, nor is it to say that any of us have to be exactly like someone else.  No, the goal is for all of us to ask questions of ourselves and be open to the possibility that God will lead us in new directions in our lives.

During the four-week program, we’ll be challenged in a number of different ways.
            ● We’ll be asked to look for the idols in our own lives (Hint: Most of them aren’t animals made of gold) and name the ways these idols enslave us, holding us back from living in the true freedom that God desires for us.
            ● We’ll be challenged to consider the place that money, work, and debt have in our own lives. What are our common understandings of these, and might the witness of Scripture lead us to some different understandings?
            ● We’ll be challenged to ask ourselves what it means for us to be faithful, to save, and to give. How do we balance all the competing interests in our lives? What priorities does God want us to have?
            ● Finally, on Sunday, October 23 (“Celebration/Commitment Sunday”), we’ll be challenged during one combined and blended 10:30am worship service in the Sanctuary to give with our hearts, not out of obligation or a sense of duty and not just when we think the recipient deserves our gift. We’ll be challenged to give the way God gives -- freely, fully, with no favorites or expectations of repayment.  We’ll follow that service with a great church-wide luncheon: we’ll provide the BBQ; you provide the side dishes.

It’s my prayer that, at the end of these four weeks, we’ll all have begun to grow into the individuals and church that God knows we can be. So, as a response to God’s invitation through this stewardship program, I invite you to join me putting GOD first both in your living and your giving.  And always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Our Church's New Mission Statement

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock…” (Matthew 7:24)

“Effective vision for the future always rises out of the realities of the present and past."  That's a truth which has guided our church this past year as we embarked on the first phase of a 2-3 year process for us to become more effective in ministries and outreach.

That phase, you may know, has involved us seeking to better understand the realities of who we ARE as a church (our Mission/Purpose/DNA, if you will), so that next year (2017) we can begin the next phase to help us discover who God is calling us to BECOME (His Vision).

We began last March by inviting you to share your thoughts about our current identity in a congregational survey, of which 130 were turned in.  The results of those surveys, combined with further research of our church’s history this past Spring and Summer, helped our church's leaders to realize that the mission statement we previously had did not adequately or accurately articulate the unique essence of our identity as a church.

Consequently, at its August 23 meeting, our Church Council adopted a new mission statement that we believe both clarifies and captures the essence of our specific identity – that as a church, we are…

in our faith, family, community and world”

While this statement alone will not get people to visit us or grow our church, nevertheless it will form a firmer foundation (a “rock” as the scripture says above) upon which our Vision for the future (which – when implemented – will grow our church) can be successfully built.

So, “where do we go from here” you ask?  The following are the steps remaining in our process to become more effective in our ministries and outreach:
            ● September-December: employ firm to begin work on new logo/”brand” graphic, and do preparatory work to lay groundwork for 2017 VISION process
            ● January-May 2017: VISION discovery and discernment, involving several distinct processes and tasks
            ● May-August 2017: VISION articulation, adoption, and sharing with congregation
            ● Fall 2017: beginning of VISION implementation

I wanted you to see where we were in this process so you can be aware not only of what has been done, but also of what is still to come.  If you have questions about any of this, please don’t hesitate to contact me either in person, by phone, or email.  And remember that God loves you and I do, too!

(P.S. I invite you to read the “Reclamation” series sermons that unpacks the complete three phrases of this new mission -- readthese sermons HERE

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Is God Calling You to Stephen Ministry?

“[God] consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

Stephen Ministry is a new lay-caring ministry that our church is re-starting in 2017 that will enable us as a church to care for one another in the way Paul describes above.  With over 1100 members, it’s impossible (and impractical) for our two Pastors to be able to take care of all the congregational care needs of our church.  So, our Stephen Ministry is therefore one of the vital complementary components of our church’s care systems.

Stephen Ministers themselves are fellow church members who’ve gone through 50 hours of training to provide confidential, one-to-one Christian care for people who’re facing a crisis or simply going through a tough time. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, loneliness, cancer, a layoff, relocation, divorce, a spiritual crisis, recuperation, single parenthood, or any of countless other life challenges or hurts, our Stephen Ministers are there!

The way the system works is this:  Stephen Ministers meet with someone in need (called a “care-receiver”) once week for around an hour to listen, care, pray, and provide emotional and spiritual encouragement.  Men are matched with male Stephen Ministers, and women are matched with female Stephen Ministers. The caring relationship is free, and lasts for as long as the care-receiver needs the care – it’s a powerful way either to receive help for ourselves, or also a great way to help a friend, neighbor, co-worker, or relative who’s been struggling in any way.

Consequently, this Fall we are recruiting a new class of Stephen Ministers who will start their training in early 2017 and be commissioned to begin their work in early Spring. To find out more about how you or someone you know can become one of our church’s Stephen Ministers, you’re invited to attend one of our no-string-attached “Stephen Ministry Information Sessions” on October 2, 5, or 19 (look for details about these in upcoming articles).  

Or you can also either email our Stephen Ministry leadership, speak in person with our church's Stephen Leader Miriam Kelly, or to Pastor BrianTo find out more about Stephen Ministry, visit their website HERE

Our Stephen Ministry is here to for you and for our congregation and community!  I pray that you will prayerfully consider if God might be calling you to care for others through this ministry!  Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Gideon Sunday

"The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  (Hebrews 4:12)

“Gideons, International” is the result of a meeting back in 1908 between two businessmen who wished to band commercial travelers together for evangelism. What began back then as an association of Christian businessmen placing Bibles in hotel rooms has evolved today into an interdenominational ministry  providing people access to God’s Word all around the world.

To date, over 2 billion scriptures have been distributed in more than 200 countries, territories, and possessions in 95 languages. Not only do they distribute God’s Word for free in hotel rooms (for which most of us are familiar), but also in prisons, military units, schools, hospitals, “on the streets,” and in many other places.  And while they are not a church, they nevertheless partner with churches  like ours to make possible God’s ministry through them.

I remember first hearing with fondness about the amazing work that they do growing up as a young boy in my home United Methodist church in College Park, GA.  Many United Methodists are part of this ministry (including several of our own LFUMC members), and I want to encourage us as a church to re-engage in their local ministry here in LaGrange/Troup County.

As part of this re-connection, on Sunday, September 4th we will be hosting “GIDEON SUNDAY” where we will welcome two speakers from our local Gideon chapter to speak at all of our morning worship services that day:  Mr. Don Seal will speak at our Chapel and Sanctuary services; and Mr.Jeff Miller will speak at our Morning Glory service.

I hope you will join Blake and I that Sunday not only in welcoming them, but to come prepared to have our hearts touched and challenged by the possibilities and opportunities for renewed partnership with Gideons, International through our church.  And I invite you also to come prepared to share your generosity in a special offering.  For more information about the Gideons ministry, visit .  Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Homecoming Coming!

Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel!  Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!.. [For] I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you,... says the Lord.” (Zephaniah 3:14 & 20)

Homecoming (Noun): “A return home; the return of a group of people... to a place formerly frequented or regarded as home” (Mirriam-Webster Dictionary).

“Homecoming” is a great tradition in many churches throughout America.  It’s a time to invite former church members, pastors and staff back “home” for a special time of fellowship and worship and eating to celebrate a common history and heritage.  Homecoming worship usually involves lots of great, rousing singing, inspiring special music, occasional special presentations, and a challenging sermon preached by a former pastor or staff minister.

It’s a time to reminisce about the past (what the church was like in the “good ole’ days!”), to celebrate the present (how the church has changed to meet current needs), and to be challenged with plans and visions for the future (how the church plans to grow to meet the needs of future generations).  In fact, it’s a foretaste of the great “homecoming” celebration that Zephaniah describes in the scripture above.

Here at LaGrange First U.M.C., the time has arrived as we celebrate this great tradition each year in the early Fall!  So, mark your calendars for Homecoming Sunday on August 28, from 10:30am to 12:30pm, complete with food, fellowship, and worship featuring the preaching of former Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Greg Porterfield (currently Senior Pastor of Wesley UMC in Evans, GA near Augusta). Worship will begin at 10:30am that day in the Sanctuary (with elements of our three weekly services in one, combined service), Sunday School classes will not meet, and we’ll conclude with a great covered dish luncheon in the Fellowship Hall (the church will provide meat).

I hope you’ll make plans now to be present!  It’s a day in the life of your church that you won’t want to miss!  I hope to see you there!  Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Back to School... Back to Church

“Return to me and I will return to you, says the Lord of heavenly forces.” (Malachi 3:7b)

This next week our children will be heading back to school to start a new school year.  This should be a reminder to the rest of us that it’s also time to start back to church if we’ve gotten out of the habit over the summertime!  And just so everyone feels welcome and “at home”, here are some special new things we’ll be providing this Fall:

--Cots will be placed in the Narthex for those who say ‘Sunday is my only day to sleep late’

--Steel helmets will be provided for those who say ‘The roof would cave in if I ever came to church!’

--Blankets will be furnished for those who say the church is too cold, and fans will be given to those who think it’s too hot.

--We’ll have hearing aids available for those who say ‘the preacher talks to soft’, cotton for those who think that he talks too loud, and a few “Slow Down” road signs for those who think he talks too fast.

--There will be TV dinners for those who say they can’t go to church and cook lunch for their family at the same time.

--We’ve renovated part of our Sanctuary to have grass and trees for those who feel closest to God in nature, and part of the grassy area will have a putting green for those who think that Sunday morning should be for golfing.

--We’ve turned some of the pews to face backwards, so that those who say ‘I’ll come to church when I get my life turned around’ will feel at home without ever having to do that.

--We’ve also built several small, private rooms connected to the Sanctuary for those who say that they worship God at home alone, by themselves.

--And finally, the Church will be decorated with both Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies for those who have never been to church without them!

Okay, I admit it… we’re not really doing all of these things.  But it does highlight some of the many silly excuses we use for not coming to church.  This Fall as our children head back to school, why not put away your excuses and renew the habit of coming back weekly to the place where you can meet and grow with God, fellowship with people who care about you, and find a sense of purpose and meaning to life. 

“Seven days without worship make one weak!”  I hope that won’t apply to you!  Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Power of the Bible

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

As God’s people, one of the tools we’re given to discover, grow, and mature in Christian faith is the Bible.  Unfortunately, many Christians have never unlocked the power of this God-given tool because they’ve never taken time to actually study it in-depth with others.  Consequently, beginning this Fall our church is re-introducing the power of group Bible study to our core ministry and programming through “Disciple” and “Believe.”

Disciple” is an interdenominational small-group Bible study that (to date) has been taken by over 2 million Christians, and is a common core discipleship offering in United Methodist Churches around the world. Through daily readings and a 75 minute guided group discussion once each week, participants not only come to understand the Bible better, but come to discover its relevance and power in and for their daily lives, while at the same time developing rich and long-lasting friendships with fellow participants. I’ve personally witnessed many lives changed and transformed in remarkable ways through this study. And this Fall, in order to better accommodate people’s busy schedules, our church will be offering a format called “Disciple Fast Track,” which is shorter in weekly meeting length and total duration.

In like manner, “Believe” is a guided group study we introduced this past Spring to whet the appetite of our congregation, and it proved so popular that we’ll be sharing the second of its three-installments this Fall.  It uses the Bible to focus on essential beliefs, practices and virtues that every Christian needs to know and live by, and how God’s word can help us think, act, and become more like Jesus in our daily lives.

Granted... neither “Disciple” nor “Believe” are for the casual Christian.  Both require hard work, commitment, and diligence -- but the rewards are literally “out of this world!”  Many of you are desiring to grow in and learn more about your faith -- being part of one of these two group Bible studies is one of the best ways to help you do just that! So if you’re serious about your faith growth and want to find out more, please pay attention to the information we’ll be sharing both in our newsletter, bulletin and in “Bible Sunday” worship on July 24th.

Your life will never be the same after you take a “Disciple” or “Believe” class!  So what are you waiting for? Remember that God loves you and I do, too!