Have you seen any good movies lately? Amber and I saw some really extraordinary movies this summer… and some real stinkers as well. It it hard to define exactly what makes a movie “good” or “bad,” but it seems we all have an opinon when the credits role. I am always surprised to find that a good film holds the power to stir my soul and touch my heart, while a bad film can cause us to question, “What purpose did that film achieve?”
Without question, filmmaking is about communication. Each filmmaker aspires to communicate an overarching moral, idea or philosophy to the audience. The audience receives this message and is left to decide if we are buying what Hollywood is selling. Over the past several months, I have observed multiple films venture more overtly into arenas of God and faith. These inspiring films tackle important philosophical topics like success and failure, inclusion and prejudice, ability and disability, and compassion and hate.
For this reason, we are claiming August as a month devoted to finding “God in Film.” Each Saturday evening at 7pm in the Fellowship Hall, we will host a viewing party for the film of the week. On Sunday morning, we will use the sermon time to explore the central themes of the film (and related Scriptures) and ask, “Where does God show up and what can we learn?”
Our first movie selection showing Saturday, August 4 and then exploring August 5 is “The Last Jedi.” I know it is a year old, but I could not resist. Plan to join us for this fun, summer series.
When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new. -Dalai Lama
Over the past several weeks, I have sought out the opportunity to sit in many of your living rooms for conversations. Each conversation was different. Some conversations took place in the morning and others in the evening. Some were set in a more formal living room over tea or coffee. Others took place in a more relaxed setting like the den or around the kitchen table. My goal in each conversation was to ask good questions and listen more than I spoke (quite a challenge for a preacher). In each conversation I rediscovered beautiful a gift… you. By setting aside time in a comfortable space, looking you in the eyes and listening to your thoughts, feelings and concerns for an hour or so, God gifted me with a renewed appreciation of just how extraordinary each of you are. And I owe this gift to the simple, but seldom practiced art of listening. Thank you for the good conversations.
The fact is that we have a lot to talk about. The world around us seems to be getting more and more absurd every day, nationally, globally, socially, religiously, environmentally, and politically. We are tasked with discerning what it means to be a follower of Jesus, to take on the agenda of Jesus in these challenging times. Collectively, we must decide what it means to be the church that Jesus imagined amidst our fractured religious landscape. What is God calling Kingwood Christian Church to be and do for and with our community? This was essentially what I was listening for in our living room conversations.
What did I hear? I heard a diversity of ideas (surprise, surprise). Passionately, you spoke of dreams for discipleship (new efforts to grow deeper in faith), missions and outreach (new efforts for justice and service), worship (new expressions for all generations) and evangelism (fresh efforts to invite and welcome new friends into our church family). I was delighted to see that God was stirring among you. inspiring you to dream new dreams and see new visions for our future. Creativity of expression and Openness new adventures are the fingerprints of the Spirit at work and hallmarks of vital, growing congregations.
So thank you. Thank you for your devotion, your faithfulness, your passion, your ideas and support of OUR church. Thank you for your support in stepping out and planting a new worshipping community in The Table. We will launch October 7 in the Fellowship Hall. The service time will be planted concurrently at the same hour as the traditional service (details attached below). Our New Service Planting Team looks forward to presenting another layer of our vision on August 5 after worship. Please plan to stay and keep this important conversation going.
With Great Love, -Chad
New Service Times.pdf
This morning, I woke up in one of the most beautiful places in the world, the Central American paradise of Guatemala. Our team, led by Cheryl Rowan and including Dana Rowan, Dave Walis, Anne Amis, Dennis cook and myself, arrived yesterday after a short, two and a half hour flight from Houston. We were greeted with hugs (and kisses) by our hosts Emerson and Susanna from CEDEPCA, the Protestant Center for Pastor Studies in Central America. It is impossible to enter the Guatemalan culture without immediately feeling an outpouring of warmth and hospitality.
The afternoon (as chronicled on our KCC Facebook page) was filled with engaging conversations and ended in a tour of the CEDEPCA campus and an introduction to Guatemalan history by Rev. Dr. Hector Castaneda. CEDEPCA is an organization that feels called of God to bring transformation to the stagnant Guatemalan culture through four distinct programs. The Intercultural Encounters program welcomes groups like ours from the USA and Canada, and ushers them into transformational experiences of encounter, reflection, dialogue and mutual service. The Disaster Relief program is a first responder of hands on aid when extreme events like hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes or tropical storms occur. The Woman’s Ministry program seeks to empower women through education and theological experiences grounded in feminist studies. Finally, the seminary is committed to transforming lives through educating a new generation of pastors to thoughtfully interpret the Scriptures and discern theologically what it is to be a follower of Jesus in this moment in history. The seminary is the definition of diversity training 183 students from over 15 denominations and boasting a 48% male to 52% female student ratio. That is simply unheard of in Latin America.
In the coming days, we plan to visit more with the staff and faculty of CEDEPCA as well as travel to some of the ministry centers in the surrounding areas. God is doing some amazing things in and through our wonderful group. Don’t miss our daily updates and pictures on the KCC Facebook page. Please continue to pray for our group as we travel and explore this beautiful country and return to Houston on Wednesday, June 27.
Sometimes God speaks to me through my kids. The other day as my family rushed out the door going the “next” thing my daughter commented, “Daddy stop! Why are we always in a hurry when we never go anywhere really important.” Intuitively, she picked up on the fact that hurry, the sheer pace of life got in the way of what was really important. Life is to precious to miss, and the faster we go the more likely we are to miss what really matters.
Perhaps you have experienced this as well. We can get so busy doing “urgent” things and so preoccupied with what comes next that we do not experience the now. It is almost as though in our fear of being late, we rush from the past to the future and miss the gift of the present. We do not get to our futures faster if we hurry and certainly do not become better people in our haste. More likely than not, the faster we go the less we become. As followers of Jesus, that is a shame.
Slowing is the way we counter our culture’s mandate to tend to the bottom line, to move it or lose it, to constantly be on the go. In Mark 6:31, Jesus observes a frantic crowd coming and going without taking time to rest and eat, so he says, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” The invitation always before us, yet slowing does not happen automatically, but with great intentionality. It is a way to honor our limits and the fact that God is found in the present moment.
As some of you know, my family will be on vacation for the next two weeks spending time with family in Missouri and Florida. Admittedly, our family tends to pack so many things into our vacations that we need a few days to recover upon our return home. My intention is to make this vacation different, to incorporate a slower rhythm to our days, to enjoy longer coffee times in the mornings, to concede longer naps in the afternoons, to linger at dinner table conversations and to stroll longer in the woods or on the beach.
So, how will you choose to slow your pace this week? How about driving in the slower lane, speaking more slowly, eating more slowly or pausing to look people in the eyes. Let us covenant to slow down my friends that we may find God in each other and each moment.
As most of you know, I am a third generation pastor’s kid. My dad was a pastor his whole career, as was his father (and my uncle as well). Some might say that any pastor’s kid is a long shot to turn out normal, much less the son of a pastor who was the son of a pastor. Perhaps it is becoming more and more clear why your pastor (me) is such a piece of work.
There are some advantages though. I grew up in the church. 365 days of the year, my family was at the church, serving the church, loving the church, celebrating and crying with the church. You might not know, but after a few years a pastor’s heart beats with the church they are serving. We feel the joys and pains, the highs and lows, the peace and restlessness of the church.
This past Sunday when I stood before you, I felt something that broke my heart. I felt a spirit of anxiousness and unhappiness, as though some of you were hurting. It wasn’t what anyone said or did, but simply a sense or spirit that I picked up on. On Sunday evening at the Board meeting, the cause became abundantly clear. Over the past few weeks, a rumor started among a few groups within our congregation that the times for the new worship service, scheduled for September 9, 2018, were already decided and that the time for the traditional service time was changed.
First and foremost, this is completely untrue. Sunday night’s meeting was the first time that the Board discussed any proposals from the New Service Planting Team concerning the new worship service, and no proposals were approved.
Secondly, I have to say that several revelations brought forth in the meeting broke my heart. It broke my heart that unconfirmed information was shared as though factual. It broke my heart that no one immediately sought to confirm the information with me or a Board member before spreading it. It broke my heart that many congregation members were hurt deeply by this misinformation. But mostly, it broke my heart that anyone in our congregation could believe that your pastor or Board would make such a significant decision in such an uncaring way without seeking to hear from you… our church family.
Friends, your pastor and Board love you and respect you. We would never make a decision like shifting the whole Sunday morning schedule without consulting you. To be clear, the Board is empowered by the congregation to make important decisions pertaining to church life, but rest assured that we represent you and seek your consultation so that we can make key decisions wisely.
And so, we must all claim this as an opportunity to learn and grow, to pray and evaluate how we can better honor each other and protect the treasures that we hold dear in Kingwood Christian Church. We must all seek ways to foster greater trust believing the best in each other. My vow is that I will try to do a better job of communicating and updating the congregation when big decisions, like those pertaining to the new service, are on the horizon. May we covenant to make every effort to grow our trust in Christ and each other as we move forward together.
For the record, there is no way to improve on Margaret’s sermon this past Sunday. She did a fantastic job of giving voice to the absent “mother” in the Prodigal Son story of Luke 15. For me, it was as though Margaret’s retelling brought completion to an unfinished story, one missing a character key to the plot line and lesson Jesus is offering.
In the Luke account, Jesus makes very clear that the forgiving Father represents God. And yet, if we believe all people are created in the image of God – “Male and female, God created them”- then half of God is found in the male gender and half is found in the female. Anybody who only gives you only half that truth is only representing half the mystery of God. Is Jesus guilty of this? I don’t think so.
The father that Jesus described and knew looked amazingly like what most cultures would call mother. While likening the “father” to God, Jesus portrays him as a complex blend of the traditional patriarch… and matriarch. The God of Jesus’ parable is soft and hard, grace-filled and accountable, freeing and responsible, vulnerable and empowered, an optimist and realist, and both traditional and egalitarian.
Do you see it? God’s image is only fully represented in our beautiful diversity, “both male and female.” God is revealed in the collective masculine and feminine together, and to portray God any other way is an injustice.
It is hard to believe that the end of this month, Chris Aleman will have worked with our students for three years. From our first conversation, I knew that I was meeting a brother with an incredible heart for God and passion for young people. Over these years, he touched the lives of our students with wisdom, kindness, joy and sincerity. Without question, it is my belief that God has called and gifted Chris for vocational ministry. If you were in worship this past Sunday, Chris’ gifts were on full display as he led us in heartfelt prayer and sang a song called, “Come to the Table.” It was truly beautiful.
Chris’ ministry at KCC is coming to an end. He has decided that God is calling him to a new, full-time Youth and Worship Leader position in Texarkana. He will start in early June and looks forward to the opportunity for he and Marissa (his wife) to step out and follow God into a new adventure. His last Sunday will be May 20, Graduate Recognition Sunday, followed by a reception. Our blessing and prayers will go with him.
With our recent growth in children and students, and the launch of our new worship service on the horizon, our student ministry is in need of new, strong leadership. On behalf of our search team (Karen Tillett, Stan Hollibaugh, Zach and Reagan Morris and myself), let me introduce you to our new Youth Director, Lorellye Graham. Lorellye is a recent TCU graduate and Christian Church (DOC) pastor’s kid who loves the church and seeks to offer her gifts to see it flourish. Here is an excerpt from her resume cover letter.
I’m grateful to be considered for the position of Youth Director at Kingwood Christian Church.
I am a hardworking recent college graduate from Texas Christian University. During my academic career, I accrued nearly 3 years of work experience. I had the privilege of working for Central Christian Church, Waco, TX in a Youth Ministry Intern role in my free time, where I learned valuable professional skills such as creating and maintaining relationships, and planning and orchestrating programs. My time at CCC in Waco was spent collaborating with the other staff to plan mission trips, vacation bible school, and going to camp.
I have led music in both the Tri-Area and Mission west area camps. In both my academic, spiritual, and professional life, I have been consistently known as proactive by my professors and peers. Whether working on academic, extracurricular, or professional projects, I apply proven critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills, which I hope to incorporate into the Youth Ministry position at your church.
Lorellye is currently working on her Masters in Psychology at University of Houston and has plans of staying close to family here in the Houston area. The search team unanimously agrees that Lorellye is the perfect leader for this unique season in the life of KCC. With great excitement and anticipation, Lorellye begins her ministry at KCC on May 22.
Sometimes you just see something great and need to stop to celebrate it. Well I had one of those moments this past Sunday morning after worship. Our church has entered a season where God is sending visitors our way, entrusting us with new, precious individuals and couples with teenagers and children. It is so humbling to see these new faces walk through our doors again and again because they sense that God is a work in this community of people. “Hallelujah, praise the Lord!”
These precious souls, old and young, are not just visiting once or twice never to be seen again. They are visiting and returning. They are trying out Sunday school, Children’s Church, Sisters groups, Big Gig and Songaze. They are joining us in deliberative dialogues, service projects and work days. They are beginning to join committees and care teams. Again, “Hallelujah, praise the Lord!”
Why are these new folks coming and staying? Is it because of the beautiful music offered every Sunday? Perhaps. Is it because of a thoughtful and engaging sermon? Maybe. Is it because of our core values of love, not judgment, extravagant welcome and inclusion, open-minded conversations and compassionate service? Probably. But what is the primary reason we are seeing more and more new faces joining our church family? It is because of what I saw on Sunday morning. I saw easily 20-25 of our members, new and old, actively engaging and befriending our visitors. Literally, our visitors were late for lunch because so many of our folks wanted to say “Hi,” shake their hand, be friendly, hear about them and let them know how glad we were that they joined us in worship. Once more,”Hallelujah, praise the Lord.”
Let me just tell you. That sight made this pastor’s heart swell with gratitude and pride. Church family, we are reaching new neighbors and growing because of God’s Spirit at work inside of you. You inspire me!
In my devotions this morning, I came across a provocative and powerful prayer based on the writings of Saint Francis that I offer to you as a focus for meditation. Allow its challenging sentiment to speak to you as make your way through the day.
Creator God, give us ears, make us rich soil like the rich soil in the Gospel parable of the seeds (Matthew 13). Fill us with life so that we can receive the words of life that you offer. We thank you for loving us and for leading us to this moment of life.
This day, allow us to hear anew. Allow us to receive afresh. Allow us to become all that you want us to become, for your sake, for the coming of the Kingdom.
Teach us to be poor. We don’t know how. We only know how to be rich. We’ve had everything. We do not know how to live without. We do not know how to trust you Lord.
Renew our world with the love of Jesus. Give us hearts in fire for Jesus so we can look and see nothing else. In the name of Christ we ask these good things. Amen
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor (in Spirit), for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” May we be people who embrace our poverty, our need for God that we might be like fertile, receptive soil for the Kingdom to flourish in us and through us.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19
It is my fervent belief that God is constantly at work bringing resurrection, calling “new things,” renewed life out of dried up wasteland. That wasteland might be internal, within people whose hearts are bound by hate, sadness or addiction. That dry wilderness might be collective, as churches lie dormant, complacent having lost sight of their greater calling to serve and bless their neighbors, especially the poor and those in need.
The agent through which God moves, awakens and ignites people of faith is the Spirit. Often, we forget that it was through this forgotten part of God that the church was born. The church did not exist before the outpouring of the Spirit and would not exist without it. The Spirit brings energy, courage, wisdom and vision to the church. The Spirit or Pneuma (Greek feminine), like the wind that blew at Pentecost, is uncontrollable moving when and where she desires. She seems to thrive on the nurturing surprise, cultivating new and unexpected things in and among us.
As the prophet Isaiah reminds us, embracing the Spirit means living in a state of perpetual expectation of “new things.” When we no longer expect new things from life, we are for all practical purposes atheists. When we are longer open to do something new, to see and feel in new ways about old things, you might was well hang it up. There is always more of the Spirit for us to receive.
We are in a season where God is calling us into something new, new energy, new visions, new expressions. In the wake of a very productive Board meeting and budget discussion, we are “finally” ready to present a new 2018 budget to the congregation in the coming weeks. If approved, we will be searching for new staff members, starting new services and planning new initiatives to grow and bless our community. This is handiwork of the Spirit. Though it might be unsettling, it is in these precious seasons of Spirit movement that God’s most exciting and transformative work is accomplished. Friends, may we embrace this season with positivity, with openness, with resolve and above all faith that God it with us and will provide for us each step of the way.
Forward Together, -Chad