Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Terrible Car Wreck

Sometimes I think God creates situations in our lives just so that later we'll have a good story to tell. The drama surrounding the first time I preached a few weeks ago is certainly one of those stories.

As I approached the final turn before reaching Campbellton UMC, the church where I would be preaching for the first time in my life, traffic slowed to a crawl. I didn't really have time for this delay since it was getting close to the 11 o'clock hour. Earlier in the morning I helped serve communion at Peachtree Road UMC, and in good circuit preacher fashion I drove 40 minutes to Campbellton for their morning service. I inched forward in my car and eventually witnessed the hold up: numerous police directing traffic around six overturned vehicles which had recently been extinguished from flames.

Immediately I began to pray.

A few hours before, I had woken earlier than usual and prayed that God would work through me and despite me, and that feelings of inadequacy in my preaching would be met with the Holy Spirit. I further acknowledged that on my own I was completely incapable of changing people's lives in the congregation.

Looking at the wreckage in the intersection changed the focus of my prayers. "God, if people from this congregation are dead in this car wreck I cannot handle being the preacher in this church today. You know I haven't had training for this type of thing and there's a large chance I will say or do the wrong thing. I desperately need your help. Amen"

After my prayer and a long while of creeping through traffic I pulled into the parking lot and a leader from the church greeted me. I introduced myself and told him how sad it was that there had been such a tragic accident.

He laughed.

"All that? That's a scene from a new Zombie TV show they're filming today." I laughed a little bit too -- mainly in disbelief and in order to release some of my stress.

Once inside I tried to relax as I was introduced to various members of the congregation. One lady said, "Preacher? You're not the preacher today. We lined up someone else whose name is already in the bulletin." The man who was escorting me around looked a little uncomfortable and confused. I'm sure I looked similar.

I stepped back and let them handle this situation. Eventually the man told me there had been some miscommunication in the congregation they decided that I should go ahead and preach that day in lieu of a preach-off. At this point in the story I like to think that my first impression struck them so deeply that they decided to bump the other guy out. But realistically they knew it would be harder for me to get back out to their church, my whole family was there, and I was sixty years younger than the other preacher.

So we worshiped, God's Word was proclaimed, and ultimately He was glorified. And in the end I was simply thankful no one was dead.

Click below to download an mp3 recording of my sermon. Heads up - it is a low quality recording from my Blackberry, but I like the way it sounds similar to an old time Gospel hour on AM radio.

An Encounter with Christ - Luke 7:11-17

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Children's Wing

“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God." - Mark 10:14

When I graduated 5th grade a funny thing happened at church: I could roam freely and not feel like I was confined to the "children's wing" of the building anymore.

Along with this new found freedom I moved from The New Adventure Bible to the Student's Life Application Bible, joined the youth group, began to go on local mission trips, participated in a small group bible study, and started the routine of regularly wearing deodorant. This is the ritual at many churches. Perhaps that is why I was so surprised to see families (parents and children of all ages) acting missionally together last week at one of Peachtree Road UMC's Family Fun Nights.

Family Fun Night sounds like it is a Wednesday night activity for families to come together and be entertained at the church rather than at Chuck E. Cheese. Yet it is far from this. At my first Family Fun Night I witnessed and joined in with 20+ families who were packing backpacks of school supplies for Atlanta City School children who would otherwise be without them in the fall.

Instead of having the kids play tag while the parents served, the kids served alongside with their parents (and we all played Bingo later). An assembly line was formed and the kids counted out and put one glue, one ruler, one pack of markers, one box of crayons, one pencil sharpener, and five pencils in each backpack. It wasn't hard and it wasn't complicated. These kids were participating in the body of Christ and being formed as disciples engaged in the transformation of the world.

Sometimes crazy stuff happens when you let kids out of the "children's wing."

What are some ways your church helps children participate in the life of the community?

A Frustrating Visit

Robert Flowers
Clemmons, NC

For the second time this past Wednesday, Rev. Roland Barnhardt and I took Emerson Zahn to see his wife, Alberta, at Bermuda Commons nursing-rehab center. Both in their late 80s, the two live in separate nursing facilities. Each week, however, someone in the church takes Emerson to see his wife. Since both Emerson and Alberta suffer from severe dementia, the conversations are usually scattered. Even so, Emerson insists on seeing and caring for his wife each week.

These visits bring to the table one area of ministry that is particularly challenging. When physical and mental disparities separate healthy relationships, where do we look for the work of God? Each new day is God’s gift, but what does this mean for those who are mentally unable to surface two related thoughts? When I observe the long and meaningful relationship still shared by Emerson and Alberta, God’s blessings and gifts are hard to miss. But, for some reason, frustration—either with my abilities or the situation in general—also manages to find its place. This frustration will never completely absolve, but I look forward to wrestling with it and learning from it over the next few weeks and years.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Jason Evans, St. Matthews United Methodist Church in Greensboro, N.C.

I preached twice today while Dr. Beverly was away at the Western NC Annual Conference. I delivered a sermon titled "It Doesn't Pay to Do Wrong;" the Lectionary text was 1 Kings 21:1-21a. Standing in the "sacred space" is a privilege and an honor. I wasn't as nervous like the first time I stood in St. Matthews pulpit. However, I did sweat bullets after I exited the pulpit.

The members of St. Matthews UMC were very encouraging and supportive. One of the members referred to me as "Reverend Jason." I had to smile because I haven't been licensed yet within my faith tradition which is Baptist. Moreover, another member came up to me after services and ask me to consider becoming a Methodist preacher. This was a sincere appeal for which I will consider in prayer. I responded by saying that I will go wherever God calls me, although I feel quite comfortable, despite my criticisms, being a Baptist.

This coming week is Vacation Bible School. I look forward to leading the "tweens" of St. Matthews in the Praise Party curriculum published by Abingdon Press. I'll let you all know how it goes. The peace of Christ be with you.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Young Reminder

John Bryant, Denver N.C.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of what is truly important. I know how easily I get into a groove of doing church work and allow my time to become my job rather than my calling. But God has a way of showing up and reminding me what I am missing.

Last Friday the children hosted a lemonade stand as a fundraiser. In addition to the lemonade, they also sold baked goods, tie-dyed T-shirts, Silly Bands (a collectable new to me but very popular in the church) and painted tiles. Although I was off on Friday, I went down to the church in order to get to know some of the children better.

I was their first customer, so I took the opportunity to browse the tables. I settled on a cup of lemonade, two muffins, and a shirt. As I went to pay, this tile caught my eye. Very familiar words leaped from the marble surface in magnificent gold as I heard the prayer of countless preachers in Goodson Chapel. “May the words of my mouth and thoughts and meditations of each and every heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord our rock and our redeemer” (Ps 19:14).

The tile is now on my desk at the church to remind me from where I draw my support. A valuable lesson from the hand of a child.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Preaching Time!

Jason Oliver Evans, St. Matthews UMC, Greensboro, N.C.

Last Trinity Sunday, I preached from John 16:12-15. The United Methodist tradition commemorates Trinity Sunday as Peace with Justice Sunday. The sermon was entitled "He Comes to Lead Us!" In the sermon, I talked about how Christ sent the Spirit to comfort, guide, and empower the disciples (that includes today's Christians!) to do the work of the ministry.

Much of the sermon was inspired by an event previously held last Thursday. St. Matthews UMC hosted a Faith and Immigration breakfast sponsored by the NC Council of Churches. I learned a lot about how faith communities are responding to the debate about immigration reform. I was inspired by the speakers.

The whole service was beautiful. When preaching time came, Rev. Beverly introduced me and petitioned the congregation to pray for me as I entered the sacred space to preach God's Word. I stepped into the sacred space with fear and trembling. Nevertheless, I knew that God has a Word for the people present within the sanctuary. I lost track for a moment when I preached from my manuscript. I excused myself for a quick moment then picked up where I left off. I felt the Spirit strengthening me and the nervousness began to wane.

After the service ended, the pastor and congregants encouraged me. I felt their love and appreciation every step after the doxology was sung. A friend also came to hear me and she affirmed the gift stirring within me. We had some refreshments which were prepared in the fellowship hall, then we went out to eat. I felt good that day!

On the second Sunday of June I will be preaching from the story of Ahab and Naboth's vineyard (1 Kings 21:1-21a). The sermon will be entitled "It Doesn't Pay to Do Wrong."

Who are these men?

Jonathan Andersen, Atlanta, Ga.
Little Feet

At 3:00 last Wednesday my Field Education advisor, Thomas, and I found ourselves breathing quickly as we rushed from the parking lot to the newborn wing of Northside Hospital. A member of the church had been admitted in anticipation of giving birth at any moment. After asking around we found the hospital room she was supposed to be in and saw that it was empty. The nurse cleaning the room informed us that the lady had just gone into the operating room for a caesarean section and that the mother's parents would likely be in the waiting room down the way.

We kept our brisk pace and broke the threshold of the waiting room door while looking around to determine which couple in the room was the soon to be child's grandparents. After a moment of asking around we found the grandparents in the back corner and they immediately rose to greet us.

That is when I saw the look on their face.

Were these two well-dressed men from the hospital?

We informed them we were from their daughter's church.

Why were people from the church coming to talk to us during the middle of the surgery?

We informed them that we were there to celebrate the birth of their grandchild with the family.

Relief quickly washed upon their faces.

In the future I will try and be more aware of the level of importance that body language, demeanor, and approach can have in the midst of such situations. I now have a good set of questions to ask some of the ministers here about visiting those in need, and I'm looking forward to pastoral care classes which I will take one day at Duke Divinity. In the mean time, I am thankful for Field Education which is serving its purposes well as I learn valuable lessons and am able to share the love of Christ to those in the midst of joy and pain in Atlanta.