Thursday Memo

Hi Five Oakers

I have FOUR things I want to share with you today.

#1- Wow, what a service this weekend. You all loved the bluegrass theme. So did I. For those who missed it we had fiddle, upright bass, mandolin, banjo, guitar and drums for the band and some sweet harmonies. Here are your comments (and my responses):

  • Loved the bluegrass! Reminded me of my childhood Methodist summer tent services in Athens, GA.
  • Great music today. 
  • Thanks to whoever sent the nice card/CD about the baptism to me!
  • Our three year old says “That’s my church” every time we drive by. This is an example of how Five Oaks has had an impact on our lives. Thank you! [Love this!]
  • Love the music!
  • Loved the bluegrass/southern gospel flavor. Let’s do it again! Why are we now calling our worship service a liturgy? It seems very catholic to me. [I agree it’s something we associate more with “high church” Lutheran, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic or Episcopalian. We’re most definitely not high church, nor are we trying to be. We’re using “liturgy” in terms of “order of service.” We like it because (a) it speaks to our intentionality in planning every element of the service (“all killer; no filler”) and (b) we are using all the elements of a typical liturgy (e.g., Call to Worship, Confession, Assurance, Prayer of Illumination, Communion, Benediction and others.). We really do want to call attention to this intentionality and to the elements so that it can be more meaningful for everyone as they participate. “Liturgy” gets people’s attention, but our style says “relax” to anyone who is not wanting to go high church. High church not where we are going, but thanks for asking about it.]
  • Great music! That was fun! 
  • The Holy Spirit, through Henry, hit it out of the park today. I’m closest to God in the times of deepest repentance – repenting of the sin beneath the sin. Thank you. 
  • Fantastic music today!
  • Great message on need for grace. Fantastic music! 
  • Music was great. Congrats on the courage to mix it up. What’s next? Blues? Gospel? International?  [You forgot to mention Polka!]
  • Loved music! Way to go Justin!
  • Loved the music, thanks… wow! Please work that into future services every now and then!
  • Love the blue grass style music!
  • Loved, loved, loved the Bluegrass “I’ll Fly Away” a favorite of mine for a long time. Would love to hear a single expressive reader to read scripture with underscoring – to change it up. Great message. Very clear. Loved ‘little girl’ analogy. [Thanks a lot, my friend. Don’t like the way I read? Just kidding! I know what you're asking for. Maybe some day.]
  • Great music, great sermon – thank you, thank you! 
  • We appreciate the worship/arts team for sharing their talents, time and passion for Jesus! The bluegrass was fun too. We are thankful for the Bible teaching brought by Henry (and others like Tim B) each week. 
  • Worship team – so creative and talented! People were smiling and enjoying themselves. [One of the ushers commented that people would immediately smile as they approached the worship center and heard the opening song.]
  • You loosened us up a little and helped us have fun worshiping the Lord!
  • Great  music! Thanks Justin and worship team! Thank you Henry for your continued focus on humility and prayer.
  • The Soggy Bottom Boys – yes!
  • Worship team great job! Bluegrass twist was fun! Thank you. 
  • Do it again! Do it again! Loved the music! Do it again – soon! Tim, nice job explaining the stations and tying in the song “There is Power in the Blood” to communion. No miss question this week – state fair food. Henry, loved your deliberate stage setting of message before the opening prayer. Henry, I just love this series in Luke. Thanks for another great message.
  • The bluegrass music was a fun change for the GA born girl. I love that Justin can turn on his inner southern boy. Great job on all the instruments. 
  • Love the bluegrass music! 
  • Thanks for keeping worship fresh and fun! 
  • Awesome music, lets do it again! 
  • Enjoyed “Power in the Blood!” and “I Saw the Light!” 
  • I just want to tell you. standing up, introducing ourselves during the service is an awesome way to make us closer and “warmer.” Also loved the bluegrass! 
  • Fun music – what a treat!
  • It was so beautiful to see the new instruments playing today. Thanks Henry for your message today. What a gift we have in Jesus.
  • Bluegrass worship was awesome. 
  • Thank you for the music. 
  • The bluegrass was very cheerful. I don’t smile for song, thank you for that! 
  • The music never disappoints! Wow!
  • Fabulous music and message that was especially poignant for me.
  • Loved the music! Please do that again. 

#2- Come the church building on Saturday just before 4pm to welcome the Miles 4 Meals team as they drive into the parking lot. 2100 miles! They’re just under $40,000 toward a goal of raising $110,000 for our March Feed Event.

#3- I’m hearing that some small groups are opting out of the study we’re proposing for all small groups this fall explaining, “We did this last year.” You may think you did, but you didn’t. Let me explain. This fall our small groups will be doing a study based on the The Story of God: A 40-Day Guided Journey through the Bible. The book grows out of my passion to help people read the Bible with meaning and grow in biblical literacy. I’m editing the “second edition” of this book right now. It's one we use in our Story of God Small Group Experience. This book gives a framework for the Bible while, at the same time, getting participants to read the key passages in that framework. There are a ton of good books out there right now on this subject, but none of them give you a simple framework and have you read key texts. So here’s what’s different from the last time we did The Story of God in our small groups:

  • Three brand new chapters that focus on discipleship.
  • No oral stories. We continue to use the oral stories in the small group experience Lois and I lead, but we will not repeat that in the small groups.
  • The discussions will be based on the daily readings from that week. We did not do this last time. Our Group Life writers are writing the group questions right now.
  • I surveyed our congregation, and I estimate that only 20-30% of the people in small groups actually completed the reading guide (it was in handout form back then). Only 17% of our whole congregation actually completed the reading. You may think most of the people in your group did the reading but you’re probably mistaken. It’s quite likely that most of you reading this didn’t complete it either.
  • Although I’m immersed in this subject, every time I lead it or read more about it I learn something new. I’m guessing you did not conquer the subject the last time around.

All that said, I trust that our small group leaders and their groups will make a good decision for their own group as they think about the discipleship development of their members. The best decision may be to by-pass the study. I’m just making sure everyone is making an informed decision.

#4- Here are some key ideas from last weekend’s message on the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:8-14):

  • If I apply this parable to my life, what is to keep me from praying, “I thank you God that I am not like this Pharisee?” What’s to keep me from becoming self-righteous about not being self-righteous? 
  • It begins with a confession. I’m no better than the Pharisee. I look down my nose at people who are self-righteous. But I’m also probably worse than this Pharisee because I’m not as generous and spiritually disciplined as he is.
  • The tax collector sees everyone else too. And instead of comparing himself with anyone, he prays, “I am the sinner.” There isn’t a trace of an “at least I’m not” in his prayer. He is the sinner.
  • You can address the sin on the surface and conquer it, but the sin beneath the sin may go unaddressed. It finds another outlet. You don’t yell but you’re still angry. You don’t look at the wrong sites but you still objectify. You don’t lie but you still crave people’s approval.
  • Even my repentance is as self-absorbed as the Pharisee is self-absorbed by his religious accomplishments. I need to repent of my repentance.
  • The word the tax collector uses has to do with atonement. He’s asking for more than mercy. He’s asking God to atone for him.
  • The New Testament tells us that the reason the blood of the sacrifices protected the Israelites is because it pointed to the ultimate atonement that would some day come when God would bring his wrath down on himself for our failures. Jesus became the ultimate sinner on the cross.
  • Jesus condemns the self-righteous Pharisee for praying, “I thank you God that I'm not like this tax collector.” And he EQUALLY condemns MY pride in praying, “I thank you God that I’m not like this Pharisee.” Then he dies for our condemnation.
  • A car pulled up and parked in front of me and a little girl, maybe 4-years-old, stuck her torso out the open window. She had this smile on her face, just drinking in the warm weather. Then she looked back into the car and said, “I use to do this when I was a little girl.” …But she was still a tiny little girl. …We might think we’ve come a long way in our faith. But think of it from God’s perspective.

That's it for today. Love you all, Pastor Henry