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The Georgia Perspective

Read reports we receive daily from Ray Miles, Regional Minister, Rev. Bill Thompson and Charles Cochran.


Reports from Ft. Worth

Saturday

Ray Miles - Day One at the Assembly

Its exhausting greeting hundreds of people whom you knew formerly. That filled much of today for me. Greeting friends from the 6 different regions we served in before moving to Georgia plus seeing the folks from Georgia as well. That’s one of the biggest portions of General Assembly. Being family. Often I have said the Disciples are a church built on relationships and the renewing and making new ones is a big part of the assembly.

Then as Assembly begins we heard Cynthia Hale from Ray of Hope in Georgia speak at Church Extension Dinner. Powerful as she is when she speaks, she touched a chord with me as she mentioned that “Passion is a gift of God and is essential to transformation and new church establishment.” Passion about our faith is what will make us strong and filled with life for Jesus Christ. Too many Disciples have lost the passion in their faith and live it out of rote memory or ritual activity. We need to discover again the passion of being touched by the Holy Spirit and made new by the activity of God. Revisit that and we will be passionate again.

Then we worshipped…. 5000+ disciples in one place singing and praising God is something that fills you with passion. Daisy Machado the dean of Lexington Theological Seminary asked us “Can the abundant table God has provided for us be raided and left bare?” That question led us into the realization that the God of abundance invites us and even challenges us to share what we have and not hold things to ourselves. We limit god if we think we must protect what we have so that we won’t run out. God will not abandon us if we share what we have.

It’s been a challenging day and we left with the awareness that God is not done with the Disciples of Christ and that there is mission to do.

It’s late now….. More tomorrow
Be blessed and share the blessing.

Ray


Rev. Bill Thompson - Reports from Ft. Worth (1), Deep in the Heart of Texas

Opening night at the General Assembly in Ft. Worth was joyful, as more than 5000 Disciples met in Ft. Worth's convention center arena. Dr. Daisy Machado from Lexington Seminary spoke about the extravagance of God's abundance, relating it to our welcoming of people to the table of God. Communion was served -- songs were sung -- liturgy was celebrated. The music is awesome. A soloist during communion drew applause for her rendition of "In This Very Room." Michael Morton's jazz flute was amazing. New arrangements of old hymns (Leaning on the Everlasting Arms) were soul stirring. The assembly choir introduced the theme music for the assembly -- "Discover Abundance."

It has been quite wet in central Texas and seems to have rain each day in the forecast. The temperature is in the upper 80's with high humidity.

Cheri and I encountered several Georgia Disciples on our way into and out of the arena: the James and Betty Brewer-Calvert family, Nancy Brewer, Ray Miles, Doug Job, Cynthia Hale, Carole Lavery, Sarah Brooks (mother of Jim Brooks), Cecilia Glosson, Tom & Gladys Stephenson.

Today we are off to hear Fred Craddock at North Davis Church of Christ for their "Restoration Days" weekend.

The first business session at the assembly begins today at 2 pm.

Bill Thompson, Live in Ft. Worth


Sunday

Ray Miles - Day Two at the Assembly

It’s time to emphasize the positive in the church and tell the story of the good things which are happening in the Disciples of Christ. That seemed to be the message of today as we celebrated, did business and heard about the ministries of the church. Sharon Watkins in her “state of the church” tonight led us in realizing that there is a lot of good in this church which we need to tell the story of. God will enrich and grow us if we emphasize the positive and not dwell on the negatives of the church.

Tonight we celebrated the ways we have responded to people in need and how we have shared the feast. It felt good. I wonder how it might help each congregation to begin to emphasize the stories of what we do right and what we do successfully. Perhaps transformation needs to come in our minds and hearts by the method of recognizing the good the positive and the work of God in our midst instead of worrying about the things which are not good.

Time and again in her message Sharon Watkins talked about Disciples choose life and challenged us to do that very thing.

For each of you I pass on the same challenge… Choose life choose positive choose the work of God in our midst. Choose life and God will give us new life.

The reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated. Once again I realize why I am proud to be a Disciple.

More tomorrow.
Blessings

Ray


Rev. Bill Thompson - News from Ft. Worth (2) -- Deep in the Heart of Texas

Dr. Sharon Watkins' presentation on the state of the church tonight, was as creative and emotional a presentation as I have ever seen at a General Assembly. Using the hook of Hurricane Katrina, Sharon led us through a visual and auditory description of the aftermath of this national nightmare. After talking about the devastation and the beginnings of Disciples' responses, she asked those who were in the hall who had lived through this coastal storm to stand. I was surprised at the number (though relatively small in relation to the approximate 6,000 in the audience) who stood. She then asked all who had helped to rebuild -- the numbers that joined them was immense. Then she asked those who had supported local mission trip teams in the effort to also stand. Then, there were those who had supported through financial giving; then those who gave to Week of Compassion; and finally those who prayed for those affected and those who helped. By the time she reached this point, I don't think there was a soul who was seated. It is a most emotionally revealing moment. The state of Disciples was pretty clear by then. We have been doing mission the last two years! Latter, when Sharon began to introduce global partners in Latin America, Asia, Africa and other parts of the world, it became a symphony of partnership in mission that rolled over the audience and took us out of ourselves, to reveal how involved we Disciples are in the mission of Christ in the world.

Earlier today, we attended North Davis Church of Christ, to hear Dr. Fred Craddock preach. This contemporary non-instrumental church began it's service at 10:15 am with a clear tenor voice which came out of nowhere, leading the congregation in the opening hymn: "All Things Praise Thee/For the Beauty of the Earth." The two hour service led us through nearly 20 hymns and songs, all sung unaccompanied in rich four part harmony. They included familiar hymns and new contemporary choruses. It was a vision of our sister congregation in the churches of Christ that I did not know existed. Irenic, contemporary, and missional, this congregation has combined the best of praise style worship with soundly Biblical content. A specially selected hymn was a text written by Barton Stone (a Disciples' founder) set to the tune "Come Thou Fount."

More Georgians have been sighted, including John Richardson, Dean and Debbie Phelps, Bob and Juanita Alvarez, Ralph and Emily Smith, Charles Beadle and Jane Osborn, Brent Reynolds, and Andy Campbell.

In business of the church, we learned that we have more than passed the half-way point in our goal of starting 1000 new churches by 2020: 504! Praise God.

Bill Thompson, Live in Ft. Worth


Monday

Carlos CardozaCarlos Cardoza (right) Monday morning as he spoke to the General Assembly. Cardoza, an associate professor of World Christianity at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, offered “a look at why the church has moved to the edges of culture – and why that’s OK.”   Christianity in North America is on the margin –  “a new location for rediscovering the gospel in the ‘in-betweeness of cultures,’ observing and participating in ‘mission’ from and at the ‘borders,’” Cardoza said.  On the margin, “we discover anew – and we live in a new way,” he said.  The U.S. remains religiously vibrant even while Europe and other traditional Christian centers in the northern hemisphere are stagnant or in decline, thanks in large part because of the influx of Christian immigrants into the U.S., he said.

Charles Cochran Reporting


Ray Miles - Day three at the Assembly

Do something outrageous
Dr. Fred Craddock tells DHM audience.  Read about Craddock's speech to Disciples Home Mission at the assembly More

A long and hectic day. If you come to an assembly and expect to rest and relax you miss the assembly. Meal functions sessions and meetings from before breakfast until late at night. There is a lot to do in a church like ours.

Today’s thoughts center around two things. The testimony from the pastor of Saving Station Christian Church in Memphis which in its first year of existence had 1159 children and youth make decisions for Jesus Christ. Who says Disciples can’t grow? Ray of Hope Christian Church in its first 20 years has had 10,000 join. New Directions Christian Church in Memphis has had over 4000 join in just its first 5 years of existence.

Part of the excitement and emphasis we need to make in being transformed is to start again telling the story of what God has done in our lives and for us. Evangelism is a scary word for too many of us, but it still works to tell people about God’s grace and ask them if they want that in their lives. We need to recognize and honor the ones of our church who do that.

The second thing comes from what our moderator Bill Lee of Roanoke, Virginia had to say tonight. It was a wonderful sermon. He said people aren’t looking for a theological thought, nor a psychological analysis or anything else. When they come to the church they are looking for a word from the Lord. They are seeking a word which will help them deal with the depression, the despair, the loneliness and the problems they are carrying. When they leave the church they want to go away feeling better than when they came.

What is the word from the Lord that the people in your life and your neighborhood need to hear? What is the word from the Lord that they can hear when they come to your congregation. I pray it is a word of life and energy and love and encouragement. I pray it is a word of grace.

Time to try to get a little sleep now before another day tomorrow.

Whatever you are facing the God I serve will not abandon you but will walk alongside you in it and things will be better because God is there.

Ray


Tuesday

Ray Miles - Day Four at the Assembly

Transformation is the order of the day for the church. To be effective, and to be what god has called us and set us in the world to be the church must be about transformation. Transformation of lives and transformation of the church itself. But transformation isn’t easy. Changing our way of thinking is the hardest part of transformation.

For instance this morning we heard Alan Roxborough speak a bout the need to be missional. He emphasized that w e the church are here not for ourselves or our own needs but “for the sake of the world” and called on us to be sacrificial and missional for the sake of the world. After that stirring speech we launched into a rousing hymn thanking God for meeting our own needs.

As we work to transform the church into a missional outpost that exists for the sake of the world, we need to put aside our own wants and needs and concerns. We are here not to be a family as Roxborough said, but to be a community that welcomes and embraces others.

Tonight’s services featured rousing singing and the band and choir led us in music that not only praised God it inspired and energized us.

Tomorrow, the final day, we will deal with the contentious issues of business and will learn once again how we can differ passionately and then meet at the Table of our Lord and love each other just as passionately. That’s the joy and wonder of being Disciples of Christ.

Our church is filled with promise and hope and there is a new wind blowing. Our task is to open the windows and doors and let the wind of God’s Holy spirit blow through. It will change us but it will also make us alive and refreshing in a word thirsting for a word from God.

Ray


Wednesday

Ray Miles - Day Five at the Assembly

The General Assembly has concluded. Today saw great addresses, intense and passionate debate over items, anger over how votes went, worship and communion. Jim Wallis of Sojourners closed things for us with a wonderful sermon which challenged us to be revived and connect our faith with the plight of the poor. It was a full day.

There were however two times I want to tell you about which bring hope to my heart. They indicate to me that the Disciples of Christ has it right and needs to work on making it moiré right. We are working towards being the church God has called us to be. Both brought tears to my eyes.

One was when Katie Hays from First Christian in Lawrenceville went to the microphone and thanked the Disciples for being who we are and for welcoming her into the Disciples. That reminds me we can do our faith right when we try to. She said the welcome she has experienced has been so warm and genuine that it enables her to be welcoming and inviting in her own congregation. That’s transformation.

The second instance was being part of nearly 7000 people tonight singing the Lord’s Prayer as part of our communion service. I can’t describe it to you. The power and love was unmistakable as the voices swelled and blended into a mighty chorus. After all was said and done we were one people and one voice calling out to God. And God was present.

We are one people of God and we know it. Even though at times we forget, when we are tested, we know that we are one around the table.

Ray


Rev. Bill Thompson News from Ft. Worth (3) -- Deep in the Heart of Texas

The experience of worship at this year's General Assembly has taken on the feel of a revival! That was true with William Lee's preaching on Monday, and also true of Jim Wallis' preaching tonight, the closing service of the assembly.

Wallis, editor of Sojourners Magazine, a magazine of social justice for evangelical Christians, preached an impassioned message about caring for the poor, feeding the hungry, and freeing the captives, using the language of Jesus' sermon at the Nazareth synagogue. He reminded us of how the major social justice movements of the last several hundred years began with religious revival: the abolition of slavery in England, the women's suffrage movement in America, and the civil rights movement. He called for us to quit criticizing those who differ from us in religious practice and get busy with the social justice ministry of our own church and our own witness.

There were some passionate speeches earlier today in the traditional business of the Disciples of Christ. We debated motions, voted on parliamentary points, and delineated our theological debate points. But, we also sang hymns of faith, challenged each other to follow the words of Christ, and worshipped in the spirit. There were a few signs of the old battles and the old passions, but they were rare. What shone through was a new vision of mission for the Disciples of Christ, who have started 504 new congregations during the last 5 years, and are well on our to accomplishing the goal of starting 1000 new congregations by 2020 -- a pace of growth unparalleled in nearly 100 years. Those new congregations don't know about the old issues. They are living at the center of mission to the poor, the marginalized, and those needing hope.

Bill Thompson, Live in Ft. Worth

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