A Pastor That Leads

Today I heard one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard in any church that I’ve ever had the privilege of worshiping in.

My church – Central United Methodist Church of Meridian, MS – has decided to undertake a very bold and brave experiment in order to find ways to help the church grow. Before I go any further with that, let me just say that my church is very healthy and is growing by leaps and bounds. However, in the years to come, this might not be the case. The reality of any church is that members have a finite lifespan either through things like moving, death, poor health or other factors. In order to ensure that the church continues to grow and is able to sustain a healthy membership in the decades to come, the sooner we begin finding the ways to make that happen the better. The experiment I speak of involves reversing the order of our worship services.

Central has two services on Sunday mornings: A contemporary worship service at 8:30 and a traditional service at 10:55. Each week attendance numbers are published in Central’s newsletter and the early service is a much larger draw (normally over 200 – sometimes close to 300) than the late service (normally less than 200). The Administrative Council voted to try an experiment in which the times for the services will be reversed. The purpose of this is to find out if more people are coming to the contemporary service because of the time and also to find out if having a contemporary service later in the morning may attract even more young people to church who currently are unchurched.

It’s bold and different. I also fully support it.

Our Senior Pastor, Dr. Bob Rambo, spoke today in length about the experiment and how he understood that some people don’t support it because it’s different. Let’s face it: A lot of people don’t like change. A lot of people don’t like the boat being rocked and thus they’re opposed to anything that will shake up their lives especially when it comes to church. However, Bro. Bob reminded us all that we have a mission: To offer Christ to as many people as possible in as many ways as possible and as many times as possible. He acknowledged that change is never easy (and also emphasized that this just a month long experiment, not a permanent change being made at this time) but that it’s necessary in order for the church to continue to grow and be sustained in the future.

A church that doesn’t experiment and try new things is a church that will die. It might not be tomorrow but it will happen eventually.

Bro. Bob related a similar situation that arose while he was serving a congregation in northeastern Mississippi. A large sum of money was left to the church but with the stipulation that the money had to be used to help people, not to be used for the church budget. A committee (we United Methodists love our committees!) determined that a big need in the community was for more daycare services and their recommendation was to use the money to start a daycare service. A faction within the church was opposed and did all it could to derail the decision – including physically threatening Bro. Bob and members of the committee who made the recommendation. By the time it was all said and done, the final decision was made to start the daycare. Many years later Bro. Bob returned to the church to preach at their homecoming and he found a congregation that was vibrant and growing. Many of the new families who came to the church did so because of the daycare. Some of the people who were opposed to the idea sought Bro. Bob out to apologize to him and to let him know that they were wrong.

The congregation that Bro. Bob served had an opportunity to do something bold and many people didn’t like it. However, the experiment worked and the church is still growing today because of the vision for the daycare.

I applaud Bro. Bob for having the forethought and vision to propose this idea. He knows that he won’t be at Central forever (UMC clergy are moved every so often) but he wants the church to survive and thrive long after he’s gone. I also applaud the Administrative Council for being willing to take a risk and try something bold that may very well help to sustain the church long after all of us are gone.

Today Bro. Bob spoke to the congregation about our mission and how sometimes we have to do things that are uncomfortable in order to further the gospel of Christ. While the growing pains may be difficult, it’s well worth it in order to serve Christ and help others see Him. Bro. Bob showed us all what a pastor should be and that’s a leader with vision and the boldness to want us to try new things.

He also showed that a pastor should not only serve the current congregation but also consider those who will come through the doors after his time at the church is done. Not only is he helping us now, he’s seeking to help future members of Central by laying a foundation now.

This, friends, is what a pastor should be doing.

Jonathan

Officer Down: Michael Walters, Pearl (Mississippi) Police Department

ImageThis morning three investigators  – officers with the Pearl Police Department – were attempting to do something they do day in and day out: Serve a warrant. This warrant was for the arrest of a suspect charged with sexual battery of a minor and possession of child porn. The suspect hid in a bathtub and when he was discovered he resisted arrest. One of the officers attempted to use a taser but the suspect had a gun and fired. All three officers were hit – Investigator Walters was hit in the face. All three were transported by EMS to the University of Mississippi Medical Center (a Level I trauma center). Approximately 40 minutes later, Investigator Walters died from his wounds. The other two detectives were listed in “good” condition as of the last time I looked at the various news sites in Jackson.

Anytime a police officer, firefighter or EMS worker is killed in the line of duty, it’s a reminder that we put our lives on the line to serve the public. I particularly hate these situations because it’s a reminder to me that at any point I can get that one call where it all goes wrong and where the end isn’t going to be a good one. I never want my wife to get that visit that tells her that something has happened to me.

If I had my way no one would ever get that visit.

Believe what you want about prison, the death penalty or whatever but these acts are inexcusable. Anyone who kills a firefighter, police officer or EMS worker in the line of duty should at the least be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. If the DA wants to pursue the death penalty, I say bring it on. People like this suspect are the scum of the earth and should have no right to be among those in civilized society.

Let’s remember this officer, his family, the other two officers who were shot and their families and the Pearl Police Department in our thoughts and prayers. They’re all going through something that no one should ever go through.

Why I’m Against the Mississippi Personhood Amendment

Yes, you read that title correctly. Now, before you go on a tirade and start calling me a Godless, baby killing son of a biscuit eater, allow me to tell you why I’m against Amendment 26.

The amendment as it is written is extremely vague. Granted a lot of it is open to interpretation and that is unfortunate. The way it’s written, birth control could be banned. In-vitro fertilization could be banned. Have a miscarriage? Some overzealous DA could cite the law as a means to charge the mother with some sort of crime.

Probably the most striking thing to me is that the group who’s pushing this idiocy outright says that a mother who is raped or conceives a child as the result of incest should be forced to carry the baby to term.

Don’t believe me? Check this out:

Personhood will prevent a baby conceived through rape or incest from being executed for the crime. Women who have borne a child conceived in rape testify that the baby is a blessing rather than a continuation of the assault, and placing the child for adoption remains an option. (source)

I was appalled when I read that. I don’t agree with abortion as a means of birth control. I hate abortion for such purposes. However, to tell a woman that she must carry a rapist’s baby is just as cruel as the hideous crime of rape itself.

I also resent this group does not identify itself. Who is Personhood Mississippi? No one really knows. If you look at their website (which you can see here), there is no information about their leadership, their office or anything else that may identify them. My guess is because it doesn’t exist. Personhood Mississippi appears to be an offshoot of Personhood USA. To me it sounds like outside people are coming into Mississippi and trying to influence our state constitution. I don’t know about you but that disturbs me.

In short this law is flawed and should not be allowed to pass as-is. But being a Mississippian, I know that the vast majority of my fellow Mississippians are going to vote yes. Most of them have no idea what the amendment actually says or what it covers, they only know it will “ban abortion.” It might be that their pastor told them to vote yes on amendment 26 or they’ll go to Hell (my take on politics from the pulpit  is a whole other rant). Most people will not even bother to look at what this amendment says and just take the word of whomever told them to vote for it. Blindly voting is one of the most idiotic things someone can do.

It should also be realized that this campaign is a waste of time. Anyone with half a brain knows that this will be challenged in the Supreme Court and that it will not stand.

Jonathan

9/11: Ten Years Later

It’s time I revived this blog. And what more appropriate way to revive it than to talk about one of the days I’ll never forget.

9/11/01.

I’ll never forget any event of this day. From the moment I awoke to hear the news on the radio that something happened at the Twin Towers, to turning on the TV just in time to see the second plane hit, to seeing the panic around town of people who were fearing the worst at the gas pump, to crying while I was on the air that night and to going home and crying as I went to sleep. To say that 9/11 was a rotten for day – let alone anyone else – would be like saying a Mississippi Summer is just a tad warm.

9/11/01 sucked.

And now ten years have passed and as I look at where we’ve come from since that fateful day, I see progress. We came together as a nation that day in a way that had not been seen since the bombing of Pearl Harbor. A lot of that has gone away since, though, and we need to put aside out differences and concentrate on what’s really important. Our politicians need to stop playing the “mine’s bigger” game and do what’s right our country (who am I kidding? This will never happen). We also need to take care of the survivors of the attack – first responders and civilians – who suffer ill effects to this day. Bottom line: We have got to learn from the past and move forward.

I’ll be working a paramedic shift this 9/11 but I will remember my brothers and sisters in EMS, fire, law enforcement and the many others who perished that day. I will remember those who ran in to try and rescue them. I will remember how I and those around me felt that way and what we all experienced.

I will remember.

Jonathan

Letter To the Editor: Barbour’s Crusade against the Choctaws

(I emailed this to the editors of various newspapers in Mississippi in response to Governor Haley Barbour’s fight against the Choctaws’ plans to build a gaming facility on tribal land located in Jones County, Mississippi)

To the Editor:

Governor Haley Barbour’s crusade against the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians’ proposed Jones County “slot parlor” as he likes to call it has been well documented in the media.  One angle that the media has not taken that I would like to know about is what the Governor’s true intentions are.  I don’t think he has the interests of the environment or local and state infrastructure in mind.

What the Governor seems to forget is that the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is a sovereign, federally recognized Native American tribe.  As such, the way they conduct their affairs is none of the State of Mississippi’s business.  Governor Barbour asked Attorney General Jim Hood to find some legal means to stop the plans of the M.B.C.I., however Mr. Hood and his staff concluded that there is none.  Even with all of these matters factored in, Governor Barbour is continuing his plan to file suit against the tribe in an attempt to stop their gaming development.  Something smells rotten and I don’t mean the oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico.

While I, as a mere citizen who is not part of the political machine, am in no position to make any outright accusation, I believe there are some dirty deeds being dealt by the casinos on the coast, the Mississippi River casinos and the Governor.  A recent blurb in the New York Post (“Bet on Gov. Barbour,” July 12, 2010) indicates that gaming mogul Steve Wynn (whose gaming company has operations on the Mississippi River) is encouraging Governor Barbour to campaign for the Republican nomination for President.  All of this seems mighty coincidental to me.

Mississippi is last in almost every quality of life statistic that is surveyed.  We have high unemployment, an education system that needs major improvement and we are dealing with the aftermath of the gulf oil spill, yet the Governor has the audacity to mount a fight against the Choctaws when he has no right to?  I implore the Mississippi Ethics Commission to launch an investigation of the Governor and his dealings with the gaming industry and also possible abuse of his gubernatorial power.

Jonathan Tullos

Stonewall, Mississippi

The End of an Era

Wow. I had no idea that Casey Kasem was about to sign off for the last time. I can remember hearing him on WJDQ (Q101)/Meridian, MS when I was a kid and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. What memories do you have of the real American Top 40? (thank to Rob McKenzie – I stole this from his blog).

FROM ABC NEWS:

“We began the weekend of July 4, 1970, and after 39 years this will be our final countdown,” Kasem said matter-of-factly on his “American Top 20” radio show over the weekend.

And so, with no hoopla and hardly any advance notice, the 77-year-old broadcasting legend counted down the hits one last time, quietly pulling the plug on a weekly ritual for his legion of loyal listeners.

It is, in many ways, the end of an era

Kasem was the last of the big-time DJs, a legacy that includes Alan Freed and Wolfman Jack, personalities who brought music to Americans when radio was king.

“Casey Kasem … Dick Clark … I really felt like these guys were a part of my family. You get this connection when you’re listening to them or when you’re watching them,” said Ryan Seacrest, who took the mic as host of Kasem’s signature “American Top 40” show five years ago. Kasem continued to host two spinoffs, “American Top 20” and “American Top 10.”

Kasem pioneered the countdown format on radio. He always included biographical details, little tidbits mainly, about the musicians. And there were those long-distance dedications, thousands of them, through the years.

Kasem also has voiced over countless commercials and given life to so many cartoon characters, most famously as the voice of Scooby-Doo’s faithful sidekick, Shaggy.

But it was his work as the king of countdowns that brought him a star, in 1981, on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and entry, in 1992, into the Radio Hall of Fame.

Jeannie Kasem said her husband ended “American Top 20” and “American Top 10,” both of which counted down adult contemporary music hits, because he wanted time to pursue other projects, including possibly writing a memoir.

Radical changes in the radio business also were a factor, associates said. Adult contemporary music charts no longer change much from week to week, in part because stations that play such music have adopted smaller and smaller playlists. That brought a degree of monotony to Kasem’s countdowns in recent years.

“I think it was probably a gradual process. Charts are changing, stations are changing, the networks are changing, radio itself is changing, and I think, you know, the pendulum swings back and forth,” Jeannie Kasem said.” You just have to be willing to jump ship and try something new.”

Kasem’s voice will not disappear from the airwaves entirely. Weekly rebroadcasts of his Top 40 programs from the 1970s and 1980s will air on more than 200 stations.

Kasem let the world know he was getting out of the countdown business through a brief, mostly overlooked, news release a few days ago.

“Hosting various versions of my countdown program has kept me extremely busy, and I loved every minute of it. However, this decision will free up time I need to focus on myriad other projects,” he said in the release. “The 70’s and 80’s versions of “American Top 40″ have experienced phenomenal station and audience growth over the last year and I’m sure they will continue to be successful.”

He has declined requests for interviews about his decision.

“He’s never been big on goodbyes or hellos,” his wife explained in an interview in their home in Holmby Hills, Calif. “He lets his work speak for himself.”

Kasem’s first No. 1 was “Mama Told Me Not to Come” by Three Dog Night. His last: “Second Chance,” by Shinedown.

The music changed, but Kasem never did.

“I’m Casey Kasem,” he said in his final sign-off. “Now, one more time, the words I’ve ended my show with since 1970: Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”