This is my last blog as lay leader of Central United Methodist Church. But I have loved every minute of it. I answered my phone well over a year ago not really thinking much about why Steve Pulliam might be calling me. I had ended my term as chair of our church council a while back. No reason for a call there. It was the middle of the year. No business or facilitator needs there. Then I got a surprise that changed a significant part of my life. The current lay leader was traveling too much to attend the meetings Steve said. Central needed someone to fill out his term. Would I be willing to do it? Now there are not many things Central has asked of me that I have declined. But here I made a small gasp and said “Steve, I’m not qualified for that job.” (Meaning I am not good enough, reverent enough, holy enough, understanding enough, and knowing enough about what a lay leader really is. And what I privilege!) I don’t really remember what Steve said; I think he agreed with me. But still he waited for me to make a definitive decision. I think I argued with myself enough times while he listened that I finally talked myself into it, mainly because it would only be a few months and I could attend a few meetings and that was it.
Problem is, my personality does not allow me to just coast through a job. Before long I had planted myself in Steve’s office more than once getting an education on being a lay leader. I learned there are some things I could be capable of and some things I could not. I also learned there was something new happening—the creation of Central’s blog. Now because I was on the Building Committee it seemed like a great place to update the congregation regularly about the committee’s work on the Master Plan. So I wrote a few blogs about that until I ran out of things to say. But there was still more to come.
The Christian life has a way of moving you in directions you least expect I think. I learned that I enjoyed writing. I learned I wanted to write about things that interested me, and to write about them a little differently to capture a reader’s attention. I also learned we all know much more than we think we do, but it takes some thoughtful moments to crystalize what your subconscious has been telling you all along. And so I wrote and wrote and wrote again. It became a real labor of love. Here are some various thoughts from these monthly blogs for over a year now:
- Central United Methodist Church, as the largest United Methodist congregation in Arkansas, has a responsibility to set a standard for other Arkansas United Methodist congregations to follow, and to foster education, discipleship, training, accessibility, and welcoming in our Wesleyan tradition;
- Even the grandest of projects depends on the success of the smallest components—thus “God is in the details” is our most positive and right spiritual guide;
- We must work together to create a masterfully hand woven and detailed plan glorifying God and our purpose to make disciples for Jesus Christ at home and throughout the world;
- “Don’t remember the prior things; don’t ponder ancient history. Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness.” Isaiah 43:18-20;
- The soul needs satisfying, it always wants more. We can allow our soul to be satisfied by simply being loved by God. We satisfy our souls through worship, study, and community, sharing, loving, and serving;
- We tend to think God is building us into decent little cottages, instead he is building a palace, He intends to come and live in it Himself;
- In the midst of pain and violence we are taught love and we are taught thanksgiving, we are taught there is no time to hate, not now, not ever;
- God is not accountable to us. But we are to Him;
- We should never allow ourselves, as people or as a church, to become one of those who, when they are old, talk about how they missed their chances;
- We can bring joyous moments into our prayers, our presence, our witness, our gifts and our service, in our worshiping those special moments in our lives, in random acts of kindness and love when we know, intensely aware, we are All in for Christ.
- Celebrate Recovery reclaims for God those who have been lost–one day at a time;
- Even in loss, I will walk with God. He is real. Christ indwells me. His goodness will see me through loss even in the worst of times. And by His grace I will become something wonderful and new.
In writing these blogs what I least expected was that there would be a time toward the end of my term that I could meet with, interview, and learn things about our pastors either I really did not know or that brought home to me how fortunate we at Central are in our pastors, past and present. So I wrote about each of them. These are some of the things they were or are:
Dr. John Robbins (immediate past senior pastor): He has a sense of humor, is complicated, charismatic, compassionate, and has a marshmallow heart. He sports a big voice and sermons that can mesmerize. He wanted Central to become a powerful and visible force in Northwest Arkansas for the sake of God’s kingdom. His faith and love for Jesus Christ was always evident. Even though he was called to move on and back to his home state of Texas, much was accomplished while he was here.
Dr. Jan Davis: She is a woman of God, sent by God, to do the work of God. She has discerned, through “countless conversations and time listening and learning,” and in so many other ways, God’s Vision for Central. She is loving and kind. She is also strong and determined. Dr. Jan Davis’s vision for Central is challenging but exciting and ready for a tremendous impact on each of us, our neighbors, and around the world.
Dr. Steve Pulliam: He is the “Subversive Pastor.” He has a “quietness of soul in Christ” that asks simply “How can I serve God?” He does it by reading prolifically, working prodigiously, praying whole heartedly, caring so deeply, laughing so fully, and being devoted to his family and his church and his God. He also writes great blogs. He has served Central for a very long time.
Reverend Carl Palmer: Probably the most diversely talented Pastor I have ever known. He is a funny, accepting, Renaissance man who can sing, play football, does voices, acts, plays musical instruments, writes music, cooks, has a great vision for caring ministries. He is a grateful believer in Christ, pastor, teacher, husband, father, son, brother, uncle, and Northwest Arkansas’ state representative for Celebrate Recovery.
Reverend Greg Gibson: The Fun Parent, a great father who attends everything his kids do. Greg has a servant’s heart. He is the Missions Pastor. He is the total caregiver, uncomfortable in talking about himself and totally genuinely interested in others and their stories. He is steady, solid as a rock, with a genuine heart and a truly humble spirit, a true disciple of Christ.
The lay leader is supposed to be a kind of go between for the pastors and the congregation communicating on behalf of each to the other. For me the heart of the lay leader is the congregation. Thank you for the privilege. It has been a labor love.
Central United Methodist Church
December 14, 2016