Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Hero is the Local Church

“My hero is the local church.” I wish I could remember what channel the TV was on. I wish I could recall who said it. A man was describing his experience following the terrible tornado that struck Tuscaloosa on April 27, 2011. He had seen the devastation and he had seen the response to it. These were his words: “My hero is the local church.”

We used to live eastern Mississippi. Our house - next to the church building, next to the graveyard, across from the cow pasture and the lone oak for which the community was named - was an hour west of Tuscaloosa. We know the people who were hurt. We’ve driven the path of the tornado.

And we know the churches in the area. They are people with the heart of the compassionate Christ. They spent their energy, they gave their money, they wasted no time, they held nothing back, and they haven’t left yet.

Now, just short of a month after that Tuscaloosa twister, and immediately after the tornado that tore through Joplin, MO a twister strikes close to home in Oklahoma. Just north of our small town, the smaller town of Piedmont was hit by an EF-4 tornado. People died here, too, as a result of this wind. Many more lives were forever changed. We drove up on Tuesday night to see if we could join the search for a three year-old that was missing. We couldn’t believe the destruction we witnessed.

I’ve been preaching on a fill-in basis for a church in Piedmont for the past several months. I can write knowledgably about them. They are heroes. They are a local church, dealing faithfully with their own pain, and at the same time, bearing the burdens of their community. Their fellowship hall has become a center for supplies, clothes, and hugs. They are cleaning, praying, feeding (twice per day), and comforting their community. By the way, when I say feeding, I don’t mean they are opening their building so people can come eat (though anybody could). They are loading up vehicles and delivering the meals they have prepared to the people who are cleaning up their homes – or their slabs in many cases. And where they run short of supplies and volunteers, other local churches come to the rescue.

I appreciate the American Red Cross – you can tell because I carry a volunteer card in my wallet. Thank you America Red Cross for what you do. In cases like this, though, even the ARC parks their vehicles in the parking lot of FBC of Piedmont.

My hero is the local church.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

This Can’t Be Good

Many of us "believers" separate ourselves from Camping's camp because we don't believe that knowing the day is doable. I wonder, though, whether unbelievers see our often comedic approach to separating ourselves as simply the nuts turning on other nuts.

The truth is, we've been happy with our kingdom concept that separation is a good thing. After all, 300 denominations give room for people to choose a group with which they are comfortable. Three hundred splinters (sometimes called branches) can more effectively reach a diverse unbelieving culture. Do you remember that number: 300? That was the number of denominations in existence in the Handbook of Denominations book that I read in 1984. The book was probably pretty old then. That estimate is majorly old now. According to a recent Christianity Today blurb, there are now 42,000 denominations.

Are we happy with that? Is that a good thing? I don't think so. If I were an unbeliever with little knowledge of the splintering of the church, this prediction of the coming would confirm one thing for me: All Christians are fruitcakes.

And if I were an unbeliever who had some extended knowledge of the splintering of the church, this prediction and the reaction of other believers to it would confirm one thing for me: Christ is divided.