Triple D: Diversity, Dallas, (Mic) Drop

During a recent address in Dallas, Texas, Dr. Jason Byassee, professor of homiletics at Vancouver School of Theology and a clergy member of the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, shared this thought:

In the mainline we have pushed tolerance for a generation or two and gotten whiter and older, less diverse. So if you want more aging white liberals, preach diversity. If you want more diverse people, preach Jesus, and see what diverse people he draws to himself. read more

Good Advice For A Wednesday Or Any Other Day That Ends In “Y”

This came across my desk recently, having been written by a Good Shepherd young adult on the back of a Comment Card.

Top Five Tuesday — Top Five Reflections On Freshman Orientation Week

This week, a large number of students who have grown up at Good Shepherd ventured off to college.

Many of them headed to Clemson, others to UNC or NC State, a few to USC (the one in Columbia, South Carolina, not Los Angeles, California) and still others stayed in the greater Charlotte area.

Nevertheless, all these departures and subsequent conversations with parents gave me pause — as most things do in my nostalgia-filled mind — to go back 39 years to my own Freshman Orienation Week at Princeton University. (I know it’s probably called “First Year Orientation” now, but please for the love of God …) read more

ReGroup, Week 2 — The “When You Forget What Matters” Sermon Rewind

Yesterday’s message …

  • Hinged on the idea that the ancient Israelites “lost” portions of Scripture because ultimately they didn’t “like” them;
  • Hypothesized that memory is tied to motivation while forgetfulness is linked to inconvenience;
  • Re-iterated a theme from many of this summer’s messages: that God will in fact protect us from ourselves and will even use pain to do so;
  • Landed at this bottom line: God’s reminders are painful so that your recovery will be beautiful.


I think the whole phenomenon of what you remember and what you forget is so interesting. Memorable, you might say! Like a lot of you know and even more of you tell me that I have an unusual memory. I am able to remember a lot of your names, major dates, the subdivision where you live, your social security #, scores of old tennis matches, your private passwords to your bank accounts, the score of every Super Bowl ever played, your names, all the neighborhoods in the five zip codes our church touches, and every sermon every week. It’s all true. Mostly.
But you know what, in the middle of devoting all that brain material to STUFF I COULD JUST LOOK UP!, that I DIDN’T remember? The names of my kids’ friends. So when I would say, “who?” they’d shoot back with “if they went to Good Shepherd, you’d for sure know them.” And so I’d answer, “well, give me some credit. I’ve never forgotten YOUR names!” And I’m guilty as charged and they’re emotionally scarred. In that case, I realize, memory has everything to do with MOTIVATION.
See, you remember what you’re motivated to remember. Think of things that, in a typical day or week, you forget: appointments, anniversaries (hopefully other people’s), birthdays, names, promises, dates. One time I forgot to detach the gas pump from my car when I was filling it up and BOOM! 0-60 and then DOH! That moved me from unmotivated to motivated REAL QUICK! See, all those things that I mentioned you forgetting come from questionable motivations. Subconsciously or not, you decided that those people or events or facts simply weren’t important enough to remember. Because consider the opposite. You NEVER forget that appointment with your boss. Gosh, you remember the names of your boss’s spouse, kids, AND dogs. Why? You’re motivated to do so by his or her position over you. You never forget to put on deodorant when you’re headed to a date with that new girl. You remember the name of her dog, too. When you’re dating, you remember all kinds of anniversaries – monthly, quarterly, yearly – that no way will you remember on down the line. We remember what we’re motivated to remember & we forget what’s inconvenient.
So we’re regrouping. And a lot of times we have to regroup because we’ve forgotten what matters in life and in eternity. It’s even happened to an entire nation (that is, before it happened to ours). Here’s the situation in 2 Kings 22: it’s about 640 BC and the people of Judah, the southern, last man standing tribe of Israel, have had a series of bad kings. And finally, they catch a break and get a good one: eight year old Josiah! And if you were with us last week, when Josiah is 26 (he goes from child king to millennial king!), the workers in the temple FIND THE BIBLE. One book of the library, most likely, and we suspect it was the book of Deuteronomy. They found it in the middle of a remodeling project at the Jerusalem temple, most likely shoved into the corner of a closet, buried under clothes and shoes and costumes for next year’s Passover program that the kids will do. It’s really a remarkable thing: the bible was lost, was forgotten, and then it gets found.
And I can’t help but wonder: did the people oh so long ago LOSE IT BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T LIKE IT? Did they forget it accidentally on purpose? I mean, it said all kinds of inconvenient things about all kinds of uncomfortable subjects – NO IDOLS, NO IDOLATRY, REMEMBER THE SABBATH, HONOR YOUR PARENTS, REMEMBER THE LORD WITH YOUR FIRST FRUITS – that kind of thing. So I can just imagine them looking over the scroll and having the reaction like, “oh what a pain. Totally cramps my style! God only wants me to be happy, after all. So all in all (and they look around to make sure no one is looking) let’s fuhgettaboudit! And so they did. For a generation or more.
But I can’t help but think how eerily familiar that approach sounds. What they did THEN, we have perfected NOW. We lose, we forget, that which gets in our way and which we find inconvenient. Like remember the Sabbath? Puh-lease! I gots FB Live! Can I have a word here? FB Live is great if you are sick, travelling, or you live far away. It was never meant to be a steady diet for those who live in proximity to the living body of Christ at Moss and Zoar. Never. We’ll keep using it and expanding our impact both nationally and globally, but we’re counting on you to REMEMBER that the body is three dimensional, not digital.
But there’s other stuff we forget accidentally on purpose. Do not get drunk on wine. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. You are more than conquerors not on your own strength but through Christ. Happens to whole churches as they turn inward and focus more on keeping than on reaching. As if they are a social club and not an assault force on the powers of hell. So the Israelite forgetting and losing isn’t so different from yours or from mine.
And that’s where the story, piggybacking from last week, picks up this week. Look at 22:11: read more

#TBT — An “Old Soul” At Four

Looking through some old files on Wednesday, I found this piece from a 1966 edition of the Dallas Times Herald that I had never seen before.

As I read it, I realized that this little conversation is exactly the kind of thing my mother would find witty enough that she’d call the newspaper about it. read more

Therapeutic or Theocentric?

As we continue to navigate what we want Good Shepherd to do and be and how we want it to feel, the following distinction keeps roaming around in my head:

Are our experiences therapeutic or theocentric?

Now those are big sounding words but they actually communicate relatively simple truths.

We live in a culture that is therapy-focused. We often redefine sin as sickness. Thus, the solution is therapy or healing as opposed to repentance and renewal. Broken people want to be put back together — often in recovery groups or individual counseling. Many times, our environments at Good Shepherd have that kind of vibe. I believe that’s both a strength and a weakness. read more

Top Five Tuesday — Top Five Phobias

There are some things about which I have irrational fears.

These are the kinds of things that keep me up at night or give that sinking feeling in my stomach if I’m already awake.

So here they are:

5. That I’ll drive up one Sunday and NO ONE will be at church. Of course.

4. Heights. When I was a kid, I went to the top of the Empire State Building . . . and loved it. Now if I’m in uptown Charlotte and I walk underneath a skyscraper and look up, I almost lose my lunch. Or breakfast. read more

ReGroup, Week One — The “When The Job’s Too Big And You’re Too Small” Sermon Rewind

Yesterday’s sermon …

  • Began with ‘the most jarring phrase’ in the biblical library;
  • Paused for the Apostle’s Creed;
  • Contrasted that which sizzles with that with substance;  
  • Included invitations for a daily email of Reading Prompts for Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians (Go Eat Pop Corn).
  • Landed at this bottom line: To prepare for the future, treasure the past.


Well, we are going to start today with the most JARRING phrase in the entire biblical library. Because we’re REGROUPING during August and we diving into a small slice of the book of 2 Kings to do so. And we’re trudging along reading 2 Kings, remembering that chapters and verses WERE NOT part of the original, so the author didn’t necessarily want you to break where it breaks today AND we’re remembering that 2 Kings like the other books was written to be read OUT LOUD to a group of people who were largely illiterate. And the author is describing events that happened about 640 BC, or about 30 year BEFORE this Habakkuk cat we just finished belly-aching with.
Anyway, here’s what happens in 2 Kings 21:23-26 to a king of Judah (southerners!) named Amon: read more

REGROUP Launches With “When The Job’s Too Big And You’re Too Small”

We’ve all been there.

Those times when life overwhelms and in response you have to pause … to reflect … to breathe … to regroup.

But what kind of group surrounds you when you need to regroup? When life breaks apart, who is there to help you pick up the pieces? How do you make sure the people you enlist will actually bring good news instead of more harm? read more

#TBT — May 6, 1984

My college tennis coach, David Benjamin, attached this photo in a recent email. The picture was taken at the opening of the (then) brand new Lenz Tennis Center on Princeton’s campus late in my senior year of 1984.

What is most surprising about the photo (aside from the short shorts) is that I have almost no memory of the day or of the exhibition match. THAT’s surprising because of the heady company I was keeping on that occasion. read more