Month: February 2018

FAREWELL TO BILLY GRAHAM ‘HE HAD A VERY HUMBLE AND GENTLE SPIRIT’

 

By LORETTA FULTON

America’s pastor died Feb. 21, leaving behind millions of mourners nationwide, some of whom were introduced to Christianity and the Bible thanks to the late Rev. Billy Graham.

According to Graham’s official obituary, he died Feb. 21 at his home in North Carolina at 7:46 a.m Eastern time. Graham preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to some 215 million people who attended one of his more than 400 crusades, simulcasts and evangelistic rallies in more than 185 countries and territories, the obituary stated. He reached millions more through TV, video, film, the internet and 34 books.

Locals reacted to the great evangelist’s passing in an article that I wrote for the Reporter-News. I met Graham in 1974 when two other reporters and I covered Graham and his entourage when they visited West Texas Ranch for Christ in Nolan County to participate in “Grady Wilson Day.” Wilson was a longtime associate of Graham.

Another Abilenian attending that day was the Rev. T.C. Melton, a retired Baptist minister who now is a consultant for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. T.C. and I didn’t know each other then but have become friends in recent years. My own recollection of the day was being in awe of Billy Graham. He was the most charming, charismatic person I had met at the time. I could see why he was such a powerful communicator that people responded to.

Following is the recollections of T.C. Melton:

My acquaintance with Billy Graham was more “group” than personal. Because our church had partnered with Billy Hanks, Jr. and the West Texas Ranch For Christ in doing some discipleship work with students from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, we were invited to the ranch to meet Dr. Graham during his  1974 visit there.  For the few hours we were there, I think all of our folk reached the same conclusion about this great evangelist. He treated common West Texas folk with the same dignity and graciousness that he extended to presidents and kings.

No one felt uncomfortable or intimidated by being in his presence. He had a very humble and gentle spirit. I became a Christian in 1951, about one year after he and, singer Cliff Barrows, started the radio broadcast, The Hour of Decision. His messages then were like those at the end of his ministry–a simple, clear presentation of the Gospel of Christ. I have read most of his books. And, like his messages, I always felt that he was not so much “in love” with preaching as he was with the people he tried to reach with his message. We most often picture him as preaching to stadiums filled with people, but, we know from the testimony of countless well-known people, that he was, also, a personal soul-winner.  

A few years after we met Dr. Graham at the West Texas Ranch For Christ, we invited Grady Wilson, his life-long friend and partner in ministry, and two other members of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to come to our church for a revival crusade.  Just four or five days prior to the start of this. Grady suffered a heart attack. The other two members were with us for a week. I felt everything about the humble and sincere way they  conducted themselves while with us was an extension of Billy Graham and his entire Evangelistic Association, demonstrating a great love for people and a firm belief  in the power of the gospel of Christ to give people a new birth and a new start in life. 

#SOCIAL MEDIA, #BLOG, #ME

By DANNY MINTON

Our lives have never been more open than they are today due to the outbreak of “Social Media” and “Blogs.” Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat and the like are words that have become common everyday words, especially to the younger generation, but spanning all age groups. Add to the “Social Media” the vast number of blogs that you find across the internet. Add to these, email, and we know more about people than we ever knew in the past, probably much more than we need to know.

I have a Facebook account that I read through, occasionally posting something, but not addicted to the point I spend hours a day combing through the lives of all my friends. In fact, I don’t have as many friends as some do. I’m picky when it comes to accepting friendships on Facebook. Most of them are people I attend worship with or have in the past, school friends and family. I like to use Facebook to keep up with my friends lives, their families, their struggles and just to stay connected. I used to have a blog, but don’t have much time to post to it anymore. Its purpose was to build people up with positive lessons, many of which I have shared in our Thursday Thoughts.

Unfortunately, “Social Media” has become a place where people air out their “dirty laundry.” I see things from people that they would never express to me in public or private for that matter. I see some posts, comments, and photos that are far from what Jesus would want us to be. It’s as if “Social Media” is some sort of dark area in our world that we can let loose, believing we are anonymous to the world, not realizing the consequences our words or actions have on our example of Christ.

I’ve seen blogs and comments that throw out the “dirty laundry” of a church. I’ve read through many that tell the world about all the problems “the church” is having. As I read them, I tell myself, “If I’m not a Christian reading this, would I even want to be a part of a group like this?” We’ve seen the destruction our President has brought on himself with his “Twitter” comments. I believe we are doing the same thing through “Social Media” and blogs. How is the world seeing us? Are they seeing Jesus in us, or to use Jesus’ term, are they seeing “hypocrites?”

 In the movie, “Bambi,” the little character, Thumper, is reminded by his mother to repeat what his father had told him. He answered, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all!” There is a time and place for airing grievances with the church. “Social Media” is not a place where we can all of a sudden shed our Christianity and be like the rest of the world. Jesus never talked about “part-time” Christianity. In fact, “Social Media” and our blogs should be showing the world how Christ infiltrates every part of our being.

Jesus told his disciples, “You are the light of the world!” He said, “You are the salt of the earth!” Are we teaching people to be “Salt and Light” in this modern age of internet access? Are we teaching people that we reflect the image of Christianity as much through our online activities as we do face to face? Are we teaching that God expects us to be like Christ outside our church buildings as well as within its walls?

Paul wrote to Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12, NIV) Over and over Paul told churches, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.”

Before we blog, before we email, before we post to “Social Media,” we should ask ourselves a question. “Would Jesus, send this?” “Would Jesus put something like this on his Facebook page?” “Am I presenting a positive image of what a Christian is with the words or photos I post or send?”

“Social Media,” blogs, email, and other forms of internet communication can be one of the greatest ways to reach the world with Jesus. They can be tools to spread Christianity throughout the world. However, if we are not careful, they can also turn people away when misused. It’s almost impossible to erase something completely from all forms of “Social Media.” Once, it’s out there we may never be able to pull it back.

___________________

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:9 (NIV)

Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ

‘THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS’ FEATURES LOCAL PASTOR, ANDREW PENNS

 

By LORETTA FULTON

Open Michael Hurd’s book, “Thursday Night Lights,” turn to page 108 and you will be looking at a familiar face, although in an unfamiliar pose.

That’s the Rev. Andrew Penns as a student at the old Carter G. Woodson High School in Abilene, when he weighed 150 pounds and was considered “large for my class” and played guard, center, and tackle. His number 74 is partially visible as he is shown part way through a push-up.

Penns was one of several former Woodson High School Eagles who attended the Feb. 19 Texas Author Series program at the Abilene Public Library. Guest speaker was Michael Hurd, author of “Thursday Night Lights: The Story of Black High School Football in Texas.”

Hurd is director of Prairie View A&M University’s Texas Institute for the Preservation of History and Culture. Hurd said he had enjoyed getting together with Penns and his old teammates during his visit to Abilene. He learned something right away–these guys weren’t ex-teammates.

“They were still teammates,” Hurd said.

Penns, pastor of Valley View Missionary Baptist Church,” graduated from Woodson High School in 1967.

A blurb about Hurd’s book on amazon.com explains that African-American teams could only play on Wednesday and Thursday nights because Friday nights were reserved for white teams.

Many of them competed in the Prairie View Interscholastic League, which was the  counterpart of the University Interscholastic League. The UIL excluded black schools from membership until 1967. Many great football players came from the PVIL such as  “Mean” Joe Green (Temple Dunbar), Otis Taylor (Houston Worthing), Dick “Night Train” Lane (Austin Anderson), Ken Houston (Lufkin Dunbar), and Bubba Smith (Beaumont Charlton-Pollard).

In a PowerPoint presentation at the Author Series talk, Hurd showed other people of note who attended PVIL schools. People like U.S. Rep. Barbara Jordan (Houston Wheatley), Pearl Harbor hero Doris Miller (Waco Moore), Chicago Cubs great Ernie Banks (Dallas Washington), and the Houston Kashmere High School stage band that was featured in the documentary “Thunder Soul,” produced by Jamie Foxx.

Hurd, a member of the Houston Worthing Class of 1967, said he became inspired to write the book after attending a PVIL coaches hall of fame ceremony in 1997.

“That’s what got me going,” he said.

Hurd interviewed more than 100 people for the book, which was published by the University of Texas Press. The book provides an overview, he said, of what the Prairie View Interscholastic League did and what it meant to black students. The league didn’t form to support athletics, he said, but rather to support academics and arts programs.

“It was about education, community, history, and heritage,” he said.

Before integration, black athletes attended Prairie View A&M University, located in Prairie View, northwest of Houston.

“Prairie View was the University of Texas back in the day,” Hurd said.

According to the Amazon promotion, Hurd’s book is filled with” information on players, coaches, schools and towns  where African Americans built powerhouse football programs under the PVIL leadership.”

One anecdote that Hurd related at the library program was about a coach who had a reputation for being pretty rough on his players. But he was beloved by parents, who had just one request.

“Here’s my son,” they would say. “Take him, just don’t kill him.”

 

 

HOPE HAVEN ADOPTS A ‘WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?’ APPROACH TO HOUSING

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John Cooper, left, and Stephen Baldridge present a program during a session of the National Urban Ministry Conference, which met Feb. 22-24 at Highland Church of Christ. Photo by Loretta Fulton

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By LORETTA FULTON

A funny thing happened after Abilene Hope Haven lost 70 percent of its funding.

The loss of $278,000 in Department of Housing and Urban Development funding didn’t force Abilene Hope Haven to close. Instead, it forced its leaders to take a fresh look. While Hope Haven was receiving HUD money, it operated under certain rules. Without that money, Hope Haven could set its own rules.

So, the policy manual was tossed out and a new vision appeared–a vision of the gospel. Board members asked themselves a question.

“What are the ways we believe Jesus would minister to these folks?” was the question posed, said Stephen Baldridge, past chair of the board.

Baldridge, director of bachelor of science in social work program at Abilene Christian University, and John Cooper, director of Abilene Hope Haven, presented a program Feb. 23 as part of the National Urban Ministry Conference that met at Highland Church of Christ.

They talked about how dramatically things changed at Abilene Hope Haven once it adopted the “housing first” concept that stresses that when basic needs are met–food, clothing, and shelter–then people can dare to hope and dream of a better life. The new model is opposite of what American Christian culture stresses, Cooper noted, a mentality of  “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.”

“But when we talk about ‘housing first,'” he said, “we see the gospel there.”

In the past, under the old transitional housing model, it was just the opposite. People had to follow rules and prove themselves before earning their own home or apartment. The administration and board of Abilene Hope Haven adopted what they believe is the way Jesus would operate Abilene Hope Have, by basically tossing out rules.

There still are rules, of course, such as no weapons, drugs or alcohol on the premises. No one with a history of domestic violence is allowed to live at Hope Haven. But other rules such as a curfew and no laundry or no kitchen privileges after 10 p.m. are gone.

“How many of you have a curfew in your home?” Cooper asked.

Residents are now called “neighbors,” not clients. Other changes included fresh paint and replacing fluorescent lighting to make Hope Haven a cheerier place. Welcome mats were placed in front of the door to each room, emphasizing the “Welcome Home” concept of Hope Haven.

Neighbors are not required to do anything except to set goals, Cooper said. Classes are offered such as cooking and nutrition, budgeting, and lifestyle, but no one is forced to attend.

“We have a lot of services that are offered,” Baldridge said. “None of them are required.”

For a year, Baldridge, his wife, four children, and their dog lived at Hope Haven, serving as hospitality coordinators. They learned something significant right away. To emphasize the concept of radical hospitality, a biblical concept, they thought they would do the cooking for the neighbors living at Hope Haven. But the neighbors wanted to do meal preparation and cooking. One neighbor explained why.

“We haven’t had a kitchen in a while,” she said. “We want to cook.”

Soon, neighbors started helping each other out. One would offer to cook for another in exchange for a ride.

“We don’t do community like these people know how to do community,” Baldridge said.

Doing away with restrictive rules and letting the neighbors be self-governing instilled a sense of empowerment and dignity in the neighbors–something Jesus would approve of.

Living at Hope Haven and serving as hospitality coordinators was not without its challenges, Baldridge said. He and his wife are vegetarians, bordering on vegans, and one day a woman knocked on the door with a plate of friend pork chops in her hand. She was proud of those pork chops and wanted to share with the Baldridge family.

Despite their strict adherence to a vegetarian diet, Stephen graciously accepted the pork chops and ate them, probably similar to what Jesus would have done.

The challenges were not insurmountable and Baldridge said the family wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. They learned from it and so did their children.

“They were able to see Jesus through people who were broken,” he said.

 

 

 

 

NO ONE RESPONDING? TRY TO REFOCUS

By DANNY MINTON

          Have you ever lost anything and couldn’t find it? Have you ever worked on something only to have it get destroyed in the blink of an eye? Well, that’s what happened to me recently. I had spent an hour writing my Thursday Thoughts for Southern Hill Church of Christ and went to save my work. It was then that the unimaginable happened. Every Word document I had opened suddenly turned completely white, and the message popped up “Word is not Responding!”

Danny Minton

Danny Minton

I thought, surely it had auto-saved and would allow me to retrieve it when I restarted Microsoft Word. I restarted Word, and there it was, my document! I opened it up and there staring at me was a blank page. I decided to check the file so I opened up Explorer. There it was, my file! Then moving to the right to the file size column the horror was there expressing itself, file size, “0 kb.” Nothing saved, all my work had gone “down the drain.”

          It was a good lesson, too! All about “Hitting the Gap.” It mentioned our current lesson series and a lady who had great plans. It was well-written and corrected. I used the perfect anecdote of Jesus from the Gospel of John. I know you would have read it and said, “This is really good!” But alas, it has made its way to the computer of lost documents in the sky. And it was good, too!

          Have you ever been in that situation, where you worked so hard to try and get something done, feeling you’ve done a great job and then met with people “not responding?” You feel like it’s all been a waste, your time, your effort, and your desire to achieve something you feel is worthwhile.

          I believe we all go through those moments. I know Jesus did. I picture him standing on the hill and crying out “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!” He had the pain of his work going for naught in so many lives. You could hear it as he spoke to his apostles and sadly said, “O you of little faith!” It was tough having something so great to say and do, but feeling like sometimes all he ended up with was a blank white page and an unresponsive public.

          We will all go through that feeling at times. Our excitement may fall on deaf ears. Our enthusiasm may be squelched by others apathy. Our dreams may become nightmares when no one acts as if they care. It is in those times that we just have to start over and move forward. The nice thing about a blank white page is that it gives you a place for a fresh start. So next time you feel like no one is responding, just sit down and refocus, look at that white page and think about other possibilities. Mainly, never give up on your dreams and what you want to do. Jesus always responds, even if no one else does.

          Oh, by the way, you might save your work more often as well.

_______________________

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.

Psalm 119:71

Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ

LIFE OF LEO SCOTT CELEBRATED

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Members of the Shiloh Baptist Church, top photo, and the Minda Street Church of Choir, video, added soul and inspiration to the Feb. 12 celebration of the life of the late Rev. Leo Scott at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature. Photo and video by Loretta Fulton

 

 

 

 

By LORETTA FULTON

The title of an exhibit that runs through May 19 at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature is “Our Voice: Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards.”

But on the evening of Feb. 12, the NCCIL became “Our Voice: Celebrating the Life of the Rev. Dr. Leo Scott.” Choirs from local African-American congregations added soulful gospel music to the celebration. Guests sat on chairs set up in the middle of the large exhibition room, surrounded by imaginative works of art by African-American artists featured in the exhibit.

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards have been given annually since 1969 to African-American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults for demonstrating African-American culture and values. The exhibit will be at the NCCIL through May 19.

But the evening of Feb. 12 belonged to the late Rev. Scott, an Abilene pharmacist and pastor of New Light Baptist Church. Scott endured racism when he first arrived in Abilene but persevered and became a local icon, becoming the city’s first African-American elected to the City Council. Scott, a Rockdale native, died Dec. 28, 2009, at 76.

Speaker after speaker praised Scott for his contributions to the city and to the church. Emcee for the evening was Iziar Lankford, pastor of Southwest Drive Community United Methodist Church. Lankford recalled that when the nation needed a leader, the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. answered the call. Scott did likewise in Abilene.

“Dr. Leo F. Scott heard the call that Abilene needed a leader,” and answered, Lankford said. “We are here to remember a great, great trailblazer.”

Phil Christopher, pastor of First Baptist Church, echoed that thought with his prayer.

“We give thanks,” Christopher said, “for the way you changed this community through Leo Scott.”

One of the speakers for the evening was Nita Slaton, operations director for the Community Foundation of Abilene. In her previous job as scholarship director, Slaton worked with Scott and his late wife, Piney, to establish a scholarship.

“They both believed that God placed them here to make a difference,” Slaton said.

Being in charge of scholarship funds was a thrill, Slaton said, because of being able to bring good news to so many people. Scott understood how important it was to provide educational opportunities for all young people.

“I came to see a man who was extremely passionate about education,” Slaton said.

Eddie Jordan, current pastor of New Light Baptist Church, met Scott in 1984 when Scott was getting ready to return to New Light, his home church, to preach. He recalled how the scholarship fund the Scotts established at the Community Foundation of Abilene helped provide an educational opportunity for thousands of children.

“To be here tonight to honor him,” Jordan said, “is a privilege.”

 

 

 

ECUMENISM, INTERFAITH SHARE GOALS

Ecumenism and interfaith share many of the same attributes and goals as guests at the February meeting of the Abilene Interfaith Council learned.

DougFoster

Dr. Douglas Foster

Guest speaker was Douglas Foster, professor of church history in the Graduate School of Theology and director of the Center for Restoration Studies at Abilene Christian University.

Foster, a popular speaker at various venues in Abilene, spoke Feb. 12 on “The Global Ecumenical Movement.” Foster shared his PowerPoint presentation with Spirit of Abilene. Following are highlights:

 

ECUMENISM AND INTERFAITH

1. Both proceed from a reconciling impulse.

2. Both embody goals of mutual understanding, respect and enrichment.

3. Both seek ways for religions to collaborate with one anther in response to common societal problems.

4. Ecumenism‘s unique goal is unity in faith and worship with all other Christians.

Ecumenism Has Existed for Many Centuries

  • Efforts to heal the East-West Schism have been ongoing.
  • The Institutional Ecumenical Movement Has Existed a Little Over a Century.

Important Dates in the History of the Ecumenical Movement

  • 1908 Federal Council of Churches USA
  • 1910 Edinburgh World Missionary Conference
  • 1921 International Missionary Council
  • 1925 after WWI—Life and Work Movement
  • 1927 Faith and Order Movement
  • 1948 (delayed by WWII) World Council
  • of Churches
  • 7. 1950 National Council of Churches USA

Ecumenism Exists at Many Levels

  1. World Level—World Council of Churches
  2. National Level—National Councils of Churches

World Communion Level

  • A. 1867 Anglican Communion
  • B. 1875 World Communion of Reformed Churches
  • C. 1881 World Methodist Council
  • D. 1930 World Convention of Churches of Christ
  • E. 1947 Lutheran World Federation

The World Council of Churches Marks 70 Years in 2018

The WCC Meets in General Assembly Every Seven Years. The 10th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches took place in Busan, South Korea, in October 2013.

The WCC is a worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service. The WCC brings together churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 500 million Christians and including most of the world’s Orthodox churches, scores of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches, as well as many United and Independent churches.