April 2, 2008

Dear Centenary Family,

The 1970?s brought about the birth of what is called the Church Growth movement. One of the prominent Centenary Church has proven Wagner?s theory false. We have purposely stepped in another direction. I contend that we stepped in the direction of Jesus. Jesus surrounded himself with all sorts of people who were not in his own affinity group. He spoke to women and in listening to them, sent the message loud and clear that they were persons of worth and wisdom. This was a shocking revelation, even for the disciples. Jesus loved the poor. He hung around with Samaritans, an ethnically-mixed group who were rejected by Jews. He loved children. He also loved rich people and, with concern, cautioned them about the dangers inherent in their lives. Some of his rich friends (men and women) financed his ministry. They saw truth in Jesus and they wanted to be a part of the truth.

Do you see the point? For Jesus, the Kingdom of God was filled with all sorts of people. Some of the people Jesus hung out with were not like him. He pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable in terms of human relationships. Jesus painted a different picture of what God looks like as he pulled in people from the fringes.

And so it is at Centenary. I have this picture in my heart and mind: On Easter Sunday one person in our community brought a tambourine to church. As Jerry Elder directed the music this person pulled out the tambourine and accompanied the congregation as we sang. It was different. Because I have always served congregations that lived into Peter Wagner?s theory that church growth should happen around cultural and socio-economic affinity groups, the experience of having someone bring a tambourine into the worship service had never happened to me in 32 years of ministry. When I heard the tambourine on Easter Sunday (which was appropriately used, by the way)? I heard the bells of heaven because there was something going on at that moment much larger than whatever we were singing. I have a sense that God chuckled. Then, Jesus smiled and said, ?Now that is what I was talking about!?

Well done, Centenary Church community.

I am still basking in the glow of Easter services at Centenary! We had about 200 people crowd into the sanctuary at 11 a.m. and another 100 plus were present at 8 a.m. for a total of 300 plus worshippers. It was an exciting, uplifting, joyous day of worship.

Susan and I slipped away for a few days of rest and relaxation after Easter as we visited our daughter, Emily. It is good to be back!

A note of special interest and a warning to all: Our own John Matthews and Tom Richardson will grow increasingly difficult to live with over the next few days as their beloved University of North Carolina Tar Heels play in the NCAA final four. I encourage all of us to be patient with them, because they will want to talk and debrief. In the end, we may have to offer them grief counseling when UCLA wins it all.

And? don?t forget that on Saturday, April 19, 5 ? 7 p.m., there will be a party at Centenary Church to celebrate the upcoming wedding of Jeremy Gray and Kelley Bowden. Jeremy is our gifted and committed Director of Community Ministry. This is a casual party? In fact, we are bringing the beach to Centenary. Make your plans to be present for this fun time for the church family as we celebrate with Jeremy and Kelley.

"A New Heaven and A New Earth" is our new theme for worship. Be present this Sunday as I preach on ?Seeing Jesus Again for the Very First Time?.

Grace and peace,

Tim Bagwell

Love God. Love Others. Love Yourself. Serve.



April 9, 2008

Dear Centenary Friends,

The concert started with the old Southern Gospel hymn ?Revive Us Again.? ?Revive us again, fill each soul with thy love?? There was something deeply authentic about the guy singing the hymn that captured my mind and spirit. His arrangement came alive and those old lyrics lived again. Macon native, Buddy Greene, performed in concert last Sunday afternoon at Vineville United Methodist Church. I was there and was blessed.

Buddy is a consummate musician, a harmonica-playing virtuoso, an exceptional guitarist, an insightful songA well-respected songSome of Buddy?s songs poke a bit of loving fun at the church. He has a wonderful song (which he did not sing Sunday) about denominations and how they can sometimes get caught up in the stereotypes which define them. Another insightful song is ?Jesus Has Left the Building?. Sometimes the church focuses on what happens inside the congregation far more than getting outside the walls. In ?Confessions of a Recovering Pharisee?, Buddy?s lyrics challenge those of us who fall easily into an orthodox faith based on certitude without questions.

Without ever being around Buddy, Buddy has become a friend at a distance because he reads this meager almost-weekly theological reflection which I At one point in the concert, Buddy alluded to tough times in his life when he was singing Stephen Foster?s ?Hard Times?. I got the idea that those times of separation which occurred particularly at an earlier era in his life, gave faith a place to take root. I could not help but recall that poem which some consider the greatest of English poems? Francis Thompson?s The Hound of Heaven:

?I fled Him down the nights and down the days?

I fled Him down the arches of the years?

I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind

And in the midst of tears I hid from Him.

I fled from those strong feet that followed? followed after.?

God would not, will not, and cannot let go of Frances Thompson. The same is true for Buddy Greene and for all of us. ?What can separate us from the love of God? Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword? NO! In all these things we are more than conquerors through the One who loved us.?

The concert ended with ?Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace. Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.? Amen to that!

We continue the ?New Heavens and a New Earth? sermon series on Sunday. Beth and I will be preaching. I hope you will be present!

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God. Love Others. Love Yourself. Serve.



April 16, 2008

Dear Centenary friends,

Everyone, including me, is talking about the cost of gasoline.   But it dawns on me to ask the question, ?What would Jesus think about the cost of gas??  My guess is that he would be concerned about the matter, particularly for the poor who are deeply affected by the rising cost.  But then he would arch his eyebrows and the following conversation might ensue:

Jesus:  Tim, why do you seem to be obsessed with this particular number? 

Tim:  What do you mean Jesus?

Jesus:  Well, you and lots of other Americans seem more concerned with $3.50 for a gallon of fuel than any other number in the world!  I don?t understand.

Tim:  But Jesus, this is an important number!  It cost me almost $60 to fill up my gas tank the other day.  That is uncalled for! 

Jesus:  I hear you, Tim, but don?t you think that you could reserve your passionate indignation for numbers which are more important?

Tim:  What is more important than gas approaching $4.00 per gallon?

Jesus:  Well, how about 4,036? 

Tim:  What number is that?

Jesus:  That is how many American military have lost their lives in Iraq.  Or what about 2,974? 

Tim:  OK? what is that number?

Jesus:  That is the number of persons who perished in the attacks on September 11.  Here is another number ? 155,000.

Tim:  Do I really want to know?

Jesus:  Probably not? that is the number of Iraqi civilian deaths in the Iraqi War.  And here is another one:  $511,693,945,672. 

Tim:  If we don?t fix this gas crisis, that is what a tank of gas will cost!  Right?  

Jesus (as he glares at me):  That is the cost of the War in Iraq.  So far it has cost every family in America $4,681.  Or how about 36,500,000 and 3,000,000,000 ? Do you know what these numbers are, Tim?

Tim:  I am afraid that I am uninformed, Jesus.

Jesus:  Get with it!  36,500,000 is the number of persons in the United States who live in poverty.  3,000,000,000 (billion) is the number of people on the planet who live on less than $2 per day.

Tim:  So what is your point, Jesus?

Jesus:  You are so blind, Tim!  Why is the price of gas the number which upsets you the most?  Why do you spend your time discussing that number rather than these other numbers?  Is there something wrong with your sense of balance?

Tim:   I never knew you were so interested in numbers Jesus.

Jesus:  Well, I am.  Numbers sometimes represent people and sometimes they represent priorities.  If you are going to be a person of faith and if you are going to be my disciple, then you need to learn to modify the intensity of your reaction so that the numbers which upset you and which you spend the most time discussing are in line with the values which I have given you.  If you have ears, hear me!

Tim:  I hear you, Jesus.


COME JOIN THE PARTY!!!!  This Saturday (April 19) from 5-7 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall at Centenary, we are having a party to honor Jeremy Gray and Kelley Bowden.  Jeremy is Centenary?s Director of Community Ministry.  He and Kelley are getting married in May and we wanted to have a party for the whole church and for them.  Even if you have plans, make it a point to come at some point between 5 ? 7 and say hello to Jeremy and Kelley.  This is a drop in party? stay 5 minutes or 2 hours, whatever is convenient for you!  The dress is very casual.   Make it a priority!  I look forward to seeing you at the party!


We continue with the ?New Heaven and New Earth? theme this Sunday.  Beth is preaching and I look forward to hearing her!  Join us for worship on Sunday.


Grace and peace,

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.






 April 30, 2008

Dear Centenary Family,
My friend, Ginny Hathaway, sent me the piece below which was written by Ann Weems, author of "Reaching for Rainbows."  Read this closely.  What congregation comes to your mind?
The church of Jesus Christ is where a child of God brings a balloon, is where old women come to dance, is where young men see visions and old men dream dreams.
The church of Jesus Christ is where lepers come to be touched, is where the blind see and the deaf hear, is where the lame run and the dying live.
The church of Jesus Christ is where daisies bloom out of barren land, is where children lead and the wise follow, is where mountains are moved and walls come tumbling down.
The church of Jesus Christ is where loaves of bread are stacked in the sanctuary to feed the hungry, is where coats are taken off and put on the backs of the naked, is where shackles are discarded and kings and shepherds sit down to life together.
The church of Jesus Christ is where barefoot children run in procession, is where the minister receives ministry, is where the anthem is the laughter of the congregation and the offering plates are full of people.
The church of Jesus Christ is where people go when they skin their knees or their hearts, is where frogs become princes and Cinderella dances beyond midnight, is where judges don't judge and each child of God is beautiful and precious.
The church of Jesus Christ is where the sea divides for the exiles, is where the ark floats and the lamb lies down with the lion, is where people disagree and hold hands at the same time.
The church of Jesus Christ is where night is day, is where trumpets and tambourines declare God's goodness, is where lost lambs are found.
The church of Jesus Christ is where people write thank-you notes to God, is where work is a holiday, is where seeds are scattered and miracles are grown.
The church of Jesus Christ is where home is, is where heaven is, is where a picnic is communion and people break bread together on their knees.
The church of Jesus Christ is where we live responsively toward God's coming.  Even on Monday morning the world will hear an abundance of alleluias!
Hathaway and Weems are right... this is what we are living into... imperfectly and sometimes stumbling... but we are headed in this direction.  Thanks be to God!
This Sunday we are continuing the series about "New Heavens and New Earth".  I will be focusing on the power of forgiveness in our lives as we reach toward the new heaven and new earth.  Come join us!  Invite a friend to join you!  See you Sunday!
We could use your help for breakfast, particularly as some of our Mercer community scatter for the summer break.  If you are willing to help, or if you wish to have more information, please contact Jeremy@centenarymacon.org or Joel@centenarymacon.org  
You will find this interesting.  A group from our community recently entered the Discover Macon contest.  They are competing with other teams by photographing the team at various Macon attractions.  You can view the pictures at this website... How many of the places do you recognize?  Thank you to all who participated last Thursday!  Visit http://www.discovermacon.org/page/1801
Grace and peace.
Tim Bagwell
Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.