June 2, 2011

Dear Centenary family,

I've been reading a thought-provoking book by Phillip Gulley.  The title is If the Church Were Christian:  Rediscovering the Values of Jesus.  Gulley is a Quaker author and pastor and in this book he describes ten ways in which he feels churches would be different if they were really Christian. 

There are now roughly 39,000 denominations, most of which feel they are uniquely able to follow Jesus the best.  We Christians are known for rancor and division rather than peace and bridge-building. 

Radically following Jesus has morphed into being "nice".   But if we are serious about this idea of a faith community, should we not look deeply at the values of Jesus?  Gulley sees true Christianity not as a codified doctrine or creed, but rather as an approach to life that emphasizes grace, that is always on the side of human dignity, that is always devoted to spiritual growth and moral evolution, and that is always committed to the search for truth. 

Here are the 10 ways churches could be different if they were Christian:

1.       Jesus would be a model for living rather than solely an object of worship.  Focusing on seeing Jesus as an object of worship lets Christians off the hook. Faithfulness morphs into worshipping Jesus rather than living the values of Jesus.  What would happen in the church if our primary focus was on living the values of Jesus?  Worshiping Jesus and following Jesus are not synonymous. 

2.       Affirming our potential would be more important than condemning our brokenness.  The Church has a long history of spiritually and emotionally bruising people.  What if we started at the point of original goodness, affirming God's creation? 

3.       Reconciliation would be valued over judgment.

4.       Gracious behavior would be more important than right belief.

5.       Inviting questions would be valued more than supplying answers.

6.       Encouraging personal exploration would be more important than requiring uniformity.

7.       Meeting needs would be more important than maintaining institutions.

8.       Peace would be more important than power.

9.       The church would care more about love and less about sex.

10.   This life would be more important than the afterlife.

Now let me tell you why I think the ministry of Centenary is incredibly important.  I observe that we are seeking to live into another way of thinking about and doing church.  The 10 values about which Gulley writes are things we are doing and conversations we are having. 

This fall we are planning two studies – Many of you have expressed a desire to study Kirby Godsey's book, Is God a Christian?  This will be followed by a study ofIf the Church Were Christian by Gulley.  I am deeply grateful to be a part of a community of faith that values thinking deeply.  We don't all agree... That is a good thing!  But we are agreed that the conversation itself is life-giving and of God. 

Thanks be to God for the witness of Centenary Church.


This Sunday we will be welcoming Jin and Sina Hwang and their children, Jaden and Janna, to Centenary.  Jin will become part of our church staff and will seek to reach out to new communities in Macon and Warner Robins.  Join me this Sunday as we say "Welcome to this place!"


I am preaching this Sunday on the encounter that Abraham and Sarah had with God.  The sermon is titled, "Laughter".   I hope you will be present!

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.

June 8, 2011

Dear Centenary Family,

Many of you already know this, but my schedule will be a bit different this summer.  I will be taking some time for rest and rejuvenation.  Wayne Muller writes:  "All life requires a rhythm of rest.  There is a rhythm in our waking activity and the body's need for sleep.  There is a rhythm in the way day dissolves into night, and night into morning.  There is a rhythm as the active growth of spring and summer is quieted by the necessary dormancy of fall and winter. ... We have lost this essential rhythm.  Our culture invariably supposes that action and accomplishment are better than rest, that doing something – anything- is better than doing nothing..." 

So, my friends, beginning Monday, June 13,  I am going to try to do nothing for a period of 7 weeks.  I will not succeed.  I will read and have sermon ideas and make notes...  I know there will be some things that require my attention... I will take on projects around the house.   But at least, for a period of time, I will know that I am not on a time schedule to do these things.  This will be a Sabbath time for me.  The time period is not long enough to be a true sabbatical, but I am going to try to step in that direction.  Most of this Sabbath time, I will be in the mountains where the color and light changes as the sun rises and sets.  The ever-changing mountain vistas feed my soul. 

I will return to the pulpit on Sunday, August 7.  In the meantime, let me say to you unequivocally something that is critically important for Centenary's understanding of community.  From the very beginning, this community was not to be built around one person.  Centenary is MUCH larger than that.  We are blessed with an incredible staff that will carry on with excellence in every way.  BE THE CHURCH!  This summer, be present on Sundays at worship when you are in town.  Let nothing interfere with you building up the body of Christ!  And on occasion I will be slipping into worship when I am in town.  However, I will simply be in community with you, being blessed as others provide leadership in worship.  

This Sunday, June 12, is Pentecost Sunday.  Pentecost is 50 days after Easter Sunday.  Movement, wind, fire, the color red, hearing, understanding... all of these are symbols of the birth of the faith community.  We need each other...  God is present with us.  I hope you will be present for worship.  I will be preaching a sermon titled, "The Gospel of the Holy Spirit". 

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.


One more thing... Donna Holt McElheny, a precious part of this community of faith, died Monday night.  Her memorial service is Saturday, 2 pm, at Centenary.  You are invited to this service of celebration.