September 5, 2012


Dear Centenary family,

The Christian Century (a respected theological reflection magazine) recently ran a fascinating article inviting some well-respected authors to summarize the Gospel in seven words.   I was intrigued that Centenary was way out in front of this article.  At least six years ago we came up with these words to succinctly summarize the Gospel:  Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.  Count them… seven words.

One of my all-time favorite books is Will Campbell’s autobiography Brother to a Dragonfly.  In the book, Will Campbell’s friend P.D. East badgered Will for a succinct definition of Christianity: “I’m not too bright.  Keep it simple.  In ten words or less, what’s the Christian message?”  Campbell responded:  “We’re all bastards but God loves us anyway.”  East responded, “If you want to try again, you have two words left.”  (By the way – if you want to read a great book, pick up Brother to a Dragonfly.)

Below are what some of the authors in The Christian Century offered as their response to the Gospel in seven words or less:

M. Craig Barnes:  We live by grace.

Ellen T. Charry:  The wall of hostility has come down.

Martin Marty:  God, through Jesus Christ, welcomes you anyhow.

Brian McLaren:  In Christ, God calls all to reconciliation.

Bill McKibben:  Love your neighbor as yourself.

Scott Cairns:  Christ’s humanity occasions our divinity.

Martin B. Copenhaver:  God gets the last word.

Carol Howard Merritt:  God was born.  We can be reborn.

Walter Brueggemann:  Israel’s God’s bodied love continues world-making.

Nadia Bolz-Weber:  We are who God says we are.


And here are a few responses that have poured into The Christian Century from laity and clergy who wanted to partipate:


Paul:  God loves the whole world…no exceptions.

Aaron:  God loves you, so get over yourself.

Marie:  God’s impossible foolishness makes us whole.

Jonah:  God’s love trumps evil and saves us.


Now here is my challenge to youSunday I am preaching about the valley of the dry bones from Ezekiel…. It is a bit like a “state of the church” sermon.  Where have we been?  Where are we now?  Where are we headed?  So… will some of you be a part of my sermon?  I am asking you to define the Gospel in 7 words or less.  There will come a time during the sermon when I ask if anyone has some suggestions for the 7 words…  Some of these may even become banners in the sanctuary.  There is no right or wrong in this exercise.  Write down what the essence of the gospel is in 7 words or less and bring it with you to church.  Then, during the sermon, be willing to share it with me and the congregation.  Willing?  Come on---- you can do it! (Be assured that no one will be put on the spot… but I need some help with this!)


AND… if you are a part of the Centenary community by way of this email I want to invite you to send me your succinct seven-word (or less) definition of the Gospel. Send it soon by email because I want to include what you have written in my sermon.  No matter where you are – if you receive this email directly or by a forward, you are a part of the Centenary community.  Are you willing to help?


I am grateful for you all.



Don’t forget that I will be teaching an Inquirer’s Class this Sunday and next Sunday, starting at 9:45 in one of the classrooms below the sanctuary.  You are invited!


Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell


Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.


September 12, 2012

Dear Centenary family,

The response to the challenge last week far exceeded what I was expecting.  You will remember than in my email I referenced an article in The Christian Century titled “The Gospel in Seven Words”.  I encouraged those who read this email to share their reflections on putting the gospel into seven words.  Dozens of submissions poured in… and on Sunday we had many who shared in worship what they had brought.  Here are some:

God creates meaning from chaos.

The Lord has promised good to me.

A Song of hope in the silence.

Freed to love through God’s unstoppable grace.

God’s passionate pursuit of his own.

The Kingdom has come – live it out.

God’s Law requirements are superseded by grace.

Love is all you need.

God provides coverage for our pre-existing conditions.


This is just a small sampling of what was submitted.  There was meaning in every single offering.  All of the seven word submissions were given to Yvonne Stuart.  She and some other Centenary members are making a very large display of the seven words which will hang on one of the walls in the sanctuary.  (Thank you to Yvonne and her helpers!)


So, I want to say “thank you!” to all of you.   Well done!



I will be leading the 2nd session of my Inquirer’s Class on Sunday at 9:45 in the classroom below the sanctuary.  You are invited.


Please read your bulletin about an upcoming Centenary retreat which is scheduled for October 26-28.  Contact if you have questions.


My sermon this Sunday is titled “Read the Fine Print” from Mark 8:27-38.  Hope that you will be present for worship!


Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell


Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.

September 19, 2012

Dear Centenary family,

Here is a good word from Caroline Nickel and Stacey Harwell:

Every voice counts. If you ever doubt that, just look at how close some of our political campaigns have been recently. Civic engagement is important to Centenary because we believe that God calls us to help build a more just world. We want what's best for our communities, our children in our school systems, our elderly and those whose voices have been silenced through legislation. We want everyone to have a voice.  It is a God thing to care about voices.

Recently, Georgia has passed a series of laws that many predict will result in a loss of many voters. These new laws have shortened early voting days and earlier laws created a required picture ID and increased the amount of documentation needed to get things like a Georgia Driver's License. Approximately 1 in 4 African Americans will not have the necessary photo ID to be able to vote (*Brennan Center for Justice). We want to educate people about these changes and make every effort to make sure that they have the right documentation needed to register and then vote. In an effort to increase voter registration, Centenary Church will be hosting two Voter Registration drives next Thursday and Friday (September 27 and 28) from 4 - 7 PM. We need as many volunteers as possible to go out into the neighborhood with signs and fliers asking people if they've registered to vote. We want people who can sit down and help folks fill out the paper and electronic forms to register. We want to help Mercer students register for absentee ballots in their home counties. Then on election day, we want to make sure that transportation is not an issue. We would like to run the church van out to homes and facilities where people do not have transportation to go vote. This is not partisan, but this is political. We are called to be politically engaged as Christians, but we will never promote a candidate or a party in this election at any of these events. We ask that those attending voter registration drives not wear any particular candidate's or party's shirts or buttons or bring any signs. This is simply about getting folks of all political persuasions the information and registration needed to vote.

We need you. If you are interested in helping people fill out their voter registration form or interested in getting the word out in the neighborhood or through your associations, please contact Caroline Nickel at or at 478-508-0828. She will sign you up for a slot during one of the registration days or for a slot on November 6th to help transport voters.  (Drivers will need to see Talisa if they are not already on church insurance).

Caroline Nickel and Stacey Harwell


Conversations Along the Way --- Sundays at 9:30: September 23 and 30, October 7 and 14.  Looking to identify and have your gifts affirmed?  Looking for a place to serve?  Looking to connect with others?  This class is for you!  Contact Stacey at for more info.


Centenary Retreat – Friday evening, October 26 through Sunday morning, Feb. 28…. At Camp John Hope in Ft. Valley.  Great weekend  of sharing…   Make your reservations by emailing   


Love God.  Love Others.  Love yourself.  Serve.