Tuesday, November 24, 2009


An elder and his children...

As I think about the kind of men God raises up to be elders, I am again reminded that the most controversial discussion is generally about his kids: are they "believers", how many are baptized, are they active when they leave home, and on and on. It seems to me there are two basic approaches to this. The first focuses on the process. Did the elder seem to do the right thing in how he raised his children? Tied in to this is the question of adult children. Were they faithful while at home? To focus on the process implies that an elder cannot be responsible for the result, just the process. And he certainly cannot be help responsible for children grown and out on their own.

The other approach would be to focus on the result. Are his children faithful Christians? This approach implies the process will produce faithful children. It would see adult children as perhaps the truest measure of his parenting.

I am struck by the connection in Scripture between managing his household and the church. It seems to imply that the church under his leadership will look like his children. I strongly lean toward this approach. If you want to know how Southern Hills will look under my leadership, just look at my kids. In fact, I would argue that is the truest picture of the man you would have lead you. My kids are my elder portfolio. That is also why I wouldn't serve till my kids were grown. They needed a Dad more than church needed an elder. And I thought my kids should be a "finished product" first. By that, I mean that most of my work as a Dad was finished when they left home.

So, personally, I would not serve if either of my kids left the faith. I don't think they are perfect, and they have their areas of weakness. And they have had their spiritual battles. But they are faithful. And I not even sure I did the process well. I loved much, prayed hard, and tried to be authentic about my faith (and about my struggles to be the man God called me to be). And yes -- Marsha should get most of the credit for how they turned out. I guess that is the kind of elder I am: love much, pray hard, be authentic with my faith in front of my flock. And know that Marsha is a really good partner in this.

I am not dogmatic about this. I serve with men who struggle with where their children are spiritually. I support their study of Scripture and their decision. Just sharing my thoughts on the matter.

By the way, for those wondering... the nomination process is complete at Southern Hills and those men nominated are deciding to go to the next step or not. Pray for these men to know the call of God in their life. Me too.

Anyway, just my thoughts. Feel free to weigh in on elder's and their kids.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Andrew Joel Ridgell is two...

My grandson is two years old today. Andrew Joel is Joe Don and Jamie's boy and he is a sweet, happy child. He loves to be outdoors. He loves to play ball. And he loves his Pops.

He is the 4th generation of Joel Ridgell. My dad is Joel Wesley, I'm Stephen Joel, then Joel Don, then Andrew Joel. Pretty cool.

But I am most excited about a different legacy. He will be the fourth Ridgell man to follow Jesus. You may think at two years old I can't possibly know that. But I do. I knew Joe Don would be a man of faith. JD and I spent a lot of time hunting, fishing, and playing ball. I wanted him to do well in school and in his career. But more than anything I wanted him to be a follower of Jesus. That was the one legacy I wanted to pass on. So I worked hard at it. So did Marsha, and his Grandparents, and our church, and family friends.

Now I see Joe Don playing ball with Andrew. And he will learn to fish and hunt. But above anything else, Joe Don and Jamie want Andrew to know Jesus. And that is what they work the hardest at passing on... a real, personal, faith. Even at two years old. Just like they do with Anna. And just like Bobby and Julie do with Jake and Avery. It is who we are. It is what we do.

They are intentional. They are involved in church community and ministry. They are prayerful. And they live it in front of the kids. Andrew (and the other grandkids) will absorb it, they will live it, they will think it is normal. And someday they will make it personal.

That is what makes me happy on Andrew's 2nd birthday.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


New HoT TV Spots

Herald of Truth has produced 2 thirty second, and 2 sixty second, television public service announcements. They are free to any congregation that wants to use them and you can see them here. Tim Frakes, of Frakes Productions, did a wonderful job of producing these.

There are a couple of things that make these very special for me. The hospital videos use two ladies from our Southern Hills drama ministry, Ann Hurst and Colleen Crawford. They were great. I grew up with Colleen so that's neat. And her Dad, Harold, used to be one of the "voice talents" for Herald of Truth in some of our radio production years ago. That's special.

The Collage spots are taken from our series of testimonial videos at hopeforlife.org. I may share some of the stories and connections behind some of these videos over the next several weeks also.

And by the way, I may not be a Doctor, but I have now played one on TV.

You comments and observations are welcome.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Evangelism Tool...

This week has been a good week at Herald of Truth. Our evangelistic website, hopeforlife.org, has been reworked and is now online. It has video testimonials, podcasts, study courses, resources, a blog ... all designed to spark interest and response from visitors. Our ultimate goal is to connect our contacts with local communities of believers to help them. Just today I have been working with an 81 year old lady from Canada who is concerned because she has never been baptized. I am also connecting a lady from New York who recently lost her 20 year old son. And I found out one of my referrals in Pennsylvania came to worship last Sunday.

Good week. And for those of you wondering if had anything to do with something as tech savvy as a website. Of course not. Tim Archer, my co-worker, coordinated. Very gifted, gets it, and is motivated to reach our world with the good news of Jesus. My job was to stay out of the way and not screw it up.

Anyway... feel free to take a look and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Elder couples...

I know we call it elder selection, but it really is elder couple selection. So if you don't think Marsha will be a good elder's wife (or elderess, or whatever), then I won't be a good elder. Let me tell you why from some of our experiences.

It is true that we went to a motel and begged one of our members to get out of a sinful relationship. Couldn't do that unless Marsha was with me, and ready to go help her leave.

Ate last night with a sweet young couple celebrating his graduation from a treatment center and talking about the future. We have prayed, cried, slept with the cell phone beside the bed, counseled, and hugged lots with them. Can't do all that unless your spouse is completely bought in.

You can't do any marriage counseling without your spouse. In fact, at Southern Hills, we often bring our spouses into annointings, blessings, and shepherd counseling sessions. Sure makes it better for the sisters we meet with.

There are women who would never approach an elder with their struggles, but they will talk to a women. I have had women stop me in the Garden of Prayer just to ask if I would get Marsha to come pray with them. And I do.

She keeps me centered and focused when I can't take it any more.

So if she's out, I'm out. If she's in, I'm in. We're one. So if you're considering God's call to be recognized as a shepherd, you and your wife better both be hearing that call. If you are trying to identify shepherds, look at the couple. It is a package deal.

But don't be like the last time we selected elders. One of the current elder wives told me she was submitting my name. I graciously thanked her, to which she replied... "Oh it's not so much that I think you will be a good elder, but Marsha will be a great elder's wife." She was only half kidding. And she was right.

Feel free to share your elder couple thoughts.

Friday, November 06, 2009


Elder selection...

We have started the process of elder selection at Southern Hills so I am thinking quite a bit about what makes a good elder. And I am starting to pray about whether I should, or want, to serve again if asked. And some of my fellow elders, and some potential elders, are asking my advice and counsel. So I may share some random thoughts on this over the next several weeks.

I do like the idea that all of our current elders go thru the selection process. It let's current elders have an "opt out" option if they need or want it. It lets the congregation remove men they will not follow. And it forces us to evaluate and recommit to leading this flock. I think that is healthy.

So Marsha and I are doing some examination of our lives, our ministry, and what we believe God is calling us to do with our lives. That's good.

More thoughts later. Reactions always welcome. After all, the best part of my blog are the comments of others. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Sin and restoration...

Christians sin. And it is sometimes ugly. Jobs are lost, families are torn apart, people are hurt, and the church is damaged. Many times these people quit the faith, but some don't. They are restored. Forgiveness occurs. Families are reunited and the church is blessed again by their lives and witness. Why do some make it back while others never seem to be able to change?

We generally wonder how a committed Christian can get so deeply into sin. We seem surprised, shocked, offended. But looking at my own life, and after working with lots of faithful Christians who find themselves caught up in sin -- I am increasingly convinced that there are things that pull a Christian back from the edge of hell. People that have these things in a real way in their life are restored. People that don't, have a hard time changing.

So here are those resources you have in your life. You either have, are, or will be, in a deep sin struggle. Use these resources to help you be healed.

Holy Spirit. Romans 8 tells us to put to death the misdeeds of the body by the power of the Spirit. You can't be strong enough, love enough, or work hard enough to do this by yourself. We have the Holy Spirit. We don't often ask for the Spirit's power to kill the evil in us.

Community. We need real fellowship. People who love us. People who will do anything to heal us. People who model forgiveness. People we can share the ugliness with. Yes, there are some "church people" who are judgmental, harsh, and unloving. I pray they have community to help them overcome their sin. but there are many more of us out there who are committed to pick up the fallen and journey with them.

God's Word. God's Word does work in your life like a powerful sword. It's truths can become a part of you. It will convict you, guide you, restore you.

There are other things important to restoration: repentance, confession, accountability. But the three above are resources you have in your life. They will help you be what you want to be. And when you are not what you want to be, they will help bring you back.

So cultivate them, use them, make them part of your life. In good times and bad. They will help you do what you could not do on your own.

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