Tuesday, August 20, 2013


What Kind of Church Are We? Image versus Reality

I am always intrigued to listen to churches talk about the kind of church they are.  And it is even more interesting to hear them talk about how to show others what kind of church they are.

Here are few things I have learned.

Most of our talk about the kind of church we are is really more about the kind of church we should be.  Or that we want to be.  Or wish we were.

One example.  I talk to a lot of churches about reaching lost people. Some of them are honest enough to say they need to be motivated to evangelize because most of them do not do it.  Some will say they want to, but acknowledge that they need to be better equipped.  But many of them say they are very evangelistic.  So I ask them to introduce me to some new Christians.  Or I try to find visitors in the assembly who are not Christians.  I will often ask the leadership individually to tell me about the last real Jesus conversation they had with a non-believer.  Oops.

I've never been to a church that did not think they were very warm, friendly, and welcoming.  And I think they want to be.  Some are.  Some aren't.  But almost all think they are.

Every church thinks they are open to all races, nationalities, and economic levels.  Just look around at most churches and you will see that something is missing... and it is generally different races, nationalities, and economic levels.

Too many churches are like the Sardis congregation in Revelation 3.  We have the reputation of being alive but are dead.

So be careful about image versus reality.  Wishing to be a certain type of church is not the same as being that kind of church.  Reputation does not always match reality.  And it is easier to cultivate an image than to actually be the church you know you should be.

So watch out for:

Marketing instead of ministry.

Talk instead of action.

Programs instead of people.

Be wary of a focus on scripted, professional, 1 hour worship assemblies instead of equipping for the real worship of transforming our lives outside the assembly.  Church is more "out there" than "in here".

Staff, buildings, and programs centered on us.  Mission emphasis primarily on far away places.  

Any program that is introduced by saying "this will show the kind of church we are".

Because here is the truth:  you either are... or you aren't.

If you aren't, no amount of marketing, public relations, or image building will make it so.

And if you are, don't worry.  Everyone will find out.

So quit worrying about how to convince everyone about what kind of church you are.

Just be the church you want to be.

And God will be honored.  You will help change this world.  And people will know.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


How 300 or 400 of us brought Chance to know Jesus.

I told Chance's story last night at Southern Hills in MidPoint.  Last night Chance became a Christian.  His father-in-law and I baptized him right before services.  I thought I would share with you the people involved in helping him find Jesus.  I know because the night before  I asked him to share the story of his journey.

He did not have much real exposure to Jesus while growing up.  But he married Janalyn, a Southern Hills girl, about five years ago.  There were church showers and I did the wedding, and some of our people attended. So he got to see a church that cared and was involved in a special time of life.  Jesus seeds were being planted.

They are remodeling their house and for the past few months have lived with his in-laws, Don and Carlene.  He watched how Jesus was an important part of their life and realized that if he and Janalyn were to have that kind of marriage someday, he better put Jesus in their marriage.  There is power in living as a faithful witness.

So  they started coming to church.  Chance loves music and the whole singing without instruments "blew him away".  He was drawn to God and moved by the purity of voices raised in praise.  So everyone involved in our praise teams -- and everyone singing in the assembly -- were calling Chance to God.

They attended our Starting Point class.  This is something we expect all potential members to attend.  He saw the expectations we have for our people in terms of living out our faith.  It was here that he first started thinking about baptism.  So everyone that is involved in our Starting Point ministry was moving Chance down a spiritual road.

They came to Vacation Bible School.  Chance came to the adult class.  He heard Randy Harris and Robert Oglesby talk about God and freedom.  Janalyn would have been there but she was drafted to help teach. It was exciting to see all those children, and adults, excited about Jesus.  Loved the class, loved Mo the Musical.  Lots of people met him in class.  So everyone that had a part in VBS was motivating Chance to follow Jesus and be part of something incredible.

The last night he heard me talk about Moses and the Burning Bush.  He told he didn't really remember everything I talked about (good thing Randy and Robert had already taught), but he did remember one thing.  That when God calls you, there are only two answers.  No or Go.  He said I was talking right to him.  It was his "burning bush" moment when God called him.

So he asked if they could come over to our house and talk about baptism.  So we did.  We talked about the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, about dying for him, and about living for him.  We prayed together.  And the next night we baptized him.

His confession was a mini-sermon on the love God had for him and how he wanted to follow Jesus.  And we baptized him.  Don, his father-in- law, prayed over him.  Very proud of Don, he only choked up a little.  Janalyn was crying tears of joy.  So was I.

He is our brother,  And by my count, it only took about 300 or 400 of us to reach him.

So don't ever think what you are doing doesn't matter.  It does.  Every day.  Someone is being influenced. So thank you God for Janalyn and her parents.  And all those who supported their marriage.  Thanks for gifted singers who lead us in praise to you, and thanks for all those who poured themselves into VBS . Thanks for gifted teachers and people who open their home to talk about Jesus.

It matters.

Just ask Chance.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


And now it's Austin's birthday...

Austin turned 3 this past Friday.  He is Joe Don and Jamie's youngest, which makes him our youngest grandchild.  So here it comes... why I love Austin.

When they pull into our driveway, he starts yelling for Pops and Lucky.  Runs to hug me and then out the door to pet our Golden Retriever.  If he always loves old people and dogs, he will do well in this life.

He is a hugger.  We all hug in our family.  But Austin is a world class hugger.  Lots of enthusiasm and energy. He really puts his heart into it.

He is fearless.  He thinks he can do anything, especially if his older siblings and cousins are doing it.  That is a little scary for this old Pops, but it sure is fun to watch.  Well, unless we're in charge of him and then scary is the right word.

He is the most strong willed child I have ever seen.  And this from a guy who raised two strong willed children.  Here is why I love this:  it will be hard to get him to follow the crowd.  If Austin doesn't want to do something, he won't.  No matter what.  When he follows Jesus, nothing will be able to sway him.

He embraces life.  Everything is fun.  Everything is exciting.  Everything is something to be done at full speed. Love to watch this.

It was precious to watch the other 4 grandkids teach him to quote Joshua 1:9 at Cousin Camp.  He got pretty good at it too.

I cannot wait to see all the things God will do with Austin. Being around him will always mean laughter, fun, excitement, and passion.  That will draw people and I believe that means he will help our world know God.

So Austin... thanks for "lighting up" our life.  Pops and Mimi love you so much.  But I do have to say... glad it's your Daddy who gets to raise you.  I will be cheering for him -- and you -- all the way.

Thanks God for the gift of Austin.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013


Happy birthday Anna Claire

Our oldest grandchild, Anna Claire Ridgell, just turned 8.  And since she can read most of this, here is why I love you and am proud of you Anna.

You love Jesus.  I love hearing you pray.  You are so thankful for what God has done and what he has given you.

You have a heart for those who do not have as much as you.  You gladly sacrifice things you could have so other children can have a better life here.

You love your family.  I am so happy that you love your Mom and Dad so much.  Your Mom is a great person for you to grow up and be like.  I enjoy watching you and Mimi.  You two have had a special bond since she first held you in her arms.

I love watching you and your cousin Avery do fun girl things.  You play, laugh, talk, dance, and do gymnastics with great joy and enthusiasm.

You are smart.  You always amaze Pops with what you are learning.  You ask questions and you think things thru.

You are beautiful and graceful.

You are sweet, smart, pretty, and you love your family.  Most of all, you love God and Jesus.  Oh, and I almost forgot... you love dogs.  That makes you a special young lady.

I am so excited to watch you grow up and to see what God is going to do in your life.

I love you and I thank God for you every day.

Thursday, August 01, 2013


Thinking about churches and Boy Scouts

There has been a great deal written and said lately about what churches should do if they have been sponsoring Boy Scout troops.  Now that the Scouts have an official position of one particular sin that runs contrary to Scripture, many churches are trying to decide what to do.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was not a Boy Scout and neither was my son.  Southern Hills does sponsor a troop and we are in the midst of making a decision about this.  So let me be clear, I am not stating the position of Southern Hills.  You are getting Ridgell's opinion.  And this is the way I would decide this for Southern Hills, but since no one has made me Pops or Ruling Bishop...

Of course a church should not sponsor of endorse an organization that holds a position contrary to God.

But here is a bigger question, why is a church sponsoring a civic organization anyway?

Shouldn't the church be involved in church business?

And Scouting is not church business.  Neither are civic clubs, or youth organizations.

Nothing wrong with many of these organizations, but they are not about gospel.  They may promote good morals and they may do some good things in our communities.

But if these things are not done in the name of Jesus, I have a hard time understanding how the church should be involved.

The church is not about making better citizens.  I would argue the church is not about doing good deeds.  The church is not even about good morals.

The church is about Jesus.  When you are about Jesus, you become a good citizen (of any country), you do good things, and you have good morals.  But those things without Jesus are not church business.  It is not just a matter of the cart before the horse... it is a matter of a cart with no horse.

That would be like feeding the hungry somewhere, or building a house for someone, and calling it a mission trip when no one even talks about Jesus.  But that's probably a rant for another time.

Let's not forget the mission.  It is about Jesus.

So about the Boy Scouts.  I don't think the church has any business sponsoring a troop anyway.  Not our business and not our job.

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