Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Why I Stay at Southern Hills

Here is why I (and I really mean we) stay at Southern Hills.

There is a passion for reaching our world for Jesus that is deep and real.  We are involved in missions and planning to do more.  That has been true of us for as long as I can remember.  Lots of our members go (both long term and short), give, and pray.

But it is not just lost people in other places.  We care about the lost people in our neighborhoods and that we work with.  We reach non-church people.  More and more all the time.

What is happening among the local Bhutanese is amazing.  I would not be surprised if the next big SH announcement was to raise money to invest in that outreach.

In fact, I have no hesitation in telling people that the vision at SH is to make disciples.  Some teach and baptize, some help disciple, lots more give and pray.  I love a church that "gets it".  And we do.

Our roots are deep at Southern Hills.  Marsha's family showed up there just a couple of months after the move to our present location.  We were married there.  I was the first full-time Youth Minister.  Deep roots.

We are a church of the Book.  Our preachers have been men that spoke out of Scripture.  Our elders study together.  Just since I have been an elder we have studied qualifications of elders, baptism, worship, what matters, core convictions, instruments in worship, and passages that relate to those struggling with sin in their lives.  Southern Hills believes in Bible class more than Sunday School.

We are place where messed up Christians can come home.  We are a Prodigal Son congregation.  Some in town say we are the place where all the screw ups are welcome.  They may mean it in a bad way.  I take it as a compliment.  All screw-ups are welcome.  Welcome to be healed.  Not welcome to stay messed up.

We care about each other.  We show up in hospitals and at funerals.  We pray, sing, cook, and hold each other.  We cry and laugh together.

I have had my feelings hurt badly at Southern Hills.  That may seem like a strange reason to stay, but here is the deal.  I survived it.  I know that the love we feel far outweighs the hurt feelings.  And hurt feelings happen to everyone in every congregation if you get involved and stay around long enough.  Already happened here, so why go thru it somewhere else?

I know all the problems.  And boy, do we have some.  I stay because I know them.  Not because I think I can fix them, but because I know we are not perfect.  If we went somewhere else, I would have to learn the problems they have.  And there would be problems.  At any church.  There just aren't any perfect ones.

So will we always stay at Southern Hills?  I think so.  But SH is not Jesus.  It is a group of his people.  Hard to imagine, but if our mission and vision changed from seeking and saving the lost... or if we quit valuing what Scripture said, or if the core convictions changed -- well, I guess we would leave.

But right now these are the reasons why we are at Southern Hills.  Loving our family, reaching people for Jesus.

It's home.


Thursday, November 21, 2013


Why I am still in the church of Christ

I am still in the church of Christ.  I am am elder and preach Wednesday nights at a church of Christ.  I grew up in the church of Christ, tho my Dad did not.  Just Mom.  My wife grew up in the church of Christ (same one we are at now).  So did her Dad, but not her Mom.  Kids are both active in churches of Christ.  So with so many of our heritage talking about why they leave, or should leave, or "really love the church but let me tell you everything wrong with it"... here are some reasons I stay.

By the way, for you non church of Christers who read this, we are a strange group to belong to because we are no group.  No national organization.  No organization of any kind.  No "official" doctrine either.  But we do have some general convictions that most church of Christ congregations share.

so here is why I stay.

I love our emphasis on Scripture.  We are a people of the book.  We may fight over what it means.  We may have some different interpretations which lead to different practices... but we are in the Word.  That is a big deal to me.

I think we have done well to emphasize the importance of baptism as the faith response to the gift of grace given in Jesus.  It is always one of the most beautiful and emotional moments I experience when I watch someone die with Jesus, be buried in baptism, and then rise to a new life.  The best thing about being a Dad was holding my kids just after their birth.  And hugging them just after they were born again.  And I long to see that with my Grands.

I think Communion is a big deal and I learned that in the church of Christ.  We do it every first day of the week.  I need that.

We show up.  In every disaster anywhere in the world, we are there.  I will never forget how appreciated and loved the church of Christ was in New Orleans after Katrina.  We are known as people that care and put that into action.  I am not saying we are the only ones that do that, but I am telling you why I stay in the church of Christ.  And that is one reason.

We care locally.  We show up in hospitals and at funerals.  We love each other.  

We make disciples.  I think that is the vision, mission, and call of the church.  We do it in churches of Christ.  We raise missionaries.  We support them.  We care about lost people that live in our communities.  We tell the gospel story and we make disciples.

I love being part of a church that is exploding all over this world.  That may not be true in this country and culture always, but it sure is in other places.

Making a difference.  Caring about people.  Baptizing them, sharing communion and life together.  Studying God's Word.

That's why I stay.

I have talked about why I will never leave Jesus.  And I believe there will always be the body of Christ.  I will always be a part of a church like I described above.  Always.  Because I believe that is how Christ's church looks.  For me right now, my home is in churches of Christ.  If we ever change from these things that have kept me there... well, I wouldn't stay.

Maybe you have not had these experiences.   I have and that is why I stay.

But for me, it is not Church of Christ -- some kind of official structured denomination.

It is church of Christ -- believers who belong to Christ.  Whatever you call us.

Well, that's just me.  My thoughts today.

Many of my readers are part of churches of Christ.  Why do you stay?


Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Happy birthday Andrew Joel Ridgell

So today Andrew is six.  And so here are the reasons I love him and why he is so special.

He may be the sweetest kid I know.  He is thoughtful, loving, and considerate of every one around him.

I watched him at his birthday party Saturday.  He hugged every kid that came and thanked them for coming.
He has the gift of making everyone he comes in contact with think they are special.

He loves his family.

He is always happy, smiling, and laughing.

He loves life.

He loves God and Jesus with all his heart.

I love to hear him pray.

He's a good athlete, but more important... he enjoys playing.  He has fun.

Loves fishing and he's pretty good at it.

He's smart.

Andrew is always going to be popular because he is real.  What you see is what you get.

So Andrew...  keep loving God and keep loving people.  God is going to use you in amazing ways to help people know about him and his son Jesus.

Keep loving life.  Stay happy.

Live up to your name.  You are the fourth Ridgell in a row to be a Joel.  The three before you all love God, love people, and are happy.

Pops loves you very much.  I am very proud of you.  You make me happy.

Thank you God for the gift of Andrew Joel Ridgell.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Why I will not leave Jesus...ever.

Let me quickly point out that this is not a theological treatise about Christian apologetics.

I just sat down and thought about why I stay a Christian, a follower of Jesus.  And why I will forever.

Jesus is the only way to God.

Jesus is the way to live forever.  And to be with my family forever.

Jesus makes sense in a messy world.  The idea of a fallen world where Satan is at war with God explains so much about the world I live in.  The fact that Jesus came to earth to restore us to a holy relationship to God inspires me.  I like knowing that when I cannot control things myself -- well, it just gives me hope to know that someone bigger and better than I am is in charge.

Being a Christian means I have a purpose.  Every day.  My reason for being is to share my Jesus with my world.  It determines how I live, how I think, how I treat people, and what I do.

Christianity is the only place I know where a guy like me can have worth and value.

I like it that I am good enough even though I am not good enough.  Because of Jesus.

I like that my identity can be found in Jesus.  And that means my identity does not have to found in what I do, what I have, or how I look.

I love making a difference in the lives of people.  Forever.

I am a vital part of something bigger than myself.  

I really am happy every day.  Even on the bad days, the dark days, and the days that bring pain and tears. Because I know -- I know -- that my Redeemer lives and one day I will live with him forever.  And God himself will wipe away all tears.  There will be no more pain, sorrow, or sin.

My faith is the greatest treasure my parents gave me.

It is the greatest thing I ever gave to my kids.

It is the only treasure that I must see my grand-kids receive.

Faith in Jesus.

So I am a Christian.

Not perfect, but forgiven.

Not lovable, but loved anyway.

Not dead, but alive.

So these are just a few of the reasons why I will never leave Jesus.

Not now.  Not ever.

Not even when I face death.  Because then it only gets better.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Are we asking the wrong people the wrong questions?

Why did you leave?

What could we have done to keep you?

What can we do to get you back?

These are questions I recently saw that were from an exit interview corporations use with workers that leave to go work somewhere else.

Naturally I thought about how these are the very questions churches ask when members leave to go elsewhere.

And I wondered if we are asking the wrong questions?  And are asking the wrong people?

I do think there may be value in finding out why people leave.  As a shepherd, I want to know if any of my flock is in danger.  Because sometimes people are not leaving my church to work and worship somewhere else.  Sometimes they are leaving because they are in trouble spiritually.  Yes, I do believe that people who drop out of church are in danger.  But that is a subject for another post someday.

But here is why I worry some about this.  We tend to overreact to the answers.  Every church I know has to guard against this.  If we have 3 families leave because it was too hot in the auditorium, we immediately have a discussion about turning on the A/C for the next service.

That may be a discussion that needs to be held -- and obviously I am not really talking about temperatures.  But for every unhappy family that leaves, what if we talked to a family that has not left.  What if we started asking people why they stay, not why they leave?  What if most people think the temperature is OK?

I wonder if that would lead to more sharing about what we are doing right.  In all of the leadership meetings I have been in, it is very common to hear a discussion started with a reference to why so and so left and what are we going to do about it.  It is rare to hear a discussion started by referring to a discussion with someone who is happy to be part of our church so how do we emphasize that and maybe even make it better.

Maybe we ought to be sure and interview everyone who comes to our church also.  Why did you choose to work and worship with us?

It just seems everywhere I turn I hear discussions about what is wrong with Christianity, or the group they are part of, or the congregation where they worship... or used to worship.

So maybe it is time those of us who are staying start speaking up about what is right.

So maybe I'll post some about what I think is right about Christianity.  And right about the group I am part of of, the churches of Christ.  And maybe even why I am at Southern Hills.

Maybe some of you who are happy where you are in terms of church will want to share why you stay.

But one request:  why you stay should not be about what is wrong with other religions, other churches, or other congregations.

I want to hear the good.

Let me hear it.

Friday, November 08, 2013


The Family Farm...

Yesterday was a special day.  JH Farms was recognized in the Texas State Family Land Heritage Program.  What that means is that Marsha's family has owned, operated, and worked the same farm for over 100 years (110 to be exact).

Marsha and I are the 5th generation to work on the home place.  Over the years there has been a lot of wheat, peanuts, cotton, and cattle raised on that place.  It was originally around 200 acres and now is around 500.
Marsha's folks, Don and Jean Herttenberger, could not make the trip yesterday. Their health is just not up to it, so we represented the family.  And it caused me to reflect on a few things.

Family is a big deal.  I was blessed to marry into the Herttenbergers and Don has especially meant a lot to me. He is my other Dad.  For the last of years we went to the farm together almost every week to work. Over time, he could not work as much but he could still tell me what needed doing.  Those were good times talking about farming, sports, and church.  And lots of talk about Jesus and family.

He doesn't make that trip as often now.  Marsha goes with me and I go some by myself.  It is not the same.

There is something spiritual about farming and ranching.  Maybe it goes back to the creation and fall.  Restoration and redemption.  Seeds buried and raised.. Working the land.  Depending on God to send rain.  Trusting Him to provide.  And by the way, great cotton crop this year.  :)  We lease out the farming part of the operation now.  So it is not our crop exactly.  But it is on our land, so yeah ... a good harvest is a big deal.

I love the legacy of the land.  I hope the farm stays in the family and someday some of our kids or grandkids are getting recognized for 150 years of owning and operating JH farms.  Marsha might even still be around. I'll be watching from heaven.

And that's the better legacy.  The legacy of faith.  That is what I am so happy to see in our kids.  And I am starting to see in our grands.  Owning and operating the family faith.  Making it their own.  Passed down from generation to generation.

Knowing Jesus and sharing him in this world,

I love the legacy of the family farm.

I love the legacy of the family faith more.

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