Sunday, March 15, 2015

Am I a Christian?

At Buffalo Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, they are joining the Evangelical Presbyterian Church today. There is a "Welcome" service handled by the new Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic and they will be ordaining the church elders in the new denomination. I am sitting at home writing this. Why, you might ask?

At Buffalo, almost  two years ago we began the process of disaffiliation from the Presbyterian Church USA.. The PC/USA will not just release a church, they will only dismiss you to join another Reformed denomination. After much discussion, we chose to join the EPC. It is much smaller than the PC/USA, but much more conservative. As the end drew near with the PC/USA, the EPC scheduled Leadership Training for the church elders.

The training program was a twelve week experience. We met at Memorial Presbyterian, a nearby offspring of our church, who were also going through the process. I had received a copy of the training manual a couple of months earlier and looked through it. I was excited about the chance to improve my religious knowledge.

After the first Sunday, I knew that I was in trouble. My problem was simple. The more that I learned, the more questions that I had. My friends tell me that I over-analyze everything. The more that I tried to understand, the less that I understood.

It soon became obvious to me that I was in the midst of a spiritual crisis. Things that I thought that I understood, I didn't. Everything that I believed was suddenly in doubt. I spoke to a couple of pastor friends about this, but that didn't help. Other friends have tried to help, but nothing has worked.

As the church struggled through the disaffiliation process, I struggled with my own spiritual issues. It was a great day for the church when we were finally released in February. For me, the joy of being released from the PC/USA was offset by the feeling of impending doom about joining the EPC.

A few weeks ago, the date was set for the "Welcome to the EPC" weekend. Yesterday we had orientation and examination of elders. I have been almost spastic the last three weeks worrying about this. A few days before, I finally realized that all I could do was go in and answer the questions honestly. On Friday night, I read the words from a hymn that calmed me a little. "Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour."

I arrived at the church yesterday about ten minutes before the program was scheduled to start. I was feeling bad, suffering from a cold. I had worn a coat and tie since I assumed others would dress like they were joining a church. Some of the women were dressed pretty well, but the vast majority of people were very casually dressed. I immediately felt out of place. I took a seat at a table by myself so that I could see the door (phobia) and not spread my cold to others. I felt so out of place and uncomfortable that I started to just get up and leave. I already knew what would happen at the end of the day.

The point came in the program where they started discussing the ordination vows for elders. They passed out copies for us to review. Instantly, I realized that it was all over. There was not just one, but several vows that I could not respond to positively. I should have just got up and left at that point.

We broke into four small groups for the examination process. Our group was led by Howard Shockley, the Presbytery Administrator. He was very nice. The first topic of discussion was "tell us how you came to know Christ." I was the second person in the rotation to answer the question. As I listened to the first person to answer, my mind raced as I searched for something to say that would be acceptable. I could think of say. I think that the current slang is "I got nothing!"

I started by saying, "I don't think that I belong in this group." and it went downhill from there. Howard tried to help and offered me several chances to give the needed answer, but I just could not do it. The woman assisting him tried to explain it. I told her that I understood the line of questioning, but that I could not honestly answer in the affirmative. Mercifully, they moved on to the other people, all of whom had a better response than mine. I know that it didn't last forever, but it seemed to last that long. When it ended, I grabbed my coat and left.

When I got home, I sent an e-mail to all of the other Session members resigning. I didn't need to wait and be humiliated today.

I believe that if we could all live by the principles of Christ, the world would be a better place. I have tried to help lots of people. At work, I have hired people that no one else would. I have helped people with problems far outside my responsibility as their employer. At church, I do as much as I can. I have spent more than three years at Buffalo cooking dinner on Wednesday nights. I do almost anything that is asked of me. I go visit people who are sick. I did a website for the church when no one else would.

Despite all of this, I don't have that relationship with Christ that everyone talks about. I don't have the faith of those people that I heard speak in yesterday's group. I don't hear God talk to me. All I have is what I do. My grandfather N.S. Hardin, was a Baptist minister. He told me once," I would rather see a sermon than hear one." I have lived my life like that, only to find out that Christians think that I am wrong. Yes, I don't understand.

Will I go back to church? Yes, I will be there on Wednesday night to cook dinner. I made a commitment and I will honor that. Maybe I can resolve my spiritual issues now that the pressure has been relieved. I just don't know. I will have to wait and see.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Does Church help??

I was trying to put together some thoughts for an orientation and examination next Saturday at church. At Buffalo Church, we have left the PC/USA and are joining the EPC. Next Saturday they will be "examining" all of the elders to determine if we meet their standards. If you know me, you understand that I am concerned about this process. I was trying to write a few things down  tonight and had some thoughts that I sent to a friend. I will go ahead and share them with you.

I was writing a few thoughts about church and got to the range and Mary R. incident. First, I am still angry about the whole thing. But beyond that, I realized that I have mellowed some and can deal a little better with this kind of thing. Here’s a story to prove my point.

In the late 1990’s, I was active in the Triad Mensa group. The editor of the monthly newsletter “retired”. So I volunteered to take his place. At first, it wasn’t very hard. It was a matter of assembling Mensa news items and events and contributions from members into a newsletter. After someone else took care of getting it printed, several of us would meet one night to fold, staple and mutilate(prepare for mailing) the newsletter. Someone else would haul it to the Post Office the next day for Second Class Mailing.

You can guess what happened. Over the next couple of years, the volunteers all dropped by the wayside. By the end of the second year, I was doing it all myself. For the next three years, I did everything connected with the newsletter including listening to an occasional complaint about it. Then, we elected a new local chapter leader. He sent me a message telling me that he expected a draft of the newsletter by the 15th of each month so that he could approve it and that it was to be printed, assembled and  mailed by the 25th. I read his message and thought about it overnight. The next morning I got up and put all of their supplies and materials into a box. I took a 5X8 index card and a black marker. I wrote “F**** You!” on the card and dropped it into the box. A quick trip to the Post Office and my days in Mensa were over. I never went to another function or contacted anyone in the group.

So you can see from this story that going to church has obviously been good for me. The good news for you is that I probably won’t include this story in recounting my “walk with Christ” at next Saturday’s meeting. HA!!

Monday, March 02, 2015

Church Life Lite

I used to be a Methodist. I would tell people, "I am not a terribly religious man, I am a Methodist." Changed to the Presbyterian team a few years ago. Now I tell people, "I am not a terribly religious man, I am a Presbyterian."

Now,  I am an elder at church. They elected me to represent the "younger" members. I am also on the Session, the ruling body of the church. What's that like, you ask??

 I am working on a new book, "Random Moments of Lunacy, The Session Years."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Fantasy From Facebook??

A mother-in-law stopped by unexpectedly the recently married couple's house. She knocks on the door, then immediately walks in. She is shocked to see her daughter-in-law lying on the couch, totally naked.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"I'm waiting for Jeff to come home from work," the daughter-in-law answered.
"But you're naked!" the mother-in-law exclaimed.
"This is my love dress," the daughter-in-law explained.
"Love dress? But you're naked!"
"Jeff loves me to wear this dress! It makes him happy and it makes me happy."
The mother-in-law on the way home thought about the love dress. When she got home she got undressed, showered, put on her best perfume and expectantly waited for her husband, lying provocatively on the couch.
Finally her husband came home. He walked in and saw her naked on the couch.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"This is my love dress," she replied.
"Needs ironing," he says" "What's for dinner?"

What's wrong with this story?? Obviously written by a woman. No man passes up a naked woman on his couch waiting for him to get home.
Reminds me of an old guy who used to frequent the Waffle House. He was in one morning and it was his seventieth birthday. Someone asked if he was so old that he ever passed up a chance for sex. His response was simple, "The next time will be the first time".

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I love stupid people- The Sledding Version

Stupid Parents??
I was driving to work today going about 30 MPH on a road covered with snow and a layer of sleet. I rounded a curve and less than 100 feet in front of me was some moron posing as an adult and five kids. Stopped the car as quickly as possible. The kids were sledding in the road. This was out in the country. There was open land and hills and slopes to sled on. Why use the road?? Write this down if you are a moron. The street is for cars!!! Kids, listen to Uncle Gilbert. If you won't sled in the street, I won't drive my van on that hill in your backyard!!

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Buffalo's Time

Ecclesiastes 3 New International Version (NIV)

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Good afternoon,

I found Sunday’s speaker to be mostly dull and uninspired until his closing remarks. He redeemed himself when he called the elders to the front and prayed with us for the future of Buffalo.

I am sending all Session members this message. I realize that I am the resident contrarian on the Session. It doesn’t bother me at all. At Buffalo, we value consensus more than we value honesty. We are talkers, we are not doers. We accept involvement, when we need commitment. Rather than taking the action needed to succeed, we take action to keep from failing. In my opinion the “go along to get along” mentality has brought us to where we are in this church and in this nation.

At Growth Committee meetings I regularly referenced a book by John Ortberg, senior pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California. The book is “If you want to walk on the water, you have to get out of the boat”. I suggest it to all of you for reading. Ortberg knows about faith and  commitment. Last year, his church agreed to pay $9 million to leave the PC/USA. Ortberg announced that he would put his house up for sale to help pay that money.

I have spent the last four years listening to everyone talk about the old days at Buffalo. Those days will never return because of changes in the community and the world. But the potential for growth is still there. We just don’t take action to grow. I’m not a big sports fan, but what we are doing is playing a “prevent defense”. Rather than trying to win, we are trying not to lose.

Over the last forty years, I have worked with thousands of employees. When I counsel people about performance issues at work or in some life situations, I usually tell them the same thing. “The road that you are on is not going to take you to where you tell me you want to go.” And so it is at Buffalo. We want growth, but we don’t want to  take that road.

The Lord has placed us at a crossroads in the life of our church. One direction leads to failure and death of the church, the other direction leads to growth and the spreading of The Gospel to the community.  Which road will we take?

I posted the passage from Ecclesiastes above because we need to all recognize that it is Buffalo’s time. This is an opportunity to energize our congregation. We need to start with leaving the PC/USA as soon as possible. We have wasted enough time with Salem Presbytery. It’s time to go on the attack. We need to get our story out.  We need to start NOW!! There is no need to wait for them to deny us freedom again at the next meeting. We need to tell our story on the Internet with a web site, on social media such as Facebook and in press releases to the media. We need to pass out flyers at the Presbytery meeting in February. We need to be giving those out in the parking lot as people arrive for the meeting. We need to get as many of our members as possible to the meeting to tell our story to the other delegates. The Presbytery’s position is indefensible.  They have contradicted themselves time and time again. They have broken their own rules in an effort to force us to stay. Let’s fight back!!! “Thou shalt not steal” applies to church property.

It’s not enough for us to get free from the PC/USA, it’s time for us to help other churches leave the PC/USA. When the vote comes on gay marriage in the Presbytery, you will see the flood gates open.  Buffalo needs to take the lead!  If you want to see a return to the glory days, it is time for us to lead again. We have been given an opportunity to lead. Let’s take it.

Once free from the PC/USA, we need to keep moving. We need a committed pastor for this church. If Alex is interested in doing this, I think he would be a good candidate. BUT if he wants to pastor Buffalo, he needs to give up his other activities and commit to the success at Buffalo. This part-time thing is not working, has not worked and will not work. We need a pastor committed to growth at Buffalo.  If Alex can’t do it, we don’t need to waste anymore time with him, not another single day. There’s a Presbyterian minister somewhere who is up to this challenge and wants it. Let’s get busy and find them!! Don’t waste your time telling me about the Presbytery rules on looking for a pastor. If you are in the ocean drowning, you don’t worry about the rules on correct swimming. Let’s go. 

At Buffalo, we confuse the issue by asking the wrong questions. When it comes to personnel, the question is always “Is this the right person for the job?” We confuse the issue by asking, “Where we will get someone else?”. That’s not the issue, that’s the road to bad decisions.

Same story with the music director. I communicated with a high school classmate who pastors a small church in Lakeland, Florida a few months ago when we first discussed the changes in the music director position. He responded to me and I agree with his response.  Should have let her resign and looked for someone with a heart on fire for Jesus! “We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.”

We need to raise the passion and commitment levels at Buffalo. We can’t expect the congregation to get on board if the leadership and the paid staff are not on board. There are things in our lives that limit what we can do at church, but we need to make wise choices. If leaders are never in Sunday School or at Wednesday night Fellowship dinners, how can we expect others to be??

If we want to walk on water, it is time to have the faith to get out of the boat.

Thank you,
Gilbert Jones

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Black Lives Matter?

Yesterday as I was driving in Greensboro, I saw a protest group near the Wal-Mart on Wendover. There were about a dozen people gathered on a corner. They were holding a large sign that read, "Black Lives Matter". All but one of the group were black.

Why are they standing on a street corner telling me that? Do they believe it themselves? Do blacks believe that?  Why are they killing each other at such a horrific rate? They all got upset about the Ferguson shooting, but where's the outrage about the murder rate of young black men in Chicago? Is it because in Chicago it is other young black men doing the killing? Are they outraged that a black man died or only that he was killed by a white policeman?

How about a little outrage over the abortion rate among black women? Are they just too lazy to take a pill or are their partners too lazy to use a condom? The health department gives that stuff away free, there is no financial reason not to use them. If they were being forced to abort babies, they would be marching in the streets. But since they are choosing to kill their own offspring, it must be okay.

Their banner is at odds with their own actions. Call me when you really believe that.