Tag Archive for: Craddock

I have always heard that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  Is that the same for the church? Are we, as the church, beyond learning new ways of relating to our communities? Are we too old to share God’s love with one another and with the people around us?

I remember a story told by Fred Craddock.  He said he had never been to the greyhound races, but he had seen them on television. He said:

Running, Running, and Running…

They have these beautiful, big old dogs. I say beautiful, but they are ugly old dogs.  These dogs chase that mechanical rabbit around the ring. They run and run, exhausting themselves chasing that rabbit. When those dogs get to where they can’t race, the owners put a little ad in the paper, and if anybody wants one for a pet, they can have it. Otherwise, they are destroyed.

I have a niece in Arizona who can’t stand that ad.  She goes and gets one every time. Big old dogs in the house. She loves them.

I was in a home not long ago where they had adopted a dog that had been a racer.  It was a big old greyhound, spotted hound, laying there in the den.  One of the children in the family, just a toddler, was pulling on its tail, and a little older child had his head over on that dog’s stomach, using it as a pillow. That old dog just seemed so happy. I watched the children and the dog for a few minutes.

Then I said to the dog, “Are you still racing?”

He said, “No, I don’t race anymore.”

I said, “Do you miss the glitter and excitement of the track?”

He said, “No.”

“Well, what’s the matter? Did you get too old?”

“No, no, I still have some race in me.”

“Well, did you win anything?”

He said, “I won over a million dollars for my owner.”

“Then what was it? Did they treat you badly?”

“Oh, no, they treated us royally when we were racing.”

I said, “Then what was it? Did you get hurt?”

He said, “No, no.”

Then what?

He said, “I quit.”

“You quit?”

He said, “Yeah, I quit.”

“Why did you quit?”

And he said, “I discovered that what I was chasing was not really a rabbit.  And I quit.” Craddock said the dog looked at him and said, “All that running, running, running, running, and what I was chasing wasn’t even real.”

Craddock finished by saying, “If you believe in God, you can teach an old dog new tricks.”

Is it the same for the church? If we trust God, can we learn new ways of loving our neighbors?

Chasing What is Real Transforming MissionChase What is Real

Our culture is going through some massive changes.  These changes are shaping our values regarding how we define family, live our faith, gain knowledge, and understand science. The changes we are experiencing are complex and coming at lightning speed. As a result, the church is being left behind as a quaint spiritual artifact and dusty theological antique.

In such an open arena of competing values and counter-Christian views, what do we need to learn to step into the future? How will we make an impact in our communities and the world?

Let’s stop chasing what is not real and begin to chase what is real.

So, what is real?

Chasing What is Real Transforming Mission1. Relationships

Develop faithful, trusting relationships with Christ, within the congregation, and in your local community.

Let me be clear. I’m not talking about adding more activities to keep people busy. We’re busy enough!

When I started in ministry 45 years ago, the focus was upon the “7 Day a Week Church.” The idea was to have some form of activity in the church building every day.  There was to be no “white space” on the church calendar.  This activity form of ministry was based on getting people into our church buildings. Although it created lots of opportunities, we did not develop what was real.  Our focus was on activity and getting people inside a building.  We did not focus on developing relationships with people.

All the activity has worn us out.

We have three types of relationships that need to be nurtured: our relationship with Christ, relationships within the congregation, and relationships in the community. If one of those relationships is missing, the other relationships suffer.

Our relationship with Christ and with one another in the congregation can always deepen. Often, we fail to see the community right outside our doors. The people who live in our communities who do not have a relationship with Jesus or a church continues to grow.

Go outside the church building and into the community. Get to know the people who live in your city, neighborhood or town. Listen to their stories, their dreams, and their needs. One of the greatest gifts you can offer to others is your time. As you take the time to nurture relationships, you’ll also have the opportunity to embody the love of Christ to others.

What would happen if we were less mesmerized by numbers and more involved in developing relationships Christ, the congregation and your local community?

Chasing What is Real Transforming Mission2. Holiness

Be intentional in strengthening your inner life and bringing together your personal faith and your missional participation in the community. John Wesley called it personal piety and social holiness.

You are a child of God, free to serve in God’s love.  As God’s love takes root in your life, serve the community, neighborhood, or city in God’s love.

Be the person God created you to be. As a responsible representative of God’s love, you are free to take initiative to test your thoughts, to honor your intuition, to see what requires doing, and to accomplish it. At the same time, you are free to trust God and the people around you. You can be faithful in your living because you believe God is faithful to you.  When you face anxious times, your inner life allows you to test your wisdom, your patience, and your hope.  You draw courage, trusting God’s grace and the relationships you have developed with God’s people.

Knowing and trusting your relationship with God through Jesus, you are free to model God’s love.  You know that God is with you.  Others will come to trust God’s love because they see and experience God’s love in and through you.

What would happen if we were less concerned about looking good and more concerned about being centered upon the well-being of others, loving as we have been loved?

Chasing What is Real Transforming Mission3. Integrity

Be the person God created you to be both in what you say and what you do. Model integrity by living the life that produces the behaviors of love. When you are in Christ and are moved by the Spirit, the unexpected acts of Christian love will come in response to God’s grace.

What would happen if we were less focused upon being successful and more focused upon developing lives of love from the inside out and living lives of love, both inside and outside the church building?

I think we could teach an old church new ways of living and loving.

Let’s chase what is real!

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As a preacher of the good news of Jesus Christ, what does it mean to start the year with new resolve, new hope, and new vision? If I may be so bold to offer some advice at the beginning of this year.

Preach like you know they almost didn’t come. That is what Bill Muehl said to his students when he was a professor of preaching at Yale.  “Remember, about half of your congregation almost didn’t come this morning.”

Improving the Acoustics Transforming Mission Blog

The trend seems to be that our most committed people are attending worship less frequently. Yet, if we look carefully, we will see many who could have chosen to be elsewhere have come back early from a meeting or vacation. There are others who are so sad, lonely, or distraught that the emotional toll of coming to church is huge.

Don’t take them for granted. The preaching task is too important. There is never a good excuse not to handle the proclamation of God’s word with great thought, preparation, and integrity.

Important Events

Several years ago, Fred Craddock told the story of a young woman who attended a service at which he was a guest preacher.  She told him that when she anticipated that a sermon might make her feel uncomfortable or call her to change something about her living, she brought her three small children into the sanctuary with her.  She said the distraction usually worked.

On another occasion, he asked a young visitor, a 20 something, about his first visit to a church.

He asked, “Do you remember ever being in church before today?”

The young man replied, “I’m sure this is my very first time.”

“Well, how was it?”

“A bit scary.”

“Scary?”

“Yes, I found it a bit frightening.”

“How so?”

“The whole service seemed so important.  I try to avoid events that are important; they get inside my head and stay with me.  I don’t like that. To be honest I prefer parties.”

“Then will you come back?”

After a long pause, the young man answered, “Yes.”

A Day Ruined by Jesus

As a preacher, to start the year with new resolve, new hope, and new vision is to remember that the subject matter is so important that it is life changing. It is possible that the one who listens can be radically affected in relationships, in ethical standards, and in moral decisions.

As you step into this new year, preach like you know that they almost didn’t come.  There will always be resistance.  Who wants to be disturbed by the truth?

  • There are 1300 children killed and 6000 children wounded by gunfire every year.
  • Twelve million children go to school every day in clothes given to them and thirteen million children go to bed hungry every night.

Who wants to have a nice day ruined by Jesus?

Listen to him:

If you have two coats;

go the second mile;

turn the other cheek;

if you love only those who love you;

forgive seventy times seven;

love your enemies;

your will be done on earth as it is in heaven;

I was hungry, naked, a stranger, in prison;

you fool, where is all your stuff now;

God is kind even to the ungrateful and wicked;

do not be anxious about tomorrow.

Improving the acoustics Transforming Mission

New Resolve, New Hope, New Vision

As difficult as it is to hear, it is extremely important to listen. Preach the good news.  Sometimes, Jesus gets into your head and your heart and stays with you.  I think that is what Paul is referring to in his letter to the Romans. “So how can they call on someone they don’t have faith in? And how can they have faith in someone they haven’t heard of? And how can they hear without a preacher?”

Step into this new year with new resolve, new hope, and new vision. Remember that the subject matter is so important that it is life changing.

Since I’m handing out advice, what does it mean to start a new year as a leader of a church, a congregation, a community of faith with new resolve, new hope, and new vision? Again, it is Paul in his letter to the Romans, “Welcome one other, in the same way that Christ has welcomed you. All for God’s glory.”

Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk

It is my opinion that we have told ourselves that we must walk the walk and that our living is our witness, to the detriment of telling people who we are and why we do what we do. Without giving testimony with our words, we are telling only half the truth. It’s not enough to walk the walk. Someone has to talk the talk.

What would happen if you and I began to tell how God, in Jesus, has made a difference in our lives? What would happen if we came alongside of persons, in the community as well as the church, created a space for conversations, developed meaningful relationships, practiced our faith of loving as we have been loved, inviting people to engage in developing their faith, not with easy answers, but to become who God created them to be?

I believe people would begin to discover how they could make a difference in their families, in their employment, and in their communities.

Improve the Acoustics

As we step into this new year, let’s improve the acoustics.  Let’s speak more boldly and clearly the truth of God’s love.  Let’s preach like we know they almost didn’t come. And let’s tell how God, in Jesus, has made a difference in our lives. That is my resolve, hope, and vision for this new year.

O God, give us the words that give witness to your Word in our speaking and in our living.  Amen

 

 

Through the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, we have focused on becoming aware of God’s presence in our everyday living. We are continuing that focus during the Season of Lent. Ash Wednesday is February 14.

Lent provides an excellent opportunity to become more aware of God’s presence in our lives. Through self-examination and reflection, Lent is a time of discipline, which leads to self-denial and acts of service. I am writing today to invite you to join me on a Lenten journey. Read more

Over the past several months we have heard a lot of rhetoric in regard to nuclear warheads, the testing of missiles, shooting warplanes out of the sky. Areas in the world have been identified for attack. The words being tossed back and forth between North Korea and The United States are disturbing at the very least.

Personally, not knowing exactly what to do, I decided to pray specifically for our president and for our governmental leaders. I have been praying for insight and wisdom, as well as level-headedness. This past week, while asking God to give me the words I needed for my prayers, I remembered a story told by Fred Craddock.

Read more

“Bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing that comes from heaven.”-Ephesians 1:3

Fred Craddock once told a parable about a man who moved into a cottage equipped with a stove and simple furnishings. As the sharp edge of winter cut across the landscape, the cottage grew cold as did its occupant. He went out back and pulled a few boards off the house to kindle the fire. The fire was warm, but the house seemed as cold as before. More boards came off for a larger fire to warm the now even colder house, which in return required an even larger fire, demanding more boards. In a few days the man cursed the weather, cursed the house, cursed the stove, and moved away. Read more