Events – Folder

Time to Celebrate!

pastor wesBy Rev. Wes Mullins, Senior Pastor

There are so many great things happening around our church that I wanted to take a moment to celebrate some of them with you!

  • Today, we will be receiving nine new members!  That is an increase of almost 10% to our current total membership…and we already have at least five more people who are interested in becoming members.  What a blessing!
  • Over the past week, we have had so many donations for our annual yard sale (scheduled for June 1st and 2nd this year) that we are out of space to put things until after In Remembrance concludes.  If more items show up, we will have to go ahead and get our storage unit delivered three months early!  I like having these kinds of “problems!”
  • After getting to meet our retreat speaker, Rev. Elder Ken Martin, last week in worship, we now have 58 people signed up to attend retreat.  The absolute capacity of our retreat facility is 72, so we only have 14 spaces left!  When we selected this location a year ago, we never dreamed we would fill it up!  God is great!
  • Our In Remembrance cast is already in rehearsals, and they are the strongest cast we have had yet!  They showed up to the first rehearsal already having learned the music.  We can’t wait to see what they sound like after six more weeks of singing together!
  • Our Podcast is continuing to gain more and more new listeners.  To date, we have had over 1300 downloads of our sermons in the United States.  Outside the U.S.A., other countries with high amounts of listeners currently include China, Belize, and Germany.
  • Our new website has been up and running for just over a week, and it is getting way more traffic than our previous site!  Furthermore, just this week we added a donate feature, allowing people to make donations online using PayPal.  We are grateful for a technological world that allows folks from all over the world to support our ministry!
  • Thanks to our new website and our new email system having all our announcements available for you, we will be reducing the size of the announcements in our printed bulletins which will reduce the amount of paper we use.  This will allow us to better care for our environment by decreasing our use of the large sheets of bulletin paper by well over 3,000 sheets per year!
  • Finally, in case you haven’t noticed, our weekly Sunday attendance is up by about 50% from this time last year.  The Spirit is moving in this place, and I am grateful that all of us are here to share in that together!

With all of this good news, I just want to say how grateful I am to be the Pastor of this growing and vibrant church.  God is truly working in and through us, and I just want to encourage you to join me in celebrating all that God is doing and in anticipating all the things God still has in store for us!

A Primer on My Story

Rev. Elder Ken Martin Retreat SpeakerRev. Elder Ken Martin, 2012 Retreat Speaker

I have always believed that I came into this world knowing why I am here. My parents and grandparents loved telling everyone that at age three I announced I was going to be a preacher, at age four I was preaching to the chickens as I fed them and at age five I was taking the ones I thought were saved to the rain barrel at the corner of the house and baptizing them!

Growing up in a conservative, evangelical Southern Baptist culture in rural Mississippi in the 1950’s, the realization at puberty that I was attracted to other males was devastating. The two most powerful experiential realities of my life—that I was meant to be a minister and that I was homosexual—felt irreconcilable. By the time I went to college to prepare for ministry the tension was already unbearable. I was licensed to preach by the Southern Baptist Convention at age 18 and pastored churches throughout my college years. After my sophomore year I married a wonderful woman, hoping my orientation would change or that I could successfully hide it.

After college and two years in the military, serving in Southeast Asia, my wife, young son and I moved to Louisville, KY, where I entered Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. While there I realized that I could no longer preach the truth and live a lie. I became deeply depressed and suicidal. It was then, through the only single event in my life that I cannot explain except as a literal miracle, I found a copy of The Lord Is My Shepherd And He Knows I’m Gay by Reverend Troy Perry. Shortly thereafter I drove to Chicago and found Good Shepherd Parish MCC. I was 30 years old and for the first time, during that first worship service, I felt at peace. My sexuality and spirituality were reconciled and I knew where and how I would spend the rest of my life.

After returning home and coming out to everyone I knew, and with a divorce in progress, I returned to Chicago in the spring of 1974, broken, lost and feeling totally alone in the world. Good Shepherd Parish gathered me in, helped me heal and loved me back to life. In November of that same year I was elected the church’s pastor. Following my installation service, I was shaking hands and looked again into deep blue eyes that had been distracting me for weeks. I remember going home that night and praying, “God, if this is not your will you need to stop me now because I am making plans for that man’s life!” I have been looking into those same eyes now for 37 years. Tom Cole has been my partner, lover, friend and biggest supporter.

From Chicago our journey led us to Los Angeles, where I served as pastor of MCC in the Valley, North Hollywood, 1982-1989. Then after working as an HIV Educator and Counselor for the HIV Healthcare Center in West Hollywood, CA, we moved to Austin, TX in 1993. I served as pastor of MCC Austin, 1993-2006, and began as an MCC Elder on January 1, 2007.

This year, 2012, I am celebrating 50 years as a Christian minister and pastor.

 

My Latest Spiritual Epiphany

kyle music ministerBy Kyle Jensen, Director of Music Ministries

My spiritual journey at our church started in 2007, and ever since, my theology and my truths have been put through the Refiner’s fire time and again.  I think one of the greatest strengths of our church is that we don’t tell people what to believe and what to think; we don’t judge or condemn people for where they are on their spiritual journey.  So, today I want to risk and connect with you by sharing the new places my faith has brought me, and I welcome you to do the same with someone from church!

Recently, the church staff read If the Church Were Christian, by Phillip Gulley.  As many of you know from reading Gulley’s books, he can turn your world upside-down and force you to ask very difficult questions, and this book didn’t disappoint!  From the first chapter, Gulley dove right in questioning the divinity of Jesus, or more accurately, he questioned the church’s habit of using Jesus’ divinity as the sole foundation of our faith.  Frankly, even as I read, I refused to even entertain the notion that Jesus was anything less than the divine Son of God.  Then I started writing the script for In Remembrance.

Every year our Good Friday show about the last week of Jesus’ life has focused on a different aspect of the story.  This year we present the idea that love can truly overcome anything.  Thus our tag-line: “There’s only one love in the end.”  For many of us, this is what we have been taught our whole lives, but what does it look like if we actually believe and follow it?  What does it look like to live this fully?  If we were to do that, we’d find that God’s love for us overcomes everything—war, murder, suicide, depression, loneliness, greed, rape, injustice…everything!  (Romans 8:35-39)

Since God’s love overcomes everything, then why do I keep trying to rest the entire basis of my faith on the “bloody sacrifice” of a Man-Who-Was-Also-God?  This is a question I have been asking myself ever since reading If the Church Were Christian.  My latest epiphany moment came when I realized that while the cross is the supreme act of love, I do not believe it was primarily intended as an act of salvation.  I didn’t need to be saved because God’s love had saved me long before the evil in our world put Jesus on that cross.

So if I don’t need to be saved, then I don’t really need Jesus to be divine.  He didn’t come to live a life in which he simply rested on his laurels as divine anyway.  He wasn’t some sort of Divine trust-fund child.  The question of his divinity has always been something his followers cared more about than he did.  Now I’m not saying that Jesus is not divine, I’m saying his divinity doesn’t matter, that it’s not the point.  Once I gave up my need to live in the shameful shadow of the dead Son of God, I was free to see Christ’s story for what it truly is: a story of life and love!  It’s not about Jesus’ divinity, and it’s not about what happens to me once I’m dead.  It’s about living a life that counts—a life like Jesus’.

So what would it look like if we all stopped defending doctrines about Christ and lived a life like Christ’s?  The answer to this question could change our world!  Today I invite each of you to consider what it would mean to live a life filled with Jesus.  I invite you to shed shame and live a life of power and integrity like Jesus did.  Because, if the Church were Christian we’d all live as Jesus lived!