Wednesday, June 29, 2005


I grew up with the view that missions was something done overseas and evangelism is something we do here in the states. I also thought missions was a program of the church, just a part of the overall purpose of the local church.

But as I begin to read and think and dream about the future, I see the faulty presumptions in this model. I believe our outreach muscles have atrophied as we have sent out paid missionaries into distant countries and worried about furthering (growing) the church in the local area. We do a good job of "doing church" and teaching about parts of Christianity, but we don't feel a need to be missional in our way of life. Clergy have been seen as the only qualified ones to reach out but the truth is the clergy's reach is limited in a world that is put off by anyone working with a church. Just mention you are a minister in a haircut conversation and you will get one of two reactions: the end of any conversation or a confession of what the person has done wrong and wishes he or she could do better. The hands of God's kingdom are the people of the church. That is where his mission and kingdom are furthered. What are ministers currently doing to promote or inhibit the mission of the each member of the conversation?

Where does mission need to happen? Well, if African churches are now sending missionaries to bring Christ to America, I think that is a good sign of where God's kingdom needs to be furthered. Mission is not an overseas term, or a program of the church. Rather, mission is the lifeblood of the church and we are to join in God's mission as he has been so instrumental in his mission for us. He sent his son into our world to bring salvation. Now we must continue this practice. Let's die to our dreams for people coming to our church and begin to bring people into God's kingdom however that can be accomplished.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Wisdom of the cross?

As I work on my upcoming sermon, so many thoughts are going through my head about what a church that follows the wisdom of the cross looks like. What is the wisdom of the cross? Christ commanded his followers to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him? Is this the message we are preaching in churches?

Somehow I think we leave this part out of our new member recruitment and baptismal training. Do we train people to view the world with the lens of the cross after they come up out of the waters of baptism or are we happy enough with their eternal assurance that we forget to remind them they are new creations and are to live like it? Rather than always trying to gain people by talking of how God blesses and gives good things, we have to remember that Jesus preached an of an upside down logic that demanded suffering and persecution for the sake of His name. We have to remind people that the path is difficult. We, who grow up with the American dream, must be reminded that we are not a part of the world who seeks to be successful in salaries and toys, rather we are successful when we die to ourselves and are crucified daily.

How are our churches being crucified daily? Are we trying to seek power in society by legislating morality and supporting political candidates that will force non-Christians to live the way we think they should or are we accepting our fleeting role in society and moving to the margins happy to live in the place God has always wanted us to be. We can't keep seeking power as churches, we must die to ourselves and reach the hurting and sick. Christ didn't try to regain his dignity when he was on the cross by coming off and slaughtering his opponents, rather he died to himself and knew that God would raise him in a short time. We, as people and churches, must do the same. Let us die today in the hope that God will raise us soon.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Inside the Gates

I spent Saturday night inside the gates of a prison. First Colony put on a Christian concert for the inmates and it was quite an experience.

It was such a strange feeling to have the high security outer gate to the prison close and lock behind me as I walked towards the auditorium where the concert was going to be held. I expected to walk in with others from the church waiting for me, but I walked in alone only to have 4 inmates dressed in all white open the door to the auditorium for me. I don't think I have ever been more nervous in my life. I went inside and found the group from First Colony and sat with them. As I looked around, I realized that there were about 200 empty chairs waiting for inmates that would be all around us. As the men in white walked in, I began to realize that there would only be 172 people present without restraint (20 First Colony members, 2 prison guards, and 150 inmates with untold crimes and histories).

An incredible thing happened this night. I sat beside many inmates and got to shake their hands and learn a bit of their pasts and about their homes and families. These were men like any other you might meet. Maybe even more grateful and gracious. All had sinned and committed crimes, but we all needed to know this Jesus and how he could save us from the bondage we all knew too well. They praised God and prayed out to him in a way I had never seen before in all of my years in churches and youth rallies. These were broken men who couldn't even conceive of their own righteousness without the blood of Jesus. It's too bad that many of us out of prison have misconceptions about how good we are. If we could only see our sin like these inmates, maybe we could praise God and thank him as much as they.

As the concert ended, these men were so grateful for us just coming to spend time with them. They applauded loudly for the band and could not stop saying thanks to us. As they filed out, I stood in the hallway shaking each of their hands and looking into their eyes. Each one of them looked at me with a gratitude I had never seen before and with words of love. Now I know why Jesus came to free the prisoner and not to brush shoulders with the spiritual elitists. He did so because the sick know they need him and will get on board to do great things.

It was an experience I will never forget. As I showed my ID to the lady at the gate and walked out to the freedom I know so well, I felt strange about walking out for these men were no different from me. We all are in bondage and wanting to be free, yet I was able to leave the gate. It made me long for the day when the judgment comes and God sees my ID and reads the words, Christian: paid by Jesus' blood. That is what I long for and what I hope to never forget.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Beginning the Missional Conversation

One day I want to write a book. It has become a dream of mine. And as I read more missional literature and become convinced that it is the heart of God for the church today, I hope to write a book that can continue the missional conversation especially as it pertains to Churches of Christ with the benefits and setbacks that presents.

As I read the book Confident Witness - Changing World, a book put out by the Gospel and Our Culture Series, I sensed the challenge we have ahead in the section written by Jon M. Huegli. He quotes Kennon Callahan and Lesslie Newbigin to help people get a sense of the need for this conversation. They write,

"The day of the churched culture is over. The day of the mission field has come. In such a setting, the church's role is to bridge the gap between God's kingdom and the context of the culture in which it finds itself." - Kennon Callahan
"Ours is not as we once imagined a secular society, it is a pagan society and its paganism having been born out of the rejection of Christianity is far more resistant to the gospel than the pre-Christian paganism with which cross-cultural missions have been familiar. Here, surely, is the most challenging missionary frontier of our can we be missionaries to this modern world, we who are ourselves part of this modern world?"

I believe this to be true and though this challenge is difficult, we have a God who is bigger than the challenge. We cannot cross this chasm alone. God will have to be the key player as he always is. As we start this conversation of missional faithfulness, we must remember this is God's kingdom that he is building, not our kingdom to build. We are to receive the kingdom, not construct it with our rationality and goals. God is the architect. Let's have fun praying about the blueprint and how we can enter each room in time. God bring your kingdom and we will receive it and enter into it.

Maybe these are the beginning thoughts of a book someday, or maybe it is just a conversation that will transform the church to the faithfulness God is always calling it to. Either way, it is exciting and I invite you to join me on the journey.

What does it mean to be missionally faithful in the church?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Post Shorter Than Psalm 119

This morning I read Psalm 119 I believe for the first time all the way through. As I read, I wondered, why do we not have such a longing for righteousness and for keeping God's commands? Almost every section of Psalm 119 focuses on the incredible Word of God. We have lost this wonder for God's Word. It is a book we leave around our homes and leave at church every now and then, but when was the last time you saw Scripture as a treasure?

Psalm 119:72 says, "The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold." Even as a preacher who will need Scripture weekly to come up with sermons, I don't have this awe for God's Word. I have always thought it is important and needs to be read as a part of the spiritual disciplines, but never a treasure.

What if there was no Bible? What if there was no record of God's words and actions in the past? I can't even imagine, yet I take for granted the chance I have daily to search his Scriptures and, as Psalm 119 reminds us, memorize and meditate on His Word.

Blessed be the Word of the Lord!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

As I look out the window this morning...

What a beautiful day! What a blessing it is to be a child of the creator who gives the grace of a new day just as beautiful as the grace of his mercy that is new every morning. I don't know how unbelievers live day in day out with the unforgiven debt that weighs on their hearts daily. What great love the father has lavished on us.

Let us not forget to be so gracious with those around us today. We need not become the man in one of Jesus' parables who is forgiven much but fails to forgive the small debt that he lent out to another. It seems that every shortcoming we find in other people, is just a microcosm of the great shortcomings our father in heaven puts up with from us.

This thought has come with my sermon in mind. If we are so foolish not to believe in the wisdom of the cross, that true wisdom is found in the seeming upside down logic of Christ's teachings, then we have it all wrong. If we don't believe and live into the belief that you must die to live and that the poor in spirit receive the Kingdom of God, then how can we ever accept the knowledge of God sending his son to earth in order to die for our sins. That is the ultimate upside down logic that saves us. What a beautiful day!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Walking in step with the Spirit

It feels so good to have the Spirit work in your life so closely that you hear him speak so clearly. In every preparation for every sermon I have ever preached there has been a moment of uncertainty replaced by several moments, minutes or even hours of guidance from the Holy Spirit. It's one of those moments in which you can't stop writing because incredible thoughts which you are otherwise unable to come up with start to come into your mind.

Last night I sat in bed and had one of those moments. As I decided to speak on the wisdom of the cross in 1 Cor. 1, I had so many thoughts go through my head about what God wants to be said. I don't believe this message to be a direct rebuke of anything at FC, but I do believe it is applicable to so many in our churches today. I thought about going to sleep without writing anything down, but the deluge of insights would not stop to let me go to sleep. So at about 1:00am I got up to write down everything that was given to me. What a blessing it is to have a God who still lives and speak through his people today.

Continue to speak Lord and I will listen!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Preaching at First Colony

What to preach? How does one go about the process of figuring out what one will preach while preaching to a church as an intern. I get to speak on any topic once on Wednesday night, July 6.

The place of an intern in a church is interesting. Especially a preaching intern. Youth and children's programs are in the peak season and hire interns to help them with an impossible load, but a preaching intern does not face the same situation. I am not needed, yet welcomed onto a staff in somewhat of a strange role. I am a part of the team, but my decision power is limited. My main task is to help the church while not setting any fires to be left for others to extinguish when I leave. So, in picking a passage, I don't want to start any fires, I want to be relevant, but I don't want to be so "relevant" (harsh about an area the church needs to grow) that my ministry is ineffective for the rest of the summer. For instance, bringing up missional concepts in a church whose leadership might not be ready to go there, could start a fire.

Ultimately, I must speak what God has for me to speak because otherwise I am speaking my own foolish words of human wisdom. "1 Corinthians 1:18 says, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." Surely this is the truth.

It's easy know what you're preaching in a series, but in a one time shot, it's sometimes hard to know what needs to be said.

God, answer my prayer with the wisdom to know what your message is because surely you know what needs to be heard. This is my prayer. In Jesus' name, the one whose name I look forward to proclaiming, Amen.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

My Visit to Learn About Prison Ministry

My eyes have been opened a bit. All these years of being in churches and never once have I learned of anything to do with prisoners. And let me tell you, the harvest is RIPE, but the workers are FEW. God is working in prisons in incredible ways. Why hasn't the church made a priority of touching these people? We are sent to make sinners free from their pasts, why not prisoners?

I almost even began to believe that though it was not good these people are in prison, it might just be God's perfect plan to show them the truth of God's grace that reaches beyond any sin one can commit. Amazing stories come out of these jails about men and women who have no fathers, but find THE father in heaven. God is good we just have to remember not to get in his way.

Also, are we, as churches, truly willing to be safe places for ex-offenders (yes, even sex offenders) to attend a be apart of a community of faith? How would we welcome these people if they came into our churches? Would we put our faith in them and in what God can do through them or would we be too worried about our children that we wouldn't let them near? Money seems to be a safe way to keep people from close relationship. We want to help people financially at times which is good, but sometimes I think it is a safe way to help without the strings of a real relationship with someone different than us.

This workshop was good, but it reminded me of some of my poorer experiences in Churches of Christ. I have been guilty at times of arguing for Churches of Christ and our positions in the "Lord's Church." As I sat in on classes and lectures I sensed a bit of this exclusivist bend. The last thing prisoners need is an indoctrination into a community that will only let you belong if you believe in uniformity with them. Rather than the behave, believe, belong model we have lived by in our churches, we need to be a community that makes sure people belong before they have to believe and behave. Sure, there are probably prison ministries out there that teach hurtful theology that is wrong, but if we can work with another denomination to further the work of Christ on earth in the prison ministry or anywhere else for that matter, we must do so as long as Christ is preached.

My eyes have been opened and my ears touched. The question is, "How will my legs and arms carry out the purpose God has called all of us to: sharing in God's mission to the lost?" That is the question we must be about.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Going to the prison

I am writing late tonight because I will be out of the office for the next two days getting to know a little about prison ministry. That makes me think, what does God truly believe about prisoners? It's easy from this side of prison bars to choose to believe that inmates only choose God out of their lack of any other hope other than heaven, but could it be that prison ministries are God's way of getting to people who would otherwise miss out on the good news of His grace?

It's always been hard for me to actually consider Hitler or other infamous people going to heaven if they repented near their death. But really, it has to be my lack of faith in Christ's power to redeem that closes my thinking if I am to condemn such people. Why do I hope, like Jonah, that God will not redeem some people who have caused so much harm to others? What is it in me that finds it hard for me to see God being able to do that? Is God that small? What other perimeters do I put around God's omnipotent grace? Perhaps this weekend will be a time of answering some of these questions.

God is big enough and merciful enough to bring any sinner to heaven and I must continually thank him for that because my sin is no better than the sin of anyone else. If anyone deserves death, it is me.

Thank you God for your amazing grace that covers me and every person that I currently believe to be too far out for your grace. Change my heart this weekend. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
After reading the blogs of Mike Cope and others in the preaching community, I thought what could be a better way of journaling and conversing about God's work in the world than to publish my thoughts on the internet. It's a bit scary at first to think anyone can access my private thoughts and dreams, but as a young man feeling called to the pulpit this must become natural.

I am happily married to my wife, Holly, for almost a year. She is a spiritual champ and the love of my life. I have a brother and two parents and life is good. This summer I am interning at the First Colony Church of Christ in Houston as an adult and college ministry intern.

As a student at ACU, I have grown to understand more of what it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ. The local church is still God's hands and feet in this world, though now I see after several years of college that it does not fully encompass his kingdom. As I read missional literature and begin to pray and dream about how God will use me to bring the good news to a church someday, I realize that mission is what we are called to. It is not just a program in the church. It is the lifeblood. It is God's purpose for us in the world. I am excited about the future of the church and hope that this forum is a chance to dream and pray with others in churches and in the world. May God bless the future of this blog through whatever means he chooses.

Welcome to the inner thoughts of Collin Packer.