On the Road Again

Dr. Marvin J. Hudson, Intentional Interim Ministry Specialist,  was appointed May 28, 2015 by Bishop Hayes at the Oklahoma Annual Conference to serve as IIMS pastor at the Barnard Memorial
United Methodist Church in Holdenville, Oklahoma.

Dr. Marvin J. Hudson,  “I consider it a great joy to be appointed to work with Barnard Memorial UMC. The community is full of creative and capable people who will do great things, I am sure. I look forward to our shared journey of faith and ministry.“

Barnard is located in the loving rolling hills of southeast Oklahoma, southeast of Seminole and it was established in 1905.  


Transitions and Passages

This image (source unknown) sums up what both pastors and people have to remember during any transitions.  In some groups the clergy itinerate moving from one charge (church) to another as placed by superiors.  I some groups a clergy is called by the congregation to come and assume the leadership in a location.  Whatever the model, this principle from 1 Corinthians 3:7 is a reminder.  
Churches need leaders in the pews who participate in seeking God's will, who pray for God's guidance and who involve themselves in fulfilling the mission of the Christian life in community. Churches need pastors who will teach, guide, direct, inspire and encourage in a loving and grace filled manner.  One person in agriculture put it this way, "Church people are like a herd of sheep. I am their shepherd and I care for them, keep them safe, plan good for their future and teach them.  I leave the making  more sheep to them."
It is a good thing to remember that no one person can go into any situation and "fix" it.  Major consultants indicate they, for all the thousands they are paid, are seldom listened to and less than a quarter of their clients actually implement the solutions suggested.  The desire to be active in ministry, mission, and discipleship has to be born in the hearts of the people on the pew, they have to be released to follow that vision, trained as needed and then feed regularly a diet of good spiritual food.
Don't wait for the Rev. Bandage Who Will Fix All Our Problems to unload in your town, stir up the gift God has already placed in the hearts of his people, and make it possible for God to work in your heart, in your town and in your church.
---Marilyn A. Hudson, dedicated to all those moving to minister in new settings.



Three Keys to the Future from Dr. Hudson

As a church engages itself in the process of re-thinking church, there is an awareness of many ideas, obstacles and dead ends. It is not an easy task.  It is akin to pausing at the edge of a vast wasteland with mountains in the distance.  You know you want to be ‘there’, but it is not clear just how to get from ‘here’ to there.  

There are always leaders and hopers who will be hard at work trying to deal with such realities.  There will always be those who resist change.  No matter what master plans from other churches are reviewed, there always seems to be three common elements.  These three keys spell the successful future for a congregation if they have the courage.

Key One: Spiritual Direction 
A church has to have a clear understanding of what their foundational ideology is or they will be like a lifeboat adrift on a turbulent sea of societal change.  The Bible calls it being blown here and there by the contrary or competing wind of doctrine.  No matter how we choose to act out that spiritual conviction, having it firmly enmeshed in our lives as the yardstick we measure success on is crucial.  We have to believe in something, know what we believe and what it means to live out what we believe.  There must be clear spiritual direction and vitality in a church if it is to grow and be in mission and service.

Key Two:  Unity of Purpose
There has to be a group of people who stand united behind the identified purpose of the church.  The Bible expresses repeatedly that unity of spirit, mind, and vision are part of the work of God among a people.  The pronounced presence of disunity, fracture, and fragmentation is evidence that the ‘mind of Christ’ is not at work among His people.  As children, we learned that we could express our views in a class election, but then we had to unite behind the decision made and act as a cohesive whole.  I heard a children’s story one time about a small town trying to pick a giant turnip. One person tried and failed.  Another person tried and failed.  The solution came when EVERYONE got involved and pulled the giant turnip out of the ground.  Sometimes it is true; everything we need to know we really did learn in Kindergarten.  Unity of purpose is a must for a church to achieve its true purpose.

Key Three: Committed Achievement
Perhaps you have witnessed a group make a decision in a meeting, shake hands and then leave, and never return to the subject of the decision.  A major key to success is a two-part step.  There must be the act of decision-making but then there must be the intentional follow through to accomplish the goal contained within the decision. 

Many churches across the country go into each New Year with unfulfilled goals of action plans never achieved through committed work.  Those goals and plans are like the ponderous chains of Marley that Dickens wrote about and rattle in the background of every meeting and event.  A church and its people must be committed to achieving what they plan.

These questions (among others) should guide us as we think about what we do, how we do it and why we do what we do.  Do we see the spiritual signposts on our journey and follow their direction?  Do we strive to find and keep unity of purpose in all we do as a church?  Are we committed to not merely planning but achieving what we plan?

Dr. Marvin

I pray that as you contemplate these ideas, that you ask God to guide and direct everyone as they work to find the future of your church.

Top of Form
Bottom of Form

The Original Optimist Club

Most of us grew up hearing about the various civic service organizations of our American communities. Jaycees, Lions, Rotary, and others were all familiar names on signage at the entrance to many of the towns we grew up in. Often, we were not fully certain what these groups did, but they were a part of the fabric of our lives and somehow a reassuring part of the normal order. One of the groups that I was always fascinated with was the “Optimists” civic group.
I confess that I knew little about them, but what a great name. It suggested to me in early years a group of individuals who got together on a regular basis to share their optimism with one another. Could it be better than that? I suspect that there is more to it than that rather naive thought. I do however still imagine that in their choice of a name, they reflect a creedal commitment to a philosophical viewpoint. They are committed to approaching the issues of community from an optimistic stance. Someone may correct me on that, but that is somewhat beside the point. I really want to point to what I think was the original optimist club. 
The attitude of the early church was that Christ had provided for something wonderful as a response to the reality of life. Through Christ, redemption, reconciliation, forgiveness, and freedom were now a present reality for “Whosoever will”. This optimism radiated within every message shared by the Apostles. Peter offered the hope of salvation and the infilling of the Holy Spirit to anyone who wished it on the day of Pentecost.

Paul and Silas were so optimistic that they could sing hymns at midnight while chained in a jail cell. Paul could optimistically declare that “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.” He could also affirm that “Whatever may be the promises of God to us, in Jesus they already have their yes.” I am thinking that we could use a dose of that kind of optimism in this time when it seems that we are surrounded by so much negativity in our society.

What a gift to be optimistic when we are tempted to believe that everything is in some kind of mortal decline. Is it possible that in such a time as this, we may benefit from hearing the assurance of our faith once again that no matter what; our Lord will never “Leave us nor forsake us?” I suspect so. I encourage you to be of good cheer. God is faithful!

Be an Optimist!


The Perfect Church

Scan any catalog and there will be several dozen books from authors telling you how to build a perfect church.  What is a perfect church?

This is a question that is prone to numerous responses. A lot of tradition, experience, needs, and culture go into the answering of it for most people.  Some will even consult the Bible and come to some view of what the 'church' is supposed to be in those pages.

For me, the perfect church is simple.

People coming together as a group to worship God, to learn about God, and share with others God.

No big buildings, no high budget programs, and no bells and whistles. Just people living their lives and sharing their faith in meaningful ways.

No stress, no tension, and no pride. Just people following in the footsteps of Jesus to change their world. People more concerned about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and caring for those unloved than about their own form of "who will be first in the Kingdom, Jesus?"

People getting up every morning filled with a passion for God, motivated by a need to be the hands and feet of Christ, and informed by a dynamic personal faith relationsjip with a God of love, courage, and peace.

As I said, it is simple .


The Church Year and Spiritual Growth

The Church Year and Spiritual Growth

I have often found that persons are unfamiliar with the concept of the “Church year”.  In many congregations, including Methodism, we see and take for granted certain practices without fully understanding them.   

The practices I am referring to include the changing colors on the altar, the pulpit and lectern, as well as choir robes and other features.  Also, we often see or hear terms that we may not fully understand; Advent,  Lent, Eastertide, Kingdom tide, and others may not translate meaningfully. There are even special days that may seem strange, such as All Saints Day, Christ the King Sunday,  Epiphany, Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday..  What is it all about?

The Church year is about reliving the life of Christ in an ongoing seasonal manner.  The year begins with Advent when the promised coming of the Messiah is remembered through specific readings, music, and acts of worship. Advent climaxes with the Christmas celebration of the nativity. The year proceeds with Epiphany in a manner that walks the believer through the public appearance of Jesus, his life and ministry. With the arrival of the Lenten season believers recall his passion, death. The climax here is Easter when we experience the resurrection of the Christ. From Easter we move towards Pentecost and the birth of the Church.  The balance of the year explores the important themes of what it means to be the body of Christ in our world.  And in general terms, the cycle begins again as we approach Advent.

So, as they say, “What’s the point?”  I believe that correctly understood, the Church year can be a valuable tool to allow us to grow spiritually as we meditate upon and study the major movements of our faith.  The early church understood the Christian faith as both an organized set of beliefs (credens) and a vital condition of the heart (fiducia) .  One played into the other.  

We too may find that by reliving the seasons of the year with their focus upon the Gospel message, our own faith will be more completely informed and more deeply felt.
As we approach the Advent season, be on the lookout for resources that will be displayed around the church to aid you and your family in mining this treasure trove of the Church year.




Doubtless, many of us, if not all, have had the experience of beginning a day (or even a period of life) with the lackluster sense of having no inspiration about the routine facing us. 

 It is one more day of doing something that is just pretty tedious. There is no challenge, no excitement, and no fulfillment on the horizon at all.  Sometimes the time window involved can be shockingly long.

Years ago, I worked with a fellow who shared with me a startling personal observation.  He had been employed for thirteen years doing a particular job and had never enjoyed a day of it.  At the time, I found that troubling. I still do.  I do not like the idea of feeling trapped in a role that brings no sense of fulfillment at all.  It is a painful thought to consider that one might be engaged so long in such a manner as my friend.  Yet, I suspect that it is not all that rare.

Do you know someone that gets up each day and simply plods though the process because they feel that is their only option?  It sounds kind of bleak, does it not?  Is there nothing one could do about it?  I have known people who “live for the weekend” as a way of coping.  They endure the tedium and see Friday as an escape window.  For the next two days, they try to cram all the living into forty-eight hours that they can and then it is Monday again.  This may be better than nothing, but not much. 

I wonder if it would be better to consider other options.  What if we looked for ways to make our life count throughout the week?  Be a part of some group or activity that brings vitality to our routine.   What is we took a class that was completely impractical?  Classes that are not job related, but allow us to paint a picture, read a book or explore a hobby? What if we joined a club or civic group that allowed us to experience fulfillment and friendship on a regular basis?   What if we volunteered for a service project or a mission trip that called us out of our routine and allowed us to experience something radically fresh?   

I have found that inspiration comes not from routine, but from the extraordinary in life.  Often engaging the extraordinary requires us to leave our rut and dare to do something different.  Just a thought.


A Green and Living Thing

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord...he is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." -- Psalm 1.1-3

In recent years, drought has threatened many areas and loomed high on the scale of fears that might destroy lives and communities.  In some spots lakes and bodies of water shrunk to levels unseen for decades.  Communities drowned to form sporting lakes rose ghostlike as the water levels lowered.   Where once green and lush grasses and trees flourished there were acres of sand and blowing dirt.

In the modern American church there is a lot of discussion of the lack of growth, the aging congregations, and the lack of real evangelistic growth of the gospel being preached. There is increasing tension between the demands of the Gospel and the demands of the Culture. Lines of faith and spirituality blur.  Traditional values fall to the dictates of modern life, growing secularism, and a worldview that stems less from the Bible than popular opinion.

The church is scurrying around seeking relevance, community engagement, and social justice as primary goals.  Yet, we are like trees without leaves, bearing little fruit and desperately seeking something more than the dry sands of modern society.

Perhaps, like the tree in the verses, we struggle in a dry and barren land because we listen to the counsel of the wicked, we stand by and say nothing as faith is mocked, and we no longer delight in the law of the Lord.

The message is simple: when we find delight in the law of the Lord, when we do not listen to the advice of those who do not know God and we do not mock faith, we are trees that grow lush and productive fed by the streams of spiritual water.   To live in relationship with God is to be part of a green and living thing.  When we stop seeking relationships and when we stop drinking from that living water of spiritual vitality we petrify. 

Better to seek to send our roots searching for that fresh and flowing water of spiritual relationship.  Then, and only then, does our faith become a green and living thing.


Living In Interesting Times

One of the blessings of living in Oklahoma is the relatively tranquil life we share.  Yes, we have had our crises, but compared to what seems to be going on around the world, I think we are living in a good place.  We feel secure.  We trust our neighbors.   We do face bad weather of all sorts, but we do not live in anxiety about mad bombers generally.  Grant you, we were among the first to live through the tough event of a bombing terrorist.  It has occurred to me over time that much of what brought us through that time were the values that we shared in common as Oklahomans.

Those Oklahoma values are the point of this column.  I am convinced that we must not take our heritage and values for granted.  They bind us together in a community that makes this state a treasure among the fifty states of our union.  My spouse and I have lived in a variety of locales over the years, and I can say with no exaggeration that there is no place that I know of where I would rather live. 

I reject the image of a day when these qualities that make us Oklahoman' s would cease to be predominate as the norm of our communities. 

Having said that, our values need to be nurtured and defended.  They need to be nurtured within our families; instilled and passed on from generation to generation.  That requires intentionality on the part of citizens and families.  They need to be defended. 

Much in our culture is contrary to, and even hostile towards, the traditional values that make this a great state.  The message if often that we need to fall in line and get on board with values that have worked very poorly in other locations, but are the popular trend of the day.   

Oklahoman's would do well to be clear with our leaders on every level when these trends threaten to dissolve the time-tested positive values of our state.  We live in Oklahoma because it is a place where our families and communities may flourish within the matrix of qualities that made this the premier country in the world.  We want nothing less for ourselves and our future generations.

Poland Music Trip