Flint Hill UMC

Flint Hill: Breaking Down Racial Barriers

On a Wednesday evening In the late spring of 2013, I visited Flint Hill UMC for the first time as the pastor who would be taking the reigns of leadership for this church.  The current pastor Dee Dowdy showed me the facilities, sanctuary, my future office yet all of that paled in comparison to the tutoring ministry I witnessed happening.  There were rooms of youth who were being tutored by teenagers, young adults and the elders of the church.  This in itself is a great thing however, what pushed it over the top for me was the fact that I saw African-American children being tutored by older white people within a church that is well over 150 years old.  Sadly, this doesn’t happen much in ministry.  I was blown away.  Not only were the members tutoring, they were encouraging, patting them on the back, hugging them, giving them high fives and showing them genuine love.  I was amazed to tears.

When I arrived at Flint Hill, I found this effort to break down the racial barriers was not just limited to the Wednesday night tutoring but had even infiltrated to our Sunday morning worship.  A place where whites and blacks come together as the body of Christ with the common goal of worshiping God.  We now have an average of 13 African-Americans worshipping on any given Sunday morning.  That’s 10% of our worshipping congregation!  We’ve had 3 African-Americans join the membership of the church in the last 3 months and one who serves on the Administrative Board as a member at large (by the way, she was voted in unanimously by the Lay Leadership Team, Admin Board, and Charge Conference.) WAIT, this isn’t supposed to happen in a 150 year old church is it????  Yes, it is supposed to be happening and as Christians we should be ashamed that it is not happening more.

Many people have asked me what is the root of this success and believe it or not…it’s pretty simple.  My answer is that it is the power of the Holy Spirit coupled along with the Flint Hill Congregation’s level of spiritual maturity.  They get it when we read Jesus saying, “Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.”  They understand that our neighbor is not divided by race, ethnic or financial means.  They understand that we are all a part of the body of Christ and we cannot love God without loving our neighbor.  Do we all agree?  No.  Do we all see things the same way? No. Do we have differences of opinions?  Yes.  But we do have one thing in common and that is our desire to draw closer to God in our spiritual journey.

Flint Hill seeks unity within the body of Christ.  Being united in our love for God is where the secret lies and the understanding that division is not the will of God within His Church.  We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and heirs to the most high God.  It’s very easy to allow all the things we see on the news to divide us.  Ferguson and New York are prime examples of how quickly division can spread and how dangerous it is when it does occur.  Especially when religious leaders, local churches, clergy, and denominations assist in fanning the flames of division.  We as leaders in Christ Church should be the ones bringing about unity in all instances where division has the opportunity to creep in and if we don’t, I believe we will have to account for our actions.  If division divides communities against themselves, we can only sit back and watch what it can and is doing to churches.

Categories: Faith Journey, Flint Hill UMC, John Personal | 2 Comments

Wash and Be Clean

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This week during worship we will be taking a look at Naaman and his meeting with Elisha.  Naaman was a great military commander and was very well-respected.  He had one strike against him though…he had leprosy.  One of his slave servants told his wife about the prophet Elisha and how if there was any one who could heal Naaman, it would be Elisha.  So, Naaman set out in search of Elisha but he made four mistakes along the way and these mistakes will be the focus of our time together on Sunday.

In the end, Naaman was washed clean of his disease by the power of God.  It always amazes me how God is completely contradictory to the world we live in.  Naaman almost missed out on his opportunity to be cleansed because of his pride and perhaps because he expected a different solution to his situation.  Don’t we often do that?  Have you ever asked God for something and even suggested how He should answer your prayer only to have God answer it in a completely different way?  I know I have.  But what I have found is that God’s answer always is better than the one I suggested.

Sunday is going to be a special service with some awesome features.  I hope you will make plans to join us at 10:45 at Flint Hill.

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VBS a HUGE Success at Flint Hill

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What a great time was had by all those who attended VBS this year.  It was quite a production and like anything that is a huge success is was very much team oriented where everyone did their part and did it well.  I want to thank Cindi Blair along with all the volunteers who fed, dressed up, led a group, manned a booth in the market place, those who decorated, put up and tore down. I know from experience it takes a great many to put on an event such as this and all I can say is WOW and thank you!  Job well done and I truly believed these children took a step in their own discipleship and I know the adults did also.

YOU ROCK!!!!

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Jill and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, the family of Flint Hill, for your warm reception and overwhelming hospitality as we have been making this transition. Even before we started packing our first boxes, we were receiving cards of welcome; and then upon our arrival, the congregation sprang into action helping us unpack and making sure we were fed. (And fed well, if I may add.)  Thank you so much for your acceptance of our family.

When I first found out that Flint Hill was going to be my appointment, everyone I told responded by saying, “That’s a great church and you’re going to love it there.”  Jill and I have found this to be true.  We already feel at home here and are more excited than ever about ministering with you and making disciples of Jesus Christ.

I want to also thank Brother Dee Dowdy for making this transition as seamless as possible.  Bro. Dee and I have been working together and communicating ever since we were given permission to do so by the Conference.  This has allowed me to have a better understanding of the workings of Flint Hill.  I also thank God for the grace and leadership of Brother Dee to this congregation.  The impact of his ministry here at Flint Hill is evidenced by the love of the congregation.  He is a God inspired pastor, shepherd, leader, and friend, and I thank him for the work that he did in making you the disciples you are today.  My job is to continue the work he continued from the pastors prior to him in making disciples.  I ask that you pray for me each and every day as I work to be the pastor, leader and shepherd God has called me to be.

I know with times of change comes a plethora of feelings:  Excitement for the future and yet anxiety for the unknown to come; joy of starting a new journey and yet some sadness for the past.   These feelings are normal.  Anytime there is a change such as in leadership, a move, or even a death we experience a time of grief.  Sometimes, there is a concern that as a result of the change there is going to be more change.  My counsel to those who have experienced change is to limit any additional change (especially BIG change) for a time.  I want you to know that I intend to do that here.  As your new pastor, my focus is not to come in and make change after change after change.  However, as my favorite author writes, “We are in a constant state of change whether we like it or not…change is going to happen.”  But we can make a decision to not make change just for the sake of change.

So you may be asking, “What is your focus going to be?”  It’s very simple, I want to preach the word of God first and foremost; tend to the pastoral care needs; and then LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN.  I will be meeting with all the major committees, Chairpersons, congregation members, youth, volunteers and those in staff positions.  I want to ask questions and learn everything I can about Flint Hill.  I want to find out what makes Flint Hill the great church that it is and what are some things that we may need to tweak.  I want to get to know our shut-ins and people in the nursing homes to let them know that I want to be their pastor and that they are in my prayers.

I’m excited about what the future holds at Flint Hill, and I feel the Holy Spirit moving within the congregation.  This is a church where I fully expect God to show up and show out!!  God is going to use this body of believers to impact our community, state, nation and our world and allow us to participate in the greatest building project in the history of the world…The building of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Shalom,

Bro. John

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