Friday, November 21, 2014

Hidden Heroes, Week 7 -- The Sugar Momma Hero

Yes!  They exist!

Not just Sugar Daddies, but Sugar Mamas as well.

I've never eaten them (how could I, with all those Nutrageouses?)

But Sugar Daddies and Sugar Mamas are more than just candy.  They are providers, patrons, benefactors.

And there's one hidden in the pages of Scripture whom we are going to locate and celebrate.


8:30.  10.  11:30.

AND DON'T FORGET TO RETURN YOUR OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD BOXES THIS SUNDAY!  Let's send our radical impact all around the world.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wouldn't You Really Like To Know?

The authors of the bible use incredible restraint.

In contrast to our modern culture's tendency towards too much information, the scriptural writers were masters of understatement.

Perhaps that's because the process of writing was both expensive and painful in ancient times. 

Maybe it's because the people of antiquity didn't devote as much energy to emotional health and dysfunction as we do.  Or maybe it's because biblical authors are masters of literary craft.

Whatever the cause, the result is that we have an incredible number of unanswered questions about the characters and narratives that inhabit the pages of the bible.

Here are a few:

And just where did Cain's wife come from?

What was the relationship like between Abraham and Isaac after that little "testing" episode in Genesis 22?  How much time did Isaac have to spend on a therapist's couch processing that?

Speaking of Abraham, how did Sarah feel every time he'd say, "I'd like you to meet my sister"?

 How did Mary and Joseph deal with the fact that baby Jesus bypassed the terrible twos?

What did Jonah smell like?  You know, afterwards?

After the incident described in Galatians 2:11-14, were Paul and Peter friends?  Enemies? Frenemies?

When Luke adds the superfluous detail that Paul "kept on talking until midnight" in the story about the guy who falls asleep and then falls out of the window in Acts 20, did Paul think it was funny?  Or did he get ticked off?

How did Peter feel when in the course of telling the resurrection story John very slyly includes the detail about how the two of them raced to the tomb but John won?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Presidential And Pastoral Dangers

As you can tell from looking at the "Books I Like" column to the right, I recently read Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt & The Home Front In World War II.

The book fascinates on many levels, but most especially in its portrayal of the deeply loving yet painfully awkward marriage of Franklin and Eleanor. They were rarely together, they both engaged in extra-marital relationships that likely would have ended his presidency in this internet & cell phone age, and yet through it all they had a shared forcefulness unmatched in our political history.

And in that vein, I was struck by the kinds of women with whom FDR surrounded himself during Eleanor's many absences: younger beauties who delighted in his stories, laughed at his jokes, and didn't discuss public policy while drinking private cocktails. You couldn't say any of those things about Eleanor.

But as I was reading, I jotted this down:

FDR would rather be SEEN and ADORED than to be KNOWN and LOVED.

Being seen and adored requires a public persona and a personal charisma.  FDR had both in abundance.

Being known and loved requires vulnerability, honesty, and the frequent need to ask for forgiveness.  Goodwin's book suggests those qualities weren't part of the Roosevelts' vocabulary, much less their marriage.

Seen from a distance and adored for a performance.

Or known intimately and loved anyway.

I think those of us in pastoral ministry can all too easily opt for the adrenaline rush that comes from being observed and affirmed.

It takes a lot more work and a good deal more integrity to allow people to know us, to acknowledge our struggles, and finally to permit them to love us because of our flaws and not in spite of them.

I know that given a choice, my natural inclination would be to adopt a persona and seek to be seen and not known, admired and not loved.  I believe Paul would call that living "in the flesh."

But by living "in the Spirit," that same Spirit is moving me slowly but surely out of performance and into relationship.

Because although I am pastor and not president,  I don't want my legacy to be one of painful awkwardness in the most important relationships of my life.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How Something I Never Thought Would Happen Happened

That's me, signing a contract with Abingdon Press to publish a book of mine to be called Head Scratchers.


I'm sort of scratching my head at all this myself.

Here's the backstory.  For a couple of years, I have had several people in my life telling me that some of the sermon series at Good Shepherd should be published in book form.  The thinking was that those sermons could work as small group curricula and could help fellow preachers looking for ways to grow in sermon design and delivery.  Part of me wanted to believe those people, part of me was skeptical, and part of me had no idea how to make it happen anyway.

Then, as some of you remember, we did The Storm Before The Calm in the summer of 2013 at Good Shepherd.  I knew the content was good, the graphics were beautiful, and the topics were compelling. So with the help of my friend James-Michael Smith, I turned it into an e-book.

Then, to help promote that e-book, a friend from church gave me some lessons on social media and the next thing you knew, there I was with a Facebook page ( and a Twitter handle (@talbotdavis).

Then, a grad school friend who works with a publishing company told me on a couple of occasions that he and his team liked The Storm and might be interested in publishing it in book form.

Well, in response to that possibility, I got several people praying.  I still thought the chances were remote and so I didn't want to set myself up for failure by getting a large group out there praying; instead, I limited it to about seven people who seemed to have an interest.  "Would you pray that somehow, someway a publisher would be interested in this material and these sermons could get out there?"

So pray they did.

And then we did The Shadow Of A Doubt earlier this year, which people again told me was worthy of publication.  One friend offered to help underwrite a publishing venture.  So my longing increased.

And still people prayed.

And then my grad school-connected publishing friend talked to me about some other possibilities, but let me know that his group wasn't quite geared up to publish a sermon series in book form.  It was both encouraging and sobering at the same time.

But still those friends were praying.

And then in early August, out of nowhere and completely unsolicited and unexpected, I got an email from an editor at Abingdon Press (an imprint of the United Methodist Publishing House) who said that he had seen the Head Scratchers sermon series online (preached in June of 2014), liked it a lot, and asked if I would be interested in them publishing it as a book and study guide for use by small groups.

It was sort of like asking if I'd be interested in taking my next breath.

By the way, part of what attracted my new-editor-friend to the Head Scratchers series was the collection of weekly sermon bumpers by Chris Macedo and team:

The Abingdon editor then navigated Head Scratchers through the approval process within the publishing house, giving me periodic email updates, and while I was waiting, what did I do?  Asked those same people to pray, of course.

I got the final confirmation a couple of weeks ago and then received the contract late last week.  

The Head Scratchers book will be released sometime during the summer of 2015.

And all the time, I've been thinking: "Head Scratchers?  Abingdon? It was supposed to be The Storm Before The Calm or The Shadow Of A Doubt and with someone else!"

But through it all, God has been saying, "You get a group of people praying for the same thing at the same time and leave the details of how it gets answered up to me."

Lesson learned.  And celebrated.  And even signed, sealed, and delivered.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pros & Cons Of A Sunday Away

I was away from Charlotte from early Thursday morning until Sunday after church.

Which meant, of course, a Sunday away from the people and the pulpit (except it's really a table, but table wouldn't alliterate with "people") of Good Shepherd.

So here are some pros and cons of missing yesterday's worship gathering:

The people of the church get to hear a different voice -- in this case Student & Family Pastor Devin Tharp.

The staff and leadership get confirmation of what they already know: they are fine without me.

The church gets a reminder that the mission is more important than the minister:  inviting all people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ does not hinge on the personality of the person proclaiming it.

When we were away, I got to see the Jimmy Evert Tennis Center in Fort Lauderdale, a non-descript (by today's standards) public tennis facility where Chris Evert, Harold Solomon, Brian Gottfried, and other world-class players learned the game.

I turned 53 while hundreds of miles away from people who might just have made fun of me for it.

Because we were in South Florida we enjoyed 80 degree sunshine while the people of Charlotte . . . didn't.

I missed the "Hero" medley that was the prelude to Devin Tharp's sermon.

I missed Devin Tharp's sermon.

(But I -- and you -- can watch it online here!)

I have to hear all about how great Devin's sermon was.  Enough, people.

When I write my notes to first-time guests (a vital part of my Sunday night routine) I have to explain who I am.

 I still have to come back to work in the morning.

When I see people from church next week, it will seem like I haven't seen them in a month.  That's not the way it is; it's just the way it feels.  Unless they haven't been there in a month.

It's not 80 degrees and sunny here.  And it won't be until next April.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hidden Heroes, Week 6 -- The Hulk Hogan Hero

This Sunday at Good Shepherd . . .

Celebration Choir leads us in worship;

That same choir does a hero medley you have to see to believe;

1980s pop culture references galore -- you might even see a moonwalk;

Discovery of what it means to have someone in your corner and to be in someone else's corner;

and Hulk Hogan himself.

The Hulk Hogan Hero.

What in the world does that mean?


8:30.  10.  11:30.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hosting A Leading Edge Conference At Good Shepherd

For the next couple of days, Good Shepherd will be hosting the Leading Edge Children's Ministry Conference.

What is the Leading Edge?

It's the collection of the 100 largest United Methodist churches in the country in terms of worship attendance.  (I think Good Shepherd, at about 1,950 people per Sunday in 2014, would land between #40 and #50 on that list.)

Ever since 2008, the pastors of these churches have gathered together annually for a time of encouragement, fellowship, and sharing of best practices.  Among other places, I have blogged on it here and here.

Since Leading Edge began meeting six years ago, they have developed other ways of connecting churches of similar size and vision together.  So supplemental meetings for Business Managers, Student Ministry Pastors, and Children's Ministry Departments have been added to the menu.

The Leading Edge leaders asked us if we'd like to host the Children's Ministry Conference and we of course said yes.

So throughout Thursday and Friday, children's ministry teams from large United Methodist churches in places like Kansas City, Kansas and College Station, Texas will assemble at the corner of South Tryon and Moss Road to learn, laugh, and pray.

I bet they even hear the phrase inviting all people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ a time or two.  Or ten.