Being the Church

It's Monday and I feel the need to brag on my church - I don't think I do that enough.

Yesterday morning, I got to the church early to enjoy breakfast with the Men's Club and followed that up with my routine of turning on the sanctuary lights and laying out everything I would need for worship.  One of our Trustees was also in the sanctuary, trying to figure out why it was 54 degrees indoors and the furnace wasn't kicking on.

Our sanctuary runs on two furnaces and two A/C units.  The furnaces are older than I am - probably installed in the 1950's.  One furnace has been out for about 3 weeks now and the heating & air people have ordered a replacement burner that will hopefully be here this week.  Over the weekend, the other furnace decided to end its life as well, leaving us with a dilemma.

In 20 minutes time, the people of this church pulled together and moved worship into the Fellowship Hall.  It required a reset of the chairs in the hall, transporting hymnals and bibles from the sanctuary, and setting up the altar.  You'd think we had done this dozens of times considering the great ease that it seemed to be done with.

We worshipped yesterday morning in an unfamiliar place for worship, but the Spirit was moving.  Nobody complained, everybody was involved, and worship seemed to be a little more lively.  To tell the truth, I think throwing us out of our routine actually worked to our favor.

After the service, there was more time than usual spent fellowshipping and making friends of new visitors.  Before I could collect all of my things from worship, every hymnal, bible, and pew pad was back in its place in the sanctuary.  The altar was carried back and set up.  The chairs and tables in the fellowship hall were rearranged to be ready for the week. 

Sunday could have been a lot more stressful.  Thanks to the teamwork of about 50 men, women, and teenagers, we breezed right through and still put our best foot forward with our guests.

For any members who are reading this post, I thank you.  The world would be a better place if every follower of Christ could work with this sort of teamwork and commitment to putting our best foot forward.  You all ministered to me on Sunday.

To all my friends that are church planters, you can't have my setup people.  Keep your hands off.



Life is crazy.  Church work is consuming.  Want to know how I recharge?  See what I have to live with.

My wife, Erin, just started her own blog - primarily photos with captions.  You can check it out HERE. (erinstroud.blogspot.com if the link doesn't work)


C'mon People!

I'm watching the inauguration online today.  CNN has it broadcast with people's messages from facebook alongside.  I'm also getting numerous emails from people on both sides of the aisle, politically speaking.  I have to say I'm disappointed.

Folks, the elections took place November 4th.  I'm tired of hearing people moan and complain about either Barack Obama taking office or complain about the people complaining about Bush.  Guess what...regardless of your beliefs or feelings about either man, Bush finishes his term today and Obama starts his. 

I'm an itenerant minister.  That meanst that every few years, I will move at the direction of the Bishop and his or her Cabinet.  In that regard, I can relate to some of what both Bush and Obama must be feeling today.  Starting off in a new place, in a new position is scary enough without people's silly, illogical frustrations getting in the way.

Many of you have spoken to one side or the other.  I've worked with many of you in local churches and I've depended on your openness and willingness to work together for the sake of the Gospel.  You gave me a chance, not because of my political stances, what my name or race is, or where I am from, but because I was willing to serve.  Because of that, I am able to do what I do.  It's when people are sore about the departure of the one who preceeded me or decide they don't like me before they know me that I am hindered.

Today, there is a transition of power, I believe, from one GREAT man to another GREAT man.  The best thing we can do as Americans is love the man leaving and support the one coming in.  Do that, just as you do for the pastor who leaves and the new one that arrives.  Don't let some politician or anyone else cause you to stoop to pettiness.

I'm certainly not going to count someone out of the fight before it ever begins.  I'm also not going to look down on a man, though lacking in eloquence, who has sacrificed much for the sake of leading this country through very difficult times. 

Before you say anything else about these men, ask yourself, "Is what I'm about to say helpful to the forward progress of this country?  Is it divisive or edifying?  Does it reflect my faith in Christ?"

I'm off my soap box.


Fit for a King: A Challenge for 2009

This afternoon, I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Milledgeville, working on my sermon for Sunday.  It's been a busy week and I'm playing catch up on my day off while also trying to help my wife's family with readjusting the house for Nana's return home from the hospital. 

Despite the fact that I'm working some on my day off, I'm proud of myself for what I've accomplished this week.  It's been a busier week than usual and next week will probably be worse, but I've managed to fit in all of my exercise routines this week. 

The week after Christmas, I took my bonus check and went shopping.  I searched athletic stores, department stores, and cycle shops for a new bike.  I haven't had a bike since college and I've never ridden for the purpose of exercise.  I finally found a hybrid, billed to be sufficient for road riding and some moderate trails.  I downloaded a six-week plan to get me up to 10 miles and I've started to ride.

I've tried to lose weight before, always to no avail.  I ignore the scale and I dread visits to the doctor because I know I'm going to get the weight loss talk.  This year, I'm exercising and changing my eating habits for a different purpose - for faith. 

Every year, local gyms fill up in January and are usually empty again by February or March.  People everywhere try to lose weight and get healthy, and statistically, 55% of people that make a genuine attempt fail within six months.  Why?  Is it willpower?  Is it conflicts with our time?  I think it's motivation.

I've tried losing weight.  I fail because I want to thin down for selfish reasons.  I will succeed this time because my goals are based on the perception that my health is important to my faith and following God's will.  If I'm healthy, I potentially increase my life in length and depth.  I'll be more able to do what I need to now and I'll still be able when I'm 80.

I miss the days that I weighed less than 200.  Sure, I miss being able to walk around without a shirt and not disgust people, but even more, I miss the ability to keep up with others and not be short of breath or ready to die.  I miss the feeling I used to get after walking 18 or 36 holes of golf, riding a 10 mile mountain bike trail, taking a 3-day canoe trip, or playing backyard ball with friends.  I miss being able to outlast everybody else on a mission trip construction project.  I will be back to that.

This Sunday, I'm challenging my congregation to do the same.  Whether you're 9, 90, or anywhere in-between, there is a way that you can nurture your health, and in so doing, nurture your faith.  When we recognize our significance as part of God's creation and plan, we learn to love ourselves.  When we love ourselves, we understand what it means to truly love others as we love ourselves.  When we love others, we love God.

Right now, I'm 6'0" and 240 lbs.  My goal isn't 200 lbs.  My goal is to be healthier and more able.  I'll keep you posted on how I'm progressing and I invite you to join me in this challenge.  If you're in the area and you need some accountability, come ride with me.

Tommy, it's butt-kicking time!



I don't usually publish posts like this one, but today my heart is broken.

I got calls this afternoon from several friends to let me know of a tragedy that has taken place in a church I used to serve.  A 14 year old girl died early this morning from a brain aneurysm.  I know her family well.  Her two older brothers were in the youth group I was youth pastor for and her parents were two of my biggest supporters.  I'm a huge fan of this family and my heart breaks for them.

Tonight, a community will gather at 7pm to light some candles, say some prayers, but most importantly, to be present to a family in need.  As you read this, lift up a prayer for the Pope family - I know they could use it.