CCC Blog

Good Wins Out in the End

I would consider myself an avid reader, but not a fanatic reader, as are some who seem to devour books.  My two sisters, both of whom are teachers, keep their local libraries in business over summer vacations, reading nearly a book a day for weeks on end.  I’m not that kind of reader, but I do like to read and have a propensity for “true” stories.  Against the back wall in my 5th grade elementary classroom, for example, was a bookshelf containing nothing but magazines.  In particular, there was a stack of Reader’s Digests (many of you remember that diminutive-sized periodical).  In every issue, there was a feature called “Drama in Real Life.”  These were tales of harrowing escapes or near-disasters, individuals braving the elements or overcoming great odds to live to tell their stories.  During free time, I remember bringing a stack of Reader’s  Digests to my desk and reading only the “Drama in Real Life” feature in each one, carelessly disregarding whatever else might have been in this issue.

Today my reading tastes have matured, but I still enjoy true stories.  Moreover, I like ones that present real obstacles and conflicts that aren’t easily resolved.  I don’t mind the main character suffering great pain, for that is the stuff of life for all of us, but I do appreciate an ending that is hopeful and shows how characters are stronger, wiser, and “better” people for having endured whatever it is that lay behind them. 

I doubt that I am alone.  We, as a society, have always enjoyed happy endings to our stories – be they in print or film, big screen or television.  We want the “good guy” to win in the end and for good to triumph over evil, and I do not believe this is by accident.  We want to know there is justice in the universe.  We would be without hope, were the things we suffer not part of a higher plan or purpose.  Our faith depends on a God who is ever-powerful and all-mighty, choosing, in the end, that the good and the just will prevail over all else.


That is the theme of the final sermon in our Miracles Happen sermon series this Sunday.  Acts 16:16-23 gives us a parable that translates well to our 21st century ears.  A young woman is held against her will in a situation we would rightly call human trafficking.  She is used by her captives because of an ability she has which they manipulate to make themselves money.  It is a sophisticated form of prostitution, but it is prostitution nonetheless.  The Apostle Paul, acting on behalf of Jesus Christ, performs a miracle and sets her free.  As a result, the girl’s captives bring suit against Paul for costing them money, but cloaking their public complaint in ways that make themselves sound noble, while at the same time stirring up prejudice among the masses.  In the end, God wins.  Good wins.  Justice wins.  Because the miracles of God not only bring immediate benefit to their primary recipients, they restore our faith in a God who forever stands on the side of justice and never on the side of those who would misuse and mistreat others for whatever reason, let alone their own personal gain.  It is a story in scripture that is easily overlooked because it stands directly between two more popular ones, but it is an important one that should not be forgotten, as it is a story of our time – for all time, and I look forward to looking at it more closely with you this Sunday.         

Blessings… Michael

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The Old and the New

The theme for our upcoming Capital Campaign will be Preserving our Past,   Preparing our Future.  There will be more publicized about that theme, and the campaign itself, in the next two weeks.  Both of those phrases speak to some of our deepest values.  First, we love our past.  Central is slowly coming up on 200 years as a congregation in Decatur, and we were truly one of the most           influential congregations of the 20th century.  We are known for long, dynamic pastorates, and we have a tradition of exceptional financial generosity.

To celebrate some of that history, we’d like you to “save the date” of June 9.  All morning long we will offer a “walk down memory lane.”  Recently, I received 90 slides from a church member, which have been converted to digital pictures and put into a slide show, which we will show on our Friendship Center and Connection Café monitors.  The pictures were taken between 1954, when the construction of our current building began, and the early 1960’s, when (by all appearances) there was a ceremonial burning of the mortgage.  


Additionally, resident historian Dennis Downey has supplied other material (pictures and documents) from the time our current building came into existence.  These will be laid out in the Connection Café, and you will want to stop by to see them.  We will dedicate the hour of 12 noon – 1 p.m. for a closer look at the slideshow and memorabilia.  There will be no refreshments or food provided, but you are welcome to stay as long as you like.

We are also committed to preparing for our future.  Central has remained the vibrant congregation we are because the leaders and members have been    willing to evolve in ways that have met the needs of changing generations.  One way you can help us do that is by supporting us on Facebook.  If you are not on Facebook and would like to be, we can help you do that.  Simply call the church office, and we will walk you through the steps.  If you are not on Facebook and have no desire to, that’s fine, too, but using social media (like Facebook) is a wonderful way we can all evangelize the church and share the good things about Central with others.

Once on Facebook, the best thing you can do to help us is:

Like” our Central Christian Church page and our Central Christian  Contemporary Worship page.  In fact, we encourage groups within the church to start their own Facebook page and would likewise encourage everyone to “like” those pages.

“Liking” a page is just step one.  If you “like” a Facebook page, it will be registered with Facebook, but you may never see that page in your   timeline, so we would also like you to “Follow” the two pages listed above.  When you “Follow” a page, Facebook will automatically put   updates in your timeline so you never miss anything that is posted. 

The most important thing about all of this is that the more activity our pages get – “likes” and “follows” – the more Facebook will send alerts to others about our posts.  For example, Facebook will send a notice to one of your Facebook friends saying something like, “Hey (name) did you know that this many of your Facebook friends are following Central?  Would you like to follow them too?”  That is the best way to introduce others who do not yet know Central to some of the great things happening here.  

Preserving our Past, Preparing our Future.  The ways we do it change from era to era, but the fact that we continue to value both never does. 

Blessings… Michael

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Relax... He's Got This

I’ve always been intrigued by a particular detail in every one of the accounts of Jesus feeding the multitudes.  As the gospels all tell it, before Jesus took the bread and fish and multiplied it to feed the hungry crowds he had everyone sit down in green grass.  The writers of scripture go out of their way to highlight the fact that there was green grass in the area and that Jesus wanted the people to sit down on it before he acted. 

Why did Jesus do this?  Why didn’t he just take the bread and fish and turn it into a feast with the people standing up?  Why did the grass have to be “green?”  Would it have made a difference if it was “straw-colored” instead?  Obviously, we’ll never know for sure.  But I have to believe those two details are important or they wouldn’t be there for us to read.

Of course, green reminds us of the green pastures of Psalm 23 – perhaps the most gentle, peaceful, bucolic image scripture has to offer.  Green pastures remind us of calmness and tranquility – the perfect companion of “still waters.”  With nary a breeze to be felt, the green pastures adjacent calm waters are as far from the stormy tempests of life as could possibly be. 

And sitting down is the opposite of, well, standing up.  Standing up implies readiness – being prepared to move, to follow, to serve, to witness, to testify.  Standing up signifies action.  Sitting down, on the other hand, evokes images of reclining around an evening meal – after the feet have been washed and with the hard work of the day receding in the proverbial rear-view mirror.  Sitting down implies rest and relaxation. So maybe it is fitting that Jesus had the crowd take a seat in the green grass before performing the miracle.  It was his way of saying “Relax.  I’m here.  I’m in control.  I’m going to do this work and you can sit back and trust that it will be done in your midst.”  Taking a seat in green grass represents letting go and having faith.  It is noteworthy that Jesus had the crowd sit down in the green grass after he took the bread and fish from them but before he performed the miracle.  The bread and fish came from them.  They brought him what they had.  They placed it in his hands.  And then, before he did anything with them, they sat down in green grass.  It is as though this signals the transfer of trust – from our own abilities and resources to Christ.  Our abilities and resources only take us so far.  But in the hands of Christ, we see them to be more than they ever were in our own.  And that… that change of view; change of perspective… is a miracle.

Sitting down in green grass, far from being an oddity in the story that might seem superfluous, has come to stand out in my mind as perhaps the most significant detail of them all.      

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Our Home, Our Future

You are invited... to an open house in the next week.  The Capital Campaign planning committee has been meeting regularly since the winter and is ready to make an initial report to you, the congregation.  Actually, there will be two (2) opportunities to attend the open house.  The same material will be shared both times, so you need not attend both (unless you want to).  The open houses will be:

Sunday, April 28 from 12 – 1 p.m. in the Disciples Room

Monday, April 29 from 6 – 7 p.m. in the Connection Café

For the last several decades, Central has undertaken continuous triennial (3-year) capital campaigns in addition to the annual stewardship campaign.  The stewardship campaign, held every Fall, supports the operating budget of the church.  This budget follows the calendar year.  The capital campaigns begin in June every three years, so as not to conflict with the Fall stewardship drive.  Gifts to the capital campaign, also known as the “building fund,” support voted-upon projects that support that improvement of our building.  It is because of these capital campaigns that Central has been able to keep a building that is in tremendous shape, while making significant upgrades along the way.  There is not a single Disciples of Christ in the country, of which I am aware, that voluntarily undertakes such thoughtful and conscientious actions.  The entirety of the credit for this tradition goes to my pastoral predecessors, Bill Nichols and Charles Watkins, and to you, the members past and present who have supported it.

During the 2013-2016 campaign, themed “Blueprint for Growth,” we laid the foundation of the major renovation to the Friendship Center and West Entrance, as well as repair the roof over the Administration wing, the steps at the Tower entrance, and the sound and lighting in the sanctuary.  During the most recent (2016-2019) campaign, “Pathways to Possibilities,” we not only began paying back the debt we incurred for the 2016 renovation of the Friendship Center and West Entrance, we continued our upgrades of the sound and lighting in the sanctuary.

Oh.. and perhaps the best part of these capital campaigns is that 10% is always dedicated  to outreach.  Which means that since 2013, Central has donated over $100,000 to the Decatur area!   

The current capital campaign planning team is excited to share with you its proposed plan for 2019-2022.  Team members include Gregg Foltz (congregational president), Dale Ford (president of the Trustees), Paul Gorden, Sandy Garver, Theresa Fulk, Roberta Gorden, Doug Soebbing, and Jeannie Backes.  They, and I, will be presenting on both dates:

  • A goal for the campaign (in terms of overall dollar amount to be raised over 3 years)
  • A breakdown for how the funds will be spent, including
    • A portion for the reduction of the debt incurred in 2016;
    • A portion allocated for “new improvements;”
    • Along with 10% to outreach (of course!)
  • A theme for the campaign.

I know I speak on behalf of the entire team when I say that I hope you can all make it to one of the Open Houses next week.  Again, the dates are: 

Sunday, April 28 from 12 – 1 p.m. in the Disciples Room

Monday, April 29 from 6 – 7 p.m. in the Connection Café

Blessings… Michael

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