Quarter Newsletter - March 2016
A Lifetime of Learning
by Steve Crigger
I do not like change. I don’t loath it, I just don’t like to do it. I eat the same things at my favorite restaurants. Our family goes the same places for vacations. I have a routine, and pity the soul that derails it. Well, I am not that bad, but I have been heard to say on multiple occasions, ”If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” My dad had a routine also, and it served him well for many years. By his routine, I always knew where he was and what he was doing at any time of the day which served me well helping care for a parent in decline.
That said, there are times when change is good, and, when done for the right reasons, can be most beneficial. There are also times that without change and adjustments, programs, projects and people die. In his March 23, 2015, Fax of Life blog, Rubel Shelly described this not so much as change, but as being teachable. He quoted John Wooden, “What really counts in life is what you learn after you know it all.” His message was that we must never0
get to a point that we believe we have reached the “I know it all” pinnacle and quit being open to learn. Then, he stated, ”More good ideas have been killed with ‘We’ve never done it that way before’ than with good reasons as to why it shouldn’t be done some new way.”
I pray that I will not get too set in my ways (headed there already on some things) to think I have it all right, right now. I pray I will always be open to an honest critique, a good question, new ideas and challenges. I also pray that in my own spiritual life, I am being honest in my personal examination of my life and making the changes that bring me into a closer relationship with God and allow me to glorify Him in all that I say and do. Sheri and I require changes of our two boys as we teach them. Should we not also submit to our heavenly Father as he teaches us? Jesus said, “Unless you change and become as little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
As we continually evaluate our ministries to ensure they align with our goal to “Make Disciples who2
Glorify God by Loving Him and Loving Others,” may we all, individually and as a church, remain teachable and open to good, productive change.
I hope you enjoy this issue of the newsletter. It is packed with words, and no pictures, but hopefully good information.3
Elder’s Note: I AM RIGHT!!! Am I Right?
by Tom McKee
In this current political climate, it seems that everyone has his own “right way” to fix our country. A few times I’ve even caught myself thinking that I know just how to fix America by focusing on this abstract country and not the people who make up this country.
I AM RIGHT seems to be the overarching sentiment from most groups these days. But the “I AM RIGHT” attitude exalts us above our fellow man and implies that they are wrong and I am right, that I am better than you. Exalt, a simple word, but David had it right when he began his last Psalm. “I will exalt you, my God the King.” In these few words David sums up his character. He remembered who he was and who God is to this world.
It is so easy for me to judge someone who does not think like I do or believe what I believe. Most of the time I don’t understand why they believe what they do until I get to know them and spend some time listening to what they have to say. Believe me,4
friendships can be built even if you don’t agree. It is our calling to get to know the person with whom we disagree and to try to understand them, to pay attention to what is going on in their lives. God gives us so many gifts to share, but the gift of time for someone else is his most precious. Remember the greatest commands from Jesus (Matt 22:37-39), to love others and God.
I would challenge us all to stop the next time we are ready to make a judgment about someone and ask, “Am I right?” Then, start down the path of Jesus.
Don’t deal in absolutes, but absolution.5
Killing Them Softly
by Jody Vickery
Robert Lufton has worked with the urban poor for over 40 years in inner-city Atlanta. Decades ago, he moved his family from the suburbs to one of Atlanta’s most blighted neighborhoods. When he speaks about poverty and how to combat it, he’s talking from experience and an unparalleled personal investment. In his book, Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, he writes something that’s hard to read. “For all our efforts to eliminate poverty . . . we have succeeded only in creating a permanent underclass, dismantling their family structures, and eroding their ethic of work. And our poor continue to become poorer.” (Lufton, pg. 3).
Recently, several of us from Twickenham attended the Cornerstone Conference for Community Compassion. Lufton, along with other speakers emphasized that our systems for helping the vulnerable are profoundly broken. Our efforts often end up doing more harm than good. Instead6
of alleviating need, we destroy personal initiative. Instead of addressing disadvantages, we create dependency. Instead of leveling the playing field, we disempower people who are already living on the margins. From government entitlements to church sponsored charities, in many cases we are hurting more than we are helping. We are killing them softly.
One of the things Lisa and I recognized immediately when we came to Twickenham was the generosity of our members. We love to give. Not for one second would I want to write or say anything that would diminish our will to serve and to share. Indeed, I believe we can and should offer even more service and contribute more money to help the vulnerable. But we owe it to them, to ourselves and to God to wisely use the resources he has given us – to make sure we are helping, not hurting.
How can you avoid practicing toxic charity? If someone approaches you at one of our services to ask for money, don’t give it to them. That sounds awful, doesn’t it? Mean. Uncaring. Unchristian even.7
So let’s unpack that a bit.
If someone asks you for money, it’s a pretty safe bet that they are having some serious financial troubles. It’s hard to ask for money. It’s embarrassing. Most folks wouldn’t put themselves into that position unless they absolutely had to. Realistically, then, how far is the $20, $50 or even $100 you have on you going to go? Within a day or two, they’ll need to ask someone else for more. Giving to them will make you feel good, but it won’t solve their dilemma. Then there’s the question of why they need help in the first place. Either they encountered circumstances beyond their control (such as a job loss, unexpected auto repairs or medical expenses), or they’ve made some unwise financial decisions. Or both. Regardless, two things need to happen: They need someone to temporarily stand in the gap financially and someone to come alongside them with wise counsel and spiritual support.
In our 2016 budget, we have several thousand dollars earmarked to help both members at Twickenham and8
people in our community. A part of every dollar you give on Sunday goes to assist people who are struggling. Recently, members of our Finance Committee readily agreed to use their God-given aptitudes and gifts to offer free financial counseling to the people we assist. Rather than just dispensing dollars, we are trying to equip people with the skills they need to transition out of dependency.
So what do you do if a fellow member or guest asks you for help? Help them. Bring them to Steve, Jody, Lincoln or one of our shepherds. We will not only help them out of legitimate financial jams – we’ll connect them with a brother or sister here whom God has gifted with financial wisdom.9
A Jobs for Life (JfL) Story
by Marna Harless
Jobs-for-Life is not about jobs. Not really. It’s about life. To illustrate, consider this: Communication builds Relationship. But it’s not about communication. It’s ultimately about Relationship. However, communication can open the door to relationship. Similarly, a job can open the door to life. The Jobs-for-Life program works at the individual level, one life at a time. Certainly the near term goal is to help an unemployed or underemployed individual to find a good job. But the long term goal intends to instill biblical principles in such a way that the steps to near term employment establish life changing habits of confidence and faith - Habits of faith that will weather the storm of life’s unexpected set-backs and roadblocks.
The story of one such individual who recently graduated from Jobs-for-Life personifies the prayer-bathed expectations for this ministry. For purposes of this story, her name is Melody (not her real name). Melody enrolled in Jobs-for-Life grasping10
for anything that might reverse a steadily mounting set of financial hardships. At one time in her life she had obtained a Paralegal and Accounting degree and had begun a successful career. But subsequently, she made a series of ungodly life choices that had destructive consequences. In addition, there was a devastating car accident that eventually resulted in addiction to pain medication. Then the addiction escalated and finally led to a felony conviction and jail time. In time she was released from prison but with severely reduced work opportunities and a broken confidence. She found herself driving hours a day to work a minimum wage job that did not provide a subsistence level income for her family. As she considered her situation, there was a feeling of hopelessness that fostered the notion that she was not even worthy to have a good job.
Melody’s decision to enroll in Jobs-for-Life may not have been confirmed immediately on the night that the first session of the 16 class series began. After all, It was more than just a little intimidating to participate in discussions with a large group of total11
strangers. But it wasn’t long before she realized that she was sharing a class with a group of people that had ALL experienced severe setbacks and disappointments. She learned she was not the only one that had made some poor decisions or suffered unexpected loss. Most importantly, she learned about the need for Jesus in everyday life. She was inspired by the bible lessons about integrity and character. And she was encouraged by the power of forgiveness and grace. In other words, she learned that God loved and valued her.
Melody also learned some fundamental job related skills including how search for a job, write a resume, and interview for a job. Subsequently, she applied for a number of jobs and she was invited to interview for some of those jobs. One of those interviews resulted in a job offer to work the front desk at a very prominent hotel in Huntsville. She accepted and was compensated at a level above minimum wage but it was still insufficient to support her children. Not long after she started working at the hotel, she received another job offer on a factory assembly line. She struggled with the12
decision to accept the offer because it was not the type of job that she desired. On the other hand, the significantly higher wage was important to her family’s well-being. After much prayer and deliberation she approached her hotel supervisor with her two-week notice in hand. As her supervisor was in the process of expressing his regret at her leaving, the hotel Comptroller happened to walk by bemoaning the fact that two of the accountants had just resigned.
The Supervisor asked Melody 'Don't you have a degree in accounting?' The Comptroller interviewed her on the spot and offered her a job in accounting matching the compensation from the assembly line. Melody exclaimed, "That can only be orchestrated by God!" After just a few months in the accounting position, she received another raise. A short time after that, she received the first ever Employee of the Month award issued with this hotel chain. In February, 2016 she was promoted to Assistant Comptroller.
In her personal life she has committed her life to13
Jesus, reconnected with her child's father, and he dedicated his life to Christ. They were married in January, 2015. Melody credits the biblical examples of redemption in the JFL classes with changing her life. She specifically relates to Joseph who was successful after spending time in prison. Her greatest desire is to bring inspiration to others that they, too, can overcome their roadblocks. She is already on the road toward that objective since she has shared her testimony to those in the most recent JFL class. As she spoke, one of the current class members thought she recognized Melody. In their conversation after the session, they discovered that years before they had met in prison! With tears in her eyes, the current class member stated, “If Melody can do it, with God's help I can, too.”
Jobs for Life - one Life at a time.14
Twickenham Youth Group
by Shelby Kohring
Since 2013, the Twickenham Youth Ministry has been doing whatever we can to try and make the world more awesome. It was January of that year when the eight year old YouTube prodigy known as Kid President challenged his viewers in this way. And so we took on the challenge in 2013 deciding to do 13 things around our community and in the world to make the world more awesome. We partnered with organizations like The Pearl House, a ministry to rescue, teach, and find new life for troubled women and young girls in Ghana, Africa. The teens in our ministry gave almost $2,000 of their own money to this ministry when it was just getting started. Now they have rescued 20 girls, and are showing them Jesus every day, having introduced them to a new way of life found in Him. We did what we could as a youth ministry in Huntsville, Alabama, to raise awareness that modern day slavery is a real thing. This was done by teaming up with millions of other students around the world to shine a light on slavery, standing alongside the End It Movement, a15
ministry that is being supported by hundreds of successful businesses and organizations around the world who are combining their resources to help rescue some of the 27 million slaves world wide.
Since 2013, we have given money to places that are making a difference in the world, and the lives of people who are seeking transformation. We have given our time to serve alongside ministries that are working to teach others a new way of life. We have looked for ways to encourage our teens here at Twickenham to take part individually in rising to this challenge to make the world more awesome. And along with all that our teens have done, they have also committed to praying for those worldwide who are in dire need, most importantly, those who do not know Jesus.
Our focuses have been outward, and each year we have looked to expound on what we did the previous year. In approaching 2016, we began to think about how we could encourage the Twickenham Ministry to continue to rise to the challenge to make the world more awesome, and our thoughts kept coming16
back to Twickenham. For three years we partnered with, gave money to, and prayed for all kinds of people and organizations that are indeed making the world more awesome. For this year, 2016, we decided to continue to do that. Therefore, we have committed to praying for the ministries and members of the Twickenham church of Christ. Because we believe that we are a part of a church that is doing some incredible things, indeed making the world more awesome.
So know that the teenagers of your church are praying for you this year. We are thanking God for you. We are asking Him to grant you wisdom in all that you do. We are asking him to use each of us in a way that shows others just how good and powerful is His love. We are praying that you be filled and overflowing with the Holy Spirit more and more every day. We are praying that no matter what stage of life you are in, young or old, on the highest mountains of victory or in the lowest depths of defeat, that your trust in God would be greater and more faithful than ever. We are praying for you because we believe that in praying for our church17
“God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ.” (Col. 4:3) May our prayers be heard, and may the kingdom of God be greater because of what He is doing through us all.18
by Steve Crigger
Around September of every year, we start a planning cycle for the next year’s budget. Previous year expenditures as well as future needs are considered. We look at giving trends and try to analyze, as best we can, what Twickenham can do in the upcoming year to honor God with the monetary gifts provided to us. We incur expenses in the months they come due and examine cash flow issues so that we do not run into any binds. The result of that is an extensive excel spreadsheet with multiple worksheets which totals up to a number which, when divided by 52, becomes the weekly budget. This is sent to the Finance Committee, Business Council and General Counsel for examination and approval, then passed to Emily Bass to set up in her accounting package and off we go - Happy New Year! It is a good way to do the church budget. It is what I am most comfortable with after many years of financial reporting in the corporate world.19
When I became an employee at Twickenham, I had been assimilating the Twickenham budget for a couple of years and continue to do it today. I can be meticulous in a spreadsheet and have checks and balances everywhere to ensure this comes out balanced and just right. The thing I have had to struggle with is that we don’t get too tied up in the numbers and decimal points to limit what God can do. In the business world it is all about the bottom line. But we don’t work for profit, we exist to Make Disciples who Glorify God by Loving Him and Loving Others. Except for about one month, I have been at Twickenham almost its entire existence. I have watched God bless this congregation over and over and over. I have seen impossible situations overcome and debts erased in a single request and subsequent collection. God calls us to be good stewards of what he has blessed us with here on earth. I try to do that with my own money, and the leadership at Twickenham makes every diligent effort to do that with the funds placed in the collection plate.20
So this year, we have planned a good 2016 budget. It is split into 4 major categories like last year (1) Foreign and Local Missions [34%] (includes HoH contributions), (2) Community Life [26%], (3) Worship and Administration [22%] and (4) Infrastructure [18%]. If you want to see the raw numbers, I’d be happy to sit down with you and take a look. For 2016, at the request of our Finance Team, we composed 2 budgets: (1) Our Normal Budget and (2) a Dream Budget (implementation in the works). The normal budget contains those things needed to operate as we have over the previous years. It is based on giving trends and what we would expect to receive as a normal set of contributions for 2016. The Dream Budget is a wish list of things that we could do if the contribution would allow for it. These are items, over and above what would be given as our regular weekly budget of $23,857.83, such as lighting controls, new curtain for gym stage, youth and children wing upgrades and increased support for the Huntsville Inner City Learning Center (HICLC), Lincoln Village, Jobs for Life, Disaster Relief and His Way.21
In 2015, Twickenham gave approximately $30,000 over our regular budget. Those funds were the start at filling the needs on the Dream list. The excess monies were divided and provided as one time gifts to HICLC, Lincoln Village, His Way and the Downtown Rescue Mission, a planned Teen Room Upgrade and a renovation on the Adult Education Lobby. Please be in prayer for God-provided wisdom in the distribution of provided funds. As we seek to bring our “whole tithe” into the storehouse, may God “throw open the floodgates and pour out so much blessing that there will not be enough room to store it.” Malachi 3:1022