Christian Leaders

Tom Guerry and Mitch Carnell at French Huguenot Church

Mitch, Carol and Dr. Martin Marty at FBC

“Remember your leaders Carol Carnellwho spoke God’s word to you. Imitate their faith as you consider the way their lives turned out.” (Hebrews 13: 7 (CEB)

When I was eleven years old our pastor gathered a group of us preteens together every Saturday morning for two or three weeks to talk to us about making our public profession of faith. I have always had many questions. Most adults did not want to deal with them. Preacher Gowan was different. “Mitch,” he said. “God created all of you. That includes your brain. God did not expect you to turn off your brain when you come to church.” I did not realize it at the time for I was much too young, but what a gift he gave me.  He was giving me permission to grow as a Christian. He was encouraging me to eat solid food.

Sixty-five years later Dr. Cynthia Campbell, President of the Presbyterian Seminary in Chicago, expressed the same though a bit more eloquently. “There is no place you can go that God isn’t already there. There is no question you can ask that God hasn’t already answered.” Her message was urging us to grow in our faith. I am blessed by the Christian leaders God has brought into my life to show me the way, to encourage me, to comfort me, to challenge me.

Prayer:

Thank you God for the saints you bring into my life to guide me and to strengthen my walk with you. May I be that encouraging to others. Amen.

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Where’s the Joy?

My favorite hymn is, “Ode to Joy,” from Beethoven’s 9th. Symphony. Our Sanctuary Choir does it beautifully so does The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and a host of others. What follows in the sermon in churches and in television sermons is not joy. Unless you tune in to Rev. Susan Sparks at Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City at 11:a.m. on Sundays. What usually follows is an indictment of the faithful for not being good enough, for missing the mark, for being less than holy. Let’s face it, the unfaithful are not there, not tuned in, not listening. Why do the faithful need a guilt trip?

In Jesus’s parable about the prodigal son’s return, there was no lecture from his father on what a terrible son he had been to waste all of his inheritance. Instead there was a lavish party welcoming him home. When the widow who had ten coins. but lost one and found it after diligently searching for it, ”she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ Matthew 15:9 (NIV)

Jesus tells us to leave the 99 sheep that are safe and go rescue the one that is lost. “And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ What does that sound like? It sounds like rejoicing. “Restore unto me the JOY of thy salvation….” Psalm 51:12 (NIV)

“Rejoice in the Lord Always. Again I say rejoice.” Philippians 4:4 (NIV) Yes, I know a pandemic is taking place. Yes, I know there are race riots. Yes I know the economy is falling apart. How are these calamities any different than those in the rest of human history? When was there not an epidemic of some sort? When was there not a war? When was there not an economic crisis someplace in the world? Were we Christians not made for such a time as this?

We need an encouraging word, a cheerful word. We are not helpless pawns. God has given us everything we need to weather any storm that comes our way. We have not been left without resources. We have family, friends, and neighbors. We have brains, hearts and muscles. My neighbor mows my lawn. My friend takes me to the pharmacy and a delivery person brings my groceries. My daughter calls me every day and so does my sister. My son helps with things I need to get done. Another friend and I go out to lunch when we can find a place that is open. I have a healthy collection of male friends with whom I solve the problems of the world at least for an hour or two once each week. I go to Sunday school on a conference call. I even teach once in a while. Class members have become family. We check up on each other.  I go to worship services on the internet and I mail my offering to my bricks and mortar church building. I donate to the food bank.

We were not given spirits of fear. Fear breeds discontent and hate. Fear looks for a scapegoat. No one, no organization and no political party is responsible for our current situation. Our question should be, what can I do to be helpful? We all know that we should wear a face mask in public. We should practice social distancing and we should avoid large crowds. Why? Because these are the right things to do. These measures are not for ourselves, but for the protection of others. If you need a Biblical reason, listen to the words of Jesus, “…, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. “ Matthew 25:40 (NIV) or perhaps try St. Paul, “I have the right to do anything,’ you say–but not everything is beneficial.” 1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV)

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A Unique Approach to Passing the Peace – Madison Avenue Baptist Church

Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City where Rev. Susan Sparks is the senior minister has a unique method for Passing the Peace or extending the Right Hand of Christian Fellowship during this pandemic. Because worshipers are scattered around the world and attending by smartphones or computer screens exercising social distancing, they are unable to touch each other. Rev. Sparks suggests that each listener reach out to at least three other people during the forthcoming week.

You can call, text or write each of your recipients. Next to face to face conversations hand written notes are the most personal and are most deeply appreciated. It is a way of staying in touch. It is a way to assure others that we have not forgotten them, that even in a pandemic they are important. Several years ago, I suggested that we could stretch the 12 days of Christmas over the entire year by choosing a date in each month and surprising a person with an unexpected greeting or small gift. Actually I like Susan’s idea better because you will reach more people. We are social beings and we need human contact.

Thursday of each week is Thankful Thursday. I ask this question on Linkedin.com. ‘Who are you thankful for today?” I then suggest that you let that person know of your gratitude. Thankful Thursday offers another opportunity to reach out, but now you are reaching out at least once each week. The purpose of all of these ideas is to stay in touch with others, especially those who have no family members nearby. You do not need to be a member of any religious or secular group to join in. Just do it because it makes you feel good.

Because people have time on their hands during this pandemic, I have heard from friends that I have not been in contact with for years. It is fun to catch up on what has happened in their lives. We all have such good intentions, but now we have the opportunity and the time to follow through and actually do those things we intended to do. Now we have the time.

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Your Words Have Power in Everyday Life to Explode or to Heal

www.ethicsdaily.com – By Mitch CarnellJune 23, 2020

The triple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the heightened racial unrest and the economic meltdown have converged to make the words we use more impactful than we sometimes realize.

Our words have the power to calm an explosive situation so reason may take hold, or our words can explode the situation beyond repair.

“I understand. I’m sorry. I apologize. I love you. You are the light of the world.”

These are all just words, but would we want to live our life without them?

Many of us live with other words. “You‘re not good enough. You will never amount to anything. You don’t belong here. You are not one of us. You are not welcome here.”

“You’re fat. You’re ugly. You’re too short. You’re too tall. You’re poor. You’re too old. You’re too young.”

These also are just words, but none of us wants to live with them. Unfortunately, too many of us do.

Unless we have been on the receiving end of those words, we have no understanding of how hurtful they are or how long they fester inside of our nervous system.

Words are powerful. They work their way into our nervous system and become part of who we are.

Unfortunately, negative words seem to have more staying power, especially if someone important to us, such as an authority figure like a parent, teacher or clergyperson, speaks them.

In some families, negative words are the only words some children hear. Negative words are used for threats or punishment.

During my teaching career, several of my outstanding African American male graduate students confided in me. “We were made fun of in high school and undergraduate school for getting good grades. Friends said we were being too white.”

Norman Vincent Peale, the famous positive thinker preacher, had it right. He said, “Don’t walk away from negative people. Run.”

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Jessie Jackson said, “You are somebody.”

Jesus said it best, “You are the light of the world.”

These also are just words. They are important words.

For them to become important to us, we must internalize them. We must believe them. We must believe we are unique. We must believe we are worthy.

Tearing other people down has become a sport. It is reinforced over and over in television programs.

Bullying is a major problem on social media. Because it is anonymous, there is no penalty for the bully. Yet, such vitriol has produced countless accounts of lives being lost or damaged.

We hear it constantly in our political campaigns. It has become commonplace to savage the opponent rather than to counter her or his ideas.

There is a better way.

In an October 2008 campaign rally, the late U.S. Sen. John McCain set a high standard when he responded to a woman who called Barack Obama an Arab.

“No ma’am,” McCain said. “He’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”

This incident is considered by many to be one of the late senator’s highest moments.

Changing what we say to and about other people is hard work. Ensuring we are informed enough to form our perspectives about issues and people based on facts rather than rumors, falsehoods and conspiracy theories is even harder. It takes a conscious effort and it cannot be done overnight.

We might need to post notes to ourselves to remind us to think before we speak.

We may need to arm ourselves with lists of positive words and phrases or with Bible verses to show us how to make those changes.

Take it one person at a time. Remember, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 46:6).

Hardest of all, we may need to change the company we keep. Some people delight in pulling others down. Their influence is so toxic we may need to walk away.

The challenge comes from those who ridicule our efforts. “Saying something nice is so superficial. You’re just saying that. What do you really think? Come on now. Get off of your high horse.”

We are bombarded with so much ugliness in our world today neither you nor I can control; however, what we can control is our own behavior.

You and I can covet not to add our voices to the mix. We can agree to take control of what we say and to say only those things that build people up and that contribute to the well-being of everyone concerned.

Discipleship

Mitch Carnell

Mitch Carnell is a member of First Baptist Church of Charleston

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