Pastor’s Corner – March 2017


Remember a few months ago when we were at the end of November and we began to celebrate Advent, that time to prepare for the arrival of the Christ child? We took four Sundays to arrive at the manger on Christmas Day. Well, this month we are preparing again, for 40 days.

Lent is a season of preparation for the announcement of an empty tomb and the resurrection of Jesus. Because this is a greater event that has a much larger impact upon our lives, the journey will be longer and more demanding. During this journey we will not be distracted by shopping and decorating and gatherings at work and with friends and families. Yes, I am aware that some people put up decorations for Easter, but not to the degree they do for Christmas.

Some faiths, including our own, have challenged people to go on pilgrimages, on strenuous journeys to a sight of significance in that person’s faith. This isn’t the type of journey we will be asked to make. This journey is harder. We could find a 50 mile walk more enjoyable. Climbing incredible amounts of stairs on our knees could be less painful. This journey demands that we look at ourselves with complete honesty and serious assessment of our relationship/relationships with God and God’s children (all of them).

During Lent, we give ourselves a complete spiritual physical (like the Doctor examines our physical condition, we perform a self-examination of our spirit). Do we spend time in conversation with God? How often and how much do we speak to God vs. listening to God? Do we act lovingly toward God, or is it more like we are doing our minimum daily requirement? Do we respect and care for the Creation of which God has made us stewards, not owners? Do we love our brothers and sisters? Do we seek to do kindness for them? Do we seek justice for all God’s creation, even if it means we have to give up some things? These are not simple yes and no questions. They are challenging and may cause pain. Remember going to the doctor and the doctor did something to help you that was painful? This is how we do a spiritual physical.

We are to invest ourselves fully in the coming gift of Easter by getting ready to invest all that we are in the presence and promise of God. Being a Disciple of Jesus isn’t about a name on a membership card, or getting a pin to wear. It is about being Christ-like. Loving and living the way Jesus taught us to live in harmony and love with all God’s children. It means overcoming fear with compassion, converting anger into the energy to seek justice, and transforming selfishness into caring support for our brothers and sisters.

I invite you to take time every day, maybe 30-60 minutes at a specific time for your spiritual physical. Use all the tools available, tools like prayer, reading the Bible, worship, writing out thoughts and fears in a journal for God, and any other tool you might use. We will start on March 1st at 7:00 p.m. with a service of worship for Ash Wednesday. During that service we will dust off our tools and get them ready for use.

Shalom, Darrell

Pastor’s Corner – February 2017


February, the short month, is upon us. During this month we honor love, two important presidents and complete the season of Epiphany. Yet within this short month, much will happen. Youth will go to the Youth Retreat at Epworth By The Sea, we will have a special night out for adults, we will prepare and respond to the needs of people suffering from disasters during the Week of Compassion, and we will learn about living as students of Jesus on Sunday mornings all during this short month.

Even in a short month, we are able to respond to the call of God to serve and love as God has served and loved each of us. Our call, our mission, is not limited to longer months or months with more things of importance. Rather, we are called to serve daily. Every morning becomes an invitation from God to love your neighbor, to care for those who suffer, to overcome our fears and step forth into the world God created. During February we will celebrate Valentine’s Day which has become focused on romantic love, even though the name recalls Saint Valentine. There is not much that is reliable known about the first Saint Valentine (there were three by that name), but the oldest lived during the Third Century and was martyred for refusing to deny his faith. His devotion to following the love of God was well known. Therefore, the holiday we celebrate this month isn’t about romance so much as devotion loving as God loves. Please do not think that I am telling people not to get cards or flowers or to do something special with your spouse or partner. Rather, love everyone.

When you do anything this month, remember that we are challenged to love all we meet. Show compassion to all around you, whether they are someone you know, someone with whom you disagree, or a complete stranger. Remember that Jesus reached out to everyone who would listen and even those who didn’t want to be loved.

Once February ends, don’t set aside the focus on loving as we have been loved. Make it a life practice. Greet people with open warmth, smile at everyone, when you talk to someone focus on their words and not how you plan to answer their words, touch people with your hands, your heart, and your soul.

These are the things we are called to do. The community, the state, the nation, and the world could benefit from our sharing love with everyone in the name of the God who first loved us.

Shalom, Darrell

Pastor’s Corner – December 2016


, , ,

Here we are at the end of 2016. It has been a full year at First Christian Church. There were ups and downs just like any other living organization. While I am not someone who usually makes resolutions at the end of the year in preparation for the coming New Year, I may deviate from my norm a bit this year. In looking back at all that has taken place, maybe forward with resolution might be the way to go forward.

At the beginning of this year, a leadership team from First Christian was trained in the process for the Hope Partnership for Missional Transformation. If you thought it was long reading it, try saying it aloud fast. This program is from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and helps churches make hard decisions about the future of their congregations. In May and June we held house groups to go over the material provided, look at information about our community, and make recommendations to the congregation. Ultimately, we decided to begin the process of re-visioning, redefining the Mission of First Christian Church.

Re-visioning is not about saying we will spread the Gospel message. It requires we create a dynamic statement that is action oriented. Ultimately, it reflects the Great Commission of going out and making disciples, but is directed toward the unique time and place in which we live.

As part of the process, we suspended our constitution and by-laws in order to be flexible during this process. We also created a Transition Team to guide the effort and communicate with the congregation. Since that time, we have taken some new steps and done different things that we have not attempted as a congregation in a long time.

On October 1st, we hosted a Fall Festival for the Pre-K through 3rd grade children and their families at Miller Elementary School. There were inflatable events and games, hotdogs and chips, and prizes. Children were given a card with numbers for each of the stations. As they went to the Bouncy House, or the Face Painting room, or one of the games, their card was stamped. They even got a stamp when they went to eat. The last stop was in the prize room where there were colorful pencils, stickers, pencil bags, coloring books and reading books. Many parents were surprised that this was all free, especially the food and books. We had a good turnout of volunteers and children, and it was a fun afternoon.

We have also joined with All Saints Episcopal Church and Faith Lutheran Church to provide an after school tutoring program created by the Episcopal Church in GA called Path To Shine. This program targets early elementary children who are on the edge between success and failure. According to studies, if these children don’t improve, the chances that they will leave school before graduation are very high. This program began on Nov. 8th. The response of the children the day after the program started was tremendous. People from all of the congregations volunteer to tutor, lead recreation, bring special programs like art, or music, and provide food for the children.

We also partnered with Faith Lutheran Church to hold an Ecumenical Election Eve Prayer Service. On the Monday before the election, we gathered in the sanctuary to pray and to remember that we are called to pray for those selected to serve the government at all levels. We also recalled our baptisms in order to remember that no matter who won or lost, we as Christians must stand together and not give in to divisiveness.

The newest opportunity to gather for fellowship and conversation is the Wine and Wisdom gatherings on Wednesday evening every 2 weeks. This program provides our church family as well as anyone else who would like to come to the Fellowship Hall and share in focused conversations on various topics, of which not all of the topics will be serious. We will also share in wine and other refreshments as people choose. As I am writing this column on the day before the first Wine and Wisdom party, I cannot tell you how it went. I am hopeful that it will go well.

Our focus as a congregation is moving from counting numbers on Sunday morning and moving toward counting the impact First Christian has in our neighborhood and community. Counting the amount in the offering plate and the number of people in worship has been the norm for generations. We need to look back to what counted in the Gospel, who was touched, who was fed, who was healed. We made an impact with children and their families with the Fall Festival; we are touching the future through Path to Shine; we are reaching in new ways to our community and seeking greater depth of disciple within the congregation.

Now, as we approach our next step in Re-visioning, we will begin to write our Future Story, a narrative vision of our next 5 years of serving God in Warner Robins. We look at 5 years, because the world changes rapidly and we need to develop a habit of reassessing what is needed and what we can do more frequently than we have in our history. We are called to serve in a living community where needs and challenges can change and we as First Christian Church, need to be able to respond more quickly than ever before. Please pray and participate in the process and the ministries come from this effort.

This December, Christmas Day is the last Sunday of the month. Because of this, we will do some different things in worship. There will still be singing and have scripture and responsive readings, but the focus for the sermons will be odd.

On Dec. 4th, the sermon will be on The Littlest Angel; Dec. 11th will be on The Little Drummer Boy, Dec. 18th will be The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and on Christmas Day we will sing as many carols as we want.

On Christmas Day we will have a light breakfast available at 10:00. There will be no Sunday School, so come enjoy fellowship and then come to worship. Also, if you received a new clothing item for Christmas, wear it. Well, maybe not PJs. We will sing carols and read the Christmas story and celebrate at the Lord’s Table.

Shalom, Darrell

Pastor’s Corner – November 2016


On Nov. 7th, at 7:00 p.m. First Christian will be hosting an Election Eve Prayer Service in partnership with Faith Lutheran Church. This service will remind us to continually pray for all those who will be elected on Tuesday, whether our candidates win or lose. The unity of our faith is greater than the lines drawn by political parties and elections. I hope you will come out on Monday night to prepare for the election by seeking the presence of God.

By the time most of you will read this, I will have completed my fifth decade of life. In the grand scheme, turning 60 isn’t that long to walk through life, until it is your turn to do so. As a child with my birthday the day after Halloween, most of the party atmosphere was spent on the day before, and the approach of Thanksgiving and Christmas could overshadow my birthday. As a child I spent a good number of birthdays being sick, too much candy and/or dramatic changes in temperature in Northeast Ohio could have been the cause.

Now I try to slip my birthday amidst my oldest daughter and youngest daughter’s birthdays (Elisabeth shares Nov. 1 and Micah’s is Nov. 3). It was far easier when they were younger. But the necessity to provide an article for this newsletter has led me to think more deeply about my 59 years of life and the purpose of Thanksgiving.

When we give thanks, we often skim the upper layer of the things for which we should give thanks. We are grateful for family and friends, we are grateful for our success in life and work; we are grateful for overcoming illness and challenges. While this is acceptable and good, what happens when we look more deeply on the times we should have given thanks to God in our lives.

I am grateful for the family into which God placed me. It wasn’t perfect, but then again perfection isn’t the goal. I was loved and given the space to become who I was supposed to become. I lived in a time when I could get on a bicycle and ride all over my hometown with friends and in the summer be home for lunch and supper and dark as my boundaries. I was able to go through school and find my place not in one niche or circle, but rather as a person that connected to most of the members of my class regardless of cliques. I attended a great college and built strong ties to classmates, the same can be said about my seminary experience.

It is with profound gratitude that I give thanks for my wife and children. They have kept me sane and level (excluding those times my children attempted to drive Marsha and I over the edge). Now that they have partners and children, I am grateful that they can be driven into sanity after being driven to the other side as well.

I am also grateful for the opportunity to serve the church in all the different capacities to which I have been led. I am grateful for the good as well as for the not so good, because they have all provided lessons I needed to learn. I am especially grateful for the challenges that lay before me as First Christian seeks to re-vision our mission in Warner Robins. We will move through this time together and with God’s help be the best church for this place and time.

I am grateful for all the saints who have crossed my path and demonstrated how to live Christ-like. These saints performed no miracles as we would define them, but rather miraculously loved, listened, and taught with grace and confidence by the way they lived and treated other people.

We all have several weeks before Thanksgiving arrives. Take this time to look back over your life and remember the names and faces of the saints in your life, the people and events that helped to shape you, the gifts that were given. Also remember the struggles that made you stronger, wiser, more compassionate, more the you that you have become. Then, when you have recalled all the people and events, express that gratitude in all that you say and do to everyone you meet. After all, you might be the very saint that God needs to put in someone else’s path.

Shalom, Darrell

Pastor’s Corner – October 2016


, ,

By the time you read this, we will have completed our first Fall Festival. On Oct. 1, we are holding a Fall Festival for the Pre-K through 3rd graders and their families of Miller Elementary. There are going to be games and food and all sorts of fun for the people coming to the church. This is the first event since we completed the Hope Partnership for Missional Transformation program.

I am reading a book that referred to churches like ours stepping forward out of our comfort zones as going out into the mission fields, out on the edge. This triggered a connection to the heritage of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Our church began on the frontier of this nation.

We are back on the frontier of our church in Warner Robins. With this as inspiration, I have prepared sermons for the month of October looking at the core of our denomination for guidance as we move into the frontier. Rather than traditional sermons, there will be time for thoughts and dialogue as we explore how our founders looked at the Bible, focused upon communion, structured the church, dealt with challenging issues that might divide, and looked at other denominations.

Alexander Campbell and his father, Thomas, lived and ministered on the western border of Virginia and Barton Stone in the heart of the Kentucky frontier pulled together people who were out on the edge, beyond the familiar they had known before. The world in which they lived was dangerous, challenging, and even frightening. They needed a place to gather and people upon whom they could count on, not people who would look down on them or judge them as less than others. Sound a bit familiar? Aren’t we in a similar world today?

We grew up as a denomination in this world. Yes, we didn’t always get it right, but we did our best in that time. We can do the same by remembering from where we came. I hope you will participate in an exploration of our heritage.

Shalom, Darrell

Pastor’s Corner – September 2016


, , ,

Much is happening within this church. We have finished the self-evaluation part of the Hope Partnership for Missional Transformation and have now begun the journey to live into our new mission statement; We Seek to Love God by Loving Others.

We have entered into a joint project with Faith Lutheran Church and All Saints Episcopal Church to provide an after school program for children of Westside Elementary School. The program, “Path to Shine”, seeks to help borderline students in early elementary school. It meets once per week while school is in session. It is a Jubilee Ministry of the Episcopal Church. We already have a list of volunteers to fill in a variety of roles in the program.

We are also gearing up to host a Fall Festival for the students, parents, and staff of Miller Elementary School. We will play games, have inflatable equipment, serve hotdogs and chips and have a good time during the October 1st event. The Fall Festival team began meeting August 24th to put it all together.

We are also trying to arrange a special worship event for the blessing of animals and involve rescue groups as well as people wishing to have their pets blessed. Having had two daughters who had pet albino corn snakes, I will bless the reptiles. (I won’t handle the venomous varieties.) Watch for the date to be announced and bring your pets to be blessed.

First Christian undertook these efforts so that we could answer one question, “If our church ceased to exist, would anyone in the community notice?” We want that answer to be a resounding yes. Therefore, we have begun the process to serve our community, not just to serve ourselves. This includes seeking a college student to work with our youth on Sundays and midweek. We will also begin training opportunities for better equipping this congregation to do the work before us, to be better Disciples.

The immediate goal is to become a flexible congregation that can quickly respond to our needs and the needs of the surrounding community. We will strive to respond as Jesus taught His disciples to respond, with grace, forgiveness, and love. We do not have to be a big church to make a big impact.

Shalom, Darrell

Pastor’s Corner – August 2016


It is July 21st as I write this article. It has been a month of fun and opportunities. There is much work ahead of us as a congregation, but God will walk with us.

On the other hand, it has also been a month too full of tragedy. People killed for no reason by terrorists, by those charged with upholding the law, by those whose anger has led them to the taking of life. How do we, as Christians, respond to all that has happened and unfortunately, may continue to happen? Currently, people are demanding that sides be taken to decide who is right and indicating who is wrong.

But what about a course based upon the message of the Gospel? Could we find wisdom to confront the problems we face? It is my prayer that it will be so.

Terrorists do not act rationally. By definition, they only act in order to create fear and confusion. Whatever their cause, it is only a smoke screen for the real goal of disrupting life as most of us live it. The motivation is that if we are afraid enough, we will change how we live our lives and begin to distrust everyone we meet and thus become the people we never wanted to be and the very people demonized by the terrorists.

We still live in a world where people are judged by their skin tone, their speech, their nationality, their gender and on and on ad nauseaum. Most of us are unaware when we do judge. We respond to triggers taught to us by our culture when we were young. Unless we have experienced that “judging the book by its cover,” we can live in ignorance of it taking place. We can no longer act as though people of color, from First Nation people, to Latino, and to African Americans, no longer are victims of prejudice. Yes, there are people of every nationality, skin hue, and language who are criminals, disturbed, violent, even evil. But Not All people.

The same is true of the brave men and women who don a uniform to protect and serve. The overwhelming majority respect the citizens they serve and treat them with dignity. But as in all professions, the only ones who grab the headlines are the ones that make bad choices and continue to make bad choices. Let us not demonize the people who daily do their jobs and never cross the line into violence just because we see others in the news doing terrible things.

Jesus taught his disciples to love and forgive. He challenges us to seek the heart of the person without judging the actions of that person until we see the full story of their life. We need to center ourselves in the stories of how Jesus received those that others wanted to cast aside. We need to hear over the blasting voices of media, the compassionate words that Jesus spoke to those rejected.

The greatest temptation in society today, is to believe the deception that is “us against them”. We claim to be all created in the image of God, yet we buy into the idea that our “image” is better than another person’s image. We need to remember the words from Amos, “Seek Justice (for everyone), Do Kindness (to everyone), and to Walk Humbly with God (all of us together).”

Step away from the noise and confusion of our modern media, and listen for the still, small voice of God.

Shalom, Darrell

Pastor’s Corner – July 2016


By the time you read this article, the subjects in the article will be part of history. During this past week and half, we have heard of a young woman being raped by another student and how his punishment was reduced to prevent further harm to him, and the events in Orlando and the violence committed by someone who was in need of help but turned to the example of people who hate and kill. I am not going to complain about guns. I will call us to be responsible in our actions.

I read an article that my cousin, Mike Vandervort, posted from another HR person that touched me deeply. The author called us to be accountable to the people around us. The young woman was violated once in an alley, but then violated again at the trial when they dug into her history to see if she was “that kind of girl”. The court was concerned about the damage to the rapist.

The shootings in Orlando have become the fodder of politicians and talking heads while little is done to find ways to reduce the opportunities for people who shouldn’t have access to legal weapons continues. No words will restore the hearts and spirits of those who suffered the loss of loves ones, nor heal the scars of those who have survived. One person, for reasons we may never understand, decided to make a statement with violence. We are being left to jump to the conclusion that it was motivated by extreme religious views. Was it that or an easy handle to grab to explain what seems mindless?

How do we as Christians react to all of this? Some voices encourage young women to dress more reservedly since young men (and older men) can’t behave properly. Some voices suggest that we all carry weapons so as to prevent violence with tools of violence.

The prophets often speak of doing kindness, seeking justice, and walking humbly with our God. Maybe if we removed this concept from a verbal event and made it the determining drive for all of our actions, we might come closer to the prophet’s intent. Trying to place blame for our actions upon others never worked when we were children. Why do we accept it so easily as adults? If we thought about our actions in relation to kindness, justice and God, would you or I make different choices?

This is personal responsibility. It cannot be forced, but if enough people start being responsible in this way, it might influence others. Rapes will still occur, but maybe we will recognize the victims as the ones needing support and compassion, and encourage justice toward those who commit the crimes. But along with justice must come the hope for redemption. Justice is never about getting revenge.

Historically, the early church responded to violence by not resisting it. Christians willingly refused to face violence with violence in the early church. They walked into the arena to face death in the knowledge that they were God’s, even in death. Doing kindness, seeking justice, and walking humbly with God might make us rethink how we deal with gun violence, maybe even how and why we feel the need to possess weapons. Fear of what might occur can motivate us to seek security systems and weapons for protection. Yet, we know that people with excellent, expensive security systems become victims. Those who have weapons have had those weapons turned against them as well. In truth, the only guaranteed security that exists is the security of God’s Love and Grace. It cannot prevent incidents like Orlando, but neither will more weapons. What it can do is give peace to us as we acknowledge that we cannot be separated from God.

This is not easily done. It takes a lifetime just to get started. Maybe that is why we are called to be disciples and students. We always need to learn how to be Christ-like as the conditions of the world challenge our resolve to love God and to love each other. Disciples who admit that we do not possess the answer to the questions of “WHY” these things happen learn that the only appropriate answer is to stand with those who are hurt, those who have been damaged, those who grieve and those who need. Are you called to be a Disciple?

Shalom, Darrell

Pastor’s Corner – June 2016



School’s out, vacations begin, what’s next? The beginning of summer is often a time for a pause in all that has gone on this year. A time to sit back, reflect and look to what’s next. At some point this month, we will make a bold decision about the future mission of this congregation. We will have finished the house groups, shared their visions with leadership and then built a consensus for the congregation to consider and select.

We have four graduates from high school who are using this time to prepare for what is next. There will be college for some, work and then training for others. There is a college grad in our family of faith already into her graduate program to make ready for her next step. In the time line of our congregation, we are daring to step forth into a new direction. At the time of this writing, I don’t know what it will be. But that is alright, because I know that whatever it is, God will guide us.

The world teaches us to be afraid, to let fear dictate how we react and how we make decisions; fear people who are different, fear the scarcity of resources, fear the unknown of tomorrow. As disciples of Jesus, we are to live in faith, the opposite of fear. Courage is not the opposite of fear. Faith is. We have faith that God will guide us. We have faith that Jesus walks with us. We have faith that there is no power in all of God’s creation that can separate us from the Love of God.

Society may call this foolishness, but then we are to be fools for God. There once was a son of a wealthy merchant who argued with his father about the needs of the community. The father, in anger, told the son if he didn’t like the way he provided for the family, he was welcome to surrender everything he had received as the father’s son. Tradition tells us that he took off all of the clothes his father had purchased and walked out of his father’s house the way he had entered the world. He is credited with the creation of a community that encouraged men and women to work together to help the people around them, to spend time in prayer and worship, and to live on the simple things that they could grow and make on their own. We know this man’s name; it was Francis from the town of Assisi.

Do not fear because you lack what modern society says you must have and protect. What we truly need is to trust and have faith in God to provide us what is truly needed and that we can accomplish great things when we walk in faith.

Shalom, Darrell

Pastor’s Corner – May 2016



As this month begins, the House Groups have finished their first week of meeting. This is part of the Hope Partnership for Missional Transformation. The participants are learning a process that will lead to a big step in how we can answer God’s Vision for First Christian Church in Warner Robins.

Whether you are in a group or not, continue to pray for God’s guidance as we explore the understanding of what church is and how we can respond to God. This is among the most important things we have done as a congregation.

After the groups meet, the group leaders and I will sort through their decisions and present the assessment to the board and then to the congregation. We all need to be involved in responding to the results of the House Groups efforts.

We are at our best when we come together as the people of God to love as we have been loved. Let us roll up our sleeves and get ready to work for God in Warner Robins.

Shalom, Darrell