A Cross, but no Church

HayBy Joe LaGuardia

I am a minister in limbo, what Will Campbell might call a preacher without a pulpit.  My wife said today that I am like one of those folks who wear a cross but don’t have a church.

It’s true: it has been over a week since I left my old church, Trinity Baptist; and I have one week until I start my new call at First Baptist Church of Vero Beach, Florida.

Of course, some of this is hyperbole.  I am still working on some loose ends at Trinity, specifically an internship program in which we are getting involved.  And my first official day at First Baptist is on a Monday: May 16th, to be exact.  They already have me listed as “senior pastor” on the bulletin, a sweet and encouraging sentiment.

But, as they say, perception is reality, and for these two weeks I really do feel lost without a place to call home.

I don’t know how other Christians can do it.  You know, those Christians who do not have any real commitment to a body of believers, a place to go every week and share concerns or pray for others, get involved and eat at potlucks or play bingo.  I know it sounds cheesy, but there is something about church that really makes me feel like I belong.

The other day, I joined a group of people from First Baptist for lunch in a local Italian restaurant.  They go every Thursday, and I was thankful for the invite despite my “unemployed” status.

One of the first people to greet me, Ms. Becky, gave me a hug.  I don’t know Becky that well and she doesn’t know me, but we both know what church is like.  It’s like that hug, and I desperately needed it, especially since the previous night was Wednesday, a day I would have spent with my church family at Trinity.

The hug healed a home-sick soul.

Playing hooky from church and job has not been all bad, mind you.  I’ve been able to endorse a political candidate in the local commissioner’s race in Rockdale County.  I do not endorse candidates as a pastor and when the clock struck (close to) midnight on May 1st–my first day unemployed–I put out a status on social media declaring my support for a friend.

I also have been getting plenty of rest.  I have been pastor for over six years, associate pastor for years before that, and we ministers rarely get a Sunday off.  Ministry, furthermore, is not a job, but a lifestyle.  You do not do ministry when you are called and ordained; you are a minister.

I have had the ability to just be since I left Trinity.  I haven’t had to prepare for a Bible study, sermon, prayer group, small group, Sunday School class, prayer meeting, committee meeting, leadership meeting, or any other meeting for that matter, and it has been nice to sit around and read a book for pleasure.

Well, that too is not entirely true either, I guess.  I have been reading up on the Holy Spirit–one book by Charles Spurgeon, a going-away gift from one of our associate pastors at Trinity–in order to prepare for my first sermon series at First Baptist Church.

That kind of reading has been sparse, however.  If I’m not ready to write a sermon there is no use reading beforehand.  Usually ideas that come this early depart just as quickly, so why bother?

Perhaps the greatest struggle in all of this is not the loss of pulpit or parishioner, or the lack of hugs for that matter.  It has been the lack of routine.

My Christian life is a rhythm of “regular business hours,” Sunday routines, scheduled prayer and devotional times, and the like.  Not going to “work” at a church means sleeping in (or, in my case, waking up) at odd hours, going to bed way too early, and mulling around with nothing much to do.

Just this morning my wife asked me why I was pacing in circles.  I was literally pacing in circles, no kidding.  When I came to, I told her I intended to do something, but I couldn’t remember what it was I set out to do.  Now that’s a scary prospect.  I never was able to recall the task, so I did a load of laundry for the fun of it.

I’m sure many of my friends who read this will say, “Hey, enjoy the time off–you’ll be busy when you start at your new call.”  I have taken that advice, I assure you.  We’ve gone to the beach nearly every (other) night, have eaten too much pizza, and have been trying to help my son learn to skimboard; but, being the guy in the room who wears a cross and doesn’t have a church is not me.  I don’t recognize that guy.

For now, I’ll live with it, but Monday May 16th could not come fast enough.  Lord, have mercy–and give me the patience of a pastor.


Five qualities of a church with Vision


This article is curated from EthicsDaily.com. 

By Matt Sapp

I attended a few weeks ago Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit at Wieuca Road Baptist Church, a satellite host site for the summit in Atlanta. The unofficial motto of the summit is Bill Hybel’s repeated reminder that “everyone wins when a leader gets better.”

That’s the goal of the summit: to make leaders – and particularly Christian leaders – better at what they do. This year’s theme was “A Grander Vision.” As the challenges we face get bigger and as the rate of change around us continues to accelerate, it takes big vision and big courage to keep up.

One of the things I wrestle with almost daily is how the church can adapt to rapidly changing cultural and social contexts.

What I sometimes forget, though, is that it’s not just the church that’s having to adapt. Everyone – every institution and every individual from every walk of life – is having to adapt to the pace of change, too. – Read more at EthicsDaily.com

The Rise of the Nuns

Sister Cristina Scuccia performs during the Italian State RAI TV show final "The Voice of Italy" in Milan on June 5, 2014. The 25-year-old nun is already a talent show sensation thanks to her habit-clad performances but also has on her side the critics, who say her popularity stems from novelty value.  AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO        (Photo credit should read MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images)

Sister Cristina Scuccia performs during the Italian State RAI TV show final “The Voice of Italy” in Milan on June 5, 2014. AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO (Photo credit should read MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images)

By Joe LaGuardia

Everyone is making a stink out of the rise of the “nones,” people who do not subscribe to any organized faith or denomination.

What about the rise of the “nuns”?

A bad pun with a nun?  Not quite.  The Catholic Church in England and Whales is claiming a 25-year record for women recruitment in holy orders.   Seems that the Catholic Church is growing in a most unusual way.

Here in Rockdale County, I heard that Father Randy was leaving us and departing St. Pius X Catholic Church.  When the news broke, I wondered how long St. Pius might hobble along without a priest.  It is no mystery that the number of priests has waned in recent years, although the number of seminarians preparing for the priesthood has increased and posit a more hopeful future for tomorrow’s Catholic church.

Other thoughts ran through my head:  If the Vatican would only let priests get married, maybe more would become available.

And if the Vatican ever allowed women to be ordained to the priesthood, there might not be any shortage at all.   According to my friend in Decatur, a nun of some 60 years, I am not alone in this assessment.

Little did I know that women have been entering convents and other “contemplative communities” in record numbers across the Pond.  Reasons and theories vary:

Some say its because people realize that the meaning of life can only be found in the womb of the church.

Higher-ups in the Church pat themselves on the back and claim that charismatic priests and bishops are monopolizing and marketing the strengths of cloistered living, including the trendy notion that the priesthood can change the world in ways that can be quantified and qualified.

Others cite frustrations surrounding relationships, sex, and intimacy (or lack thereof).

An article with the BBC quotes novice Theodora Hawksley as saying,  “If our society is obsessed with money, sex and power and the games people play with them, then vows of poverty chastity and obedience represent a profound freedom. That’s what has drawn me to religious life.  It’s not a fleeing from the world – it’s a finding your place in it.”

Nor can we keep God out of the picture.  For all of the ways (and often times, the gimmicks) churches use to grow, gain members, and attract people to full-time ministry, its the Holy Spirit that does the transforming, convincing, and convicting.

We saw this years ago at Trinity Baptist Church when we were affirming our core values of being a place that emphasized inter-generational worship, social justice, and inclusivity.

Back then, we felt we were going against the grain of congregational development and growth, but now we find numerous articles describing how young people are attracted to churches that have similar core values in place, Catholic Churches not withstanding.

Perhaps I’m getting too spiritual here.  Maybe its just something in the water in England.  Perhaps there is just the right group of women who came along at the right time to convince so many other women (many under the age of 30) to enter an alternative life that values celibacy, obedience, and poverty.

We are not sure, but we are certain that trends are finicky things — (Have you heard about the African American lesbian physical fitness trainer in Philadelphia who is finishing her last year of seminary to become a rabbi?  You’ll have to Google that one yourself.)

And, at the end of the day, I’m just a Baptist.  When it comes to all things Catholic, what do I know?  It’s none (or, is it “nun”?) of my business anyway.  (Now that was a bad pun!)

On behalf of Trinity Baptist Church, we want to welcome Father Greg Goolsby to St. Pius X.  May we share ministry together, transform our community for the sake of Christ, and work for the common good of all, attracting people to the light of God rather than our own agendas.  Amen.