10 Jan

THERE WAS A KNOCK ON THE DOOR

By Rajmund Dabrowski — My vivid memory about my grandmother Janina is her frequently repeated story about “accepting the truth” using a variation of expressions, including “learning the truth,” “knowing the truth,” “believing the truth,” “living the truth,” or “joining the true church.” She meant to express her discovery that seriously embracing Christianity (and the Adventist faith) made a difference in her life. It was more than knowing it. It was living out the truth she discovered and embraced. I recall her telling a conversion story and how she joined a new church.

One day, she came back from her church full of tears. There was no news from the hospital. She would have to check the next day to see if her husband, Jan, had survived surgery. Would her prayers bring healing to their home? But what was the meaning of the voice she heard? After all, she was praying to St. Anthony. He was a patron saint who was often invoked in prayers for restoring health, requesting help for those in distress or sorrow.

The voice she heard had asked, “Why are you praying to a clay figurine? Pray to Jesus. He lives and heals.”

She was stunned and returned home in tears. What was the meaning of the message? “I wanted my husband to be well. I wanted him home and at work as I could not imagine being left alone with four young children,” she explained. There was a knock on her door. The gentleman outside introduced himself and invited her to join a Bible study at a local Adventist church. But there was more.

Why are you crying, he asked?

Her story unfolded about her husband being in the hospital. Would he survive a generally incurable disease? If only he had listened to his doctors. Her faith prompted her to plead for a miracle from St. Anthony who was to intervene. The visitor assured her that Jesus changes all. They prayed together.

My grandfather lived not only through the WWII years but several years past his hospital surgery. And he left me with a memory of him as he carried me in his arms. This was my grandmother’s first encounter with truth as presented in the Word, but also her first encounter with Jesus.

Grandma Janina was a staunch believer. She often described her faith as a walking-with-Jesus experience. It was an experience of sharing him with others. As I listened to her prayers, I noted that she has things to say to Jesus. She told Him to return as He promised in her lifetime. And as she was in her final days, she told me that she learned that it wasn’t what she wanted Him to do, but that He has a better plan to fulfill. Knowing the truth means learning to hang out in the places daily where our Lord has promised to meet us. We will then gain clarity of what He meant when He said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free!” (John 8:32). In the words of Prince Tripp, “Without clarity [about] what Jesus means by ‘the truth,’ we will never know true freedom. Through a daily connection with his Word, we will not only gain knowledge but will encounter the living Truth to which it faithfully points.”

Such was my grandmother’s experience with our church. And she was ready for the return of her Lord

–Rajmund Dabrowski is editor of Mountain Views and RMC communication director. Email him at: [email protected]

14 Dec

CHURCH PLANT INAUGURATED IN DOWNTOWN DENVER

By Rajmund Dabrowski – Denver, Colorado … When you drive or walk through the Five Points, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Denver, you might wonder if a church could be established there. Laced with bars, warehouses, small business establishments, and with graffiti everywhere, it gives you the impression of a dangerous place to start a church.

Miloš Tomić, an associate pastor of the Arvada Adventist Church will take you back to 2019 when he threw out an idea during a pastoral evaluation meeting at the Rocky Mountain Conference. Ed Barnett, former RMC president, challenged him quite directly: “Like, hey, you know what? You guys from Arvada, you guys can do this. You guys should just get a place and start a church downtown.”

We took the challenge with a group of young Adventists from our local church, Miloš explained. But then COVID came and messed up the whole idea until pretty much the middle of this year. The idea did not go away. “Let’s do something that is not going to be [getting] in the way of people connecting with this ministry because this neighborhood is very dangerous. People who live in the neighborhood, “they’re a part of the space [we] rent. They’re a part of the neighborhood we are in, and a lot of them are very anti-church,” he reflected.

On Sabbath, December 11, Pastor Tomić and a group of Arvada young people met for what could be seen as a seeker worship. Thus started the Five Points Life Adventist Church.

You quickly discover that you are participating in a meeting of a group of young people who are trying to get themselves sorted out with the presence of God in their lives, a group of young people committed to “helping this neighborhood experience something better, something bigger and something that will improve the neighborhood and just get the people over here, [to help them] understand that the spiritual aspect of life is as important as boozing and bar hopping as they have it around here,” Miloš explained.

Five Points Life has two objectives – to create an environment, a community for everyone; and to promote the values of the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus, sticking to the things that really matter to people, allowing them to find their path with God and to find solutions in their lives with God.

This is a church, Miloš said, “but this is not like your typical, average, or usual church you’re going to have. This is a group of people who are here not to listen to me. People come here to share, to hear what others have to share. This will never be that typical [approach] with let’s line up, let’s stand up, let’s sit down, let’s do this, let’s do that. The New Testament church was kind of a complete freedom of expression.”

“We are going to the basics,” he added.

Joining the group was Mickey Mallory, RMC ministerial director. He commented, “it thrills my soul to know that we now have a safe place in the Five Points neighborhood of Denver where young adults can come and connect to God and with other young adults. Miloš’s biblical insights are very inspiring and relevant. You leave church feeling grateful for your blessings and excited about the ones to come.”

The group began with their involvement in the neighborhood by getting to know their neighbors and promoting their presence in the area.

Observing the small group at the opening worship and discussion meeting in the Posner Center, where they are renting space, one could develop an appreciation for their dedication to make the initiative work. The growth will depend on unwavering dependence on God’s guidance. As their invitation for other Seventh-day Adventists states: “In the spirit of acceptance and compassion, and with a goal for everyone to feel welcome, we will preach the Gospel message and maintain seeker worship.”

–Rajmund Dabrowski is editor of NewsNuggets. Photos by Rajmund Dabrowski.

27 Oct

FROM MY BOOKSHELF: HE COMES BRINGS REMINDERS THAT JESUS IS COMING AGAIN

By Rajmund Dabrowski … “Christ will come. It will happen,” writes Reinder Bruinsma, expressing a conviction in his latest and well-presented book, He comes.

Among the topics dear to all Seventh-day Adventists, the Second Coming of Christ stands out above others. When a few days ago, I received Bruinsma’s latest book, He comes (Autumn House Publications (Europe) Ltd., 2021), the very fact took my memory to a 1976 book I wrote, At the world’s end.

It was a delight to receive such a fresh reminder as the topic is of vital daily importance, and even more so these days, as something worrisome is developing on Planet Earth. The book is well researched and inviting in its balanced presentation, as the author plainly states that “history is moving toward its end” (p. 88).

Though we do not question the essence of Christ’s promise to return, many Adventists are asking when He will return. The disciples asked that question and the question remains an occupation for many believers today. Many are experiencing sleepless nights. Defining the time of the end, though, “the Bible does not define ‘the time of the end’ … as the last few years, decades, or even a century or two before the Second Coming. In actual fact, biblically speaking, the time of the end covers a period between the first and the second advents of Christ,” writes Bruinsma (p. 57).

He comes offers clarity of understanding that the Second Coming offers the solution to all the problems of this world. There is no question, however, that being ready and living prepared to meet our Lord, is undergirded by the “blessed hope.”

Bruinsma’s well-researched and readable presentation reminds us of Ellen G. White’s comment that “We have many lessons to learn, and many to unlearn,” (Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 37).

Note: It is hoped that like many other Bruinsma books, He comes will soon be available in the Adventist Book Centers.

– Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director

30 Sep

COMMENTARY – A PIECE OF BARBED WIRE

By Rajmund Dabrowski … It was in Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp in southern Poland, where I met astonishment and anger, all at once. There, I learned the meaning of being available–to God–and he would help me to be available to others.

Auschwitz is a place where one’s own spiritual wonder would meet Maksymilian Kolbe, a priest who gave his life in place of a fellow prisoner. At the end of July 1941, three prisoners disappeared from the camp. Ten men mere picked to be starved to death in an underground bunker to deter further escape attempts. When one of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, “My wife! My children!”, Kolbe volunteered to take his place.

For nearly two decades I refused to go to Auschwitz. But a time came in the mid-70s that I was asked to assist the Adventist world church leader and translate for him as he laid a wreath at the wall of death. It was a solitary walk just within the perimeter of the camp where I spotted a piece of barbed wire, a leftover piece lying on the path. I kept it as a reminder of those tragic days when hatred for those who were different had a winning run.

It was at this sacred place, consecrated by the blood of the innocents where my uncle Anszel’s first wife and two small children perished. My personal wonder was fortified out of that context through a conversation I had with him, sitting in his hospitable home, having the best of home-cooked Jewish cuisine, and trying to unlock his thoughts. He said: I have forgiven the Nazis. One cannot forget the past completely, but its not me who should judge them. I dont want to talk about it.

In that moment, for me, the concept of forgiveness became a child of what it means to love. It was God forgiving me that put me on the road of following Him, no questions asked. And my Christian attitude is to be wherever my fellow sojourners in this world are. Many of them are strangers to you and me. They look different, yet are still seeking and wondering, “Who is this Jesus?”

 Will they see you and me as a people who are always ready to give all we have to save them?

–Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director; photo by Rajmund Dabrowski

29 Sep

GOD GAVE YOU BRAINS. USE THEM

By Rajmund Dabrowski — Imagine Mona Lisa. Have you looked at her half-smile and imagined what she was thinking and what it was all about? Perhaps no extravagant imagination is needed when hearing John Lennon’s “Imagine.” And what were Joan Osborne’s One Of Us lyrics saying to you?

I will tell you that her song turned my imagination into an endless spin. If God was one of us, as she sang, and visited church on Sabbath, would He be surprised to discover how different we are on Sunday–Friday, or even just a day later? Yes, the Sabbath is the Sabbath. Christianity is not a one-day affair, He would remind us.

But there is more.

Imagine what your neighbors know about you. There was and there continues to be an issue with seeing God as someone who looks at us in a limiting way. And we think He thinks like we do. Right? Wrong.

Oh, how often I think like Nicodemus did. He could not grasp what it means to be born again. Many of us are grappling with a limited approach to what it means to be a child of God, trusting Him in . . . everything.

I was chatting with a fellow believer about letting Jesus lead us as if we were blindfolded. I said, “Pray that He takes you where He wants, even if that messes up your plans.” He responded, “What if He takes you where you do not want to be, or if your religious practice would make you uncomfortable?” I said, “So be it. He either leads or I lead. He told His disciples, ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am’” (Matt. 16:24 MSG).

Imagine the consequences. There was a moment in my past when I needed a push, but then, I could not imagine where I would land after being pushed. After a midterm test, our theology professor called each of the students to review the results. Mine offered me a simple but poignant comment: “Ray, try harder,” he said. I did know what I needed to improve at that moment to stay on course. But I did not know that this simple admonition would lead me to life-changing results.

Many things have happened over the decades of going beyond many frontiers. One such moment arrived soon after I “tried harder.” It was a concert in London where I would not be squeezed on the floor with hundreds of fans. Being in a crowd made me feel insecure. I went to one of the boxes overlooking the stage and asked if I could hang out in a corner. I ended up being among the concert organizers “backstage” but without a VIP pass and . . . looking from above. I met a dozen people with “names.” This led me to practicing the art of communication beyond textbooks. A realm of imagination is required to express what one discovers, learns, and practices when the new and worthwhile lessons come from such an encounter.

I tried harder. I used my brains.

The same goes for spiritual life, a changed life, when you don’t take everything for granted, when you stop taking shortcuts or cutting the corners, when there are no excuses masquerading as forgiveness, when you are not telling the Lord to follow you rather than trusting his leadership in your life. All you are and how you are starts with changes and is fulfilled by Jesus.

The same goes for my faith community. God told us what to do and promised that He would equip us with skills and talents. He gave us brains. My professor was right. He did not make me guilty for not using my gift of learning (or studying diligently). He just told me to make use of it.

When our religious life becomes a routine of “doing” things, He patiently waits for us to make a change. That’s my dream for my church. As He says: “I am after love that lasts, not more religion. I want you to know God, not go to more prayer meetings” (Hosea 6:6 MSG).

–Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director and editor of “Mountain Views.”. Email him at: [email protected]

12 Aug

WESTERN SLOPE CAMP MEETING FOCUSES ON SPIRITUAL CULTURE

By Rajmund Dabrowski – Montrose, Colorado … Under the theme “Love of God,” the Western Slope camp meeting, August 4 through 8, brought more than 200 church members many representing congregations from the region.

The seventh annual gathering convened at Mountaintop Retreat in Montrose, Colorado.  “It’s so great to be back experiencing the joys of visiting [with] the old and making new friends,” said Ron Johnson from Grand Junction, whose connection with the event goes back to their inception.

Choosing the special guest speaker required “a lot of prayer. We were looking for God’s leading,” said Nate Skaife, pastor of Grand Junction church, who helped organize the camp meeting.

The 2021 invitation went to Dr. Joseph Kidder, professor of Pastoral Theology and Discipleship at Andrews University. Skaife explained that the organizers were looking for someone relevant, who’s able to challenge us, to take us deeper in terms of our understanding, but also in terms of how we implement our beliefs, how they impact our lives, how we’re able to minister to our communities.

Dr. Kidder’s evening presentations primarily dealt with relationships with God, which ultimately leads to worshipping God. During the afternoon seminars, he dealt with practical aspects of church members engaging within their own communities, drawing closer to Jesus, and help others to know Him and love Him. “Spiritual amnesia is one of the challenges today,” Kidder said. He added that “the most effective evangelist is … you.”

His message challenges the church. “Be contagious, and others will follow,” he stated.

Also speaking in the afternoon was Gary Force, pastor of the Durango district. He dealt with the relevancy of the messages of the three angels of Revelation 14:6-12. He explained how the messages are just as relevant today as they were throughout the course of history.

“The fellowship was golden,” said was Mickey Mallory, RMC ministerial director, who represented the Rocky Mountain Conference at the event. He commented that “after taking a year off due to the pandemic, it was great being back together again.”

“On top of that, Pastor Joe Kidder, our guest speaker, enriched the participants with his presentations. He shared a personal story about becoming a Seventh-day Adventist Christian while being persecuted by his family. He demonstrated that Jesus is just as much with His followers today as He was with the three Hebrew worthies in their fiery furnace trial in the book of Daniel,” Mallory explained.

Several attendees expressed their appreciation for meeting at Mountaintop Christian Retreat. According to Ron Johnson, the camp facilities are being continually upgraded, the results of which will be seen in the future.

“We had your group up here for about the past six years or so. And every year is the same as this year. You guys are excellent, probably the cleanest group I ever have up here. They produce almost no trash, and they’re just respectful and kind and generous people,” commented Kenny Easton, Mountaintop Christian Retreat director.

“I love having them up here, and that’s in addition to the music being wonderful and things being scripturally based. Just in general, you guys are a joy to have up here, so I appreciate you being here,” he added.

On the final two days of the event, musical appetites were filled with performances by the King’s Heralds. “I would listen to their songs at every gathering,” said one attendee.

The organizers recognize that the gatherings of the future will need to attract more young people. Camp meeting in the Adventist church has a long tradition and needs to be attractive to young people.

Dr. Kidder expressed this sentiment. “Churches have to be very intentional about attracting young people. They have to change the way they do things. A lot of young people are not finding fulfillment in the church in the way it is done. I think sometimes church has to be done in a different way,” he said.

–Rajmund Dabrowski, RMC communication director; photos by Rajmund Dabrowski

06 Aug

MIC THURBER IS THE NEW PRESIDENT OF RMC

By Rajmund Dabrowski– Denver, Colorado … Accepting the nomination, by a special executive session on July 28, of the Rocky Mountain Conference Executive Committee, Mic Thurber will serve as Conference president, replacing Ed Barnett who will be retiring at the end of August.

Announcing his decision today, the new RMC president said, “Jana and I are both thrilled to be invited to be part of the Rocky Mountain Conference. We’ve met so many kind and gracious people from Rocky Mountain both in the past and recently through the decision process. We feel that the Lord has led both us and your conference leadership team in making this possible.”

“We are very excited to see what God will do with our time together in this beautiful place,” Thurber added.

The outgoing RMC president, Ed Barnett welcomed Thurber’s decision. “It has been a privilege to know Elder Mic Thurber for many years. A man of God, he will be a great President for the Rocky Mountain Conference. I want to thank our Executive Committee for a job well done!”

No stranger to RMC, Thurber has served as the ministerial director for the Mid-America Union Conference since 2013. Mic is the brother of former RMC president Gary Thurber.

Doug Inglish, RMC vice president reflected on the news. “I am very pleased that Mic Thurber has accepted the call to be our president. I have always respected his leadership, and the time I have recently spent with Mic and Jana as I have provided information about Rocky Mountain to help them reach an informed decision has been very enjoyable.”

He added, “I believe that with Darin Gottfried, our incoming VP of Finance, we have an administrative team that I am honored to be a part of.” Thurber will assume his duties on September 1.

Following the special session of the Executive Committee, Hubert Morel Jr., Mid-America Union Conference executive secretary, who chaired the nominating committee on July 28, said, “I was very impressed by the way the Executive Committee functioned in selecting or recommending the person they want as their leader–Mic Thurber.”

Nate Skaife, pastor of Grand Junction church, commented, “It was evident it was God’s will to extend a call to Elder Mic Thurber to serve as our new RMC president. It was a unanimous vote. I am very excited to see how the Lord will work through Elder Thurber’s leadership.”

Thurber, a family man, is known for his support of the church’s ministry and is a preacher of Jesus and His grace. Apart from his outstanding engagement with pastoral service, his skills match the age of technology, as he writes software, and is known for his photography.

Mic Thurber was born in Collegedale, Tennessee, when his parents were students at Southern Missionary College. Mic met his partner in ministry, Jana, 45 years ago and they have worked closely together ever since. They have three children and three grandchildren. Prior to serving at Mid-America Union Conference, he served as pastor of the Keene, Texas church. He was also the ministerial director for the Southeastern California Conference, pastor at Pacific Union College church and Calimesa Adventist church in California. Thurber also taught Bible and music at Sunnydale Academy in Missouri and Mount Pisgah Academy in North Carolina, his alma mater.

 

–Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director; photo by Rajmund Dabrowski

23 Jun

FAT AND UGLY EMI IS LOOKING FOR LOVE

By Rajmund Dabrowski … A story from our own church courtyard can offer a lesson to ponder.

Many of us remember the pre-Internet era when classifieds were prominent in printed church magazines. They offered fascinating reading. What follows was sent to such monthly magazine I was involved with in the seventies. Emi wrote:

I am ugly, fat, badly built, and an unattractive 30-year-old widow with three children. I am an Adventist, too. I am wondering if women like myself can still have a chance in life. Believe me, I am not interested in receiving letters that only include good advice. Authors of such should not bother. What I am looking for is acceptance, not a slimming diet. Neither am I looking for a guidebook for those who have been knocked about in life. Write to me. EMI.

Whew! Emi revealed much about herself in those few lines. She also painted a picture of her fellow churchgoers. She was looking for love. She was seeking acceptance. She was very candid with us, her readers, about her very low self-esteem. How many of us would admit that we look . . . ugly? And say it so publicly?

Of course, Emi was looking for a husband and a father for her young kids.

But where the problem lies is her statement that she is an Adventist Christian and a member of a faith community. She belongs, we believe, to a caring, accepting group of people! However, she sees it as frozen. Her experience puts the words and deeds of this group at odds with each other.

I am sure her fellow church goers offered to pray for her and even made what they considered as helpful suggestions. She needed more than that. She was looking for something deeper. She was seeking acceptance.

Emi was looking for answers. In her own church. In her own community. Could she find a solution? Will she meet you or me, who can give her a hug of acceptance, saying: This is what I believe, and this is how I believe.

The meaning of all this is: Let’s talk and put a strut to our beliefs.

Will the sermon of your life and mine help Emi find a place in life?

There may be an Emi looking for love in your world, in mine. Let’s begin with giving her a hug.

Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director. Email him at: [email protected]

20 Apr

INTERVIEW WITH DOUGLAS INGLISH: ON ADMINISTRATION, MINISTRY, AND VWs

Not altogether unknown in his ministerial role for the Rocky Mountain Conference, Douglas Inglish was invited to fill the position of vice president as of April 1, a vacancy left with the retirement of Eric Nelson. 

A Hoosier, Inglish was born in Michigan City, Indiana and graduated from Andrews University in 1982 with a major in history and a minor in political science. After college, he served as boys’ dean at Ozark Adventist Academy for two years. He then left church employment to pursue other work opportunities but returned to teaching a few years later. After a year of teaching, he was given the opportunity to go into full-time ministry as a pastor where he spent the next 25 years serving rural, multi-church districts, multi-pastor metropolitan churches, and churches associated with Adventist institutions, including Sunnydale Academy and Minnetonka Academy. He has a Master’s Degree in political science from the University of Arkansas. Prior to joining the RMC team, Inglish served as the property manager and director of trust services, stewardship, and personal ministries for the Minnesota Conference. He has served as RMC director for planned giving and trust services since 2016.

In an interview with NewsNuggets, Inglish shared a few glimpses into his roles and personal experiences serving the Adventist church in several regions of North America.

Rajmund Dabrowski: How has your life-long ministry as a pastor, teacher, and conference departmental director, including trust and stewardship in RMC, prepared you for this executive leadership role?

Doug Inglish: It’s been good to have been involved with many of those different areas of church and education work, and it was important for me to understand the different positions that our own employees are involved in.

Of course, it’s not always possible to have done something on every church level, and I certainly haven’t, but getting a breadth of experience is important. My experience came from the fact that I’ve not spent my entire church career in one or two conferences. Working with committees at the conference and union levels gave me a familiarity with [administrative] processes, and with different ways of viewing those processes, as well as different philosophies of leadership and functions. This makes [it] possible for me to work with people who have different viewpoints. That background of working with different people gives me a level of comfort in working with pastors and churches.

RD: What are your strengths as a leader? 

DI: There are evangelistic pastors, pastors-builders, and pastors who are peacemakers, but in my pastoral ministry, I was an administrative pastor. We don’t always choose what gifts God gives us, but I discovered that I enjoyed being an administrative pastor.

Sometimes, I would come into a church that had some processes that needed tweaking. For example, almost every church I ever came to, I would ask who’s on your worship committee? And their answer was, “Well, we don’t have one.” So, I would say, “I don’t like being the only one who decides how we worship. Let’s get process to make group decisions.” Or it might be a wedding policy, or streamlining officer selection. Whatever we could do to improve function and further the mission.

NN: How is this going to apply to the church diversity we have in the Conference?

Doug Inglish: I recognize there are different kinds of pastors and congregations out there and it’s important that we figure out their strengths, and the needs of a particular church. Whenever I came to a new church, it took me the better part of two years to really understand what that church’s strengths were, what the community’s needs were and how we line those up.

I’d like to think that I will be including the same approaches when it comes to pastoral placement. It is helpful to understand the church’s needs at that particular time. Are they primed and ready to do some serious evangelism? Are they struggling to get along with each other? Or do they need someone who can organize a capital expenditure, like putting up a new building, or an addition to the church.

NN: When reviewing your weaknesses, what needs a little bit of fine tuning?

Doug Inglish: You know the classic answer, I just give too much of myself. That’s always a hard one to be able to articulate, but I’m aware of it. You know, there are things that I need to address. And one of them, frankly, is a core need of this position. This is a record keeping position. This may sound funny from somebody who’s been working in trust [services] for as long as I have, but details are something that I prefer leaving to somebody else. I will need to work on this and like having someone to keep me on track, keep me focused.

To accomplish all this, and more, there is a need for prayer, and this isn’t the first job that has required that. You need that on two levels. I need time with God. But it’s also gratifying to know that other people are praying for me. I’ve had pastors who have reached out to me since I’ve come into this position for no other reason than to say: I’m praying for you in this new challenge.

NN: We live in a very picturesque area of the United States. In RMC we enjoy the nature in Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico. In your administrative role you will travel, travel, travel. Are you scared of such a prospect?

Doug Inglish: I love traveling. One of the reasons that my wife, Susan, doesn’t want to be employed full time is that she can travel with me. Of course, the Rocky Mountain Conference is the ideal place if you enjoy that kind of thing. We drive around and look at each other and say, “What took us so long to get here?” But more than just, you know, enjoying the ride, is when we get there.

When I go to a church I visit the area around it every opportunity I get. This is a beautiful part of the country. We’ve got park passes. As far as the diversity of the region, we are enjoying different cultures and food, as well as typography and climate, and everything else. It’s just an adventure to be able to discover all those wonderful places.

NN: One could say that your predecessor was a walking RMC encyclopedia…

Doug Inglish: That is intimidating because I am not. I have been in this conference in a narrower role, and for not very long. That’s going to take some getting used to for me and the conference. I don’t know everybody. And I don’t know all the situations like Eric did. And I think that was one of the great strengths of his work here for a very long time.

NN: … but being a newcomer to this has some advantages.

Doug Inglish: It gives you a fresh perspective. It gives you a fresh start. I followed some good pastors, but there were always people in those churches just waiting for change, just as some people were ready for a change when I would leave a position. But you have to keep it in perspective; change for the sake of change is seldom worth the effort, and even when changes are needed it’s usually tweaking, not a complete overhaul. I would say that no one should expect a revolution in this department. It isn’t broken, so big and obvious fixes aren’t necessary.

NN: Looking ahead, what are some of the goals you can identify at the beginning of your journey?

Doug Inglish: The answer a year from now will probably be different than what I say now. Because my goal right now for the next six months is to understand my position better so that I can serve better and to learn better the situations that need to be addressed. Currently, there are ongoing situations that I’ve had to jump into the middle of, and my colleagues, Ed Barnett, George Crumley, and Mickey Mallory have had to say, “Well, let’s give you some background.”

NN: Is there such a concept for Doug Inglish as having free time? How do you spend it? How do you recharge yourself?

Doug Inglish: I love working on the house, and you know, I’m a VW freak. Everybody knows that about me, it’s kind of a part of my identity. I spent a better part of 16 years rebuilding an old VW because it was such a basket case. And it took that long because you can only give so much time. While I no longer own it, it’s out there with a plate on it being driven right now. But what I discovered was that doing mechanical things can stress me more than relax me. Doing carpentry relaxes me. So we bought a house that needs some upgrading. And I’m having the time of my life.

And, uh, the bane of my existence currently is Pinterest because once it came out, my wife has some wonderful ideas for what I ought to be doing. My usual initial reaction is I don’t have that skillset, but with her encouragement I’ve done things I never would have tried otherwise. It’s something that we do together that we both really enjoy.

Susan is the idea person. She says, this is what I want to see happen. And I say, I think I know how to make that happen. That’s actually one of my strengths in office, I believe.

NN: Many of us want to know about your family?

Doug Inglish: I will begin with my wife, Susan. We met on a double date. My best friend was taking her out. We’re still friends now, by the way. It was one of those things where from the moment I took her out the first time, there was never any doubt. I was in over my head. It was just the easiest thing in the world to get to know her and make a decision [to marry her]. This is a lifelong partnership. We’re coming up on 39 years this year. We have a daughter, Chelsea, who is the youth pastor at the Madison campus church in Nashville, and a son, Joshua, who is a graphic designer, and his wife teaches third grade at Collegedale Academy.

As for my family background, I’m the son of a pastor and I have two brothers. We’re all close. Family is important to us. It means a great deal. Family, that’s where I give lot of my spare time.

NN: What is your message to the church?

Doug Inglish: We have a mission and when we are fulfilling it, there is joy.

–Rajmund Dabrowski, text and photos

29 Mar

STANDING ON ONE’S HEAD

By Rajmund Dabrowski … I liked standing on my head because it made me see old things in a new way. I liked it because it made life seem exciting and unpredictable. —Barbara Brown Taylor, Gospel Medicine, p. 159

It was just about the end of February 2004 when my cardiologist strongly recommended that I should change my lifestyle. If you are to live with no hiccups, you need to slow down and apply breaks to the speed you are living.

I thought I knew what he was saying. Among my initial thoughts was a strange notion—for a person who was engaged in a “healthy religion,” could this mean becoming less religious? How can this be when my church promotes healthy living, yet my heart was not working according to its required tempo? What had to change?

What happened next may not be the prescription for everyone. I, however, needed a radical change.

I went home straight to a filing cabinet. On the way, I grabbed a black Husky drawstring trash bag, the “nothing’s tougher” sort and began emptying sermon files, some of them dating back to 1972. I looked (with nostalgia, I suppose) at the early dates and yellowing sheets of notes, most typewritten, and said goodbye!

I was responding to my need for a radical change, inspired by a haunting admonition: “I am after mercy, not religion.” I needed newness even in the way I approached being a Christian. I reclaimed my Bible study by joining a “discipleship class” with a group of fellow believers from Sligo Church (thank you, Dave Brillhart!). This simple decision was instrumental to reform my thinking and understanding of what it means to walk the talk.

The biblical-times prophets are a group of God’s communicators. They had two challenges—understand the message and know how to deliver it. Take Jonah. He was sent to a city to deliver the message of a needed repentance, but in his view, it was a useless exercise. He was even angry at God, but as it usually happens, the Source of messaging did not budge. God did not mind Jonah’s anger. It was Jonah who was “greatly displeased and became angry” (4:1) and opted to see Ninevah’s destruction rather than its salvation. But God was not the one who gave up. It was Jonah who was ready to die and win the duel with his “Employer.” However, God had a better plan and helped him to see that His missionary had a job to do, by hook or by crook.

Message delivery was a challenge for another prophet, Isaiah. Abraham Joshua Heschel comments about Isaiah’s challenge: He [Isaiah] is told to face his people while standing on his head. Did he not question his own faculties of seeing, hearing, and understanding when perceiving such a message? (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets, p. 89)

Isaiah’s dilemma was in dealing with the message he is to communicate by framing it by a method of delivery— hearing, but not listening, seeing, but not perceiving. We are continually challenged to tell the truth in a new way.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:19, NIV).

We are also challenged to turn the world upside down, seeing the people but flipping the script, seeing the people but from a different perspective. We are challenged to not do church the same way we have been doing, on and on and on. It forces us to see our mission differently.

Jesus constantly reminded His audience that if you have eyes, look, and if you have ears, listen.

Are you listening to me? Really listening? “How can I account for this generation? The people have been like spoiled children whining to their parents, ‘We wanted to skip rope, and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk, but you were always too busy.’ John came fasting and they called him crazy. I came feasting and they called me a lush, a friend of the riffraff. Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating” (Matthew 11:15-19, MSG).

Change. Could we consider the option of seeing our Christian mission by looking at the world upside down? The world looks funny upside down, but maybe that is just how it looks when you have got your feet planted in heaven,” writes Barbara Brown Taylor. “Jesus did it all the time and seemed to think we could do it too. So blessed are those who stand on their heads, for they shall see the world as God sees it. They shall find themselves in good company, turned upside down by the only one who really knows which way is up (Gospel Medicine, p.163).

It’s worth risking standing on our heads. It’s also radical, and it may just bring the needed change. That’s God’s way forward.

–Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director. Email him at: [email protected]