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My Brave Brother

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Last weekend I said goodbye to my brother Barton and his wife Allison as bartonallison2they departed Birmingham in a moving truck, headed for Dallas, Texas, to start the first phase of a mission effort that will culminate in Cusco, Peru.  I knew this day would be coming and did everything I could to prepare myself for how hard it would be to say goodbye, but the sting is still pretty strong.

For the last five years Barton and I have worked shoulder to shoulder as the ministers of the Ashville Road Church of Christ.  I never dreamed that it would be possible for me to work alongside my brother for so long, doing what I love.  I feel blessed to have been given this opportunity.

Over the years, visitors to our congregation have been surprised that two brothers could work together as Barton and I have.  But it hasn’t been difficult.  There hasn’t been any sibling rivalry.  Much of that is due to Barton’s humility and the spirit of cooperation that we have shared.  We made a pretty good team.

Barton and Allison have joined their mission team in Dallas to receive specialized training for doing evangelism on the South American continent.  They will remain there for six months, studying Spanish, discussing mission strategies in foreign lands, and getting their affairs in order, before they move to Huntsville, Alabama, where the church that sponsors their work is located.  After three months in Huntsville, they will fly to Peru, where they have made a five year commitment.

Barton and Allison are expecting a son who will be born sometime next spring.  Keep their family in your prayers as they make all these exciting but challenging adjustments.

If you would like to learn more about the Cusco Mission Team, go to http://cuscomission.wordpress.com.  Barton manages an informative blog there that will keep you up to date on the team’s progress.  They are still raising funds.  In particular, they are short on their “one-time fund,” which finances the initial costs of getting to the target site.  You can make donations online here.

I am proud of Barton and Allison for dreaming and pursuing a challenge.  What they are doing is unusual and extremely important.  I don’t know where the church would be without people like them, without the brave.

The tendency for most of us to become average.  We are like Solomon’s Middleman in Ecclesiastes–neither overly righteous nor overly wicked, just safe (Ecc. 7:16-17).  So many of us live our entire lives without ever doing anything great for God.

I am fortunate to have not one, but three younger brothers who reject the average life.  And I am impressed by their love for God and the way they all, in their own ways, courageously pursue Christ’s mission on earth.  God has placed me, the oldest and the least of four, in the presence of great men.

Faith in China

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Baby Boomers who remember the Cultural Revolution of Chairman Mao may be surprised when they read a statement made by China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, in the wake of terrible snow storms that are currently treatening thousands of Chinese lives:

We have the faith, courage and ability to overcome the severe natural disaster.

Faith? That’s right. It appears that Communist China is slowly moving from Marxism to morality.

In fact, anonymous blogger Spengler, who is with the Asia Times Online, writes that ten thousand Chinese become Christians each day, 200 million Chinese may comprise the largest Christian population in the world by mid-century, and Christianity will have become a Sino-centric religion just two generations from now.

The churches of Christ have been in China since the late ninteenth century. Although mission efforts have been slowed by the controversy over Missionary Societies, the Second World War, and Communism, there is evidence leading us to believe that the Lord’s church is quite strong in that part of Asia. Because of we have no central headquarters, it is hard to know just how many churches of Christ exist in China, but missionaries report great growth and baptisms in the thousands.

An interesting sidenote: Because J. Russell Morse established several churches among the Lisu in southwest China using the name Church of Christ before World War II, after the Cultural Revolution the Chinese government issued a directive that, in keeping with the universality of the name, Lisu congregations of every denominational affiliation should similarly be called Churches of Christ. This directive currently encompasses over 200,000 Lisu believers in southwestern China (Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, 38). While the government’s intervention makes it difficult to ascertain what is believed and practiced from congregation to congregation, it does support the argument that preachers of the restoration plea have made for years: Denominational names are divisive, and unity cannot be achieved as long as Christians subdivide themselves from the whole with names derived from practices, doctrines, and personalities.