In Touch

Well, I’ve been getting back into the groove since jurisdictional conference. I’m excited to return as the Columbia District Superintendent, but I must admit that yesterday helped my spirits more than 3 days of Cabinet earlier in the week. A great friend who mentored me as a young pastor, J.E. Mozingo, died after a tough illness. On the golf course we called him “Down-the-middle-Mozingo.” He didn’t always hit the ball that far but it was ALWAYS down the middle. That was a metaphor for his life. He was always “in the middle” bringing other opinions and people together. He was on the Darlington County School Board when things were quite tense, and he was a voice of reason and a calming presence. J.E. was a peacemaker that got along with everyone. He held hands with both sides on tough issues.

J.E.’s wife, Bobbie, was my first funeral at Wesley Chapel. I have always deplored generic funerals, so I tried to be as accurate and tactful as I could about Bobbie. She was a rich character filled with spice and zingers. So I shared some of that in her funeral, maybe too much because after the service NOBODY said anything. No one said, “You really captured her!” or anything like it. I crept away from the cemetery feeling lousy that I had evidently overstepped the boundaries of decorum.

About an hour after the funeral, J.E. called me and in a voice sounding more gruff than it really was, said, “Preacher, Are you going to be at the parsonage?” I replied sheepishly, “Yes.” Then J.E. said, “Well, I’m coming over to see you. I’ve got a tip for you.” I freaked out. What kind of tip, “piece of information,” was J.E. going to lay on me? He came inside and we went into the huge living room and he talked about this, that, and everything else. He had me twisting in the wind and my tension mounted to the point that I finally said, “Alright, J.E., what about the tip?” He looked at me and pulled out some cash, saying, “I thought it was a damn good funeral.” I apologized over and over again saying that I had misunderstood him, but over the years, 27 to be exact, J.E. always got a laugh out of me asking for the tip, the “piece of information.” We were close from then on.

I know his family and his cadre of friends will miss him. He was such a wonderful gentleman! He was a farmer who could work himself dirty but he could also dress up like nobody’s business. He was authentic wherever he was because he was always real and relational – in touch with his environment and the people in it. He reminded me of my Daddy.

My Dad had a hard life – mixed blood and an 8th grade dropout. When he asked for my mother’s hand in marriage her father didn’t even turn around. He reportedly said under his breath, “You make your bed hard, you’ve got to sleep in it.” Mamma and Daddy ran off to the Methodist preacher’s parsonage one town over. When my mother’s parents sent out the none-too-happy wedding announcement they even spelled my Dad’s name wrong.

He spent the rest of his life proving them wrong. He overcame adversity after adversity and he did it the same way J.E. Mozingo did. Both of them had an uncanny knack of being really present with people, with all God’s creatures. With Daddy I think it was his native blood. Gosh, he could read people and in a Crocodile Dundee sort of way, he could talk to the animals. One of my most treasured possessions is this picture with my Dad standing out in an open field with his hand on a cow’s shoulder with her calf off to the side. If you know anything about cattle, you know that you can’t just do this. It’s amazing. I saw Daddy do this sort of thing over and over again with animals and people.

So, I thank J.E. Mozingo for reminding me of life’s greatest pleasure – being in touch. After the pain of jurisdictional conference and the angst of coming back into what some call an administrative job like being a District Superintendent, it was good to be behind the pulpit yesterday. I was back at home. Those who know me are quite aware that my superintending is an “in touch” kind, too. I’ll never be a bureaucrat. Like my Daddy and J.E. Mozingo – I’ve got to be hands on and love on people including all of God’s marvelous creation. That’s who I am and ever want to be. Thanks, J.E., for giving me another tip this weekend! I needed it so I could be renewed in my call!

Wesley Chapel – Going Home Again!


Yesterday, I went back to a church that I started serving 24 years ago and left 17 years ago. It was their 220 anniversary as a congregation and the 100th year of being in their current sanctuary. Everything was beautiful and the fellowship was absolutely wonderful. It was like going home again. There was much talk about the past, but the future was on everyone’s minds, too. This church is declining, not precipitously, but slowly and out of sheer demographics. But, there is hope! As the old adage says it well, “Where water has once flowed it can more easily flow again!” The determinant factor, in my mind, is whether or not we will open the spigots and let the water of the Holy Spirit flow through us. We can’t just do good deeds and expect people to believe in Jesus and join the church. We have to have the Spirit-empowered courage and words to seal the deal, bringing people to Jesus and the church more than just inviting them. It’s up to us if the water will flow again.

Church Consultant George Barna has devoted years to tracking the impact of the church on society. In his book, The Second Coming of The Church, Barna says, “At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, I believe the church in America has no more than five years – perhaps even less – to turn itself around and begin to affect the culture, rather than be affected by it.”

Five years isn’t a very long time. Is it possible that the church that has been around for millennia is at death’s door? The answer is definitely, “Yes.” If one thinks back on church history, one can see those pivotal hinge moments in the life of human history when the culture was so corrupt that it crept into the church. At each juncture, heroes of the faith stepped forward. Certainly there were people like Martin Luther, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitfield who were at the vanguard. But, just as important were the unsung women and men, boys and girls that held the church to a higher standard of Biblical holiness. The Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, the First, Second, and Third Great Awakenings are evidences of God’s resuscitation of the church.

At the core of any revival is the passionate desire of God’s people to know Jesus Christ and make Him known. The combination of faith and action is impossible to deter. When the church wakes up to its possibilities and acts accordingly, the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

It is important to keep faith and action in balance. Acting without thinking is dangerous. There’s a story about President Lincoln and Union General Joe Hooker. Hooker had replaced General Burnside, and he wanted to establish a reputation as a general who took action. Accordingly, Hooker’s first message to the president bore the inscription: “Headquarters in the Saddle.”

Lincoln noticed the heading on Hooker’s dispatch, but was not impressed. Lincoln had already heard that Hooker’s actions had not been well thought out on the battlefield. The president said to an aide, “The trouble with Hooker is that he’s got his headquarters where his hindquarters should be.” Action without thinking is dangerously unwise, but inaction is a poor substitute.

The Sunday School teacher asked her class, “Which parable in the Bible do you like the best?” One child quickly piped up, “The one about the loafs and the fishes.” Loafing as a Christian is an anathema to God. To change this world, we have to put faith and action together. Rudyard Kipling said it well: “Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.” Let’s get to work!