Friday, November 27, 2009

My Oldest Friend --Harry Wood

Last week I had lunch with Harry Wood, the oldest friend I have. I have friends who are older but none who have been friends longer. Harry Wood and I were raised in the same local church in McKeesport, Pennsylvania—a church of about 150 on its highest days. Harry has been a friend of mine for more then 50 years.

As for our home church it was an unusual church. I sometimes wonder why some churches produce more ministers and leaders than others. I don’t know why, but McKeesport Pilgrim Holiness Church produced a lot of leaders—even before they started working with Harry Wood and me as children.

According to Harry’s count at least 33 sons and daughters of the church entered full-time ministry as pastors, ministry leaders, spouses of pastors, and missionaries. It produced denominational leaders too. From the members and pastors of this church came four General Superintendents: William Neff, R. G. Flexon, P. F. Elliot, and my friend, Harry F. Wood.

Besides GS’s the church also yielded General Officers to lead the denomination’s Youth work, Sunday Schools, and World Missions. And the McKeesport church also produced 9 District Superintendents, a traveling Song Evangelist, 15 local pastors and 7 pastoral spouses. They sent out two missionaries to the Oriental Missionary Society plus a host of other ministers serving in music ministry, prison ministry, US Military Chaplain, T.V. Ministry, and college professors.
Though I was raised in this church it had a more important affect on my life even before I was born. Mrs. Jalosky who was in her 80's when the church closed remembered her parents picking up two Methodist teen boys—Leonard and Elmer Drury and bringing them to this church. Soon the McKeesport church planted a sister church in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania and my father, Leonard Drury (and his father Walter Drury) both Methodists, came into the Wesleyan Church.

The McKeesport church was laid to rest in 2002 at age 88. Churches often die before age 100. But the people they’ve influenced live on—here or in heaven. Perhaps the church took a wrong turn in the road. They were eyeing a delightful new property for expansion but instead they chose to stay put. That property now is the location of another congregation that runs over 1,000 and now includes many of the former members of the old church. Just like individuals, congregations face forks in their road that affect their future. Once a leading church and ahead of the times they gradually in drifted to the back of the pack and eventually closed. But the building is now being used by an African-American congregation… people are still getting saved at the altar where I first went forward as a little child. A church building (and a denomination) is just a container for the real and lasting work of carrying forward the kingdom of God. Containers come and go, but the real work always continues in new wineskins. I loved that old church building, but I loved even more the people in it—like Willard Kleppinger, the my Children’s church leader who taught Harry and me to love the Bible. Eventually congregations fizzle and buildings crumble—but the work of the gospel remains forever.

keith drury

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A sermon on "and"

One of the most memorable sermons I ever heard was based on one three-letter word, “and.” I heard Bernard Phaup preach in Virginia when I was in my twenties. He used three passages where he emphasized only one word:

Luke 1:67—“His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied.”

Acts 2:4—“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Acts 4:3—“…they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”

I don’t recall anything else he said except one line he kept repeating: “When you are filled with the Holy Spirit there is always an and.”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kyle Ray at College Wesleyan today

Kyle Ray preached this morning at my church (College Wesleyan). Kyle will be the new Senior Pastor at the Wesleyan church in Kentwood Michigan, Kentwood Community Church when their founding pastor, Wayne Schmidt becomes the head of IWU’s seminary after Christmas.

Kyle preached on Mark 6 -- that intriguing story of the dancing girl asking for John the Baptist’s head on a platter instead of “half the kingdom.” He focused on how Herod gave in partly because he was worried about how he would look to the crowd if he defaulted on his promise. Kyle did a clever thing by adding two other scriptures on the topic from the gospel of Mark (ch 15 where Pilate also feared the crowd) and Jesus in Mark 1 (who resisted the pressures of fame and the crowd). His point—instead of worrying about pleasing the people worry more about pleasing an audience of one—God.

Kyle’s narrative-practical approach got me thinking all afternoon about the gruesome story, even beyond anything he raised directly in the sermon. I’ve been pondering…
• What would make a guy offer up to half of his kingdom? (a sexy dance?)
• What would make a girl ignore getting half-a-kingdom and choose instead some guy’s head (revenge?)
• What are the motivations that are even greater than wealth (Sex? Revenge?)
• How culpable was the girl—for obeying her mother?
• What were the cultural conventions of that world in such an offer—was it expected the girl would merely say, “Naaahhh I did it all for you?”
• How does this dancing girl compare to Ester in a similar situation?
• Are there vows and promises one shouldn’t keep—e.g. “The first thing that comes through that door I will offer up as a sacrifice to you Lord.”
• When is peer pressure a good thing—like a a Christian college?
• If we parents and professors train our children to “yield to the crowd” when it comes to church and family rules and expectations how will they respond when their crowd changes and yielding takes them the wrong way.
• To what extent should parents allow (encourage?) their children to reject some conventional rules on the idea that “a little rebellion is a good thing.”
• What do I do (or not do) that is mostly a result of fear of what others might think?
• In a democratically organized church, to what extent should a pastor “cater to the crowd” to survive and when should a pastor simply defy the crowd?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Connecting the dots

This semester I’ve been connecting dots… and they are beginning to make a shape.

I’m in a group-read of James K. A. Smith’s (Calvin College) Desiring the Kingdom. In another group I’m reading Newberg & Waldman’s How God Changes your Brain. Steve Rennick, pastor of The Church at the Crossing sent me a book on the Holy Spirit, Forgotten God by Frances Chan. I recently read the Emerging Nazarene's White Paper. I heard Charlie Alcock preach this past Sunday. Read stuff by and about Shane Claiborne. I talked to several younger pastors last weekend and also heard Leonard Sweet talk. I heard at lunch today a report about Steve Lennox’s recent string of local church meetings. I just answered a ton of email that had been piling up in my in-box. These and a dozen other dots have all connected to say a similar thing: “There is something wrong with the level of Christianity as we know it now.”

What do these dots mean? What’s up?

The conversations and writings sound strangely familiar, like echoes from the past. Sometimes they sound like the ancient desert fathers describing conventional Christians. They often sound like medieval monks intent on creating a new monastic order. They sound like the Puritans of the 1600’s. They remind me at times of early radical Protestants complaining about the Roman Catholic church. They sound similar to early Methodists complaining about the Anglican church. They are often reminiscent of the 18th century American holiness movement talking about mainline Methodism. They sound strangely similar to 20th Century Pentecostals describing nominal Christianity. They even sound a lot like radical holiness splinter groups who complained about “mainline holiness denominations.” The issues are different but the language, tone and complaints are similar. The dots are not isolated but they repeat a similar patter and the shape always says, : “There is something wrong with the level of Christianity as we know it now.”

I’m pondering these dots and wondering what’s up...

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Downhill side of the semester!

Downhill side of the semester

In a school semester there is a week when you “just feel it.” You know you are now headed in for a landing and Christmas is on the way. Last week was that week for me. Here is how I noticed.

LOCAL CHURCH EUCATION –the students start Monday writing their final three chapters of their Christian Education books—the Spiritual Formation of Children, Youth and Adults. By now they are functioning smoothly as writing teams and the magic has taken over—they have quit doing assignments for me and have become totally absorbed with writing their own books. I could even skip a class and they’d meet on their own, organize the work, assign each other research and writing, and get it done even if I didn’t show up. It is an amazing thing to watch. (I do still go to class—but sometimes go late on purpose just to see this wonder of self-motivation at work.

CURRICULUM THEORY AND WRITING – this is a smaller writing class and we’ve conquered curriculum theory, designed from scratch our own curriculum plan, and are writing furiously to put together a weeklong VBS Missional curriculum focused on the world. Our evening class is set up as a simulation and operates exactly like actual curriculum committees function—outlining, writing, reviewing, debating, assigning, and rewriting (and rewriting and rewriting again). This class is intent on actually publishing their final curriculum with Amazon’s CreateSpace Print-on-demand publishing. I thInk they might actually pull that off but they have LOTS of rewriting to do first ;-)

I got this class back this semester and love teaching freshmen—they are wonderful! The church is gonna’ be in good hands in the future! On Monday we are learning about dating, marriage and the ministry. This is the week they do the “Joshua and Caleb” activity of visiting the upper level classes to spy on them and interview upper division students on what these classes are like and how to do well in them. Man these students are hard workers!

And, of course I supervise practicum experiences in two of these courses… I am more convinced than ever that requiring local church experience and exposure is critical in either confirming their call to ministry or reminding those who “Love Jesus but hate the church” that other majors are where they belong.

I love teaching!