Many of you prayed for me during the time surrounding my mom’s death on November 19th. I will never be able to thank you enough for your loving intercession. You may also know that I preached the weekend following mom’s death, which was the Sunday after Thanksgiving Day. This was her home church, Southwood Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Southwood has become one of my favorite churches in America. Dr. Michael Honeycutt, who is both a first-rate scholar and a real pastor, serves the people there as senior minister. He has become one of the truly excellent preachers I know. (You can hear Michael at the church’s Web site under the link that says "How to Connect.") He is also a man with a tender heart, an open mind and a genuinely teachable spirit. Mike and I can disagree and yet have never done so in a way that threatens a good friendship that grows with every visit we share. We agree on far more than we disagree on and where we disagree we do not make it an issue between us. I am not even exactly sure how we do disagree on some things, I just know that we approach some matters differently. We choose to develop the truths we share in common as brothers in Christ and to seek the good of the Church in the process. We are both Reformed evangelicals and thus that is not an issue between us at all. And we both believe in the unity of the Church in Christ and the gospel.
Mike had already invited me to preach on November 25th because he knew I wanted to visit my mom that weekend. Neither one of us knew that we would celebrate my mom’s life in a funeral service that afternoon, reminding us that "man proposes and God disposes." Well, when mom died I told Mike that "I still wanted to preach and I especially wanted to preach on the subject of thanksgiving." That sermon is now available for you at ACT 3 online.
I will be back at Southwood in 2008, on the first weekend of February. My mission then will be a retreat for the elders on the subject of becoming a missional church. Southwood has a growing hunger to become a truly missional congregation. Pray for them as they move in this direction and for Mike as he leads them. This church gives me hope for the future of highly educated, professional and significantly affluent congregations in America.
This all reminds to add that I very much agree with my friend Michael Novak, the Catholic ethicist, who says that the next great Christian awakening in the West will begin among the affluent. This counterintuitive statement, at least to my mind, must be true for reasons that I shall give on another occasion. This is also why our major teaching event in 2008 will be an ACT 3 Forum, with Dr. John Schneider of Calvin College, on "The Wealth Mandate." This will be held in Carol Stream on November 6-8. The case for my statement will be powerfully made at this event. Please mark the dates if you are interested at all.