Saturday, February 26, 2011

Relevance in Ministry


Wow! I just meandered into a shocker.

Cheri and I are preparing to minister in Cartagena and Medellin Colombia in a little over a week and one of our topics is “Staying Relevant in Ministry.”

PrJim Medellin conference flyer

So, doing what any individual seeking to BE relevant in our presentation would do, I googled “staying relevant ministry.”

I found out details on how to “re-brand” your ministry, how to make it look relevant to society, and many other innovative means to make the Christian message relevant.

But NONE of them had anything to do with Jesus.


We are taking a message of encouragement and hope to a group of pastors who need encouragement, direction, and passion for reaching their communities for Christ.

I have a strong feeling (based on past experiences with them) that they care very little (if at all) about “branding” their ministries.

Indeed, I thought the Gospel message WAS/IS about Jesus; yet ALL of my initial finds had more to do with cultural presentation and nothing to do with the REAL essence of ministry.

I believe that we in the 21st Century church MUST seek ways to be relevant in our appointed cultures BUT the message must start with the essence (or Essence) of that message rather than the filter through which it is delivered. (Down south, where I came from, we would say, “Don’t get the cart in front of the horse.”)

In my rant, please ponder this thought, let’s hone the message in our hearts and minds before we hone the presentation.

Let’s not focus so strongly on the delivery and presentation that we cover the message (Message.)

I think for a good, biographical portrait of what I am saying, I recommend reading “Peace Child” by Don Richardson. He had the message, and had to trust God for a presentation that would pierce the culture … but he never compromised that message.

I hope this provides stimuli for your thoughts.


Pray for us as we prepare for and minister to the pastors in Cartagena and Medellin Colombia in the next couple of weeks.

Dr. G

Friday, February 18, 2011

To Parents of Students


It is such a difficult time for our students to be living in. When I was in school (back in the 60’s and 70’s), we didn’t worry ourselves with shooters entering our schools and taking the lives of fellow students. Even bomb threats were rare and always seemed to be phony threats to get kids out of school early. One thing I often tell my grad students (speaking of today’s teens): “We were never their age.”

Oh, we may all have been teens once, and we may have faced temptations and difficulties. But, we weren’t fearful of fellow students with guns … or worse, angry adults with vendettas. Sure, we faced forced integration and dealt with angry rumors of other races carrying knives but never before has there been a time such as there is now.

My heart was broken a few years back, as I am sure was yours, when a young man in his thirties entered an Amish school house in rural Pennsylvania and shot all of the young girls in that classroom. How tragic this seems; yet, how familiar this scene is to ours. These students were simply going through their daily routine … and then tragedy struck.

My wife and I lived among the Amish for five and a half years in Ashland County, Ohio. They are wonderful people who stay to themselves, seek to harm no one, and fiercely protect their interpretation of the scriptures. They are also highly pacifistic, meaning they typically do not fight back or defend themselves. To see such a crime committed upon such a people is an atrocity. But, it would have been an atrocity upon any group of people.

Such events bring about need for change: change in our means of security, change in our view of others, and change in our outlook on life.

Change comes hard for most of us. Nonetheless, change is one of the few constants in life. In fact, life brings change. We must be willing to accept change and to flow with it. God tells us in His Word that “There's an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth” (Ecc 3:1, MSG). That means change is inevitable. It also means that God, Himself, implements some of this change.

It is sad that schools have to produce the security that they now do. It is sad that the value of a life is so small to some individuals. It is, however, a wonderful thing that we are once again reminded that God has created all of us and that He has established a plan and purpose for everyone. Let us continue to be patient with means of security that are placed around us. Let us be patient to work together to protect our students and to see God’s purpose accomplished in them.

It is a worthwhile effort.

It is a valuable effort.

It is a necessity.

On that note, I want to impress upon all of us the value of our students … and I want to encourage all of us to work with our students and to see God’s best in all of them (and us.) The following passage came from a little book written in the early 90’s. The quote was also featured in the movie, Akeelah and the Bee, as well as in Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 8th Habit. It was written by Marianne Williamson in her book, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles. It says:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. (Williamson 1992, 190-191)

Although you may disagree somewhat with Williamson’s theology, it is clear that she is an individual who looks for the human potential. Your student has potential. Let’s bring it out of them.


Williamson, Marianne. 1992. A return to love: Reflections on the principles of a course in miracles. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Right or Wrong

Is it always a case of “is it right or is it wrong?”

I don’t want to downplay the aspects of right and wrong; certainly there are such. To deny such would be to deny the state of “absolute” as well as that state of “sin.”

So while a negation of those concepts is NOT the intent of this blog, it should be noted that such concepts of “right” and “wrong” can often masks the concepts of personal responsibility.


Here’s what I’m getting at: often we look at our actions and declare them as right (usually) or wrong (not often.) But the greater truth is that we use these judgments as excuses and circumventions. (When we work in the field of biblical hermeneutics, we want to avoid “closed” questions: those that answer with a simple “yes” or “no.”

When we judge ourselves (or others) with a simple “right” or “wrong.” we tend to leave things in that situation, often without justice, mercy, grace, or revision.

Perhaps a better judgment than “right” or “wrong” might be that of “what can I learn from this,” “what could I have done differently,” or “what redeeming purpose can be derived from this action.”

Since living is growing … and experiencing is (or at least should be) growing, shouldn’t our goal be to learn from our experiences (as opposed to placing them on a shelf with the label “right” or “wrong”?)

After all, when we shelve them with labels, we often never turn to them again.

“Right” or “Wrong” … I don’t think so.

“What can I learn from this?” or “What could I have done differently?” Now those are questions I can LIVE with.


Polished Arrow Christian Endeavors

“To radically Reach, Teach, Nourish, and Unleash This and Future Generations with the Life-Changing Power of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Colombian Pastors’ Conferences 2011


As you probably know, Cheri and I have a desire to make a difference in the lives of others. That desire is prompting us to take a short-term missions trip conducting Pastors’ Conferences in Cartagena and Medellin, Colombia, South America this March. Through ministering to these pastors, we will be influencing much of the country of Colombia for Jesus Christ. It will be a full two weeks, but we are excited!

Colombia is a prime mission-sending nation because there is such a need among the people. Less than 7.5% of the people know Christ as their personal Savior in this predominately Catholic country. Additionally, many US pastors will not go there because of the perceived danger for which Colombia (especially Medellin) was formerly known ... and yet these Colombia pastors are hungry for someone to guide them and encourage them. We have been granted great favor with these pastors and want to take the relational love of Jesus to these pastors and to Colombians.

Although our food, housing, and ground transportation in Colombia are all taken care of, our flights will cost about $2500; we are in need of your help. We especially need your prayer support, since all of this is stretching us beyond our comfort zone! But Jesus commanded us to go into all the world to preach the gospel, and we truly believe He has appointed us for such a time and place as this. Perhaps you don’t similarly feel called to go to a foreign country, but you can be a part of the solution by your intercessory prayers and your financial investment.

If you are able to help financially, your gift is fully tax-deductible if you make it payable to Christian Life Center, 6363 W 183rd Street, Tinley Park, IL 60477. DO NOT put our name on the check memo. Please send it to us direct (19401 Tramore Lane, Mokena, IL 60448) so that we can submit it, or include a separate note indicating it’s for our Colombia trip if you mail it to the church.

Thank you in advance for anything you can do to help us, and may God bless you!


Pastors Jim & Cheri Garrett