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credits

PROUDLY SERVING

AMARILLO

Patrick Kemp

Kelli Bullard

Collier Vinson

senior editor

features editor

art director

Seth Wieck

Joseph Schlabs

Alicia Flake

Jeremy Henderson

staff writer

photography

graphic design

graphic design

FOR 15 YEARS

contributors David Ritchie

director of young adult ministry

David has been overseas five times to study art, architecture, and church history. After taking a hiatus from school to help develop different ministries at Trinity, David has returned to his studies at WTAMU, and is helping develop a new young adult ministry.

Christopher Myers

english teacher - arbor christian academy

Christopher received his master’s degree in English from Kansas State University, and lived in New York City while he worked for a publishing company. Last year, he returned home to Amarillo to teach English at Arbor Christian Academy.

Cindy Rowley

executive pastor of care and connection

Cindy is taking great measures to insure that being connected to the body of believers at Trinity Fellowship is easier than ever. Take a look at her vision for connecting members on page 05, and see where you might fit in here at Trinity.

Roger Hodges worship pastor

During Roger’s almost-ten-year tenure at Trinity, he has recorded several live and studio worship albums, charted a #1 hit on contemporary worship lists, and weathered enough musical trends to know what really stands the test of time.

Patrick Schlabs

associate pastor of worship ministry

Patrick came on staff out of high school as a worship leader in the youth ministry. He has since been involved in the launch and development of several successful ministries, recorded a live worship album, and helped develop a whole new generation of worship leaders.

Advertising

For more information about advertising in future issues of Connect magazine, please email your questions to art@tfchurch.org, or call 677-1007.

Letters to the Editor

One of the goals of Connect is to spark a conversation within the church. If you have a response to any of the stories featured in Connect, please let us know by emailing us at connect@tfchurch.org.

Reader Suggestions

Do you have anything you would like to see in future issues? Let us know by emailing us at connect@tfchurch.org. Connect is a quarterly publication of Trinity FellowshipTM, 5000 Hollywood Road, Amarillo TX 79118. 806-355-8955. ©Copyright 2007 Trinity Fellowship. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the prior written consent of the publisher.

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34th & Soncy 4301 West 45th Avenue 2620 Wolflin Avenue 5/17/07 9:37:01 AM


S UMME R 2 0 0 7

05 11 13 14 16 17 25

How to Connect Faces-Women’s Retreat 2007 What to Do This Summer A Conversation with Raymond Boyd Album Reviews Counseling Partnership Meet the Staff

My Day as a Venus Girl

06

You don’t have to visit another planet to find the lifegroup of your dreams. Sometimes all it takes is a sense of adventure. By Kelli Bullard

The Mover

20

There are probably a lot of interesting people at church that you haven’t met. One of them might be Abram Letkeman. He’s a German-speaking white Mexican, with a side of Canadian thrown in to boot. By Christopher Myers

26

Abre Los Ojos

Ana Luisa left Mexico and her family three years ago for a new start in the United States. See how God has givin her a new family, even where no one speaks her language. By Seth Wieck

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The End of Laity

32

Over two millennia after the church began, there’s a new - and old - idea floating around that’s turning ministry on its head, and there’s a good chance you’re involved. Find out what the future of Trinity Fellowship looks like. By David Ritchie 5/17/07 9:37:31 AM


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how to connect by Cindy Rowley

ministry & counseling

discipleship

lifegroups

Have you ever met someone and felt an instant connection? In talking with this person, you may have found out you have similar interests or backgrounds. Or maybe you discovered you have a mutual friend or acquaintance. Whatever the reason, you found yourself quickly entering a “comfort zone,” and the two of you really connected. It’s something we all long for – an encounter with someone who lets you be yourself, and enjoys you just the way you are. That’s what Connect is all about. In this magazine, we plan to spotlight all that’s exciting and wonderful at Trinity Fellowship. We want to celebrate the value of each individual and their role in the body of Christ. You may not realize it, but you are hugely important in making this church who we are today. You are gifted. You are anointed. You are called by God to use your unique giftings for His kingdom. And we intend to help you do just that. A few years ago, I began paying attention to the first impression we were making on guests to our church. I asked the Lord to help me observe our facilities, ministries and systems with a fresh eye and to see them from the perspective

volunteer & service

of someone walking through our doors for the first time. It was an eye-opening experience, and since then we have implemented a lot of changes to help people feel comfortable and welcomed. Today our challenge goes a step further. Not only do we want people to feel comfortable and accepted, but we want to help them get plugged in. Ephesians 4:11-12 says that Jesus “gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” This Scripture demonstrates that it takes each person doing their part, operating in their individual giftings, for the body of Christ to be effective in our calling. How are you connected at Trinity? Are you part of a lifegroup or a discipleship class? Do you volunteer on a regular basis, or are you involved in an area of ministry? Maybe you are part of a ministry counseling group which will allow God’s healing and restoration to be completed in your life. All of these are excellent ways that you can begin to utilize the gifts that God has placed within you.

I encourage you to take a look at the lifegroup directory in the center of this magazine and find a group that interests you. Then give the leader a call and try it out this summer. It’s one of the best ways to get to know people who have similar interests as you, and to make some new friends. We are also putting together a directory of volunteer and service opportunities here at Trinity. Soon you will be able to pick up a copy and learn about all the ways to give of your time, talents and abilities. You can also watch the weekly bulletin or go online to www.tfchurch. org to learn more about upcoming classes, along with various avenues of ministry and counseling. Whether you’re a longtime Trinity member or just starting out, there is a place of service that God has set aside especially for you. And you will never be completely fulfilled until you are operating in it. Take that first step today. Find a lifegroup, sign up for a class, or check out the volunteer opportunities. Get connected, and while you’re at it, bring someone along with you!

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COMMU NI TY, CO NVER S ATIO NS , AND INSPIR ATIO N FO R LIFE .

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a s a y a d l y M r i g

S U N E V

rd a l l u lli b

ke y b ed

ph & n te t i r w

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ph a r g oto

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I

first heard of the Venus Girls Backpacking and Hiking lifegroup about a year ago and was very intrigued. This group of women takes monthly hiking trips to various mountain destinations, and they’re beginning their fourth year together. Susan Stephens, the group’s founder, invited me to come along on their first outing of the season, just “an easy little hike for fun.”

11:55

I’m on my way to the church to meet the Venus Girls for a day of hiking at Palo Duro Canyon, and I have to admit I’m a little nervous. First of all, these women are real hikers, and I’m just a wannabe. In the three years they’ve been together, they’ve climbed to the highest elevation in six states, including Mt. Elbert in Colorado, Mt. Humphries in Arizona, and Guadalupe Peak in Texas. Now that I’ve agreed to join them today, I’m asking myself the obvious question: What’s an “easy little hike” for women who’ve been to the top of Pikes Peak? Looks like I’m about to find out. ›

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12:29

We just left the church parking lot and we’re driving to the canyon. Cindy Freitag is riding with me, and we marvel at what a beautiful day it is. Yesterday’s rain has enhanced the brilliance of the early spring colors, and the big blue sky is intoxicating. Cindy became a Venus Girl in 2005 through longtime friend Tammy Whipple. Her first hike was Wheeler Peak in New Mexico. She says it was an incredible experience but more challenging than she expected. “Going up was wonderful, but coming down my legs were jelly,” she says. Since that first hike, she’s added weight training to her workouts to build leg strength. For Cindy, the mountaintop moments are the payoff. “It’s one of the times I feel closest to God,” she says. “It’s just an incredible view. You’re on top of the world. It makes you see that there’s this vast beautiful country out there, and yet we have a God that cares about every hair on our head.”

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1:00

Sitting in a line of cars at the park entrance. Evidently the nice weather has enticed a lot of people into the great outdoors, and what better place? Once we make it through the gate, I follow Susan’s Tahoe as we begin descending into the canyon. Abruptly, Susan pulls over to the side of the road. “This is it – the CCC trail,” she says. We’ve chosen a trail that’s midway down the canyon in hopes that it won’t be as muddy as the ones at the bottom. Twenty minutes later, we take off from the trail head with our hiking essentials – backpacks, sunscreen, hats, water bottles and snacks. Susan leads the way along with Soldier, her Australian Shepherd. Cheryl McNair and Cindy fall in behind, which leaves me bringing up the rear. Not a great idea, since I brought my camera to take pictures of today’s hike. And no one wants to see photos of my fellow hikers’ backsides the whole way. About the time I decide to step up my pace and get in front of the hikers for a photo op, the trail deteriorates into puddles of mud. I attempt to tiptoe around the puddles, but not very successfully. Globs of mud stick to my shoes, but I finally manage to get to the front of the group and snap a few pictures.

1:42

So far, so good. We’ve fallen into a comfortable rhythm as the trail twists and turns through cactus and rocks. My only concern at this point is the 5-pound camera I brought along; the strap is rubbing my neck and it’s starting to really annoy me. (Note to self: Next time bring smaller camera.) “Can y’all see the coon tracks?” Susan points to tiny, handlike prints in the dirt that criss-cross one way and then the other. “He must have been going back and forth,” she says. To me, these prints can only mean one thing: this poor raccoon is directionally challenged. And I feel for the litle guy, I really do, because I have the same problem. Just ask anyone who knows me. In fact, now that I mentioned it, I’m not really sure where we are right now. Did anyone bring a map?

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1:58

I’m feeling more confident now that Cheryl got out the map and pinpointed our location. We’re hiking a portion of the CCC Trail that’s used during the musical drama “Texas.” Remember the scene where the horse and rider gallop high above the audience, waving a Texas flag? That’s where we are. Interesting fact: The CCC Trail was originally built after the war by the Civilian Conservation Corps (hence its name), and was just recently re-opened. “Look at these beautiful little purple flowers,” Susan points out. One of the important aspects of hiking is taking time for what she calls “Selah” moments – a time to pause, take in the view, and admire the creativity of God. At age 48, Susan found out she had osteoporosis. She had always been active, so the diagnosis took her by surprise. And it made her mad. She decided to fight back through nutrition, prayer, and exercise. When the option of hiking for exercise came up, she knew she had hit upon an answer. “We were visiting friends in Colorado Springs, and one of them mentioned a neighbor who climbs Pikes Peak all the time,” she says. “When they said that, I felt like all the air was sucked out of the room, and I knew I wanted to do that. I said, ‘Lord willing, I’m going to do that.’”

2:25

You might think the Venus Girls live, breathe, eat and sleep hiking, but that’s not exactly true. Sure, they love the experience – the majestic scenery, the beauty of nature, the invigorating challenge – but the benefits go much deeper. It’s really all about relationships – with other women and with God. “Hiking is only an avenue,” says Susan. “We’re very attentive to each other’s spiritual needs. After all, that’s our main occupation.” As we continue walking, Susan grows restless, so she runs ahead to scout what’s further up the trail. When we catch up, she’s standing on top of a huge boulder, where the trail dead-ends. The view from the top of the rock is breathtaking. Shades of red and orange streak the canyon walls, and shoots of green emerge between the rocks. Miles and miles of canyon stretch in every direction. Another Selah moment.

2:44

We’re descending to the bottom of the canyon, so it’s easy going now. We end up in the amphitheater parking lot, look around a few minutes, and then start back up. By now, my legs are tired and I’m breathing hard. “The climb levels off just up ahead,” says Cheryl, although I could have sworn she said that ten minutes ago. Cheryl saw the Venus Girls listing in Trinity’s lifegroup directory two years ago and was absolutely thrilled. Growing up in Colorado, she had worked for the forestry service during high school, and had undertaken a 22-mile wilderness backpacking trip several years ago. Venus Girls was her dream-come-true. “It came at a time in my life when I was needing an outlet, and I felt like God was saying, ‘I know this is a desire of your heart and I want to give this to you,’” says Cheryl. “Since then it’s been really great.” ›

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3:07

A hawk circles overhead, and the enormous blue sky is dotted with puffs of white clouds. I can’t imagine a more perfect day. The temperature is about 70 degrees, and there’s no wind, no mosquitos. The rich smell of cedar lingers in the air. Some people think the name “Venus Girls” comes from the book Men Are From Mars , Women Are From Venus, but that’s not the case. It actually originated during a conversation on the drive home from their first hike – Sugarite Canyon in Raton. The women began talking about other places they’d like to hike. They were dreaming big; the sky was the limit. “I would really like to go to Scotland someday,” Susan said. One of the other women mentioned New Zealand. Then Terry Polley spoke up and said, “Well, I’d like to hike in Venus.” After a few confused minutes, Susan asked, “You mean the planet?” Terry replied, “No, no, where they have those little long, skinny boats.” “You mean Venice!” Susan said. They laughed so hard they nearly had to pull over. From that day, they’ve called themselves the Venus Girls, and Terry is their designated mascot.

3:30

We’re wrapping up our hike because some of the women need to get back to the church by 4:00. It’s been a good day, really good. Other than a few sore muscles that I’ll probably feel tomorrow, I’m no worse for the wear. Susan offers to write down her recipe for a soothing after-hike bath, which sounds really good right now. The Venus Girls have asked me to join them for a real hike sometime, a true mountaintop experience. And I would love to. Spending a few hours together was fun, and I think a whole weekend would be awesome. Plus the idea of climbing a real mountain excites me. Susan says it opens the soul; it’s the place she feels strengthened, energized – like a shot of adrenaline. When she first started the group, Susan would have hiked alone if no one else wanted to come. But today these 13 women share a bond, a spiritual connection that comes from a deep friendship in the Lord. “It has grown to be such a nurturing group,” Susan says. “And the camaraderie you feel when you achieve a goal together is huge.”

3:45

Driving back to Amarillo, I do feel a sense of accomplishment, even though on a scale of 1 to 10, this hike was probably a 2 (ok, maybe a 1.5). But there’s always another day, another mountain, right? And I believe what Cindy says is true: “It’s just like any goal you set out to achieve in life; the more challenging it is, the larger the reward when it’s over.” So look out, Pikes Peak, here I come. But first I think I’ll try out that soothing bath recipe.

VENUSGIRLS

AFTER-HIKE

RELAXING

BATH ingredients 2 cups apple cider vinegar 1 cup Morton kosher salt Thermometer (optional)

directions Fill bathtub with hot water (approximately 105º F).

Stir ingredients into bath water.Get in bathtub and soak for at least 20 minutes to sweat out toxins. Whenyou finish,you’re ready to plop into bed and go fast asleep for the night!

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Shea Tender, Crystal Hahn

faces

Brenda Chavez, Patty Graham

Kim May, Terri Boles

Kelly Tucker, Stacey Chase, Carrie Hicks, Tammy Prescott, Kristi Widowski

Women’s Ministry

Morgan & Kim Bowers

Amy Mendoza, Cherity Mays

Stacey Conner, Allison Neusch

Deborah Dines, Brenda Todd

Robin Tipps, Melinda Hodson

Megan Schlabs, Megan Kemp, Krystal Burns

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Nadine Smith, Christa Boyd

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raymon a conversation with

How long have you been on staff at Trinity?

My first day, starting day was March 1.

Where were you before that?

Before that I was in Austin, Texas. I had started my own company called Interactive Worship Live, and we do backing tracks for churches to help worship teams execute their live worship performances. Is that company still going on?

Yes. We are…we probably can’t say where we are right now. We’re working out distribution deals with a prominent, with one of the majors [record labels]. Put it that way. You played with Michael W. Smith. How long did you play with him?

I was with Michael for 10 years, from January 1996 ’til December 2005. Ten years almost to the day. How did you get hooked up with him?

That’s a cool story. My roommate at the time, Micah Wilshire and his now wife, were doing some vocal sessions for him. And he went in there and asked them if they wanted to go on the road with him. So they were like, “Sure we’d love to go!” This was 1995. So Micah came home and said, “You won’t believe this. We’re going on the road with Michael W. Smith.” I congratulated him, and we went on with small talk. And then all of a sudden he said, “And you know, they need a percussionist/keyboard player to go along.” I said, “Bro, I’m your man”

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nd boyd by Seth Wieck

(laughing). So Micah said he would recommend me to him, but I’d heard that before so I didn’t think much of it. And this is how it went. Two weeks after that I got a phone call saying, “Hey, can you have a meeting?” And that meeting was with Michael W. Smith, and the bandleader at the time, Brent Bourgeois. That meeting took all of 30 minutes. And then two weeks after that I got another phone call that said, “Welcome to the tour.” How old were you?

I was 24. I was still in college, and I actually got credit for the tour. We had a music business internship program, and so I interned with Michael’s management company. I got like 6 or 8 credits for the tour. It actually helped me graduate from Belmont. What was your favorite place to visit on tour?

In the United States... probably the most fun I’ve ever had with Michael was working on Healing Rain. We went to Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, California. Going to George Lucas’ place was probably the most fun I had. We were there for a week. We tracked [recorded] in what they called the “Tech” building, which is a massive tracking room. It was just beautiful with rolling hills. I think that ranch is five square miles, and it’s just gorgeous. I think that was the best place I’ve been in the U.S. Jackson Hole, Wyoming was nice, too. But I think Paris was my favorite overseas place. It was just beautiful, and the food was great.

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You’ve done a lot of consulting work with churches.

Well, actually, it’s always kind of gone on, but I never knew to call it consulting. My friends would either have me come in and teach their band things, or I would get asked to produce a project for churches. I did two of Roger’s records, and sort of co-produced on the last Trinity project [I Will Lift You Up]. They would ask me advice on running the team, or can you help my rhythm section sound better? I didn’t really fully call it consulting until last year. Where did you meet Roger [Hodges]?

I met Roger at Christ for the Nations Institute (CFNI). I went there before I went to Belmont. He still had hair. How did you choose CFNI?

Actually, through Kenny Price. A lot of you don’t know this, but Kenny was my youth pastor growing up. He was everybody’s youth pastor.

and was on a plane to Dallas. My mom and dad felt really at ease with that, so that’s how I ended up at Christ for the Nations, because of Kenny Price. Did he think you ought to go into ministry?

He didn’t know. But in 1993 or 1994, Kenny had gotten a job here at Trinity as the youth pastor. So he called me up and said, “Raymond, can you and your sister, Crystal, come and help me start this ministry at least for the summer?” We didn’t have anything to do between the college years. So we said yes and actually came here. My sister and I were interns here at Trinity for three months with Kenny as he was starting up the youth ministry. Is that not wild? [Kenny Price was a major player at Trinity in reaching the youth of Amarillo in two generations: once in the early ‘90s, and then again in 2004, he founded Blü. He left Trinity in 2006 to work for Teen Mania. He now pastors Summit Church in Canyon, TX.]

Yeah, in Hampton, Virginia, at a church called Bethel Temple Assembly So how did we get you here? What was of God. Isn’t that weird? I met him the tipping point? when I was like 13. Things were going well with my I was thinking about going to a couple company. I’m a builder, or a producer in of universities closer to home, but I the wider sense of the word. I like to see didn’t really feel peace about either of something that’s in the rough, develop those two. I had started the application it, and then see it released out to the process for those schools, and I was world. That’s what I like to do. So when working out at the gym with Kenny one it looked like this “major” was gonna day, and he said, “I think you ought to come in to help with the distribution try Christ for the Nations.” and marketing of my company that I COMMU NI TY, CO later NVER S ATIO , AND INSPIR ATIO N FOchecked R LIFE . He said that, and like two weeks had NS helped co-found, I kinda I had applied, got in, had my hair cut, out in my mind. So I was looking for

15

5/17/07 9:39:48 AM


something else. Then Roger just called me out of the blue, I think in December 2006, and says, “Would you think about coming here? Pray about it.” So I kinda laughed, “Sure. Ha, ha.” I kinda mentioned it to my wife, and she said, “I would consider going.” I was like, “What?” My wife is a big citygirl, so Amarillo would have to be God, right? We started praying. Also about the same time Israel Houghton, out of Lakewood [ Joel

Osteen’s church in Houston] called me. That’s when we started seriously praying, “God, where do you want us to go?” Because with Lakewood and Trinity calling, it was really like it might be time to move to the next stage. But during that, I was not feeling settled about what to do. I was in my son’s bedroom, I got on my knees and said, “God, I really need to know. I don’t want to lead either one of them on.” And I really felt like I heard God speak to

me. “What would you do if you weren’t afraid of making a mistake?” And I said, “Without a doubt, I’d go to Trinity.” So there was my answer. Well, we’re glad to have you.

It is great to be here. I am excited about the future. I am excited about what God’s doing here at the church. Excited about what God’s doing in Amarillo.

album reviews Tim Hughes

Jonny Lang

Holding Nothing Back

Turn Around

Release Date: 4/2007 © Survivor Records

Release Date: 9/2006 © Mercury Records

Jonny Lang had the world at his fingertips as a teenage guitar hero. Comparisons to Stevie Ray Vaughan and other blues giants put him in a league of his own at an early age. His newest recording “Turn Around” is a testimony of how his life was changed by the transforming power of Christ’s love. Two songs that particularly move me are “Thankful,” featuring a duet with Michael McDonald, and “Only A Man.” The latter reveals the artist’s transparency and is my favorite song on this album. I would recommend this for anyone who enjoys Motown, the blues, or any kind of heartfelt spiritually “real” music. - R og er H odg es

418337_ConnectMagazine.indd 18

Tim Hughes’ newest album accurately captures his sincere heart for God and his prolific ability to write great worship songs.He doesn’t simply sound like every other great writer with a great voice, but rather comes across as a truly passionate lover of God. That same heart is clearly echoed in previous great songs like “Beautiful One,” and “Here I am to Worship,” and continues with soon-to-be weekend worship favorites, “The Highest and the Greatest,” and “Clinging to the Cross.” If you are in need of a fresh worship album that you can worship to during your prayer time then this may be just the album you’ve been waiting for. - Pa t r ick Schla b s

5/17/07 9:39:55 AM


Healing Our Community A Partnership of Churches

New ministry and support groups are springing up around town as Amarillo churches partner together to coordinate their efforts. In April, representatives from Trinity Fellowship, Hillside Christian Church and Amarillo South Church met to brainstorm ways to join forces and offer ministry groups to address a variety of needs in our community. Gail Stennis, Trinity’s pastor of care and counseling, said the idea for the joint effort came from the realization that although Trinity can provide ministry for many life situations, our resources are still limited. Knowing that other churches had to be experiencing similar limitations, she hit upon the idea of pooling those resources. After that first meeting, phones began ringing and plans were put into place. “The whole mindset is to work together, and the response among the churches has been incredible,” said Pastor Gail. The outcome of this beginning partnership is the following listing of several ministry and support groups being offered at various churches this summer. And we believe this is only the beginning of an exciting new avenue to unite our efforts and minister to people in our city.

Trinity Ministry Groups

For dates and times, check the Summer Lifegroup Directory found in the center of this magazine. Beauty for Ashes Blended Families Boundaries Breathe Again Freedom From Your Past Grandparents Raising Grandkids Griefshare

Help! My Man Struggles with Sexual Addiction! Managing Temptation Men Living in Freedom Every Day Overcoming Substance Abuse Parenting with Intimacy Survivors of Suicide Women in Crisis Marriages

Partnership Churches’ Ministry Groups

For more information, please call the church that is hosting the group you are interested in. Survivors of Suicide 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays Hillside Christian Church call Kris Collins at 457-4900

Recovery for Women 7:00 p.m. Thursdays Amarillo South call Susan Finger at 674-0391

Men’s Recovery Group 7:00 p.m. Thursdays Amarillo South call Rick Steen at 622-8067 or 674-6502

Reformers Unanimous Addiction Recovery 7:00 p.m. Fridays & 9:30 a.m. Sundays Arden Road Baptist Church 355-8286

Men’s 12-Step Bible Study/Recovery Group 7:00 p.m. Mondays Amarillo South call Shawn McGee at 433-4931

Support Group for Chronic Disease Sufferers Time - TBA Kingswood United Methodist 358-7095

Mighty Men of God & Virtuous Women 7:00 p.m. Mondays Cowboy Church 622-8000

Checkmate Addiction Recovery 6:00 p.m. 1st & 3rd Sundays Believers Way 463-7284

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5/17/07 9:40:01 AM


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5/17/07 9:40:04 AM


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5/17/07 9:45:01 AM


THE MOVER

by Christopher Myers

Abram Letkeman

If you ask who he is and where he is from, he won’t answer you directly. He will only tell you what he is—a German-speaking, white Mexican. For him, this is the simplest way of saying he is from everywhere. Born in Canada into a community of migrant Mennonites, Abram spent the greater part of his childhood traveling back and forth between Canada and Mexico. On the surface he appears to be a typical West Texas contractor, from the company-emblazoned on denim shirt tucked neatly into his jeans, down to the worn work boots. His blond hair and bluish-green eyes, deepened in intensity by his tanned face, reveal his German ancestry. His solid build is a testament to the work ethic of generations of Mennonite tradesmen. To speak with Abram is to meander across the North American landscape, from Canada to Mexico back to Canada over and over again, only to stop eventually in the panhandle of Texas. Who is Abram Letkeman? Abram Letkeman, like his biblical namesake, is a sojourner. He is a mover. He is a mover, not only in the sense that he spent his childhood moving back and forth across a continent, but also in the sense that during our interview he is in constant motion. His leg bounces almost continuously. If his elbows aren’t planted in front of him when he’s making a point, then his arms are thrust between his legs under the table, while the single leg continues to bounce. It is not that he is uncomfortable. It is not that he is nervous. He is simply kinetic. He has spent the greater part of his life outdoors, and he moves with the kind of energy that betrays a tentative peace with the indoors. And more than his leg moves or his arms move or his eyes move around the room, his stories move. Abram compares the way he tells stories to a police scanner, jumping from event to event. And like a police scanner, the stories don’t always come in as clear as you might like, but they are always important. 

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where i’m from

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abram letkeman

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Even though Abram doesn’t know how many generations ago it was that his ancestors came from Europe, he does know why—to escape religious persecution. Originally settling in Ontario, Abram’s Mennonite forbearers left Canada when the law required them to learn English. To them this stipulation would be the first in a long line of requirements meant to absorb them into their adopted land. They made their way to Mexico, where the Mexican government offered a privilegium¸ an agreement not to interfere with Mennonite life or culture. But a non-interference agreement didn’t mean there was always work, forcing many of the community back to Canada. When Abram Letkeman’s father, David Letkeman, was 18 years old, his grandmother gave him a cow. Each young man in the Mennonite community was given a similar gift to start their own farm. But he had different plans. He sold the cow to buy a Canadian passport. There was farm work in Canada for migrant Mennonite workers like Abram’s father. He saw the cow as an opportunity for his young family. But even with his ticket out of Mexico, as a Mennonite he didn’t have much vocational latitude. As Abram pointed out, “There’s only three types of Mennonites— that’s a farmer, a mechanic, and a carpenter.” Abram’s father was a farmer, and whether he was picking tobacco or tomatoes, it didn’t matter. The family followed the work wherever, from Canada to Mexico back to Canada over and over again. Though he spent his early life in transit, Abram speaks of his childhood with great fondness, describing a world akin to Tom Sawyer’s, filled with slingshots and mischief. There is no hint of bitterness in his story, no sense that he missed out on the better things. “I was a Davy Crockett kind of kid. I had the slingshot. I shot every bird in sight. When I was a little older I got a BB gun. I went duck hunting all the time. I shot a lot of ducks with my pellet gun.” There is still something of this boy in him, a certain mischievous sensibility. I see a gleam in his eye when he tells me about a ram from the farm he grew up on. He laughs as he describes how he painted the ram’s horns red and how he and his brothers would sick the ram on unsuspecting neighbors. And when he speaks of his childhood, he speaks in the language of community. Everything is we and our, never I and mine. This is the legacy of his Mennonite upbringing— the downplayed individual. They were a collective that moved

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together, worked together, ate together, lived together—all was together. Their identity came from others, never the self as an individual. After all, it’s hard to know where you end and your brothers begin when you share a room with all 4 of them. But growing up was far from idyllic. Later his family moved to Seminole, Texas, and there Abram endured bullying and ridicule. Recalling the taunting and the fights he would get into, Abram says that was the first time he knew he and his family were different. “I thought the word Mennonite was a cuss word. It was synonymous with a cuss word.” The taunting Abram endured gave him a unique perspective on discrimination. “I actually got to the point where I didn’t believe racism existed. People don’t hate you because of your skin color—they hate you because you’re different.” In the midst of this persecution, the Mennonite church offered no real consolation. Though he was raised in a religious community, church was not at the center of his family’s life. In fact, the first time Abram even remembers going to church he was twelve years old. In Mexico the closest church was a thirtyminute buggy ride away, and Abram’s parents didn’t often go. Even when they did go, Abram didn’t understand the services. The church service, like the school he attended, was conducted in high-German, a language as foreign and useless to him as Latin.

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“This is who I was, this is who I’m going to be.“

The real turnaround for him was meeting his now wife, Kathy, in Seminole, Texas. “She was a huge influence in my life…She was actually a missionary from the Gospel Mennonite church in Canada. She was teaching at the Old Colony Mennonite church in Seminole as a teacher there, doing her mission work. So I met her in Seminole…and in order to be with her, I had to go to church with her. ‘If you want to hang out with me,’ she said, ‘I will see you at church on Sunday.’” At that Gospel Mennonite church in Seminole, Abram first heard the gospel in a language he could understand. Dave Klassen, the pastor, befriended Abram. “I really liked him. I didn’t know why. He would laugh around with you, joke around with you and be normal, not stoic and preacherly, wearing the black suit.” At coffee one day, Pastor Dave presented the gospel to Abram. “He asked me if I wanted to know Jesus Christ and I said, ‘Yeah, why not?’ I had nothing better to do that day.” So they prayed together, but more importantly, Pastor Dave told Abram to tell someone about his decision to follow the Lord. Abram told his future wife. “I told Kathy. That just changed everything, you know, when you tell somebody, ‘This is who I was, this is who I’m going to be.’ That’s where the real transformation kicked in. Now you’ve told somebody. Now it’s for real. I took a 180 there. I tried to do everything opposite of what I had been doing, ’cause I was pretty sure whatever I had done was wrong. That was pretty much a given.” Things that most people who grew up in church would consider elementary were deep insights for Abram. “My first revelation from God was that the Bible combined is the Old Testament and New Testament into one. This was a revelation to me. My knowledge of scripture was so little. I didn’t know that.” Before marrying Kathy, Abram was looking for work.

He called around all over the Texas panhandle and no one was hiring, except a siding company in Amarillo, Wholesale Siding. “We just moved to Amarillo. I didn’t know the good part of Amarillo. We found a house in the newspaper for $10,000. We went and looked at it and thought, ‘Let’s buy it.’ We went to the bank and they turned me down for a $10,000 loan in the hood. And I was offended because they called me poor. I could not believe it. I had a truck, made the payments. I worked for my landlord on the weekends. I was severely offended.” Initially, they lived in a mobile home on the south side of town. After visiting some churches in town, the Letkemans’ neighbors, Jeremy and Pamela Silva, invited them to visit Trinity. Walking in that first Sunday, Abram asked a man for directions to the sanctuary. “I stopped a guy and said, ‘Where’s the church at?’ He said, ‘It’s over there. Hope you brought your dancing shoes.’ We just about turned around there and left. A Mennonite considers Church of Christ people to be charismatic. We just about turned around, but we were dressed, we were there. Pastor Jimmy was preaching on why they were demonstrative. That was the first sermon I remember hearing—why they raise their hands. Very timely for us. After that, we just started going right out. Never quit going since then.” Soon after that Abram started attending Pastor Bo’s lifegroup. Remembering that first lifegroup, Abram recalls, “I thought my job in the lifegroup was to heckle Pastor Bo.” Jokes aside, Abram says he has benefited greatly over the years from the spiritual guidance and business advice he has received from the leadership at Trinity. He calls them “an immaculate group of men.” Abram now owns his own business, Lone Star Windows & Siding, and he has recently broken into the real estate market with some rental properties. ›

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THESE ARE THE CONTOURS OF ABRAM’S JOURNEY:

from Canada to Mexico and back again, from Mennonite to Charismatic, and, most significantly, from death to life. Abram has seen the world. And given that he grew up in a community that clearly defined what was in and out of bounds, Abram’s understanding of worldliness is insightful. It is a simple understanding, resonant in our own evangelical culture that so readily distinguishes between the holy and unholy. “Worldliness is living outside the will of God. It is not the abundance of things or the lack of things or what type of clothing you wear.” And

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true to form Abram punctuates his insight with a joke. “I used to have to wear weird clothes, which I don’t want to talk about. It scarred me emotionally.” It is this balance of insight and humor that stands out about Abram. Though many would resent a childhood like his, through insight and humor, he sees the bigger picture and refuses to pass judgment on the way he was raised. Abram says we all have our hang-ups; his just happen to be

because of the community he grew up in. But he is quick to put these hang-ups in perspective. “I don’t think it matters what race, religion, creed, whatever you belong to. We’re all prone to sin. We all need a Savior. You know.” These are the words of a mover. Abram is able to move on in ways we sometimes never do. To him, the past is past. For many of us, the past is more present than the moment in front of us. But Abram is not hounded by his past.

He’s made his peace.

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meet the staff

hartman, wells, widowski

Jeffery Michael Hartman

Bree D’Layne Wells

Adam Walter Widowski

Born: August 10, 1976

Born: June 13, 1984

Born: October 29, 1967

Family: Wife, Dr. Heather Hartman, and one son, Elliot (1 year old)

Family: Father, Gary Wells, Mother-in-love Dawn Wells, and brother Britton (19)

Family: Wife, Kristi Widowski, and two kids, Emma (9) and Gunner (13)

Hometown: New Carlisle, Ohio

Hometown: Canyon, Texas

Hometown: Amarillo, Texas

Hobbies: Disc golf, and playing peek-a-boo with his son.

Hobbies: Playing guitar, writing/singing music

Hobbies: Anything outdoor, football, skiing.

Favorite sports team: Ohio State Buckeyes. #2 in everything!

Favorite sports team: Texas A&M Aggies, baby! Whoooooop!

Favorite sports team: Texas A&M Aggies.

Favorite Book: Grudem’s Systematic Theology

Favorite Book: Blue Like Jazz, or anything Francine Rivers

Favorite Book: Stand Against the Wind by Erwin McManus

Things you might not know: Jeff loves Szechuan Hot & Spicy at Ipoh in Toledo. They tried different Chinese places in Virginia, while his wife was working on her post-doctoral studies in chemistry with the FBI, but nothing ever matched up with that little hole-in-the-wall back home. The owners knew their names when they walked in. “Jeff, #7, Fried Rice no wing. Heather, #17, White Rice no wing.”

Things you might not know: Bree played the lead, Elsie McClean, in the musical “TEXAS” last summer in Palo Duro Canyon. Bree was planning to move to Nashville when she graduated from college last May, to pursue a music career. However, when the “TEXAS” (she sings the title whenever she speaks about it) opportunity came up, Bree knew it was something she couldn’t refuse. While doing “TEXAS,” God had another opportunity in store for Bree. He unexpectedly opened a door for her to work at Trinity in a position she is thrilled about. She says that if she’d gone to Nashville then she’d probably be working some ho-hum job to pay for her music hobby, but now music is her job. Bree created a drama team for which she writes sketches weekly, and she is in charge of the three children’s ministry worship bands. And she relishes the opportunity to be close to her family. “I’ve decided Amarillo is a good place to live.”

Things you might not know: Adam will beat your kid at any game there is, or else he’ll pout. Apparently, this competitive trait showed itself early because at 13, he won a citywide wrestling championship in the 112lb. division, for which he still has the trophy (in the attic, he promises).

Associate Director of Production Services

Jeff came on staff in February as our Associate Director of Production Services, or Video Engineer as he prefers to tell people. When he and his wife started a family, they decided that they would rather her stay home, so he began looking for something more stable than his freelance work in Washington, D.C. He was offered a position with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, but ultimately he decided to come to Trinity after spending a week here and meeting members of the church.

Associate Pastor of Children’s Ministries

Associate Pastor of Children’s Ministry

Your kids know him as Mr. Adam, and if they’ve been in 5th or 6th grade in the past two years, they probably already knew him (and there’s a good chance that they thought he was the coolest 39-year-old, Mark Wahlberg lookalike ever!!!), because for over two years Adam volunteered at X-treme, the children’s ministry targeted at 5th and 6th graders, where he did everything from preach at the Wednesday night and weekend services, to help plan the annual Kids’ Camp every summer at Floydada.

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LARGE, EMPATHETIC EYES. THEY ARE KEY. THEY ARE THE KIND OF EYES THAT ARE INHERITED, AND THEN PASSED ON TO CHILDREN. Ana Luisa married her boyfriend when her to begin packing. She cried because she loved she was 16 in Chihuahua, México. She was pregnant with their first child, a daughter, a product of their adolescent union. But things were well. They had the blessing and support of both sets of parents, and both worked full-time jobs at local factories. Rodólfo, the new husband, would come home from work with new furniture or groceries, and kiss the glowing mother of his child. When their daughter came, she had Ana Luisa’s eyes. Large and empathetic. They had big plans. Rodólfo worked in the television manufacturing business, the trade he inherited from his father, and he could support his family. Ana Luisa was able to leave her daughter at her mother’s house while she worked. They owned their house, and by this time, Ana Luisa was only 18. But in the unstable economy of México, there is always the lingering fear that you won’t get your next paycheck. Only 44% of Chihuahua is employed, which means that there is a long line of people looking for your job at a reduced price. As a teenage father of a young family, Rodólfo built a mindset around that fear, and kept his eyes open for something more stable. Word came from his aunt, who had emigrated to Amarillo, that there was work for television repairmen. His parents went to scout it out, and on his eighteenth birthday, they returned with stories of paychecks that came every two weeks, for a job that was promised to him when he arrived. He decided that day that he and his family were moving to America. When Ana Luisa came home from work, he informed her of his decision and told

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México, but these were the circumstances, the same circumstances that virtually all of our ancestors had before us. They obtained work permits to apply their trade in Estados Unidos, and they came. Ana Luisa called her mother from Amarillo, and told her for the first time that she now lived in the United States. Now, they haven’t seen each other in three years. Her mother sold all of Rodólfo and Ana Luisa’s things, including their house, and sent them the money so they could get settled. Rodólfo began working at a television repair shop immediately, and Ana Luisa, who was now pregnant with their second child, a son, worked for a hotel chain cleaning rooms. They found a tiny one-bedroom rent house a few blocks from his job, and they bought a car. When their son came, he was an American and he had Ana Luisa’s eyes. She had to quit working at the hotel because she had no family here to help her with the kids. Without the help of her income, they adopted the American brother of the Mexican unemployment epidemic–debt. Rodólfo could make the car payment and the rent with the money he earned, but groceries, diapers, and all the household products began running low. Ana Luisa found another woman in her neighborhood that could help with her kids, so she began working a few hours at the flea-market. She earned $50 a week to buy everything for the house, and food for four people. The woman who helped with her kids would occasionally bring her groceries or diapers from the Bethesda Outreach Center.

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Meanwhile, Ana Luisa kept up correspondence with her mother in México, longing for her family that she had left behind. While her mother and three sisters vacationed in Puerto Vallarta, a popular tourist destination in México, Ana Luisa felt the isolation of a community where she hardly knew anyone, and only being able to speak Español made even going to the grocery store lonely. She had to witness her sisters growing up through pictures that came through the mail; she’s still waiting on photos from her middle sister’s quinceañera that happened in February. Last September she ran low on diapers, so she loaded her kids into her car on a Wednesday morning, and went to the Bethesda Outreach Center for help. She dropped her kids off in the nursery, and attended a Spanish-language service, and then went through the line in the warehouse with a grocery cart, picking up diapers from a crate. She shyly spoke with several women, in Spanish, and they told her to come again the next day to pick up some clothes for the children at the clothing outreach. So the next day, she loaded her kids in the car again, and took them to the center. Within two weeks Ana Luisa began helping in the nursery, so other women could attend the services during the outreach. Now she teaches a craft class – a sort of mini-home economics that teaches inexpensive activities for mothers to do with their children at home – on Thursdays as part of the bimonthly clothing outreach. In the afternoon, she’ll sweep, vacuum, and scrub the bathrooms with a whole

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group of women jabbering and laughing in Spanish. She still only makes $50 a week at the flea-market, but she rarely takes aid anymore. Through some of the friendships she has developed with volunteers, she has even received marriage counseling to help her come to terms with the traumatic circumstances of leaving México. She’ll tell you that since she is alone here in Amarillo, that the women who help at the outreach center have become her family. When her kids come out of the nursery, many of the women help the little ones into their coats and give them a hug. Ana Luisa lifts her 13-monthold son onto her hip, and grabs her four-year-old daughter’s hand, and three sets of large, empathetic eyes look confidently at you. Everywhere you look, in every neighborhood, this is the thing that people are looking for: a healthy family to connect with. This is the need that everyone has, regardless of their story or their inherited circumstances, and they are on every street in our community. They aren’t fictional characters. They are flesh and bone, mind and soul; they suffer, and they are capable of experiencing the joy that Jesus Christ offers. There is no building, institution, policy or program that will change their hearts like the good news of Jesus Christ, the good news that God is love, and that His children abide in love by giving to people who have need. They are everywhere - all you have to do is open your eyes.

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Outreach Organizations

Because of Christ you have something to offer, even if it’s just your time or a kind word. Are you having a hard time finding a place to volunteer? Here is a list of ministries and agencies that we stand behind. We encourage you to make a phone call, and see how you can get involved. Bethesda Outreach Center 1101 Fritch Highway 383-6990

Faith City Ministries 401 SE 2nd Ave. 373-6402

CityChurch 205 S. Polk 371-0089

CareNet Crisis Pregnancy Centers 6709 Woodward 354-2288

Downtown Women’s Center 409 S. Monroe 372-3625

Martha’s Home 1204 W. 18th 372-4035

Worth the Wait 7120 I-40 West 326-1070

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THE END

OF

LAITY

By David Richie

A little less than a year ago I happened to be sitting in a meeting with Pastor Jimmy. It was only a week after he had been set in again as the Senior Pastor of Trinity, and he and the members of his Senior Staff were discussing the building additions that are currently underway on our Hollywood Road campus. It was only weeks before the workers would pour the foundation for what will soon be our new sanctuary, and someone asked if Pastor Jimmy still wanted to build the sanctuary “in the round,” meaning the seats of our congregation would completely surround the stage and the pulpit. After the slab was set there would be no turning back. Our building would then be literally set in stone, so if we were going to adjust the design we would have to decide now. For a moment Jimmy sat very pensively, the way a man does when you know he is choosing his words carefully. He then leaned forward in his chair and confidently responded, “Absolutely. Now, let me tell you why.”

He then proceeded to tell us that the reason he wanted to build our new sanctuary in the round had nothing to do with the production capability or the aesthetic look of the room. He said that by building our sanctuary in the round, we were saying something that needed to be said. That our architecture would without words communicate the very essence of the vision of our church. And that through the way our sanctuary was designed, we would be declaring a theology to every single person that walked in the room. Our new building would herald a proclamation— the end of Laity. So now as we are going through the exciting season of the construction of our new building, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a moment to look at the message our architecture is communicating, and why that message is so important. The word Laity refers to a type of Christian that is not a member of the Clergy. The word Clergy refers to a special type of Christian that God has chosen to use for ministry. Thus the concept of Laity is simply the belief that there are two classes of COMMU Christians. NI TY, CO NVER NS , AND INSPIR ATIO NTh FO LIFE Laity SisATIO the lower class of Christians. eyRare the. group of people that have received salvation and are going to

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Heaven, but are not active ministers of the Gospel. Rather, they are simply “good folk” that hopefully attend church and tithe. The majority of Christians would fall into this category. Clergy, on the other hand, is the higher class of Christians. They are the elite group of people that are specifically called by God to preach, prophesy, do miracles, lead other people to salvation, and everything else we would typically categorize as ministry. It should be noted, however, that the words “Laity” and “Clergy” are nowhere mentioned in the Bible. Historically, the Laity-Clergy distinction is a thought process that slowly crept into the Church in Europe during the beginning of the Middle Ages. It resulted largely from the fact that the majority of Christians (and the majority of all people for that matter) were uneducated and illiterate. And even in the rare case of someone being able to read, the printing press had not yet been invented, so books were extremely expensive and rare. Typically, the only opportunity that the Christian had to have any interaction with the Bible was when he or she went to church and listened to a priest read the Word out loud. During this time, the priest usually had to translate the Bible from an ancient language. He then would explain the teachings of scripture to people in “laymen’s terms.” Tragically, however, church leaders slowly began to selectively teach scripture and create doctrine that lent itself to establishing the Clergy as a higher and preferred class of Christians. More or less, the Clergy would serve as a buffer between the regular people and God. People didn’t ask God for forgiveness of their sins. They asked a member of the Clergy. It got so bad that by the end of the fifteenth century, wealthy people could actually purchase forgiveness of certain sins by giving to the Church. And the leaders of the Church got away with this heresy because a barrier now stood between the people and their God—the Laity had been created.

And this false doctrine of Laity was communicated by the architectural structure of churches at the time. In a medieval church, the Clergy and Laity had assigned seating. The Clergy sat with the choir in the inner-sanctum of the church. In many church buildings this sanctum sat atop a high altar that was raised above the foundation level of the rest of the building. The Laity, however, sat in a different section that was typically lower than the Clergy. Then, Laity and the Clergy were literally separated by a wall known as the Cancelli. Soaring above both the Clergy and the Laity was the pulpit, which was so high that only a spiral staircase could reach it. This architecture was intentionally structured to communicate vast distance between God and His people. Due to this drastic separation of the congregants and leaders, church leaders could now essentially manipulate their followers for the purpose of political and economic power. The Church led Europe into an era known as the Dark Ages. And unfortunately, many of the so-called “lay people” simply didn’t care. They already had a ticket to Heaven, so why bother? Why bother talking to God or living your life according to His commandments if someone else is already talking to Him and doing the work of ministry for you? Then in 1517, a German monk bothered to care. Having read the Bible for himself, Martin Luther saw that the LaityClergy distinction was a lie. He saw that there were no higher and lower classes in Christianity. He saw that all Christians were a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that they may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. With a hammer stroke that has resonated throughout history, Martin Luther nailed The Ninety-five Theses to the cathedral door in Wittenberg, and began what we now call the Protestant Reformation.

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OUR NEW BUILDING WOULD HERALD A PROCLAMATION—THE END OF LAITY.

One of the Protestant battle cries became the “Priesthood of all Believers,” a belief that there is no Laity or Clergy—there are only people redeemed by the blood of Christ who are active disciples transforming the world around them. Many subsequent Reformers have aggressively worked to tear down the false wall that separated Laity and Clergy and restore the Church to the level of community that it operated in under the Apostles. Nevertheless, the impulse to create a sub-class of “Lay” Christians has persisted within the church up until today—even in American Evangelicalism. Right now you could easily turn on your TV and listen to a Celebrity-Christian tell you that if you send him a prayer request and a check, he’ll gladly use his superior standing with God to help you get your prayer answered. And by doing this he is somehow implying that he has an access to God that you don’t. He is implying that he should be a buffer between you and your God. He is implying that you are a member of the Laity. And it is this—the insidious lie of Laity—that we as a church will strive to destroy. The vision of our community of believers is to make disciples that make a difference in the world around them. Laity is simply not a part of our equation. Nor can it be. Laity is the most lethally poisonous concept that has ever existed within the Church of Jesus Christ. It is the primary falsehood that the Enemy has used and uses to deceive Christians. If he can’t destroy you, he might as well convince you that you were meant to be completely ineffective. If somehow Satan can convince the majority of the people in the Church that they are not meant to be active ministers of the Gospel, imagine how easy his job becomes. Essentially, Laity implies that the Great Commission really only applies to a minority of Christians, and that the rest of us just need to tithe and try to go to church at least once a week if we get the chance.

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But Trinity Fellowship believes that there is something more inside of us all. We believe that the Kingdom of God lives in us and is simply waiting to be unleashed on our community. We believe this is what the future of Trinity Fellowship looks like and that we’ve already seen the first gleams of this dawn. Last January, when we gave twenty-seven members of our church one hundred dollars each, our jaws dropped as we began to hear the stories of how members of our family led park outreaches, provided rent for single moms and their children, and built and renovated community outreach centers. None of these people is employed at a church. Nevertheless, they each made an impact on their community. They are disciples that made a difference in Amarillo. They are living testaments that Laity is ending and that the future of Trinity Fellowship is brighter than it has ever been. And the design of our new sanctuary will testify to the same truth. When you sit in your seat to hear teaching, you will not see a singular man preaching above you. You will see your fellow disciples—your family—gathered around the central cause of the Gospel. You will see no walls or high altars that separate the regular people from the ministers. Instead you will see a room full of ministers that are now gathering to celebrate how they have radically loved each other and the community around them all week long. It will be a room of no walls or barriers, because now there is no longer a wall between us and our God. Jesus died on the cross to destroy every barrier that stood between us and the Father. He bled so that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God. He sacrificed Himself that we all might walk with the daily conviction to sacrifice our lives for the sake of ministering to those around us.

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book reviews Blue Like Jazz Donald Miller © 2003 Thomas Nelson

This book is funny, and exceptionally easy to read. Written in episodic essays, the majority of the content is an “intimate, soul-searching account” of Miller’s own coming to terms with Christianity. It’s doubtful that you’ll win over your atheist colleagues with this book. It’s far from a watertight defense of Christianity, but viewed as a snapshot of a person in the middle of living a Christian life, Donald Miller depicts a surprisingly honest and sympathetic portrayal of Christians that might do more convincing than you might think. The book, although appropriate for just about any age, is aimed at teens and twentysomethings who are just now getting the chance to test the wings of their faith outside the nest. Great as a graduation gift, especially with a $20 bill as a bookmarker.

The Myth of a Christian Nation Gregory A. Boyd © 2005 Zondervan Press

Careful – if you pick this up, promise yourself that you’ll finish the whole thing. Both insightful and inciteful, Gregory Boyd, who hails from the decidedly blue state of Minnesota, gives a very compelling argument for keeping the Kingdom of God and kingdoms of the world separate things. Basing his entire stance on the behavior of Jesus Christ, he asserts that the Kingdom of God is entirely one of service, and not of controlling policies, and that throughout much of Christianity’s history we have tried to grab the reigns of political power rather than showing “Calvary to the world.” However, he doesn’t leave it as a condemnation of the church; rather, he provides practical advice and reminds us of the hope that the church can show the world. Says Pastor Bo Williams, who has studied the book with his lifegroup, “I think it is a good book for people to read…we’re not trying to start a revolution here, but to consider a different paradigm.” If you plan on voting in the 2008 elections, then it’s definitely worth the read.

Living in Dependency and Wonder Being with God (8-part series) Graham Cooke © 2004 Chosen Books

Pastor Becky Davis says that the book that has most impacted her lately is Living in Dependency and Wonder by Graham Cooke. It is part of his set of interactive journals called Being With God. The book talks about rediscovering our sense of wonder about God, so that we become distracted by Him in every situation; putting our focus on Him rather than our problems or trials. The book can be used during quiet times by reading a section each morning before reading the Word. With suggested activities at the end so you can immediately put things you have learned into practice, the book promises, through these methods, to help build a person’s relationship with the Lord. “These journals have ALL (the set includes 8 books) had a profound impact on my life,” said Pastor Becky.

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Connect Magazine - Summer 2007  

The Connect Magazine Summer 2007 online edition.

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