September 30, 2007

salida colorado

Well, week one of the Rocky Mountain Preaching Retreat is drawing to a close. I have been so blessed by my time here. I have gotten weeks – even months – worth of work done during this time. So far, I have completed the upraise and unite preaching calendars for 2007 & 2008. (Seriously, every week is titled with Scriptures included). I have the first 11 weeks of sermons in 2008 outlined. I have written several articles for our uzine, The Encourager, as well as some church wide correspondence that has to go out next month. I finished updating the 2008 Confirmation Curriculum and even managed to squeeze in a little reading. Of all that, I am most excited about the 2008 preaching calendar. Next year in upraise & unite we will be doing the following sermon series:

Alpha: Basic Training for Christians
Living Beyond Myself: based on the Volunteer Revolution curriculum
Forgive us our Debts . . . Please: some practical teaching on managing family finance in a godly way
Meaning in a Meaningless World: this will be our summer series and we will study the entire book of Ecclesiastes.
University for Life: We will present the Vision Map for discipleship at the U.
Enough: Next year’s stewardship campaign
Maximum Exposure: God’s character revealed
Christmas Now & Then: a look at the people who witnessed the birth and what it means for us today

I still have a lot of work on tap for next week, but even if I didn’t get anything else done, it has been hugely productive.

It has also been fun to share meals with some of Charles’ oldest friends and peers in ministry. They are great men who I have enjoyed laughing and sharing the fellowship of the table with.

September 28, 2007


The following has been long in coming, though its long gestation in my hard drive does not mean that it is accurate, informative, or particularly helpful. However, it is something that I have thinking about for a while.

Movements are chaotic: they can move from point A to point B, but only after visiting points X and G – and maybe coffee at point M. Movements are led by passionate people who will try almost anything once. They buck convention and seem to turn their nose up at established norms. Many of them smell strange.

Movements and the people who lead and participate in them are not always easy to get along. They don’t seem to recognize the long history of those who came before them. At their worst, movements become mobs that lose their focus and never arrive at their destinations. At their best, movements forever alter the landscape of human history.

It is hard to know exactly why a movement begins. Actually, it is even difficult to pinpoint when a movement begins. Generally they seem to be best defined retrospectively – both in terms of their duration and ultimate destination. Movements seem to generate energy of their own, carried forward by an increasing number of increasingly passionate people. They will have a nucleus of people who are prayerfully guiding the direction of the growing multitudes. The successfulness of the overall movement will largely be defined by how well the nucleus holds together and how well they can charismatically articulate a vision.

I think that University is in the midst of a burgeoning movement. I am watching with interest as people – people that I respect and admire – leave everything to come and be part of the church. Over and over, I am interviewing potential leaders for ministry (both paid and unpaid) who say they just want to be part of what God is doing. Likewise, extraordinary opportunities regularly pop up for our highly gifted staff. Yet, they say no to those opportunities to say, yes to the one at University. They are willing to sacrifice in order to be in the center of a movement of God. They aren’t even sure what it is he is doing, but they are willing to sell out to it.

Certainly the winds of change are blowing. You can’t see the wind, but like the strong southerly flow over the Gulf of Mexico – you can certainly feel the waves the wind is producing. For some, the waves are cause for great concern. They were for the disciples (Mark 4.35-40). For others, the waves are cause for great joy – because, hey, surf’s up!

As I step away from our church in particular and look at the history of the church universal, I find that we are not on unfamiliar ground. Since its beginning 2000 years ago, the body of Jesus Christ has moved in a particular cycle. There is a time of renewal and growth led by a group of people committed to personal and social holiness. There is soon massive momentum propelling a movement among God’s church. It grows and swells as people come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Soon the movement begins to institutionalize in order to hold everything together. Buildings are erected. Systems of management are put in place. An institution replaces the movement and everyone takes a long needed deep breath. As it stabilizes, the church is able to be more things for more people. The mission widens to good and great ends, but some focus is lost. This period of stability and success may last for a generation or more. Sooner or later, the Spirit of God begins to stir change and a movement once again begins. The whole cycle repeats itself again and again. This process is always marked by the struggle and necessary tension between the stability that the institution provides and the push toward new birth that a movement generates.

September 26, 2007

grandmom's funeral

Right before Spring Break in 2004, my paternal grandmother passed away. I was in my final semester of seminary, rapidly approaching graduation. Grandmom had been sick for a while and in and out of the hospital. Although I should probably have been expecting the call, I wasn’t. Not really. She had made a series of good recoveries and I guess I just thought she would again.

Anyway, my dad calls me and tells me that Grandmom has died and it is time to come home for the funeral. I get everything squared away in Wilmore, Kentucky (where I am in school) and prepare to spend my spring break with family remembering my grandmother. While I am packing, my dad calls and asks if I would be willing to say a few words on behalf of the family at the funeral. Sure, no problem.

My dad calls again and says he has talked with Grandmom’s pastor and wants to know if I would do the “homily” at the service. Now, for a Methodist boy like me, homily is just another word for really short devotional thought. In my mind, I have just been asked to include some scripture in my few short words on behalf of the family. Sure, no problem.

I go flying off to Dallas where my dad lives. The day of the funeral arrives, Dad and Susan leave for the service. My little brother and I take a separate car – for some reason that I don’t remember, but had significant consequences. We arrive JUST before the service is scheduled to start. Somehow we got lost or ran late. I don’t remember, really. Actually, I only think it was my little brother in the car with me – considering I was most likely lost it seems unlikely that he was with me (that kid is like a breathing mapquest).

I digress. It doesn’t really matter why we were late (or even who was with me . . .) the important part is that I arrived shortly before the service began.

I walked into the holding room where my extended family was gathered to the relief of my parents who said the church pastors were looking for me. They needed to know what my Gospel reading would be. And whether I would be reading it or if I wanted one of them to read it for me. My confusion turned to inward panic when they handed me the bulletin for the service and there in the heart of the whole shebang was “Rev. Ryan Barnett” – homily. First, I am not a “Rev.” at this point. Second, I look in vain for the other “Rev.” with “sermon” by their name. Nope.

Apparently when you translate “homily” from Lutheran into Methodist it means “sermon.” Lots of prayers in a short amount of time.

My grandmother’s pastor finds me and asks me if I would like to “see their pulpit.” Sure, no problem. They ask if I want to go ahead and put my sermon in the pulpit now or if I want to hang onto it. “I think I will hang onto it,” I say as I pat my empty coat pocket.

In the end, it went fine. My grandmother was the kind of woman it is easy to speak of during a funeral. She was a Christ-centered, Godly woman who gave grace and love in abundance to everyone. She was loved in her family, her church, and her community. I think I am glad I didn’t really know what I was doing. I’m not sure I could have/would have done it had I known in advance.

September 21, 2007

up the mountain

Headed for 2 weeks in Colorado. Charles and I each have a suitcase full of clothes and a trunk full of work. We plan to plan our way into 2009 over the next couple of weeks away. Taking our cue from our Leader, we are going up the mountain to be with the Lord. This time of vision is timely as I am pretty wiped out. I have been preaching non-stop and moving through life like my hair is on fire. (Which is ironic since I have been contemplating getting red streaks put into my hair . . .)

Church, pray for us as we go and meet with God. Pray that we can return renewed and with a clear picture of the preaching calendar for the next stretch of life together at the U. (Pray also for my good friend who will be staying at the house with my sweet puppy too!)

September 19, 2007


I preached tonight in New Braunfels, just north of San Antonio. A friend of mine there – Matt is the youth director at First Methodist. He and the other youth leaders from around the city rent out this old theatre in what seems to be historic “downtown.” This was a first class event. They committed true excellence to Jesus Christ. The whole place was packed out with kids from the community. The worship band did a great job and really pumped the kids up for Christ. The sound and lighting people were phenomenal – one of the best events I have seen church people do. I was really taken that they spent the time and energy to be so excellent. Unfortunately, excellence is far too rare among the church. This group of leaders obviously spared no expense or amount of labor to make this a life changing event for the youth of their community.

I was really blessed to be a part of the event. I just got this picture of towns all over Texas bringing the youth of their community such excellence on a regular basis. I saw a vision of transformed schools and communities that get claimed for Christ. Make no mistake, the enemy holds nothing back in his quest for our young people. And though we have so much more to offer, we often fail to be significant in ways that are relevant. So, thank you dedicated youth leaders of different denominations of the Church of Jesus Christ for your love, your labor, and your extreme excellence.

September 3, 2007

on being famous

It is tough being famous. Yes, I am referring to my recent interview/stardom on the local SA news. All the paparazzi, the autograph seekers, and the groupies who just want to use me to get backstage at all the best concerts. Stores send me exclusive offers – I get up to 10% off just for making a personal appearance at their location! (They mail those right to my house.) At all my favorite restaurants, absolutely no waiting. I just drive right up to a window and they hand me my food. It is really too much. Seriously folks, I am just a regular guy like everyone else.