A quick update from the Athens Church of Christ

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ECHO Sermon Follow-Up Notes for Sunday, February 7, 2021

Isaiah 43: 18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
What is ECHO? Endorsing Cultural Humility & Oneness
How/Why did it start?

  • ECHO started as an extension of the Carry One Another’s Burdens Series (diversity class with Alfords/Morrows)
  • “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
  • The series has spread too many other congregations, even Campus View!
  • This is not just a temporary campaign


  • Endorse- “To approve openly, to recommend, put your signature on.”
  • ECHO is not about me, you, any person, agenda or political cause. 
  • We endorse the goal of fulfilling the law of Christ by carrying one another’s burdens.
  • Follow us as we follow Christ
  • “Come and see”

ECHO is not just a ministry, it’s a calling.  We are not just doing church work, we are answering a call firmly rooted in the Scriptures.  We are being carried and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  ECHO can be the harbinger for tremendous spiritual rebirth among us, a new song, a renewed freedom, a renewed calling.
ECHO hopes to further the process of achieving comprehensive, fundamental, sustainable growth in being more Christlike in terms of race and culture in our congregation and community.  Echo embodies the dream, serves as a vehicle and offers a framework for accomplishing this.
What will ECHO do specifically?  This is still being revealed, but so far:

  • ECHO will educate and inspire the congregation in becoming more Christlike in terms of race and culture thru providing classes, programs, and events.
  • ECHO will serve in an advisory capacity for church leadership helping them fully consider the needs and perspectives of the diverse populations of people in our congregation and community, “cultural conscience of the Church.”
  • More specific mission, values, goals and objectives are being developed and we will share them as soon as they are solidified.

We will create space for everyone who wants to be part of ECHO is some way, even small.  We will have things everyone can do to grow, learn and contribute to this call.  If God places ideas on your mind, please let us know.
We endorse a broader, more expansive inclusion of people who are not like us!
1 Cor 9: 19-23 “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

  • Paul modeled cultural flexibility “follow me as I follow Christ”
  • Paul didn’t have to, but he changed himself to win others, shape shifter
  • Got out of comfy zone, ate uncomfy food, went uncomfy places, etc…
  • This is a deeper, soul/heart level of self-denial
  • Not what to do, who to be

We endorse cross-cultural intimacy.

  • I believe there are gaps, fault lines separating us from each other
    • Racial/cultural- ECHO and this month’s focus
    • Generational
    • Other congregations, other Christians
    • Gender
      • These gaps weaken us, limit our creativity, narrow our perspective, hinder spiritual growth

Developing cultural flexibility will be challenging or painful in ways.
Ill: Stretching our faith like physical therapy, we are getting older, rigid.

  • Thank God for teens/campus! Keep us from becoming curmudgeons!
  • Human condition/default mode is we get unconsciously stuck/fossilize in opinions, traditions.  We have difficulty absorbing people not like us.
  • Acts disputes- great miracles in beginning, then the work was about unity
    • Grecian widows, Jerus council, Peter rebuke, Paul/Mark/Barnabas
    • Easiest solution would have been to split into groups.
      • If this had happened, would we even have a church today?
    • Be better puzzle pieces, no flat edges, more shape to connect
    • Just like our original call to “Seek the Kingdom”, this Path promises at times to be messy, winding, difficult, unfamiliar, uncomfortable, unclear at times, but that’s why steadfast faith is needed.
    • James “Pure religion…keep ourselves from being polluted by the world.”
    • Is Satan working behind the scenes causing us to have false security?

1 Thess 4: 2-5 “I care very little if I am judged by you or any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t make me innocent.  It is the Lord who judges me.”

  • We do not endorse shaming anyone.
  • Having a clear conscience does not necessarily mean we are innocent!  We can have a clear conscience and still be in the wrong, blind or insensitive needing to see our mistake and make amends.

All Things To All People, Pg 113 “If a church does not train its people in cross cultural communication and effective inclusion, they will not become all things to all people.  They might be a wonderfully loving group, but the chances are low of them being culturally competent.”

  • It’s possible to be loving and faithful and still miss big things. 
    • Fear of conflict, worldly thinking gives Satan opportunities to divide us
    • obedience, courageous communication prevents mistrust and “bitter roots”
    • God’s power turns our darkness into light
    • God will do for us what we can’t do for ourselves!

We endorse more courageous, honest cross-cultural communication vs silence
Q: How can we carry one another’s burdens if we don’t know what they are?
Ex: Gwen didn’t discuss her wrongfully denied degree over 40 years!
We endorse diversity is not intimacy!
1 Thessalonians 2: 8 “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”

  • Take note of the cultural backgrounds represented by the following:
    • Closest friends
    • Mentors you look to for guidance
    • Preachers, teachers, theologians for spiritual guidance
    • Authors of books you are reading
  • How many honest conversations have you had with brothers/sisters of other cultures about their experience as a person of color in and out of our fellowship?

We endorse validating perspectives of others we don’t easily understand, disagree with or that make us feel uncomfortable.

  • Validation skill is to listen, hear others’ painful experience. Then, only show empathy, try to put yourself in their shoes. 
  • Don’t react with correction/defensiveness, “You shouldn’t feel that way.”
  • Jesus connected with people sincerely at this level- Mary/Martha, woman in adultery, all who are weary burdened, patience with children
  • There is a time for correction/rebuke/explanations.
    • When unsure, choose connection over correction, mercy over judgment.
    • Only then, can we start seeking solutions together
    • “People don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.”

We endorse progress, not perfection in our growth

  • We will fail our way forward at times, growing pains.
  • We can’t grow if we play it safe, don’t take risks, confront problems and fears
  • We will make mistakes, judge one another, make decisions out of fear and get feelings hurt so we all need mercy for ourselves and each other
    • Love covers over a multitude of sins
  • Sadly, Sunday is the most segregated hour of the week

Letter From Birmingham Jail, April 1963, “Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being ‘disturbers of the peace’ and ‘outside agitators.’ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were ‘a colony of heaven,’ called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be ‘astronomically intimidated.”
We endorse Jesus as “the way, the truth and the life” in race/culture matters

  • No human plan, form of government, movement can create true brotherhood that transcends our human instincts and tendency to divide up into camps.

Revelation 5: 8-10 Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
    and with your blood you purchased for God
    persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
    and they will reign on the earth.”
Here is what ECHO is asking you to do:

  • Seek to become a more culturally competent congregation
  • Each member complete the Carry One Another Burdens Series
  • Educate yourself
    • Read All Things To All People
    • Read A Crown That Will Last- workbook
    • Read Letter from Birmingham Jail
  • Engage more with members of different cultures and speak honestly
  • Attend upcoming ECHO workshops
  • Support diversity at all levels of service in the body
  • Have a willing heart, be learners, be disciples
  • Trust the process, put ourselves in a position for greater miracles
    • “God will do for us what we can’t do for ourselves.”

“When you know better, do better.” -Maya Angelou

  • Join me on the ‘do better list’





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