First Presbyterian is a teaching church
Who will ever forget Professor James Tour, an elite chemist from Rice University, who came telling his story of meeting Jesus at Syracuse University when he was 18 years old? Dr. Tour continues to teach Sunday school every week in downtown Houston and opens his home for students to share a Sunday brunch together. I still receive his weekly emails sharing stories of folks coming to Christ both on and off the university campus.
Who will forget the compelling presence of Dr. Ivan and Luda Rusyn from the Ukraine? We heard their stories of courage and hope amid the Russian war and our hearts were opened. We were blessed to pray over them as they knelt in the Sanctuary worship service, preparing to return to war-torn Ukraine.
Dr. Wes Vander Lugt came in from Charlotte, bringing his beautiful family with him, and served as our theologian-in-residence for an entire academic year. He brought his love for the arts and theology with him. Who will forget his reminder to us of John the Baptist’s teaching, “I am not the Messiah. Jesus is the Messiah. He must increase; I must decrease?”
Most recently, we welcomed the internationally known author, speaker and pastor, Dr. John Ortberg. The Stephenson Hall was packed to hear his spirited description of how the Gospel and spiritual formation are profoundly intertwined. His sermon on the theme, “Who is this Man?” gifted us with a stirring proclamation of the good news of Jesus.
This coming September we look forward (finally!) to welcoming one of the most gifted young writers, Rebecca McLaughlin, whose books address the Gospel and cultural issues in powerful ways. Check out her text, “12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion.” Her books are worthy of a place on our reading list.
This is just a small part of First Church’s teaching ministry, but it has an ancient history.
The first century Church in Ephesus was blessed with the arrival of a powerful and eloquent preacher by the name of Apollos. Martin Luther believed him to be the author of the book of Hebrews and perhaps he’s right.
Apollos was a Jew, native to Alexandria, Egypt, and according to Acts 18, he was “an eloquent man, fervent in spirit, well-versed in the Scriptures, instructed in the way of the Lord. He spoke and taught accurately about Jesus, powerfully refuting his fellow Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.”
What a blessing for those in Ephesus - to share a few days with a gifted man like Apollos. He brought his gifts, shared them with the local church, and went on his way to share with others.
First Church takes her role as a teaching church seriously and it’s not just for adults.
Not long ago 9-year-old Caleb Shelton came to me and said, “Guess what, Dr. Miller? I’ve memorized the Eastertide Affirmation of Faith! ‘What?’ I said. ‘You have not!’ Really, I did,” he said. “Mr. Inhofe, my Sunday school teacher, invited our whole class to try to memorize it. And I did.”
The very next Sunday, Caleb stood up at our time for the young disciples and recited it before the entire Sanctuary congregation. It was beautiful ... moving even. I’m so thankful for teachers like Mr. Jim Inhofe! This is the teaching ministry of the Church at its finest. And it’s all around us.
Or, how about this?
We were having breakfast at Dilly Diner on 2nd Street. My friend, who works in the warehouse at the Holly Refinery in West Tulsa, pulled out three neatly typed pages and handed them to me. “Here,” he said. “I’d like you to read these and tell me what you think.”
I read them. They’re brilliant. Three pages of devotional reflections intended for individuals and families - the first pages of what will soon be a book of daily devotional reflections.
My friend, Dan McDonald, is using his gifts, writing out his thoughts on faith and life, offering it to a congregation that appreciates the teachers among us.
Honor those who teach. Honor those who give of their efforts to share the good news, creatively, courageously, inspirationally.
We honor them. Each and all.