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Category Archives: Hope Church in Tupelo

Sometimes – you just slip up.

It has been brought to my attention (thanks, Scooter and Jessica) that I am woefully behind in updating my “about me” page. Truth is – I haven’t even looked at that page in several years! Any omission was unintentional.

I am grateful to know people love me, are interested in Ruthe and me, and check up on me. Friends are one of God’s wonderful gifts!

Updates now include # of grandchildren, ministry at Hope Church of Tupelo, and other more personal — and trivial — information.


• Find a good local church.
• Get involved.
• Become a member.
• Stay there as long as you can.
• Put away thoughts of a revolution for a while.
• Join the plodding visionaries.
• Go to church this Sunday and worship in Spirit and truth.
• Be patient with your leaders.
• Rejoice when the gospel is faithfully proclaimed.
• Bear with those who hurt you.
• Give people the benefit of the doubt.
• Say “hi” to the teenager that no one notices.
• Welcome the old ladies with the blue hair and the young men with tattoos.
• Volunteer for the nursery.
• Attend the congregational meeting.
• Bring your fried chicken to the potluck like everybody else.
• Invite a friend.
• Take a new couple out for coffee.
• Give to the Christmas offering.
• Sing like you mean it.
• Be thankful someone vacuumed the carpet for you.
• Enjoy the Sundays that “click.”
• Pray extra hard on the Sundays that don’t.
• And in all of this, do not despise the days and weeks and years of small things (Zechariah 4:8–10).

Kevin DeYoung

Yesterday – my last Sunday at Hope Church of Tupelo.

It was a joy to lead a mid-40’s year old Catholic woman and 8 year old girl to saving faith in Christ.

It was sad to say goodbye to dreams and plans for Hope that I will not be able to lead.

It was a joy to be thanked with words and expressions of appreciation.

It was sad to say goodbye to dear friends I love and admire.

The best gift I could leave with the saints of Hope Church is the following…

One of the questions I’ve been asked several times over the last few years has to do with being a pastor in a local church.

As one man told me today – “there are easier ways of making a living, Sam. Churches mean people and people mean problems.”

Tullian Tchividjian put it well…

I realized many years ago that God has only oath-bound his blessing to one institution—the church. And while the church is universal in nature, it’s local in expression. Therefore, if I wanted to be where the gospel-action is, I needed to give my life to the local church.

I really believe a central component to my calling is to help a new generation understand the beauty and necessity of the local church. A few years ago I was in Starbucks with our music director, Brandon. As we waited in line to get our afternoon caffeine kick, the young barista behind the counter overheard us talking about our church, which at that point was only a year old, and we started chatting. Brandon soon invited her to visit our church one Sunday. She responded in typical postmodern fashion, saying, “I’m into spirituality, but I’m not really into organized religion.” Brandon, who has a wonderfully quick wit, replied, “Don’t worry, we’re really not that organized.”

The barista’s statement illustrates what many people believe today, namely that they can have a meaningful relationship with God without being connected to a local church. But it’s just not possible to have Christ the head without Christ the body—his church (Ephesians 1:22–23; Colossians 1:18). The two are inseparable. Christians do not worship a decapitated Jesus. The Bible does not drive a wedge between Christ and his body. To neglect the body of Christ is to neglect Christ. Just as no one can survive without air, so Christians can’t survive without the church. Without the church, Christians suffocate.

The best place for me to help people understand this is in the role of local pastor.

I’ve heard it said over and over…. “I can’t wait to leave Memphis.”

Ruthe and I want to move back to the Memphis area. So do Jason and Kelly Stockdale.


Very simple.

*WE LOVE THE MID-SOUTH. We love the people, the diversity, the culture. Ruthe and I spent 8 years in Germantown. Jason and Kelly grew up in Barlett. We feel uniquely equipped to proclaim and demonstrate the gospel there.

*MEMPHIS NEEDS JESUS. He is the hope for changing the hearts, families and communities of the Mid-south.



This has not been an easy decision. Tupelo is a wonderful place to live, and Hope Church is an extraordinary church. Yet, for over a year, I have struggled with a restlessness and the sense that God was leading me elsewhere.

We were approached by a strong English-speaking International Church in Hong Kong about the possibility of serving as pastor. Prayer and fasting and multiple conversations yielded no clarity of direction.

Through His Word (Haggai, for example), trusted counselors, circumstances and the inner conviction of the Holy Spirit, we have sensed His call to plant in Memphis. That call has been confirmed in several unmistakable ways.

We feel great peace and great excitement about this step of faith and obedience – and not a little nervousness.


Each day this week, I’ll add more information about the church – name, launch date, location, core values, Biblical basis, strategy, and more.

What is true of the Holy Spirit’s role in the counseling procedure is equally important in the pulpit and teaching ministry of the pastor direct toward the whole congregation. If it is difficult to do spiritual surgery in the life of one parishioner in the counseling situation, its even more difficult to take aim at the spiritual needs of a group without explicit direction form the Holy Spirit. Many texts and many sermons may be appropriate in a general way to congregational needs, but the pastor who is working for congregational renewal will learn not to fix on any of these possibilities prematurely, until the quiet imprimatur of the Holy Spirit’s direction illuminates the thrust and strategy which his most strategic for spiritual release. Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Renewal

Tupelo Christmas Experience is coming. As a matter of fact, its this weekend!

I am so excited to invite the community out for this event. Here is a snapshot into what the night will look like. This will be a 2 night outreach event that will seek to minister to the community on several levels. Imagine something like Disneyland, scaled to fit the Hope Church facility – several events happening at once, so much to see and do. We begin at 6:30pm each night and we’ll conclude around 9:30. Each family can participate in all the events of the night, or ust come to one or two then leave.

Here are a few things that the two nights would include:

1. Kids Zone- This includes crafts, bounce house, face painting etc.
2. Living Outdoor Nativity Scene
3. Kids Movie Theatre (popcorn included)
4. Worship Times/Performances from local artists
5. Admission is a can of food per person to go to a local charity or our food bank to feed the poor.
6. Refreshments (cider, hot chocolate, cookies)
7. This is very “come and go”.

Friday night will feature local band “the Embrace” in concert from 8:30-9:30 in the Worship Center. Saturday night, Memphis worship leader, Jeremy Horn, will be in concert from 8:00-9:30 in the worship center.

If you are in Tupelo, hope to see you Friday or Saturday!


Ruthe and I were at the mall this afternoon. She wandered into housewares and heard the accent of one of the employees. She asked about his accent, learned he was from a European country, and was attending a local university. When she asked about his major, he mentioned philosophy – with a religion minor. After several minutes of conversation, Ruthe asked if he practiced a particular faith.

That is when it got interesting.

The following is a summary of the conversation.

I don’t. I’m just interested in religion – various religions and how they relate.”

“Are you attending a church in this area?”

“No, and I never will go back to church again.”

” Really? What happened?”

“I was attending a church for several months, but I walked out one day – and I won’t be back.”

“What happened?”

“The minister started complaining about Islam. He stated that Muslims have no right to be in America. He said that all Muslims care about is making bombs and destroying America, and we should not tolerate them. We should just send them back. That was enough for me. I got up and left. For a religion of love, I’ve never heard so much hatred.”

Ruthe apologized for what was said. She also stated that it made her angry to hear this. He turned to help a customer and she called me. After I heard the story, we approached the young man – who was now talking to a young woman. I introduced myself, and he introduced his wife to us. We talked about some common interests for a few moments.

I also told them that I was sorry about what had happened. I shared that Jesus taught his followers to treat all people with respect – especially those who are seeking answers. (1 Peter 3:15)

His wife mentioned the fact that we live in a very religious area, but she had never met so many gossips and hypocrites. He added that he had been reading some Christian blogs that were extremely anti-Muslim and pro-Israel. As a result, he was intrigued with Islam.

Neither one seemed angry – just matter-of-fact.

The young couple turned to each other to discuss personal business and Ruthe and I stepped away. She handed me one of the “Invite” cards we use at Hope, and I returned to the couple. Handing them the card with our name and phone number on it, I invited them to have dinner with us at their convenience – no agenda – we simply wanted to be friends. He took the card and seemed sincerely grateful.

My reflections on the encounter?

1. Anyone can do what Ruthe did – show interest, ask questions, listen, be friendly, move toward discerning spiritual interest.

2. Divine appointments can take place anywhere – even in the housewares department at a store at a mall in Tupelo, MS.

3. We Christians are our own worst enemies. When cultural Christianity replaces biblical truth, when confessing Christians exhibit untransformed behavior, when fear of strangers replaces faith in a sovereign God, and when hatred replaces love – we drive off the very people drawn to Jesus. The salt has lost its savor.

Pray for our new friends – that we will have that dinner, that a friendship will be nurtured, and that Jesus will be seen in us.

Few experiences have encouraged and thrilled me more than a week in Cuba. Here are my notes and a few photos.

No problem getting in. Flew from Dallas to Cancun, obtained a tourist visa, and flew Mexican Air to Havana. Arrived at 1:00AM. Luggage was checked in immigration and customs. I was asked about my Bible, notes, profession as a pastor, and admitted to Cuba without a problem.


Our team was able to go door-to-door in Havana and share the gospel, without hindrance. While only the Lord knows how many were converted, many prayed to receive Christ.


Some of our team participated in several house churches. The house church movement in Cuba is huge.



Three of us – Bob McCustion and his wife Sheila – traveled 6 hours from Havana to the central part of the country. We were able to preach, teach, counsel, and worship with over 1000 university students – the future leaders of the church in Cuba.





I found the Cuban young people to be smart, Jesus-loving, fun-loving, warm, bold, worship-loving, Biblically-knowledgeable- great people! We saw over 40 pray to receive Christ, and hundreds commit themselves to ministry.

Christians pay a price for their faith. Economic, social, and political pressures are real and serious. Yet, the church in Cuba is growing. Seminaries are full and growing. Churches are being planted.

Our team fell in love with Cuba. God willing, we’ll return!


A few other random observations.

Cuba is filled with old cars, beautiful coasts and beaches, and “The Party.”




The idea for a “prayer for healing” service came from an after-lunch conversation with Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Paige described how encouraged the members of his church to invite their sick friends to be prayed for by his deacons.

The model for healing prayer came from a worship leader at a Vineyard Church. He reminded me that Jesus often asked a strange question of those who came to him for healing: “what do you want me to do for you?”

He also encouraged me to believe that the Spirit of God can guide those who pray by planting a thought, question, image, or verse in the mind.

The timing of the prayer-for-healing service came from the awareness of many in our church who were suffering all kinds of afflictions.

The authorization and partnership for prayer came from our elders, who were willing to take the church outside our comfort zone in order to follow Scripture.

Yesterday morning, the elders and their wives prayed for about 70 people. At one point, people were four and five deep in the aisles, waiting to be prayed for.

Most asked to be anointed with oil (as James 5 provides)

The immediate result?















Sounds romantic, an adventure, a history tour – but the sheer need for a gospel witness in Scotland is huge! A team of 6 from Hope Church returned last week from Edinburgh, where they conducted a park festival, childrens’ Bible Club, prayer-walked the city numerous times and sought to be encouragers to the good folks of Abbeyhill Baptist Church in Edinburgh.


Immediate feedback from the week involves widespread ignorance of and apathy toward the Gospel. The children attending the Bible Club were largely from one-parent homes marked by abuse and total ignorance about God, Jesus, church and the Bible. Yet, they came to the Club and the park.


The good news? At the end of the week, the children knew who Jesus is and why He is so great. Pray for Pastor Craig Sayle and Abbeyhill Church, as they continue to pursue the doors that were opened last week.



Sunday morning, we called an audible.

Our church is in grief and sorrow over the death of the five-year-old son of a much-loved couple this weekend.

What 9/11 was for our country, the death of this little boy was to our church.

The questions came fast and furious, and are predicable. Why them? Why now? Why him?

All day Saturday, I wondered if I should change the message. If so – what was the needed word to our congregation? What about music? Should we stick to our plan, or revise everything?

Late Saturday night, I lost all interest in what I had planned to teach, and John 11 caught fire in my imagination. Jason changed the music – all acoustic worship music focusing on the greatness and goodness of God.

God met with us this morning. Tears flowed. Voices were raised in unusual fullness. The front of the room was filled with people who came, knelt, cried out in prayer, held each other – all spontaneously. Focused attention seemed to be given to the Word.

I’ve very grateful for the immediate leading of the Holy Spirit!

Sometimes a sermon I’ve studied for ambushes me.

It happened last night.

The passage was John 12:1-8. The story was the remarkable event that occurred in Bethany at a dinner party, given in Jesus’ honor.

Mary did three shocking things:

1. She poured out an entire pound of a very costly perfume on Jesus. A drop or two would be expected. After all, in that time and place, with the absence of showers, deodorant, and after-shave, special occasions were marked by the use of perfume. However, no one had ever seen an entire year’s worth of perfume poured out on one person, at one time. It could have lasted several lifetimes, but was poured out on Jesus. If this was her dowry or life-savings, it was an unbelievably precious gift.

2. She anointed his feet. In that time and place, the most demeaning job was cleaning feet. Jewish slaves were exempt from that. Only Gentile dogs would lower themselves to such a degrading task. So, this young woman put no conditions on her love for Jesus.

3. She let her hair down in public, to wash his feet. Her hair was her glory. The first man to see a woman’s hair was her husband, on her wedding night. A married woman who let her hair down could be divorced – a single woman stoned. And Mary violates every boundary, every rule. Apparently, Jesus was her glory.

When she was scolded for her behavior, Jesus said, “she has done a beautiful thing for me. Tell this story wherever the gospel is preached.”

I found myself asking, “Have I ever given a gift to Jesus that was the most precious object to me – a gift that would invite criticism – a gift that indicated no cost is too great, no condition too heavy?”

My giving today was different – really, really different – in my anticipation, my attitude, the amount.

My joy today went through the roof when offering time came.


It was a great, great day.

Life is full of surprises – some painful, some delightful.

Wednesday night, at Red Lobster in Atlanta, we had an interesting surprise.

Our team, along with Craig and Faye Schmidle (from GBC, now in Atlanta) had just enjoyed a great meal and great conversation. Just before paying the bill, an older gentleman at the table behind us, turned and made a comment, “Isn’t life a riot?” His accent was British, and his eye had a twinkle. He told us he was a businessman, had made and lost several million dollars, and was in Atlanta on business. He also mentioned he had been married three times – he had buried two of the three.

Freddy Johnson asked him a question about what would happen when he died. The older gentleman appeared a little exasperated and said, “Oh, don’t be silly. Are you asking me where I’ll go when I die? Surely you can do better than that!”

None of us knew what to make of that. He smiled, and said, “Let me tell you my story.”

He was Jewish, but once attended an Episcopalian in Louisiana. He dropped by the church office to give a little money. The rector (an ex-marine, Vietnam vet) told him he had been expecting him and then commanded him to “sit your a___ in that chair. I’m going to tell you the gospel.” Being an ex-British army officer, he said, “yes, sir.”

The result – an hour later, he was radically saved. “I’ve never been the same,” he told us.

The old gentleman entertained us with story after story. We laughed, embraced, and exchanged information. We left the restaurant with “shalom aleikum,” “cheerio, old chap” and “chao,” ringing in our ears.

The old guy was a piece of work – just what I want to be when I grow up!

The top ten most religious states in America are all located in the south or southern Midwest, according to a new Gallup report.


All ten states are part of the so-called “Bible Belt,” or the area in the United States with a heavy socially conservative evangelical Protestant population. They are, starting with the most religious: Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Kentucky and Texas, which are tied.

The Gallup report ranked each state’s religiousness by asking respondents if religion is an important part of their daily life.

Overall, analysis shows that a solid majority of Americans said religion is important in their daily lives. A full 65 percent of Americans across the entire U.S. population gave this response.

On the other hand, about one in three American adults said religion is not important in their lives, while one percent either responded they don’t know or refused to answer.

Breaking down the data by states, 60 to 70 percent of the population in 23 states said religion is important.

Religion seems to be less important to those living in the New England area and the far West.

The top ten least religious states, starting from the least religious are: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Rhode Island, Nevada, and Connecticut.

The results are based on telephone interviews with 355,334 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted in 2008 as part of the Gallup Poll Daily tracking.



This raises all kinds of questions for church leaders:

1. Why is the most religious state (Mississippi – where I live) also the most obese, poorest, and least educated state? How is it that so many churches have had so little impact on the daily life of the citizens of the state? Why has so much religion not produced concern for loving God with all one’s mind and body? What kind of disconnect in our churches has led Bible-believers to ignore the massive Biblical teaching on living a frugal life, self-discipline, savings, hard work, and love of neighbor? 

2.  Why is racism so strong in the most religious state? 

3.  What kind of religion is practiced and preached in the most religious state?

4.  What is the mandate from a survey like this?  What does this say about our mission in the days and years ahead?

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