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    Front Cover - A Light in the Bottom
    A Girl Dreams of Preaching
    Saying Amen through Advent
    New edition - Church In the Mirror
    The Learning and The Burning
    40MidWeek-Meditations - Cover
    SING TO THE LORD A NEW SONG - Front Cover
    A Necessary Transition
    SING TO THE LORD A NEW SONG - Front Cover
    SING TO THE LORD A NEW SONG - Front Cover
    SING TO THE LORD A NEW SONG - Front Cover

    A Light In The Bottom

    A History of Shiloh Baptist Church

    By Thomas W. Spann

    Foreword by Rev. Dr. Johnnie R. Bradley, Sr.

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    (Photo Credit: Front and Back Cover Photographs by Clair Kennedy Redmon)

    Front Cover - A Light in the Bottom

    About

    A Light in the Bottom: A History of Shiloh Baptist Church

    i
    This book is the story of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church that was organized in 1911 in Dallas, Texas, about eight years after Oak Cliff, Texas was annexed to the City of Dallas. The neighborhood in which the church was founded referred to itself as “The Bottom”—a seemingly godforsaken piece of earth. Early African American residents of Oak Cliff transformed this tough piece of real estate into a habitable space. Simple dwellings crowded the bank of the Trinity River which separated Dallas from Oak Cliff. Houses in The Bottom were frequently affected by the flooding of the river. While trying to make ends meet, a handful of residents in The Bottom responded to an evangelistic invitation to gather for worship. A small group met from house to house. Out of this spiritual hunger arose a worshiping congregation called Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church. Within two decades of its founding, Golden Gate Baptist and Greater Shiloh Baptist came out of Shiloh and were established in the same geographical area. For one hundred years, Shiloh told its story by word of mouth and short rehearsals during observance of the church’s anniversary. Not uncommon for many churches, Shiloh did not have a substantial written history. The author, having been a member of this congregation during a portion of his college years, decided to provide a fuller account of this congregation’s story in celebration of its centennial in 2011. This book is a revision of the account produced for the church’s centennial. It records the joys and struggles of a small congregation that stayed in the same geographical area for over one hundred years, until it relocated to another area of the Oak Cliff neighborhood.
    Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church
    b

    What’s inside

    ^

    Chapter One

    Background

    ^

    Chapter Three

    The Significance of the Name Shiloh

    ^

    And more ...

    ^

    Chapter Two

    Shiloh’s Beginning in 1911

    ^

    Chapter Four

    Pastors Who Have Led Shiloh

    Foreword

    Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church is an amazing community of faith that has impacted the lives of God’s people since 1911. From the founding of this church, ministry efforts, missions, and outreach have been major parts of its identity. Shiloh was a staple institution in The Bottom and continues to carry out its ministry in its current location on Illinois Avenue in Dallas, Texas.

    It was while Shiloh was in The Bottom that we came to know Dr. Thomas Spann. As an undergraduate student at Bishop College, Dr. Spann was an active member of Shiloh. During his time with the church, he exprienced the friendliness, care, and lasting love of congregational members. Dr. Spann remained a faithful servant until he relocated to pursue a graduate degree at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. Shiloh has kept a great love and affection for Dr. Spann and was godly proud when he returned to the Dallas area to earn his Doctor of Ministry degree from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.

    As I look back to the time when I was called to be the servant leader of Shiloh, I knew the congregation was a great group of people, but I really did not know of the significance and might of this beloved church. As I got to know the history of Shiloh, the pastors who got their start here, and the ministry impact in the community, I was even more honored to be its spiritual leader. With this newfound knowledge of the impact Shiloh made in The Bottom, I earnestly prayed, asking God to show me where to start.

    As I opened my heart to hear God’s Word, ….

    To read more, purchase your copy today!

    Chapters

    Pages

    PREFACE

    A Note from the Author

    A centennial birthday brings an extra sense of excitement. Family and community members gather with a heightened sense of joy and reverence to celebrate the birthday of a one-hundred-year-old relative or friend. There is the idea that the honoree had to go through a lot to make it to one hundred. The blessing of long life is acknowledged at a birthday celebration, but behind the blessing is a lifetime of memories, struggles, and strategies for survival. It is not uncommon to hear that a one-hundred-year-old person has seen many changes in society. Likewise, the community assumes that there is a fund of wisdom that has been distilled over the years, and that the centenarian is a proverbial fount of wisdom.

    The excitement over a person turning one hundred is carried over to institutions, particularly churches. Church members and pastors enter the joy of a church turning one hundred. They, too, know that church mem- bers who have long tenure have seen many changes, conflicts, challenges, and blessings. It is right, good, and a joyful thing for present and former church members and friends to gather to celebrate God’s blessings.

    As a friend of Shiloh Baptist Church, I am delighted to be able to share ……

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    A Children’s Book:

    A Girl Dreams of Preaching

    By Thomas W. Spann

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    In Praise for A girl Dreams of Preaching

    PRAISE FOR

    A Girl Dreams of Preaching

    In Praise for A girl Dreams of Preaching

    “What an inspiring tribute to girls and women who hear and answer the call to preach! Dr. Thomas Spann’s Dedication tribute to his granddaughters demonstrates his affirmation of young girls who aspire to pursue any career path they are led to embrace, particularly those that historically have been deemed exclusively for our male counterparts. He constructs the story from a female child’s perspective that breaks down the long-held erroneous notion that preaching the Word of God can only be done by men. Spann’s brilliance at weaving “the then” and “the now” in ways that circumvent cultural, ethnic, and gender divides is both thought-provoking and inspiring. I wholeheartedly endorse this masterful piece of literary storytelling.”

    Reverend Lynda L. Mayberry,
    Executive Pastor, St. Luke “Community” UMC
    Dallas, Texas

    “At a time when children are targeted and killed in horrific mass shootings, a young girl dreams. Dr. Thomas Spann has, in this book, created a dreamer who defies her misogynistic environment and moments of self-doubt, to put her gifts to work to realize her dreams. Bolstered by her mother’s encouragement and her dad’s prayers, Lucinda presses forward using makeshift props and tools and reluctant audiences.

    “We owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Spann for his novel literary excursion that lands us in a good and hopeful place where dreams can come true, especially for children.”

    Rev. Dr. Henry L. Masters, Sr.,
    Publisher, By Faith Magazine

    “When I finished reading this book to my seven-year-old daughter, she immediately stood up and started clapping. Needless to say, A Girl Dreams of Preaching deserves a round of applause. It provides a story of hope that imagines a world where little Black girls can be anything they dream of. Lucinda encourages little girls around the world to say “yes” to God and live their dreams, even when they are told they can’t.”

    Reverend Jeremiah Johns,
    Pastor, Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church
    Louisville, Kentucky

    Saying Amen Through Advent

    By Thomas W. Spann

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    Saying Amen through Advent

    About Saying Amen Through Advent

    i

    ADVENT/CHRISTMAS : Advent marks the beginning of the Christian year. Many congregations hold four-week study sessions on appropriate scriptures for the season. Saying Amen through Advent is written as an Advent resource for congregations that want to study scriptures and messages that highlight social implications of the gospel and call Christians to deepen their discipleship. Additionally, the book includes messages for the Christmas season. These messages may be used for personal meditation as well as in small study groups. After each Advent and Christmas message there is an opportunity for the reader to reflect on questions. There are several messages included for each week during Advent. As a multi-year resource, the book offers an opportunity for congregations to prepare Advent studies for up to four years. 

    Saying Amen through Advent includes a helpful study guide.

    b

    What’s inside

    ^

    Week One

    “See, Your Savior Comes!”
    “The Days are Surely Coming”
    .. and more

    ^

    Week Three

    Valuing Each Day
    It’s A New Day!
    .. and more
    ^

    Christmas Messages

    A Meditation on Christmas Eve
    A Meditation on Christmas
    .. and more
    ^

    Week Two

    Advent Housecleaning
    Taking Inventory
    .. and more
    ^

    Week Four

    What Should We Do?
    The Church’s Persistent Plea
    .. and more

    Preface

    This book is a study guide for the Advent and Christmas seasons. The style of each message is homiletical. As sermons, I believe that they can both teach and inspire. It is my belief that good sermons challenge head and heart. For over fifty years I have tried to write along the horizon where the head and the heart cohere. Sometimes I feel that I have succeeded; other times I am still striving to meet my own goal. Either way, this book is submitted as an installment on my commitment to be the best preacher, teacher, and writer that I can be. This book is written for lay readers. I trust, however, that academicians can join the devotional journey from Advent to Christmas and beyond.

    This book is divided into two main sections—Advent and Christmas. In the Advent section, in accordance with the timeline of the season, there are four weeks of reflections. For each week there are at least four messages. The facilitator of a small group is expected to select one or two messages for each session. The number of messages per week makes this book a unique and an ideal multi-year study.

    At the end of each message ….

    To read more, purchase your copy today!

    Weeks + Christmas Message

    Pages

    Acknowledgments

    The man to whom this book is dedicated was called “Mr. Bishop College,” due to his tenure and influence at the school and in the community. He served for many years, both when Bishop College was in Marshall and later in Dallas, as a professor in political science. He was a gifted preacher, a committed scholar, and a generous human being.

    I first met him at a District Congress of Christian Education, sponsored by the Texas-Louisiana Missionary Baptist Association. Each summer the Association sponsored week-long classes and worship services. Dr. Banks was one of the architects of the curricular offerings as well as a devotional and song leader. His booming voice and his animated choreography led young people in singing with joy and surrender the old hymn “Count on Me.” One of the events of the week was a youth program with a guest preacher. Being the youngest minister in the association, I was invited to give the Youth Address. After giving my address from the floor, Dr. Melvin J. Banks came to the edge of the pulpit and beckoned me to him. With no personal introduction, the first words out of his mouth were: “Mr. Spann, where are you going to college?” At that time, I had not decided on a school. His follow-up comment was not a suggestion but a command. He said, “You are going to Bishop College. Get an application and I will see you in the fall.” I decided that I could count on him for guidance and support.

    To read more, purchase your copy today.

    Church In The Mirror

    By Thomas W. Spann

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    New edition - Church In the Mirror

    About Church in the Mirror

    i

    This book is a discussion guide for church leaders on topics such as ecclesial stigmas, social justice, and research ministry. Out of his broad pastoral experience, Thomas Spann offers succinct counsel to seminarians and persons starting out in ministry on topics such as pulpit etiquette, confidentiality, and helping laity to claim their vocation as a ministry.

    Thomas Spann shares the leadership workshop notes that he used in guiding a church to deepen its analysis of its origin, mission, structure, and resources for planning for the future.

    Included in this book are creative vignettes that are intended to provide rich discussions on various aspects of the narrative behaviors of church folks. These fictional accounts give the reader an opportunity to engage the underlying theology and ethics in some of the practices and events.

    The book concludes with a helpful study guide on each chapter. The study guide may be used in personal reflection and in a small study group.

    b

    What’s inside

    ^

    Chapter One: Widsom-Sharing for Pastoral Ministry

    ^

    Chapter Two: Cemetery, I Mean, Seminary: Death of a Joke

    ^

    Chapter Three: Work with Youth

    ^

    Chapter Four: The Value of Research as a Ministry of the Church

    .. and more.

    Chapter One

    Wisdom-Sharing For Pastoral Ministry

    Having served as a pastor, theological field educator, and a mentor, I know the value of gathering wise insights to share with seminarians and pastors who are entering their first years of pastoral works. I am a beneficiary of wisdom shared with me over fifty years ago. I dedicated this book to one of my mentors, Reverend Herman H. High, who served for over thirty-seven years as the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Beaumont, Texas. He invited me to spend two summers studying with him; this was the summer before and immediately after my first year at Bishop College. One of my favorite memories is sitting under a tree in his front yard listening to him share stories as well as quiz me on books that he had assigned me to read. He taught me ways to outline a sermon. He asked his peers to open their pulpits to me so that I could practice preaching and get some feedback. Reverend High’s wisdom, and that of so many other mentors, including, Dr. Melvin J. Banks, professor of political science at Bishop College, have guided me across the years. I have sought to be a faithful disciple by sharing their wisdom with college and seminary students, as well as lessons that learned from experience and disciplined observation.

    In this chapter I share….

    To read more, purchase your copy today!

    Chapters

    Pages

    I was invited to be the guest preacher for Men’s Day at Hamilton Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. The theme for the day was “Man in the Mirror,” a song title made famous by Michael Jackson. The supporting scripture was II Corinthians 13:.5-13. Given the title of this book, it is fitting that I share the substance of that message.

    Not only must men look in the mirror, but the Church of Jesus Christ must also not walk past the mirror.

    The church must first look in the mirror of the soul. Look into the mirror of the soul with balanced eyes. There is a tendency to focus on “O wretched man that I am” (Romans 7:24) without appropriate attention to “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). There must be balance in observing our strengths and areas that need improvement.

    There must be a balance between doing and feeling. We can overdo and under-feel. In American society, men have been socialized not to show their real feelings. This rugged woodsman approach has created a false sense of some pent-up feelings. A lot of energy is spent keeping our masks polished.

    To read more, purchase your copy today.

    THE LEARNING

    AND

    THE BURNING

    WAYS TO

    ENHANCE PREACHING

    By Thomas W. Spann

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    The Learning and The Burning - Ways to Enhance Preaching

    About The Book

    i

    Whether a preacher is just starting out in ministry or has been in pulpit ministry for several decades, this book is filled with creative ideas for enhancing this sacred oratorical art. Thomas Spann writes from the perspective that any preacher’s current method or approach to preaching is fine, but can be enhanced. In this sense there is no judgment on any preacher’s current method. Drawing on over fifty years in the gospel ministry, this offering is an attempt to provide insights and ideas to aid in next level preaching. Ideas in this book range from the use of poetic flair to social messaging of the gospel. With care and concern, Thomas Spann addresses unusual topics in the field of preaching, including: disavowing the joke about seminary/cemetery; progressive celebration; preaching as a physical act; perspiration and inspiration; and avoiding common errors in English. Using his African American religious experience as a broad background, Thomas Spann believes that this book is useful in a variety of denominational settings. The book concludes with four original sermons.

    In this book I will share my ideas and practical techniques, with the intent of stirring up the gifts that are already in you, so that you create your own path to a new and exciting venture in preaching and teaching preparation.

    b

    What’s inside

    ^

    Part I: Introduction

    ^

    Part II: Strategies, Methods, and Approaches

    • Use of Poetry
    • Examples of Creative Use of Poetry in Black Preaching Oratory
    • Work on the Beginning Sentences

    … and more

    ^

    Part III: Sermons

    • Eulogy for Bertha Baker Hilburn
    • Eulogy for Archie Cooper
    • What Shall I Render?
    • Resources for the Rest of the Journey

    Introduction

    My approach to the subject of preaching is not about getting you to accept my preaching method or that of an established national preacher. Other preachers’ methods are good and wonderful; they work for them. Perhaps some aspects of their methods can be applied to enhance your preaching and teaching. My aim is to invite you to become the subjects of your own research.
    Each of you has a method or a way of thinking, organizing, and delivering a sermon or a lesson plan. I want to bless or affirm that the implicit or explicit method/approach you have is good, but it can be enhanced. So, I am not starting with the idea that a published author or a professional homiletical is the starting point. Rather, the starting point for reflection on preaching and teaching preparation is your own implicit or explicit method or style, as developed over years of practice. The difference is that you will now look at your own practice from a critical, constructive, and compassionate countenance, using some of the insights that I will share.

    To read more, purchase your copy today!

    Chapters

    Pages

    I thought about titling this book Ways to Improve Your Preaching and Teaching. I know of no one who opposes personal improvement. No one in their right mind votes against the spirit of improvement. The biggest room we have is room for improvement. We improve our homes; we have road and street improvement.

    Serena Williams works at improving her tennis swing.
    Tiger Woods works at improving his golf technique.
    LeBron James works at improving his basketball skills.
    Gladys Knight works at improving her singing.
    Nolan Ryan worked at improving his pitching.
    Toni Morrison worked at improving her writing talents.
    James Brown’s band worked several hours a day to improve their sound.

    Andrae Crouch worked at writing music every day.
    Church choirs rehearse each week to improve their singing.
    Sacred dancers work hard to improve their artistry to the praise of God.

    To read more, purchase your copy today.

    FORTY MID-WEEK

    MEDITATIONS

    MONDAY IS COMING

    By Thomas W. Spann

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    40MidWeek-Meditations - Cover

    About The Book

    i

    Many and varied are daily devotional books for the calendar year. This book differs in that the reader can reflect on any one of forty sermonic meditations from week to week. This is not a time-driven book of devotionals. Any set of meditations in this book can be used as the basis of a small group Bible study.

    Thomas Spann’s interpretations of many of the psalms in the Book of Psalms bear witness to the psalmist’s concern for personal and social salvation as well as reflect God’s deep and abiding commitment to help the weak and the oppressed. This book affirms that the Book of Psalms is rich with laments, calls for national thanksgiving, prayers of rescue, testimonies of deliverance, and sustained summons to praise God for God’s mighty deeds.

    Most of these meditations or sermons were delivered at the St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church in Dallas during the church’s weekly Wednesday night service of prayer and praise.

    Thomas Spann begins this book with reflections on Psalm 1 and concludes with a creative rendition of Psalm 150.

    Meditation prepares us to hold fast to

    • the virtue of resistance
    • the value of democracy, and
    • the vision of a new human future.
    b

    What’s inside

    ^

    Acknowledgments

    ^

    Are You a Morning or Night Person?

    Psalm 1:2

    ^

    The Character of Joy

    Psalm 4:7

    ^

    When Children Sing

    Psalm 8:2

    ^

    Life Every Voice

    Psalm 13:1-6

    ^

    No Discount Seats Available

    Psalm 15

    ^

    Lasting Impressions

    Psalm 19:14

    ^

    And 34 more mid-week meditations

    Chapter 1

    Are You a Morning or Night Person? 

    Psalm 1:2

    In Cleophus LaRue’s book, Power in the Pulpit, twelve nationally-known Black preachers share their method for sermon preparation. One of the twelve preachers is Dr. Zan Wesley Holmes, Jr., emeritus pastor of St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. In his chapter on how he prepares his sermons, Dr. Holmes states that when it comes to the writing of the sermon manuscript, he is a morning person; he does most of his sermon work during the first hours of the day.
    There are preachers, poets, and politicians who are morning persons. There are musicians, movie actors, and money managers who are night persons.
    Verse two of this psalm states that those who delight in God’s law
    or God’s word meditate on it day and night. Obviously, none of us can literally stay awake day and night meditating on God’s word. This is the psalmist’s way of acknowledging that God’s word is relevant in every circumstance—both day and night. We are being invited to stay awake, to stay alert, or to be conscious of the immediacy of God’s word. For even when we are asleep, God’s word is watching over us. The God who neither slumbers nor sleeps is the God of the daylight and God of the starlight.
    God’s word is worthy of contemplation when we can see our way through, that is, in the day, and ……

    To read more, purchase your copy today!

    Chapters

    Pages

    I was introduced to Wednesday Night Prayer Service at the Pine Bluff Baptist Church in Karnack, Texas. The pastor was Reverend Joseph Cooper. Practically every church in the rural community where I grew up had a front yard billboard with the following weekly schedule: Worship Service 11:00am; Sunday School 9:30am; and Wednesday Prayer Service 7:00pm. Pine Bluff Church had a group of eight to ten members who met in homes for mid-week service. As a child I remember my mother hosting one of these meetings. I would peep through the keyhole or stand at the door trying to understand what was going on. I distinctly remember the members singing, praying, and calling the roll of sick and shut-in members. They took up an offering to show their love for members who were sick. It was not until I received my call to ministry that I was invited to participate in the church’s mid-week service. 

    To read more, purchase your copy today. 

    Sing to the Lord a new song

    Prophetic poems of praise

    By Thomas W. Spann

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    SING TO THE LORD A NEW SONG - Front Cover

    About The Book

    i
    In this book, Thomas Spann has given creative thought to balancing
    personal praise with a prophetic proclamation in the form of poetry.
    Perhaps an interested and creative musician might be motivated to
    compose music to accompany these lyrics. These poems cover a wide
    range of social and personal life happenings, including Juneteenth,
    protest marches, violence, and personal faith challenges.

    He hopes that these poetic offerings will inspire the reader to find her
    or his own poetic voice in the interest of uniting the two that belong
    together—personal faith and social justice. The book concludes with a
    the piece, written in poetry and prose, that he considered as a potential
    title, The Grace of Something More.

    Have you ever given thought to more balance in Christian praise music in terms of the spiritual and the social?

    Have you ever desired fresh poetry and music that integrated current events and themes with traditional gospel claims?

    b

    What’s inside

    ^

    Preface

    ^

    GOD IS ON THE MOVE

    ^

    WINDS OF CHANGE

    ^

    LET EVERY SERMON SING OF JUSTICE

    ^

    MORE THAN A NUMBER

    ^

    IN THE WRECKAGE OF OUR TIMES

    ^

    NEVER IN OUR LIFETIME

    ^

    WHERE IS GOD IN THAT?

    ^

    HOW DO I GET UP FROM HERE?

    ^

    ... and more Prophetic poems of praise to read about

    ^

    About the Author

    Prophetic Poems of Praise

    God Is On the Move

    God is on the move
    making crooked places straight unveiling words of truth
    lifting bowed down heads.

    God is on the move
    let justice be our cry let peace be our prayer
    let our minds and hearts agree.

    God is on the move
    tearing down walls of empire dismantling ancient building blocks of The System’s unholy power and opening paths to life and liberty.

    God is on the move
    let every church be bold to make every day count today the struggle; tomorrow the victor’s praise.”

    Winds of Change

    Winds of change are blowing
    blowing across every nation rich or poor
    poor in spirit are still blessed
    blessed to be in the Kingdom of God.

    To read more, purchase your copy today!

    Prophetic Poems of Praise

    Pages

    Preface:

    In the Book of Psalms (33:3, 40:3, 98:1, 144:9, 149:1), the Book of Isaiah (42:10), and the Book of Revelation (5:9) there are affirmations of “a new song.” Psalm 98:1 states why the summons is given to sing a new song: “for he has done marvelous things.” The call to sing a new song is not a perfunctory expression. The psalmist is sincerely inviting the community of faith to blend new experiences and insights with the familiar themes of Israel’s faith. God’s marvelous deeds reveal the changing face of divine grace. God’s grace is never static or stale. Each time persons of faith encounter a new experience of grace, there is, in truth, in the encounter, a summons to compose and sing of God’s ever-present and ever-fresh love and presence in the human story.

    To read more, purchase your copy today!

    I feel my help coming

    A Volume of Sermons

    By Thomas W. Spann

    *Your downloadable file will be sent to you soon in a separate email. If you have any questions, please contact us at spannthomas45@gmail.com.

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    Cover I Feel My Help Coming

    About The Book

    i

    The title of this book is derived from traditional African American oratory. This collection of sermons comes out of Thomas Spann’s fifty-plus years of preaching the gospel. These sermons witness to the liberating presence of God in a variety of human life experiences. Thomas Spann offers this book to the Church in the assurance that the “help” expressed in the preacher’s sermon continues to be available to readers of these sermons. Thomas Spann believes that these written sermons can still offer comfort and challenge as the reader opens her or his heart to the living God. God’s Word is never left void or without a witness. It is Thomas Spann’s hope that additional insights will come to the reader of each sermon, whether in personal reflections or a vibrant study group. A study guide is included for personal reflection or small group discussion. The study guide is divided into the following sections: Text, Sermon, Personal Growth, Social Implications, Deeper Theological Considerations, and Further Study.

    “While there are unique responses from the pew, there are also phrases in pulpit oratory that have stood the test. Some of these expressions include: “Can I get a witness?,” “Ain’t God good?,” “Help me, Holy Ghost,” and “Ain’t He alright?” One expression that used to be a standard part of pulpit oratory but is infrequently heard today is, “I feel my help coming.”

    b

    What’s inside

    ^

    Dedications

    ^

    Preface

    ^

    Acknowledgments

    ^

    Old Testament Chapters: 10 Sermons

    ^

    New Testament Chapters: 15 Sermons

    ^

    Study Guide

    • Text
    • Sermon
    • Personal Growth
    • Social implications
    • Deeper theological considerations
    • Further study
    ^

    About the Author

    Chapter 1

    Raising the Standards

    Numbers 2:2, 3, 10, 18 and 25

    Verse 2: “The Israelites shall camp by their respective[standards]…they shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side.”

    Verse 3: “On the east side toward the sunrise shall be the [standard] of the camp of Judah…”

    Verse 10: “On the south side shall be the [standard] of the camp of Reuben…”

    Verse 18: “On the west side shall be the [standard] of the camp of Ephraim…”

    Verse 25: “On the north side shall be the [standard] of the camp of Dan…”

    At this point in the book of Numbers, the Israelites have been encamped in the wilderness of Sinai since the third month after the exodus. They are gathered according to tribes, with three tribes each occupying one of the cardinal points on the compass. Thus, there are three tribes in the east with a standard, three in the south with a standard, three in the west with a standard, and three in the north with a standard, all encircling the tent of meeting, which was the symbolic place of meeting God.

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    Preface:

    Congregational feedback is standard fare in a traditional African American church. Pew oratory is integral to the heightened experience of praising God. Speaking aloud (to each other, the preacher, and God) makes the Word become flesh, abiding in joyful tones and sometimes in expressions of anguished expectations. No one is expected to sit still in a dynamic worship experience. Inviting and experiencing God’s presence is the work of the whole congregation.

    Several phrases in the pew vocabulary of worship are well known. When I served as the pastor of the First Christian Methodist Evangelistic Church in Dallas, I could always expect to hear someone in the choir urge the preacher on by saying, “You betta preach!” Other expressions from the pew include: “ Say it,” “Come on with it,” “Let the Lord use you,” and “Stay right there.” Every worshiper in the Black church (church member or not) intuits the freedom to say “Amen” and to witness to a truth or an insight carved out of life experiences.

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    A Necessary Transition

    A Book of Sermons

    By Thomas W. Spann

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    Thomas W Spann - First Sunday - Front Cover

    About The Book

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    Most of the sermons in this collection were delivered at either St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas or at the First Christian Methodist Evangelistic Church in Dallas, Texas. Having been tested before live audiences and critiqued by loving friends, Thomas Spann offers them partial fruits of his fifty years in the preaching ministry. He contends that every sermon is a “great” sermon if it falls on fertile soil and matures in the life of receptive disciples of Jesus Christ. Thomas Spann’s prayer is that these sermons be received by the reader in a way that invites intellectual, spiritual, moral, and personal growth. 

    A Necessary Transition – A Book of Sermons contains twenty-six sermons for personal devotion and small group study. This volume begins with the sermon titled “A Necessary Transition” and concludes in celebration with the well-received sermon simple titled. “O”.

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    What’s inside

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    Preface

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    Acknowledgments

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    Chapter 1: Seasons of Change

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    Chapter 2 : Questions

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    Chapter 3: Imperatives

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    Chapter 4: Home

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    Chapter 5: A Different Approach

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    Chapter 6: Prophetic Insights

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    Chapter 7: Celebration

    Chapter 1

    A Necessary Transition 

    John 6:16-21

    Life is filled with transitions. Nations go through transitions in political leadership. America went through a major transition when Senator Barack Obama was elected to the office of the president. South Africa went through a transition from white majority rule to a multiracial democracy under the presidency of Nelson Mandela. Transitions take place in the workplace as employees are promoted or downsized or there is a major reorganization. Colleges and universities undergo transitions each year as new students are enrolled or as some faculty members retire and others are hired. Churches go through transitions with new pastors or new forms of administrative governance.

    Some transitions are smooth; others can be quite stormy. Many churches have experienced difficulties in transitioning from one set of officers or leaders to another. There are church lay leaders who have been in office for a number of years but are not ready to relinquish their hold on power. This, of course, leads to tensions in the effort to transition to new leaders.

    Transitions occur in the personal life of faith, also. To come to a deeper faith in Jesus sometimes means having to struggle. We are often faced with struggles in faith in the face of a major loss, such as a death of a loved one, a major health crisis, an unexpected layoff, or a scandal in the life of a revered spiritual leader. The text that is before us presents an experience of struggle in the life of the disciples.

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    Many times during my fifty years of preaching I have been invited and encouraged to write a book of sermons. Having written two other books, I consider this work to be the most challenging and humbling. I have hesitated because preaching is essentially the word of God orally proclaimed in a context of worship. I am a manuscript preacher. If the sacred word of God on paper is preached to a live audience, is it any less relevant and reachable in print? I have come to the position that the sermon verbally presented in worship can have relevance and reachability in print as the reader brings to the printed sermons an open mind and an open heart. God continues to speak long after the preacher has sat down.

    First Sunday

    Reflections on Ministry Experiences in the Black Church

    By Thomas W. Spann

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    Thomas W Spann - First Sunday - Front Cover

    About The Book

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    Have you ever wondered about the origin and meaning of some of the practices and rituals of the church? Have you ever paid attention to how the Lord’s Supper is presented in traditional Black Baptist churches? Are there church protocols that are invisible until you cross one? Have you ever considered the features of Black Church funerals? These questions and considerations are carefully addressed in this easy-to-read exploration of the worship life in many Black churches.

    In First Sunday: Reflections on Ministry Experiences in the Black Church, Dr. Spann explores his own experiences growing up in the Pine Bluff Baptist Church in Karnack, Texas. From these experiences and others, he extrapolates themes and nuances that help to understand some of the whys behind what we do. Thomas Spann leads readers through detailed commentaries on the relationship between the Black Church and its community, the Lord’s Supper, Special Days, and features of Black Church funerals. He offers a helpful study guide for personal use and for discussions in small groups.

     

    Study Guide: I have included a Study Guide that can be used individually or in small discussion groups. It can be amended by the user in deepening reflections on the significance of many church experiences, practices, and expressions. The user is encouraged to look at her or his church life in light of the guiding questions.

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    What’s inside

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    Preface

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    Excerpts from Deeds

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    Acknowledgments

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    Chapter 1: Pine Bluff Baptist Church

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    Chapter 2 The Lord’s Supper or “Circament” Sunday

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    Chapter 3: Cultural Practices and Expressions

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    Study Guide

    Chapter 1

    Pine Bluff Baptist Church Background 

    Pine Bluff Baptist Church is located about seven miles northeast of Marshall on the Stagecoach Road, also called the Pine Bluff Road. It sits down in a flat that once was crowned by towering pines, thus the name Pine Bluff. The Stagecoach Road, along which the church sits, was once the transportation artery between Shreveport, Louisiana and Marshall, Texas. The actual mailing location of the church is Karnack, a small town on Port Caddo Lake.

    Many Black churches that were organized after slavery began in brush arbors, a structure built from surrounding tree branches and natural foliage. There are examples of Black churches in the south that were named after surrounding trees such as cedars and oaks; (e.g., Cedar Grove, Live Oak, Oak Grove, Blooming Grove). No surviving records exist to substantiate where the first pioneers of Pine Bluff Baptist Church met. Due to the abundance of pine and sweet gum trees in the area, it is conceivable that Pine Bluff Baptist Church was organized and started in a brush arbor or in an abandoned hay barn owned by an organizing family. Some of the early families in the surrounding area included: the Singletons, the Harrises, the Connors, the Campbells, and the Jacksons.

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    I begin the book with Pine Bluff Baptist Church in Karnack, Texas as the window through which I am looking, not only at particular practices and expressions in this church but in the Black Church in general. Pine Bluff has a special place in my heart since it is the church where I was baptized and acknowledged my call to ministry over fifty years ago. What is said here about Pine Bluff could be said about neighboring rural churches in Karnack or Leigh, Texas, but I use Pine Bluff because of my personal relationship with it and because it has had such a powerful influence in shaping my ministry.

    When Theological Reflection Goes To Church

    By Thomas W. Spann

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    When Theological Reflection Goes to Church by Thomas Spann - Digital

    About The Book

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    Have you ever given serious thought to who God is and what God is doing in the world? Have you ever wondered what God’s deepest dream is for humankind and creation? That kind of thinking is theological reflection, and when the Church engages in this deeper level of thinking, the faith community begins to look at the connection of the Church’s actions in relationship to the gospel.

    When Theological Reflection Goes to Church is a practical blueprint that explores the DNA of the Black Church – from historic and cultural worship styles to how deeper reflection strengthens the Church. Thomas Spann leads the reader through thought-provoking essays, scenarios, and discussion questions that can be explored in small groups, Bible studies, and even as a means to “an introduction” to seminary education. He offers a proposal for the Black Church to create an Academy of Christian Theological Studies as a way to bridge Black theology and ministry of the Church.

     

    “…. In moments when we are tempted to separate spiritual praise and social witness, heart and head, bring us to our senses so that we may be the whole persons that you have created us to be.”

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    What’s inside

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    Essay #1: Thinking Theologically

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    Essay #2: Theological Reflection as a Discipline for Prophetic/Public Theologians

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    Essay #3: Theological Reflection as Listening for the Sound of The Genuine

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    Essay #4: Leading from a Place of Deep Christian Theological Reflection

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    Essay #5: Worship as a Model for Theological Reflection

    Chapter 1

    What is theological reflection?

    I begin by making you aware that theology assumes God’s deepest dream for all humankind and creation. That dream is justice, wholeness, salvation, or the absence of poverty, war, disease, discrimination, racism, sexism, classism—any system or ideology that blocks the fulfillment of God’s gift of salvation for the whole world. God’s dream is that we love God, love one another as we love ourselves, and love the environment which sustains human life on this earth. If theology begins with God’s dream, then it cannot dismiss the massive examples of humanity’s injustices: the neglect and exploitation of children, the abuse visited upon women, oppression of the poor, environmental abuse, and ecological racism. Thus, theological reflection takes place at the intersection of God’s dream and humanity’s refusal fully to live into that dream.

    God’s dream is not synonymous with The American Dream, although the democratic principles of equality and justice are partial expressions of God’s dream. Crassly speaking, the American Dream is reduced by many citizens to the ownership of property and material things; whereas, the dream of God is about social justice, world peace, and human cooperation and respect.

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    Theological reflection can look within the culture for non-traditional ways of knowledge that may provide opportunities to cast new visions and employ underutilized and, in some cases, neglected, resources for the Church’s work in the world.

    About the author

    THE REVEREND DR. THOMAS W. SPANN is an ordained Baptist minister who earned his Bachelor of Arts at Bishop College, Master of Divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary, and Doctor of Ministry at Southern Methodist University. He has over fifty years in the gospel ministry. For seven years he taught philosophy and religion at the college level. After thirty years at Perkins School of Theology at SMU, he retired in 2018 as the Director of the Perkins Intern Program. He is the author of several books including When Theological Reflection Goes to Church; First Sunday: Reflections on Ministry Experiences in the Black Church; A Necessary Transition: A Book of Sermons; I Feel My Help Coming: A Volume of Sermons; Sing to the Lord a New Song: Prophetic Poems of Praise;
    The Learning and the Burning: Ways to Enhance Preaching; Forty Mid-Week Meditations—Monday is Coming; and Church in the Mirror, which are available at www.thomaswspann.com. He and his wife, Cynthia, live in Dallas.

    Thomas W. Spann

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