Tag Archives: Aztec church of christ

Aztec church of Christ

In 2012, my family and I were looking for where God was calling us to next. We searched all across the nation to find a church where I could preach, and we could live as a part of a family of Christ. In October, we came to interview at the Aztec Church of Christ. I’ll be honest. Google maps was discouraging me from being excited to move to a church with 17 families (that was the number of parking spots on the asphalt).

What I didn’t think of is all the gravel available for parking.

When we showed up, we were shown love and acceptance, and even our children felt this was the right move for us.

We had another interview across the country the following weekend, but after visiting that church, we were certain that Aztec was the place for us. On December 1, my son and I pulled in to Aztec to begin working here (my wife and our daughter would join us in a couple weeks). This weekend marks five years of living and working in the Aztec area, and preaching for the Aztec church.

Since that time, we have loved living in this area. It has not always been easy, but we can’t imagine living anywhere else.

The church is full of great people who genuinely love one another. We may not always agree, but even in our disagreements, we seek resolution and reconciliation because of our driving desire to love. This is what the greatest commands are all about. Love.

So why am I telling you all this? First of all, it’s because I’m excited for this milestone of five years. But I also want to talk about what I notice about the Aztec Church of Christ.

  • I’m not blowing smoke about the love of this congregation. Long suffering was how the preacher selection committee described the church when we came to interview, and this description has proven absolutely true.
  • I’m not the easiest person to work with due to my driving personality and constant desire to change. Yet, the leadership of this church has continually striven to work with me, and I have grown tremendously over these past five years.
  • You, my church family in Aztec, have become my friends. I don’t just feel like a hireling, for the church doesn’t treat me as such. This is important to every preacher, for they do not see themselves as separate from the congregation, but it is common for them to be constantly treated as outsiders or the hired help. My family and I are members of the Aztec Church of Christ, and I happen to also do the preaching.
  • This church has grown in many ways over these past five years. I’m not just talking about all the new members; the people in the church have shown and expressed growth as we journeyed together these past few years.
  • The fickle nature of the oilfield has brought new people and taken several families away, but the church continues to be a welcoming place of encouragement and acceptance to all who come, and she celebrates with those who have found new opportunities elsewhere, though we miss them.
  • The Aztec Church of Christ is a place where questions can be asked without fear, and topics can be discussed in genuine camaraderie. This is important as we all seek growth in our understandings and understanding in our ignorance. This is what fuels true growth as disciples. Where questions are not welcome, control governs.

There are many more things I’ve noticed about the Aztec Church of Christ, but these bring me joy and remind me why I’m glad to work in Northwest New Mexico. I hope and pray that we will have many more years of working in the Kingdom together. Thanks for these great five years!

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Modern Day Sanhedrin

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Have you ever heard of Passion Play Ministries International? It is an organization that tells the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus to thousands of people in many nations and cities in the US and around the world through a live-action drama. The play is a large production with hundreds of people in the cast and part of the crew. The headquarters for this ministry is in Farmington, NM of all places. Yet, with such a humble headquarters location they are doing great ministry in spreading the gospel of Jesus around the world.

I was privileged to get involved with the Passion Play of the Four Corners last year for the first time. My wife saw an ad somewhere stating that they needed singers, and that is something I love to do, so I decided to join. I was part of the choir last year and sang in the opening song as a trio with a couple other ladies. I was also the host pastor for a night where I got to lead the opening prayer and then invite people to respond to the gospel message at the end.

It was an amazing experience, and I can truly say they are changing lives – not only lives in the audience, but even lives within the cast and crew itself.

This year I went back to audition, and I was told that the choir was going to be practicing on Tuesday evenings. Well, I am solidly booked on Tuesdays with my position as den leader for the local cub scout pack, so I decided to do some reading and see if God wanted to use me for a speaking part this year. Apparently He does. I was told that night I was to report to the Sanhedrin block when rehearsals began.

The Sanhedrin? I was to be one of the bad guys who connived to have Jesus crucified. These were the legalists that had missed the heart of the message of the Messiah and therefore missed Him when He came to them.

Oh well, if that was where God wanted me to be then so be it. I began to read, and after a few nights the director of the Sanhedrin block of the cast informed me that he wanted me to play the part of Caiaphas. Really? Not only was I going to be a bad guy, but I was to be the worst one – the High Priest!!

As I have been learning my lines and preparing for my role it has really weighed on my heart the severity of the role I must play. I have to be angry at Him. I have to accuse Him. I have to reject Him. I have to be all the things I preach against each week as I minister. Sure, this is only a play, but the weight of the things, I must sa,y hang no less heavily on my heart.

The one idea that keeps coming back to me, though, is this: The religious leaders of the day – the Sanhedrin – rejected Jesus and everything He stood for because they didn’t understand Him, and they were threatened by His doctrine as they saw it required a change in their way of life and livelihood.

Don’t we do the same thing?

Don’t we reject Jesus as we decide day after day to give in to our selfishness instead of allowing Jesus to reign in our lives and call the shots? Don’t we ignore Jesus as we get caught up in our lives or even worse, our religion? Don’t we reject Him as we feel that following Him would require a change of lifestyle that will threaten our comfort on every level, even fincially? Are we not just as guilty as the Sanhedrin?

When Peter preached the first sermon about Jesus in Acts 2, he finished by saying, “You, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross…God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:23,36)

That verse is for us too. We crucify Jesus when we put our selfish desires above His. What does Jesus require in response? Repentance and Baptism (Acts 2:38). When you understand what you’ve done and keep on doing to Jesus it should bring about remorse that leads to repentance. When you see what He has done for you by willingly dying for you in spite of your rejection it should inspire a desire for allegiance to Him that leads you to baptism.

Don’t stay like the Sanhedrin. News is that even Caiapha, after the resurrection, became a follower of Jesus. It’s not too late for you to follow Him either.

If you would like to know more about Passion Play Ministries International you can find them on the web at www.passion-play.org.


The Chaos of Influence

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My kids have been introduced this year to basketball. We signed them up at a church in the next town for Upward Sports.

Having never done basketball before, there is a pretty sharp learning curve when someone is thrown in with other kids who have played for the last two years. Each practice and game is filled with input from both coaches as the kids try to learn the skills needed to win.

Game times are extremely chaotic. There are usually two basketball games going on simultaneously with only a double-row of chairs separating the two games. Kids on one court hesitate when the referee on at the other game blows a whistle. Parents are stacked on top of one another to watch their kids. There is yelling from parents and coaches alike as they all try to encourage their kids to take this shot or pass the ball or block that person.

In the midst of the chaos it is difficult for the kids to hear the voices that are speaking to them and trying to help them excel at what they are doing.

Isn’t this so true in each of our lives as well?

We have voices coming at us from all sides daily. There are voices on the television and radio. There are voices from our bosses and coworkers. There are voices from our friends and neighbors. There are voices from our families. There are voices from the books we read and the internet. There are even voices within our own heads.

Each voice is trying to earn the right to influence your actions.

Once, Jesus was talking about his followers, and he called them his sheep. He referred to himself as the shepherd. He said that others would come and try to lead the sheep away, but the sheep would not follow because they didn’t recognize the voice of the shepherd. Then he said this about his sheep:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.

if you consider Jesus your shepherd, then his voice should be the one that rings out through the chaos of noise in your life. You will come to recognize that voice more easily as you spend time with she shepherd in his word, through prayer, and as you spend time with others who are listening to and following the shepherd. It will also be easier to recognize the shepherd when we whittle away the other voices in our lives that stand in stark opposition to our shepherd’s voice. We may not be able to get away from the voices, but we don’t have to give those voices any rights within our lives to dictate feelings, choices or actions.

We each have a choice as to which voices we allow to have authority in our lives. Jesus wants us to make his voice the priority, and his voice is saying “Come, follow me. I love you.”


What is a Church to do?

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It has been a beautiful thing to work with the Aztec church of Christ over the last two years. I have seen many lives change as people grow in their understanding of the bible or even come to Jesus for the first time. As a church our Sunday morning attendance has more than doubled in the last two years and Sunday morning class attendance nearly matches our worship service attendance.

I have enjoyed listening as person after person has spoken of the love they feel in this congregation. People here really try to treat one another like family. We welcome people regardless of their background or flaws, and we treat them with joy. This has created a family atmosphere that I think is one of our greatest draws as a church reaching out into the community. When we follow Jesus’ two primary laws, Love God and Love Your Neighbor, we find that people want to be a part of what we are into.

It is easy to maintain that family dynamic when we are a church of 50-80, but when we grew over 100 we began to see that dynamic change a bit. Well, at least I’ve seen it. Haven’t you?

So how do we keep the small church love in a medium-sized church?

To keep from allowing our growth to hurt rather than bless our gatherings we have to recognize a few things. First we must recognize the dynamic of our congregation. We are a church made primarily of young to middle age families. We have some seniors who we love dearly, but they do not comprise the majority of our attendance. We are also a congregation that comes from all over the region. We aren’t a church entirely made up of people from our neighborhood or town. We have people that come from Aztec, Flora Vista, Crouch Mesa, Bloomfield, Navajo Dam, Cedar Hill, Farmington, La Plata, Bayfield Colorado and points in between. For many people it is difficult for us all to meet together more often than just Sunday mornings.

Second we must realize that more people means more contacts, and more contacts mean fewer meaningful contacts. In a church of 50 the preacher can get to know the few families represented fairly well, but in a church three times that size it is difficult for everyone to know everyone well. You may recognize this as you look around the room on Sunday and see people that you can’t call by name much less recall anything about them.

Third we should note that while not all people here are new Christians, many people are new within the last couple of years. This newness often brings a reluctance to jump in and get involved right off the bat in roles that are traditionally seen as leadership roles.

Church growth is a great thing, but it does bring certain beautiful challenges.

If you want to know what keeps me up at night it is this: how can I help this church continue to grow into mature disciples of Christ and maintain the family dynamic that we all love so dearly?

I know that the Spirit is the One who guides our moves as a church, but He has commissioned me to be a leader in this church. I take that responsibility seriously, and I’m excited to see where He leads.

As such, He has been showing me through the scriptures as well as church growth studies and discussions with other ministers of growing churches the direction He wants us to go to facilitate discipleship growth while maintaining the family dynamic.

This year you are going to hear me talk a lot about small groups. I am going to show you what the church looked like in the first century and how small groups were the key to church growth and health back then. I want to show you how small groups can be a key to helping all of us grow as disciples of Jesus in a much more meaningful way. I’m excited to show you how small groups bring unity and family atmosphere to a church whose numbers don’t support such dynamic.

There are other things that we will be working on as a church this year as well. We aren’t looking to start small groups tomorrow. I want to talk to you about this and help you see the joys of small groups before we ever embark on this journey. Many of you may even begin to realize that you’ve been involved with small groups already but didn’t recognize it as such.

I’m praying for Aztec church of Christ. I’m excited where the Spirit is leading us. Will you join me in prayer for the church as well? If you have questions or concerns, will you come talk with me about them? I’d love to hear what’s on your heart and mind.

May The Lord bring spiritual and physical growth to His church this year as we seek His will and strive to love Him more and love those around us as well. God bless you all.


Church is Not a Country Club for Perfect People

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What has been your experience with church? Maybe you are a faithful attendee somewhere, but maybe you aren’t. Most people are familiar with Christian churches on some level. Some people have attended a church or two at various times. Some people have seen churches and church people on the news. Some people merely have family or friends that they know who “go to church”.

So what’s your experience?

The are many different kinds of churches out there, and like all things there are good and bad churches in the mix. Some churches are doing magnificent things to help the people and communities around them and around the world. Some churches have great motivational speakers with enormous campuses and loads of money. Some churches are known because of the hatred they spew on anyone who thinks or acts differently than them.

I want to stop right now and say that if your experience with church has been negative in any way, I’m sorry. I’m sorry if you were shunned or ridiculed. I’m sorry if people hated you. I’m sorry if you weren’t treated with love, grace, and respect. Those “churches” and church people aren’t followers of Jesus. They are merely role-players involved in a country club that calls itself church. That’s not what church is supposed to be.

Church is for everyone. Church is for you.

Jesus said the church was meant to be a hospital for people dealing with the hurts and hang-ups that life throws their way. It is meant to be a place of healing and love. It is to be a place where grace is not merely spoken of and accepted, but it is given freely. Church is a place where those who are alone can find a family.

The church is meant to be a place of joy and fellowship. It is a place where the bible is studied and taught. It is a family that laughs and cries together. It is a home away from home.

Churches that follow Jesus know this. They will welcome you – no matter who you are. They will accept you where you are, as you are, but they will love you enough to encourage you to walk with them as they strive to become more like Jesus.

Jesus died for the church. He rose from the dead for the church, and he opened wide the gate to anyone who wants to be a part of His church. He didn’t set men up to dictate what the church should believe. He sent His word through the bible to tell us His plan for us. People who truly follow Jesus study that word, and not the whim of some sinner.

I hope you have a wonderful church to which you belong. If not, you are welcome to worship with us at the Aztec church of Christ. We are a bunch of people who aren’t blood related but treat each other like family. We don’t dress up and don’t expect you to either. We serve Jesus, and we study His word in the bible to know how to be more like Him.

Come visit sometime. You can find out more about us on our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/AztecChurch or on our website at http://www.aztecchurch.org. You can even call our office and speak to me at (505) 334-6626. We would love to get to know you and welcome you as a family member. God bless you.


Family Matters

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I grew up in a wonderful family. My parents are still married. I talk to my sister and brother regularly. My family did many things and took many trips together. We ate together regularly, and my parents attended almost all of my milestone events growing up. In fact, the only ones they didn’t attend we’re the ones I asked them not to attend.

I love my family. But I miss them.

In over ten years of ministry I have not lived closer than six hours from my parents. Right now we live about three hours from my wife’s family, and that’s the closest we’ve lived to any immediate family since we’ve been married.

Not being close to family is hard. It puts a strain on a person when their support group is so far away. As we began having children we didn’t have family close that was willing to help watch them. We didn’t have the ability to go chat with the parents over dinner the way many people do. We have been alone – separated from our family.

But it hasn’t been all bad.

The most wonderful thing about Christianity is the grace that God gives us each day through the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The most wonderful things about the church – the body of Christ – is that we are family.

Jody and I have worked for several churches, and in those churches we have struggled to find a few people that we would consider family. In fact, in some places, we found people who weren’t a part of “our church” who were like family to us. It is with great joy that I can say that here in Aztec we have a family at the Aztec church of Christ.

It is a joyous find to behold a church where a person is welcomed at whatever walk of life they are in. It is comforting to know that love is given regardless of whether or not someone completely agrees with you. It is awesome to be part of a family that isn’t blood related but treats you as though you were. That is what we have found in Aztec. Not just with one or two people, but with a whole congregation.

Jesus said to his disciples, “By this they will know you are my disciples; if you love one another.” This is what we are called to as Christians. This is what being a part of a church should feel like.

A we celebrate this, though, it is important to not get comfortable there. We must continually be working to grow the family. If you and I love this family so much, then why would we not want others to experience what we’ve got?! The church was not established to cater to the Christians. It was established to provide a support group, a family, for those who were reaching out to tell others about the saving grace of Jesus. The church should always be about growing the family.

So, I thank you, Aztec church of Christ, for the love and acceptance you have shown my family and others as they have come. May you and the rest of the body of Christ around the world be about sharing that love beyond our assemblies and building. May we be people who share that kind of family spirit with those who have no home, who have no family to call their own.

God bless each of you, and may He fill your heart with a family that has no borders. May you be part of a family whose home is in Heaven. May you become a child of the Father who loves beyond your comprehension. If you’d like to be a part of a family like that, then I invite you to Aztec church of Christ. You can find us on the web at www.aztecchurch.org, and we are even on Facebook! If you have any questions for me, please call at 334-6626 or email me at mrjdobbs@gmail.com.


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