Category Archives: Churches of Christ

Hello Again!

Hello again!

This blog has been dormant for awhile while I have been working hard to finish my dissertation and complete my Doctor of Ministry degree. I’m happy to report that I am finished and this coming Saturday, June 8, 2019, I will graduate with a D.Min in in Contextual Theology with Northern Seminary in Lisle, IL.

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I am very thankful for all of the support and encouragement I have received along the way, beginning with my wife and children. When I began work on my D.Min, I was serving with a church in Maryland that I eventually helped close. From there, my family and I moved to Missouri where I began serving with a church but that did not last long, as I was asked to leave (not for any illegal, immoral, or unethical conduct). At this point, I wasn’t sure if I was done serving vocationally as a minister of the gospel and wasn’t even sure if I would finish my D.Min. As you might imagine, this was a difficult season not just for me but also my wife and children too. By the grace of God, many people offered support and encouragement in various ways. They know who they are but let me just say how thankful I am for there outpouring of love.

Last year my family and I also moved back to the east coast, to Newark, Delaware where I began serving as a minister/pastor with the Newark Church of Christ. This first year has been one outstanding year. I serve alongside of some wonderful shepherds and some wonderful campus missionaries who are leading students from the University of Delaware to follow Jesus through Blue Hens For Christ campus missions outpost. The church is made up of many followers of Jesus who are using their spiritual gifts to serve so that we can truly exist as a church that is inviting others to experience Jesus together. So over the last year I have witnessed enough people give their life to Jesus in baptism that I must pause to think so that I can recall the number… 18, I think. Anyhow, the year has been wonderful. Praise the Lord!

Now some people have asked me what my plans are now that I am finished with my doctoral work. The answer to that, or at least a major portion of that answer, is easy. Lord willing, I will continue serving with the Newark Church of Christ. Whatever other opportunities to serve open up, I am committed to this church. Not only do I believe the local church is the way that God is continuing to fulfill his mission but I believe that God is at work in this local church. So I want to keep serving, helping lead the Newark Church of Christ to continue participating in the mission of God.

As for this blog, I do plan on posting again on a regular basis. The post will focus on the intersection between theology and ministry, and how the conversation between scripture, tradition, and culture shapes the church for participation in the mission of God. That’s broad enough to have some variation in particular topics, issues, etc… but focused enough to know where the lines are and avoid straying into foul territory.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. I hope you’ll come back and read some more.

Grace and Peace,

K. Rex Butts

Remembering Kenny: God Spoke and Hope Emerged

After Kenny died, a dark cloud came over me that eventually appeared to snuff out any light.  Hope seemed dead and my faith in God was crumbling into ruins day by day.  There was two factors that added to this darkness.  One was another baby who had become critically ill but then became well again.  That is a good thing but for me, hearing people praise God for answering the prayers made on behalf of this baby only made me wonder all the more why God didn’t answer the prayers for Kenny.  The other factor was that a little over a year after Kenny’s death, my younger brother John also died.  He left behind a wife and two children.  It was just too much and yet, little did I know but an encounter with God was just around the corner.

This is the third part of the story: of how I discovered God again in a new way that brought a renewed faith and hope.  It is part of what makes me so passionate about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the hope it offers to a broken and hurting world.

I wish the process of healing was as linear as I am going to make it appear to be.   But that is just not how healing and renewed faith are discovered.  It tends to be a messy process that take different routes for every person.

For me, the road to healing begins with a wonderful community.  From the outset  Laura and I were surrounded by a very supportive family as well as friends from Harding University, Covenant Fellowship Church, and our Wednesday Evening Bible Study group.  I don’t know how many of those people had ever ministered to a people who had lost a child, but they were very caring and supportive in the way they treated us, listened to us, ministered to us, and so on.

I also had begun seminary at Harding School of Theology (HST).  In hind-site, I would not recommend beginning seminary right after losing a child but the community at HST also was helpful.  Over the year, as my faith continued to crumble, a couple of great things happened that kept steering me towards an encounter with God.

First, my wife and I did go through some grief counseling that was provided to us free of charge which did help my wife and I to practically help each other to grieve in more healthy ways.  Second, a friend of mine gave me a pocket knife that he had sharpened along with a story about the knife.  The story basically explained that he had bought the knife to pray for someone as he sharpened it and then God revealed to him that he was to be praying for me.  In some way, this all kept God in the picture even though God was becoming very fuzzy and frustrating.

One day I was sitting in chapel at HST and was just near the breaking point.  My brother had recently died and I was just tired.  On that particular day I heard the hymn Be Still, My Soul (see below) for the first time.  The song, which now is a favorite, eloquently expressed both the grief and pain I was reeling in as well as the hope I wanted so badly.

But hope seemed so illusive…perhaps impossible at that point.  I was tired.  I felt like a man lost in a dark cave with nothing but blackness.  I was just tired of walking in what seemed to be an endless journey of nothing but more darkness.

All I wanted to know was “Why?”  Why did my son die?  Why did God seemingly not answer the prayers?  Was he unable to or did he just not care too?  Did God even hear those prayers?  While Be Still, My Soul spoke of the hope I wanted to have, I was not even sure if there was a reason to hope in God.

As I said, I was tired and was ready to give up.  I had planned to quit seminary and even had been offered a job selling Honda cars.  But then I met John Mark Hicks, who would become both a friend and a Professor of mine.  He was speaking at HST on his own spiritual journey which included the death of his first wife and his son, Joshua, later on in life.  Despite his suffering, he spoke of a deep faith in God.  So I went up to him and asked him something about how he was able to trust in God.

What John Mark Hicks pointed me to was Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  At first, I was sort of disappointed because far too many people had used this verse just to dismiss my grief and struggle without even taking the time to understand.  But I gave him the benefit of the doubt since he understood what I was going through.  John Mark Hicks told me to go home and read, to learn what that “good” is about.  So that night after Laura went to bed, I pulled out my Bible and began reading through Romans, reading again through Romans, and reading, and…

At some point God spoke.  Not in audible words but nevertheless I heard God speak and he said, “Rex, my good is your redemption and if you’ll trust me, I will see that good to the end even if you don’t understand how I work that all out.”  And just like that the light began to break through the darkness, hope began to emerge.  It was like a thousand pounds being lifted from my shoulders.  I no longer needed to understand or have an answer to the question of “why?” to all my questions and yet, I found myself able to trust God again.

Ten years later I am a person full of hope.  I believe God is redeeming the world in Jesus Christ, making all things new (cf. Rev 21:5) and that includes us…you…me.  I don’t understand everything about how that is happening and there are things about God which are remain mystery.  I’m ok with that.  I wish Kenny was still alive and would give almost anything to hold him just one more time.  I cannot contemplate the thought of embracing Kenny in the new heaven and new earth without some tears of joy.  Further more, as terrible as it has been to lose a son, God has used this journey to give me a faith and hope that I did not have before.  For that, I am thankful.

Thank you for reading this story, a story about Kenny and I.  But most importantly, a story about God.

*****

The following video is of the choral group Libera singing the hymn Be Still, My Soul set to a video with images of the Holocaust.

*****

See also part 1 and 2 of this “Remembering Kenny” trilogy:

Remembering Kenny: The Joy of My Son’s Life!

Ten years ago my wife Laura and I welcomed our first child into this world. Kenneth “Kenny” James Butts was born at approximately 8:30 in the morning on July 31, 2002.  Kenny unexpectedly died on August 2, 2002 and there has not been a day since that I have not missed my son.  The picture to the left was his first formal picture taken at the hospital, which he peacefully slept through.  Rather than focusing on his death, for this post I want to focus on his life since there is so much to celebrate about it.  In the following two posts, I want to discuss the horror of losing a son and then how I discovered hope in the midst of suffering.

About the life of Kenny…

As I said, Kenny was born in the morning.  Laura and I were living in Searcy, Arkansas at the time.  It was on a Wednesday morning and Laura gave birth to him through a cesarian delivery in an operating room, so we were on a lower level then the maternity ward.  The nurses let me hold Kenny and show him to Laura.  We both shed tears of joy, for we both were captivated by this bundle of joy with a love that goes beyond description (if you’re a parent, you understand).  We named Kenny after both of his Grandpas, Kenneth Butts and James Martin.

I was allowed to carry Kenny upstairs to the maternity ward where I proudly introduced him to “Grandpa Jim” and “Grandma Jan” Martin.  Realizing how crowded and stressful the maternity room can be after a new baby is born, Kenny’s “Grandma Mary” (my mother) had not planned on coming down until the following week.  So I called my mom on the phone and remember being nearly incapable of saying anything due to the joyous emotion that had overcome me (that was a great feeling).  Over the next two days, many friends from Harding University, Covenant Fellowship Church, and our Wednesday Evening Bible Study Group stopped by.  Even though we were tired (especially Laura who was recovering from surgery), I am so glad that we allowed all of these friends to share in the joy of our son’s life.

There are many great memories too.

  • Kenny taught me my first lesson about changing diapers on little boys – keep ’em covered up or else you get the front of your shirt peed on, which happened to me.
  • On the second day of Kenny’s life I read to him from God’s word.  This was the passage I read to him: “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these'” (Matthew 19:14).  I wanted my son to know that from the day of his birth, he was welcome to be in the presence of Jesus.
  • When we brought Kenny home, I also had the opportunity to sit down and bond with him as father and son should…we watched the Chicago Cubs baseball game together.  The truth is, I wanted to indoctrinate Kenny into which baseball team he would root for.
  • We also have pictures of Kenny sleeping peacefully on his mother’s shoulder after getting his belly filled.  Again, the word “beautiful” comes to mind but that is a beauty that words can’t begin to capture.

Like all children, Kenny brought great joy to us.  He will always be our child, our first child.  Before Kenny was ever born, our prayer for him was simple.  We prayed that he would grow up to love and serve God.  We didn’t have any particular vocation or geographical location in mind.  Whether he became a pediatrician, plumber, or preacher and whether he lived a mile down the road or half way around the globe, that did not matter.  We just wanted to raise Kenny to love and serve God.

While Kenny never got the opportunity to grow up and be an adult, Laura and I praise God that he forever loves and serves God.  We only had three days with him but those three days are still better than nothing at all.

Below is a video with the song and lyrics to Mark Schultz’s song Remember Me.  The song was played at Kenny’s memorial service and I share it with you.  When I listen to the song, I remember not just the life that Kenny lived but the life he now lives safely in heaven with Jesus.

Kenny: I do remember and I’ll never forget.  I love you always, your dad!

*****

See also part 2 and 3 of this “Remembering Kenny” trilogy: