The Seed in Good Soil

February 26, 2018 | Posted in News & Updates | By


On Wednesday I had a lot on my mind after putting the kids to bed.  My mind was all over the place.  I’ve heard it described like having monkeys playing around in the head and call it “monkey brains”.  Well I get that a lot and need to find ways to step away and process it all.  I often take walks but on this night it was raining so I went down to the church gym to play some basketball.  As I was shooting and praying and processing life, I got to singing.  Now I don’t know most Hymns by heart so I tracked down a Hymnal and with a Hymnal in one hand and a basketball in the other I got to singing.  I sang, “How Great Thou Art” and then made up my own verse.

“When thro’ the hood and all the streets I wander and hear the train blaring down the way.  When I look down from Highland Park’s grandeur and see the city in all its shiny lights… then sings my soul my Savior God to me….” Yes, in our city surrounded by what people made and not the beautiful forest and nature described in the original Hymn.  But are not all these human creations and institutions an expression that we are made in the image of God, yearning to create and express ourselves on this world?  Are there not images of God simply walking around us if we have eyes to see and the ears to hear?  Are there not as many wonders in this concrete mixed forest as there is in Brown County State Park?

So I sang How Great Thou Art in the gym, I played basketball, I prayed and all the while I was drawing near to God.

Much of my connecting with God is simply getting myself to a place of surrender (in a good way)—receiving God’s grace and love— then to simply trust and obey…

In our first message of our series Pastor Ron talked about how we can move past mental barriers- when we don’t understand God’s word.  Then he addressed emotional barriers- what do we do when the feelings are gone, then the worries barrier because when we worry more, we worship less.

Today as we look at the last seed illustrated in the Parable of the Sower where God’s word is received into good soil we see a simple picture.  The seed lands in good soil and finally grows to produce a crop.   Our faith in God is also not very complicated.  Receiving God’s word  is simply to trust and obey…  The Christian life is not that complicated, but it can’t be broken down into a list of rules and regulations to follow.  When we say trust and obey, we are trusting and obeying a living Lord that is actively speaking into our lives with his word.  Following Jesus and obeying him is not a check list but a continual relationship of listening and obeying… Letting the seed put deep roots into our lives.

Remember the song… Trust and Obey, say it with me…. For there’s not other way to be happy in Jesus then to trust and obey.

Now… What’s the two questions Ron is challenging us to ask?

What is God saying? What are we going to do about it?

After the first message, about the seed that fell on the path and the bird ate the seed, I asked my son Samuel, “What is God saying to you?”  He said, “It went in one ear and out the other.”

Yesterday our family had morning devotions and we read the next parable to this farmer scattering seed one in the book of Mark.  It’s called the Parable of the Lamp and is found in Mark 4:21-25 in case you want to read it later.  The last two verses say, “Pay close attention to what you hear.  The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given- and you will receive even more.  To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given.  But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”

To this devotion time, Samuel said, “It went in one ear and is doing this.”  (waving hand around the brain)

We also talked in yesterday’s family devotions about how there is two different kinds of listening.  There’s one kind where you are hearing what someone says to understand their perspective.  There is another type of listening where you may be listening to you parents, God, a teacher and you hear what they say, understand it, then follow the instructions.

When we disobey God’s instructions we miss out on what God has for us.  Disobedience can slowly chip away at your relationship with God and sense of his love…  When we could be enjoying a rich relationship with God, disobedience can lead to depression, as the Psalmist said, a feeling like you are rotting away… but then the Psalmist mentions the joy of confession and turning back to God and finding that his arms are open to receive you.

Even the devil understands aspects of God, right?  He’s heard it before but it’s the believing and obeying part that he lacks.  Instead, he fights to prevent us from believing and obeying.  He wants to challenge God’s authority in our lives.

In our culture as well, we are often taught to challenge authority.  A healthy skepticism is often helpful but if we don’t learn to trust and obey God’s authority we will never grow in good soil.

Too often the words we hear go in one ear and out the other.  Some of this is good because much of what we hear is not worth listening to anyways, it’s just background noise.  It’s a challenge in this fast-paced society to slow down and be present to the voices that matter and are not background noise.  Hearing the voice of God is also hard.   We live in an age with an abundance of information but not so much understanding.  When there are so many voices screaming at us how can we hear the still small voice of God?  I find it helpful to disconnect from Facebook or other forms of media so I can hear God better.  Is God telling you to do the same thing?  It’s an art really to learn to hear from God when the world and information are flying by at a record pace.  Too often the words we need to hear go in one ear and out the other.

Don’t you find it amazing how little the disciples understood of Jesus while he was walking and talking with them.  Even at the last supper when Jesus said, “ I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”  It wasn’t like they seemed to get what he was saying.  It took time for them to process it and for the seed of his words to grow and shape their understanding.

Also at the last supper, Jesus said a beautiful thing about what obeying God’s word does in our lives.

John 14:21, “Those who accept my commandment and obey them are the ones who love me and because they love me, my Father will love them.  And I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

This verse explains how spiritual growth happens…  Ron calls it Invitation and Challenge…

First, we hear the words of Jesus and his invitation to life with God, which we were created for though we may not have even known it.  (Gospel)

Then there’s the challenge part, which in John 14:21 we are challenged to accept and obey Jesus’ command…

And at this point the verse gets really interesting… What happens as we obey?  I will love them and reveal myself to them…  Jesus deepens our identity in him.  This is a beautiful description of spiritual growth…   Jesus invites us into his love and we are challenged to obey… as we obey he reveals more of his love… it forms a type of perpetual triangle… God to our identity in God, to obedience to God revealing more of himself and his love.

What does this look like in our lives?  It looks like lives that are empowered through trials and tribulations to honor Jesus and walk in his strength.  Jason, Stephanie, Vincent, Marianne… others not see in themselves… Dave and Claudia

In the end love is the defining attribute of our spiritual growth and obedience…   It starts and ends with love… that is the crop God desires which is the very seed he plants in the soil of our hearts through his word.

Here’s some questions to reflect upon.  How do you find ways to hear God’s voice everyday?  What gets in the way?

What is God saying?

What are you going to do about it?

Most of us have probably heard Billy Graham passed away this past week.  I think Billy Graham’s greatest legacy is not the amount of people that came to rallies, it’s not the number of people he led to the Lord, or even his powerful preaching.  His greatest legacy, faithful obedience.  A long walk in the same direction.  As he obeyed, the Lord revealed more and more of himself….  We may never produce as much fruit as Billy Graham but that’s not what Jesus is calling for us.  If we could follow Billy Graham as he followed Christ I believe the defining quality to that walk would be obedience.  That obedience would bring a further revelation of God’s love through the Holy Spirit as Jesus reveals himself to us.

I heard yesterday an illustration I hope to take to the grave with me.   Is he in us like a pebble is in a glass of water…. No…. Or is he in us more like a chocolate chip in a cookie… no… He’s in us like the ocean is in a wave…

Let’s let the ocean of God’s love and presence shape us as we obey, grow, and through us may God produce a mighty crop.

What is God saying?  What are we going to do about it?





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The Space Between: 2016

February 23, 2017 | Posted in News & Updates | By

2016 was a year of transition for us as we at WPBC regrouped after Tom Eden’s long tenure as pastor.  We called 2016 a time of “liminal space” and within this space we looked for how the Spirit of God would move and direct us.  As much as we wished God would lay out a clear path so we would know what lay behind every bend in the journey, he did not.  Instead we learned in new and marvelous ways how God leads his children by faith.  When I look back at 2016 and all that God had done- during all the uncertainty and the many decisions- I have one word, Awe.  God’s work in our lives was amazing.  God took us down this journey to grow us up, prepare us, and raise up new leaders in the church.  He has prepared us for the next chapter. But most of all, we testify that this liminal space has brought God glory.

God desires to use this weak rag tag group of Woodruffians to shine his light like crazy to proclaim his kingdom.  We testify that when we are weak, he is strong.  The fact that we have been in our changing community for over 120 years and have thrived through this transition is a testimony to the Lord’s strength and faithfulness.  It is lesson to remember as we embark on our next chapter.  We have been called to leave this liminal space for yet another liminal space.  Such is the adventure of faith.  Are we all not called to live outside our comfort zones, in liminal spaces, so we would lean more on Christ?  May we never get lax in our faith!

In 2016 God blessed us with a wonderful year of renovation.  Our building renovation is a physical expression of what God has been doing in our congregational life.   Several groups assisted us with repairs, like First Baptist Church of Douglassville who refurbished our church sign and installed lights for it.  The renovations helped us welcome back Youthworks for the summer.  Together we provided a dynamic opportunity for hundreds of teenagers to grow deeper in their faith while staying in our church building.  It was wonderful to build some great relationships with the young staff and provide for them a context of incarnational urban ministry.

At the end of 2016, we have welcomed our new pastor, Ron Nunez, who moved from the San Francisco Bay Area.  (That’s another faith journey I’d love to tell share!)  Our church stood ready and expectant for what Christ will do as we embraced Pastor Ron and his family and showed them true Woodruffians hospitality.  The church rallied behind the process and we had a lot of fun getting their new home ready and welcoming them to Indianapolis.  We joked at their willingness to move from the warm Bay Area in the middle of our cold Midwestern January.  But such is faith, it has us do some strange things.

Pastor Ron’s background is diverse and urban.  He has straddled social and racial differences in the two churches he has pastored while navigating those churches toward community and outreach.  In addition, he has spent the last two years working with people who have mental illness to guide them in their life choices.  God has prepared his heart to value how we model our ministry in Christ through intentional community.  This was immediately apparent upon their family’s visit.  It was if they had come home.

Pastor Ron has already called us further into discipleship.  He has the experience to engage our extremely diverse context- smack dab in the middle of the city.  He also has the attitude to listen and learn as he takes on a new leadership role.  Please pray with us for the new liminal space we have entered with our new lead pastor.

The high call of ministry on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis is a wonderful privilege for us.  We delight in the ways God is working in our church and neighborhood.  We proclaim there is a still small voice that endures through our bullhorn sounding culture.  Indeed, the mustard seed revolution will have its way.  The word of God will not return void.  We sing that truth loud and clear in our worship.  We are the people who sing- who love to sing with our lives the gospel story.  Together we praise God in our Woodruffian way.

In Christ!

Joey Newsom

Pastor of Community Outreach, Woodruff Place Baptist Church

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Prayer Walk

September 22, 2016 | Posted in News & Updates | By

Our prayer walk yesterday came about because we wanted to respond to the violence in our community.  It was only after planning the event that I realized it was the International Day of Peace.  We began our prayer walk at the church building and made several stops along the way to pray.  We sat together in a backyard and prayed together.  We read Scripture together.  We sang together.  We ended the prayer walk where there was a recent murder.  It was here the words below were said and prayed.  May they come true!  Peace is found in the deep and abiding love of Jesus Christ!

We face today in our nations, in our homes, and in ourselves a spiritual poverty that encourages violence and rebellion against each other.  In the Bible story of two brothers, Cain and Abel, Cain murdered Abel, and the blood of his brother cried out to God from the ground.  Cain proclaimed against God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  Cain denied his responsibility- his actions as they grieved the Lord.  We proclaim today- not to sweep under the rug the death and violence in our midst and to hope it goes away.  Nor do we shrink back in fear and let our nightmares overcome us.  Neither do we seek to strike back with a vengeance of our own.  We are here to proclaim Jesus as Lord.  He is the Prince of Peace.  We are here to proclaim his reign.  We pray that he would be proclaimed in our neighborhood.  We pray for the families devastated by violence and unnecessary tragedy.  We pray that respect would be held for law enforcement and that our officers would be just and fair.  We pray that all will know, we are indeed our brother’s keepers and we have a responsibility to watch out for one another.  We pray that his love will penetrate the darkest corners and his light will shine in every heart, in every home, and indeed in our nation today.  Only then will there be peace.  

As the blood spilled in violence and injustice defiles our land, so we anoint this land for God’s purpose and his will.  We proclaim God’s victory even in this.  We grieve but we also rejoice in the peace Jesus gives us.

The land is anointed.

(Let us remember that love compelled Christ Jesus to give his blood for us and by his wounds we are healed.


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Mustard Seed Revolution

March 20, 2016 | Posted in Worship Service Notes | By

Entry into Jerusalem

Mustard Seed Revolution: Luke 19:28-40

My favorite musical is Les Miserables for many reasons. On a personal note the musical represents an important milestone for my married life with Sarah.  On October 18, 2002 we went on our first date together.  We knew each other well but that was our first official date.  We went to see Les Miserables.  And exactly one year later, October 18, 2003 we were married here in this sanctuary.  I feel incredibly blessed to have Les Miserables to be our first date.  The powerful themes of mercy and love are great truths to build a marriage upon.

I won’t go into the details of the plot now but I would like to emphasize two contrasting themes pitted against one another: the revolution from a political uprising forms the backdrop of the revolution of one man’s heart. Jean Valjean is the main character who was a criminal and has an experience with a priest that changes his life.  The priest could have turned him in and sent him to jail but instead granted him grace and a chance to start his life over.  That one act starts the revolution of the heart in Valjean.  He becomes a man that embraces the radical teachings of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount; meanwhile the world around him dissolves into political turmoil.  The musical number that provides a theme to the political turmoil is, “Do you here the people sing?”  The chorus goes like this-

“Do you hear the people sing?

Singing the song of angry men?

It is the music of the people

Who will not be slaves again!

When the beating of your heart

Echoes the beating of the drums

There is a life about to start

When tomorrow comes.”

To incite his friends to the revolution, one of the student protestors asks-

“Will you join in our crusade?

Who will be strong and stand with me?

Beyond the barricade

Is there a world you long to see?

Then join in the fight

That will give you the right to be free!”


Again let me state, the song provides a backdrop for a political revolution, meanwhile another revolution is playing out in the lives of Valjean and those around him- the revolution of the heart.

In Jesus day there was a sense of growing unease and many were calling for a political revolution. In our reading today we see that many of the followers of Jesus saw him as king, which he was.  They expected Jesus to start a political revolution and restore Israel to its former glory- a country free from Roman rule or for Jesus to lead them to a new nation/state.  Either way the hope was for Jesus to provide them with political liberation.  Who among his followers could have known that that Jesus’ revolution had already started?  Jesus said it best, the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed- the smallest garden seed but it will grow to become the largest tree in the garden.  Jesus’ revolution starts as a revolution of the heart- and Jesus is about to provide the ultimate example to confront the powers.  The way of the cross- that we would be people of the cross- confronting injustice and evil, transformed from the inside out- free to love and free to stand for God.

As in Jesus’s day many today in America want a political revolution as well. Some are looking at the presidential candidates to ignite that revolution and the two figures that stand out are Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.  There are people who would vote for either one just to shake up Washington even though the two have very different ideas about how they will do that.  Their slogans represent two different approaches with Donald Trump saying, “Make America great again.” And Bernie Sanders, “A political revolution is coming.” One says in a sense- we need to go back in a revolutionary way- send them back, if they have a problem send them all back, and tighten up the ranks- while the other says in a sense “Let’s go forward in a revolutionary way and make the rich pay for it.”

History attests to the frequency of revolutions, we’ve seen them before and should be cautioned against letting anger and raw emotion rule the day. Case in point we have the revolutionary figures of Hitler and Stalin who seem more radicle to us now than Trump and Sanders but bear in mind their slogans would have been exactly the same.  Hitler wanted to make Germany great again by sending them back and Stalin wanted to make Russia great again by making the rich pay for it.  My point is not to strike fear into our hearts but a healthy dose of reality.  When people speak of revolution we need to ask, Revolution to what and think through the ramifications.

Perhaps there is a quiet desperation lurking within our nation. People want a higher calling to lead us out of this pervasive sense of meaninglessness.  As Ecclesiastes states, “Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.”  Or in other translations, “Vanity, vanity, everything is vanity.”  Yet vanity pervades our postmodern existence and we see people floundering around.

A political revolution promises no more floundering but eventually a political revolution needs to come to terms that the greatest danger of a revolution is indeed our own vanity- our lust for power.

On the opposite spectrum to political revolution we witness today many people embracing yoga and meditation to find inner peace. There is a sense that we need a spiritual revolution.

A spiritual revolution promises inner peace and personal fulfillment but eventually a spiritual revolution needs to come to terms with our political realities and the suffering of others or it will be a cold selfish reality.

Today people are desperate for a revolution. Do you hear the people sing?  Singing the songs of angry men?

But in Jesus both the spiritual and the political revolution are united into one. We see in Jesus the king coming to his city, Jerusalem- a political and spiritual statement.  His coming to Jerusalem- his death, burial, and resurrection is to give us spiritual freedom so we can live for Christ in the political reality of our day proclaiming the kingdom of God.   As in Jesus day when his followers proclaimed him king on the road- even our praise is a political and spiritual statement.  It is political because we are proclaiming the true king and our allegiance to him and spiritual because our hearts are right and free when they are praising our Lord.


Indeed Jesus is a revolutionary and spiritual guru who offers us himself. It is a mustard seed revolution.  A political revolution that starts in the heart- changes us from the inside out- frees us to live for God and we can follow the example of Jesus Christ.  It is the way of the cross.  We are called to take up our cross daily deny ourselves and follow.  We are also called to confront the social evils of the day and embrace the hurting and sick because the revolution of the Jesus Christ, the way of the cross, is a revolution of love.

As believers of Jesus Christ may we attest to the coming kingdom of God? The mustard seed will grow and become the largest tree in the garden (although not technically a tree in the scientific sense).

Through the cross and the power of the resurrection, Christ has overcome the powers

From the powers of sin- he frees our hearts

From the powers of the state- we have a freedom and hope that is more profound than political freedom.

While people all around us are calling for a revolution we called to already be living one. History has seen revolutions before.  Nations rise and fall but those who embrace the mustard seed and nurture it in the heart- though it is the smallest seed, it will become the largest tree in the garden.  We can use the final song in Les Miserables as our song- the song of those that embrace the mustard seed revolution.

“Do you hear the people sing?

Lost in the valley of the night

It is the music of a people

Who are climbing to the light


For the wretched of the earth

There is a flame that never dies

Even the darkest night will end

And the sun will rise.


They will live again in freedom

In the garden of the Lord

We will walk behind the plough-share

We will put away the sword

The chain will be broken

And all men will have their reward!


Will you join in our crusade?

Who will be strong and stand with me?

Somewhere beyond the barricade

Is there a world you long to see?

Do you hear the people sing?

Say, do you hear the distant drums?

It is the future that we bring

When tomorrow comes!

Will you join in our crusade?

Who will be strong and stand with me?

Somewhere beyond the barricade

Is there a world you long to see?

Do you hear the people sing?

Say, do you hear the distant drums?

It is the future that we bring

When tomorrow comes!

Tomorrow comes!

Tomorrow comes!


The mustard seed revolution is assured of a bright tomorrow! Has it come into your heart?  Is it growing?  You can be assured that this revolution will never die!

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Read the Bible Through

December 13, 2015 | Posted in News & Updates | By

New Year’s Bible Reading at Woodruff Place Baptist Churchopen-bible-2-1425480-640x480

Woodruff Place Baptist Church (1739 E. Michigan Street) is hosting a non-stop Bible reading to bring in the New Year.  We believe reading the Bible through is a great way to bring in the New Year!

We will start at Midnight on New Year’s Day 2016 and we expect it to end sometime on Sunday January 3, 2016. 

We won’t stop until we are done!

Everyone is welcome to come through our sanctuary doors and hear Scripture being read day or night. 

And if you feel adventurous you may also participate with us.  You will need to sign up in advance for a time slot.

We would love to have other believers and churches from the Near Eastside represented as we read Scripture together.

For more information contact Woodruff Place Baptist Church at 327-639-2501 or feel free to email Joey Newsom, Interim Pastor at

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Woodruff Place is on Facebook!

November 21, 2015 | Posted in News & Updates | By

Take a moment to visit us on Facebook and like our page! You’ll get all the latest news and see the latest photos.

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