Posts Tagged ‘church’

 

 

People have different ways of approaching reality. Some are analytical, reasoned, logical, etc. That’s not me. Not that I can’t be analytical, reasoned and logical. But those are deliberate disciplines that I practice; in contrast to my instinctive way of approaching the world which is through my feelings. I’m just a feeling kind of person.

Maybe too much sometimes. When people talk about having certain spiritual gifts I always say I have the spiritual gift of weeping – I cry at weddings and baptisms and movies. I can’t sing Charles Wesley’s And Can It Be without getting choked up. There’s just something about the words, “Amazing love! How can it be, that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?” I’m not a very good singer, but I love to belt those words out. And then toward the end of the song when it says, “My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed thee.” I usually have to keep myself from jumping up and down during that verse.

Jumping up and down to Charles Wesley – go figure.

Not surprisingly, I resonate with Scriptures like Paul’s word in Romans 8 that God’s Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children; and with John Wesley’s experience of having his heart “strangely warmed.” That kind of gut oriented experience of the faith is foundational for me.

So one of the most disorienting moments of my ministry happened when I was approached by a young woman toward the end of a weekend of preaching who earnestly asked how she could really know that God loved her if she couldn’t feel it.

This was a Cornerstone Celebration weekend so she had heard me preach three times already and had been involved in my three-hour teaching session on sharing our faith. Now it was about 5 minutes before the last service was to start and she was desperate to know if what I’d been talking about all weekend long was really true.

Was it really true that God loved her enough to become human in Jesus; was it really true that God’s love for her was radical enough to involve passionate sacrifice. She was sure it was true for everyone else since they could feel it; but it couldn’t possibly be true for her because she couldn’t.

You’ve probably already guessed that I was getting all misty as my mind raced, searching for some way to respond. She continued that it wasn’t just about feeling God’s love. She couldn’t feel anything. Things had happened in her past and she had dealt with them by repressing, pushing down and blocking out any and all feeling within her. I have no feelings, she said and as I looked into her eyes, I believed her.

How is it that we come to know God’s love? Is it only when we feel God’s Spirit “bearing witness” with our spirit? Is it only when our hearts are “strangely warmed?” Is there more to it than that? If we’re not a “feeling kind of person,” does God not work in us and through us anyway?

I was really struggling as the woman patiently waited for my response. My heart was breaking and I was petrified that somehow I would compound her pain. That in my bumbling I would somehow contribute to her certainty that God couldn’t possibly love her since she wasn’t able to feel it.

Way back in the mid-400′s Patrick began preaching in Ireland. He traveled from settlement to settlement, staying with the people, loving them and working among them. Through his ministry, monastic communities sprang up. These communities were different from what we normally think of when we think of monastic communities where monks separated themselves from the rest of society for a life of solitude and prayer. These were communities of committed Christ followers who lived and worked together, sharing resources, love and life together. There were men and women, adults and kids; some were single, some were married, some had families – some were priests but most weren’t, and they were all together in community.

One of the things that made these communities so cool was the way they treated outsiders. There was always a gatekeeper – not to keep anybody out – but to be on duty all the time so that anyone who wanted to come in could come in – no matter what time of the day or night it was. If you visited the community the gate keeper would welcome you first and then call everyone to come greet you. The abbot or abbess (head of the community) would immediately come out to make sure you felt at home. It wouldn’t matter what people were doing, they would stop because making guests feel welcome was more important than anything else. Then they’d show you to the guest house – the best accommodations in the whole place. When it was time to eat, you’d eat at the head table with the abbot/abbess. It would be clear that you could stay as long as you wanted, but you were also free to leave at any time. You could eat with the community, work with the community, worship with the community – always welcome to share in everything about the community. If you stayed for a while they’d assign you a ‘soul friend’ to talk to – no agenda – just about whatever was on your mind. Eventually, if you continued to stay they’d talk to you about God’s love and offer you the opportunity to become more than a guest.

It was a slow process of revealing God’s love; a process that started with the concept of belonging and acceptance and moved only gradually toward commitment. It was a process that took time because it was about providing evidence of God’s love. Not evidence in the form of skilled argument or tight logic; not even the evidence of any specific feeling even though that was probably part of it for most people. It was the evidence of action – consistent actions of love, continued day in and day out – actions that made God’s love visible and tangible and real through the welcoming, caring, support and nurture of people. Evidence through action that people have value simply because they are.

The minutes were passing faster than I wanted them to. I could tell the worship leaders were ready to get started but couldn’t since the woman and I were standing front and center in the sanctuary. I asked her why she came to this particular church. She said that the people were kind to her and took her in when she returned to town after a long absence. In the few years since she’d been back, they’d consistently helped her and her children. Over and over they had been there for her even in really difficult times. It was kind of like they had made space – just for her.

That’s how you know.

One of my responsibilities in the United Methodist Church is to serve on the General Conference Standing Committee for Central Conference Matters. Essentially, that group deals with issues facing the UM church outside of the United States.

In 2012 the General Conference referred the task of creating a “global Book of Discipline” to the StCCCM. As we began to tackle that project during our meeting in September, we realized just how massive it is – and probably more importantly, just how complex, convoluted, and in many ways unmanageable our current Discipline really is.

The whole project of a global Book of Discipline begs the question, what does it mean to be a global church? What binds us together across cultures and geography? And therein lies the rub. I’m not sure we know. I’m not even sure we know what binds us together across the various cultures and geography of the United States, let alone Europe, Africa or the Philippines.

Throughout the StCCCM meeting, my mind kept returning to another of my responsibilities in ministry – serving on the World Methodist Council. Now there’s a global body – over 80 different churches (denominations) representing over 80.5 million people, on every continent across the entire planet (well, maybe not Antarctica), all sharing a common Wesleyan heritage.

As I thought about these parallel and intertwined groups – the UMC and the WMC – I was reminded of the Imperatives of World Methodist Evangelism, which the WMC recently agreed was a good summation of what binds us together as a global body:

 

Imperatives of World Methodist Evangelism: “Reason for the Hope within Us” (1 Peter 3.15)

In the context of a global contemporary culture, it is imperative that “the people called Methodists” be bound by a recognition that we are a movement of missionary people called by God, who in Himself is missionary. We are called to join with Him in His global mission to the whole of creation. Therefore it is incumbent upon us, as World Methodists, to revisit and restate in clearly articulate terms that which binds us together:

1) The Centrality of Jesus Christ in Reconciling the World to God

  • We have confidence in and a passion for the Gospel and we affirm its urgency.
  • We hold Jesus Christ central in everything and emphasize that He is Lord and Savior.
  • We lift up the importance of “conversion to Jesus Christ” and of faithfully making disciples throughout the world. (2 Corinthians 5.18-19; 1 Corinthians 9.16)

2) Connectivity

  • As Methodists we are one people in all the world, connected through our Wesleyan heritage as well as through being part of one Church, holy and apostolic.
  • We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ’s Commission to His Church to preach the gospel and to make disciples of all nations is the supreme business of the church.
  • In this spirit we are sent to serve others and together to engage in world mission and evangelism. (Matthew 28.19)

3) Salvation for all

  • Today more than ever, identifying needs and addressing them are crucial if we are to faithfully proclaim the Gospel and spread Scriptural holiness throughout the world.
  • We affirm the “Four-alls of Methodism” as being distinctive: All need to be saved. All can be saved. All can know that they are saved. All can be saved to the uttermost. (Mark 16.15; Ephesians 2.8; 2 Corinthians 5.14-15; 1 Timothy 2.3-4; Hebrews 7.25)

4) Openness to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit

  • The Holy Spirit moves all over the world.
  • The Holy Spirit gave birth the Church.
  • The Holy Spirit continues to empower the Church to grow through witness and ministry in the world.
  • Wherever a church is open to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, it is alive and vibrant in faith, hope and witness. (Acts 1.8; Romans 12.6-8; 1 Corinthians 12.8-11)

5) Every Christian is called to witness to the good news of Christ Jesus.

  • This witness is incarnational.
  • The Church as a community of faith is the witness of Christ in the world.
  • Each Christian is called to witness for Christ in the situation in which one lives.
  • Church leaders are to equip, empower and enable members to understand the context for witness.
  • This understanding helps believers to be confident and competent to share their faith through word, deed and sign. (Luke 4.18-19; Acts 1.8; Romans 15.18-19)

about-portrait6) Evangelism grounded in Scripture and Prayer.

  • Evangelism is grounded in the Holy Bible, the foundation for doctrine, teaching, preaching and practice.
  • Evangelism is also grounded in prayer, both personal and corporate. (Ephesians 6.18-19; Colossians 4.2-4)

 

If this can bind a global body of over 80 diverse denominations (and you only need to look at the difference between the Methodist Church of Nigeria and the Uniting Church of Australia to see how diverse it is), might it be a start in thinking about what binds our single denomination? Maybe we’ll surprise ourselves and find we actually agree.

 

 

An Unbroken Line

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 | By Kimberly Reisman
Filed in: Kimberly Reisman, What's Your Next Step?

0comments

The current conversations flying around the web in the United Methodist Church reminded me of a post I wrote last year. I pulled it out and gave it a bit of an update…

 

Last year I defended my thesis for my PhD at Durham University in England. It’s an event the British call a ‘viva’ and it’s a nerve-wracking several hours spent fielding what seem like endless questions from two examiners. As is required, neither of my examiners had ever seen my work before and my supervisor, David Wilkinson, was not allowed to be present. It was quite a solitary experience, but at the same time, in an intriguing kind of way, not.

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral

Immediately before the time of reckoning, David and I shared a coffee and then headed over to the Cathedral for a short time of quiet and prayer. As we sat in that amazing environment, David began casually, but eloquently, to remind me of the history of Durham University. Durham has been a seat of learning for over 1000 years beginning with the Venerable Bede, whose shrine was right behind us as we sat. The tradition of scholarship has continued in an unbroken line ever since, with each new scholar meeting with more experienced scholars to discuss their work. Even though he knew I was nervous and just a bit intimidated by the process, David emphasized that I should enjoy the viva, recognizing that what I was going to experience was much bigger than my thesis. The viva, as stressful as it may feel, was the entrance into a long tradition of scholarship, the doorway into a community stretching back over 1000 years.

After a brief time of prayer, we parted ways and I walked to Abbey House to meet my examiners. During the hours that followed, though I knew it was up to me alone to defend my work, I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t such a solitary experience. Even more to my surprise was the realization, about midway through, that I was actually enjoying myself; it was invigorating.

The memory of that experience, and more specifically of my conversation with David beforehand, has returned to me frequently – especially in the days since the United Methodist Council of Bishops met in North Carolina. It’s been a struggle not become absorbed in the difficulties facing the United Methodist Church. I’ve had to remind myself over and over that as Methodist Christians, we draw upon the insights of John Wesley (and Charles too), which is a wonderful thing. But that’s not who we follow. We follow Jesus Christ. Our tradition didn’t begin in the 18th century; it began in the first. Our creed isn’t the misnamed ‘Wesleyan Quadrilateral,’ it’s the Nicene.

about-portraitJust as my viva experience was bigger than my own thesis, we Methodist Christians are part of something much larger than our own history, much more foundational than any structure we might devise for our denomination, and deeper, more steadfast and enduring than any passing cultural norm could ever be. We are part of a magnificent Christian tapestry, woven from the threads of Scripture and a tradition stretching back over 2000 years. Our Methodist strands augment that tapestry, but not in the sense of adding something new or different. Those threads augment the tapestry by adding complementary colors to the already existing pattern. Some people describe it as following Jesus in the spirit of the Wesleys. In my family we call it being a Christian with a Wesleyan accent.

I have no doubt that as people who follow Jesus in the spirit of the Wesleys, we will survive our current challenges. What that will actually look like – I don’t know. But however things unfold, if we are faithful, what results will not happen because we will have created something new, but because we will have rediscovered the grand tapestry of Christian faith that is richer and more vibrant than our few threads alone.

Vital: Churches Changing Communities and the World

 

Jorge Acevedo

 

Lead Pastor ~ Grace Church in Southwest Florida

 

A Seminar for Laity and Clergy

 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Mt. Comfort United Methodist Church

3179 North 600 West (Mt. Comfort Rd) ~ Greenfield, IN 46140 ~ 317.894.8965

1/2 mile north of I-70 (Exit 96) on Mt. Comfort Road (600W) 

 

Jorge Acevedo

Jorge Acevedo

Have you heard of Jorge Acevedo? His multi-cultural, multi-site, mega-church in southwest Florida has done what the United Methodist Church has struggled to do: reach people. His book, Vital, was a suggested text before the 2012 General Conference, and is a pretty good read.

In just a couple of weeks, he’ll be coming to Indiana to lead a day-long seminar you don’t want to miss! The location is Mt. Comfort UMC, which is near Indianapolis.

The event is sponsored by the Indiana Conference Confessing Movement. For details and registration information, click here.

 

There are a lot of challenging things happening in the UMC right now; but there remains one thing I believe we can still all agree on – the importance of reaching out to others with the love of Jesus Christ. That’s exactly what Jorge Acevedo is doing in Southwest Florida. If you’re anywhere close, I hope you’ll make an effort to attend.

 

 

Paul Chilcote

Why have United Methodists been so passionate about mission? What is it that propels them to offer Christ in holistic ways? And yet, what are the tensions the United Methodist Church currently faces in becoming a global church and in facing new challenges in North America?

Join Paul Chilcote, Professor of Wesley Studies and Mission at Ashland Theological Seminary and a member of the Indiana Conference, as he leads this engaging seminar on Mission in the Wesleyan Tradition and the transitions the church will need to navigate in the years ahead.

 

Mission in the Wesleyan Tradition: Tensions & Transitions

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

9am ~ 3pm

$45.00 (lunch included)

North United Methodist Church ~ 3808 N. Meridian St. ~ Indianapolis, IN 46208

This seminar is organized by the Wesleyan Connexion Project of the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. It’s a great opportunity for all clergy and laity interested in mission.
Click here to register

 

 

Wesley statueWhy have United Methodists been so passionate about mission? What is it that propels them to offer Christ in holistic ways? And yet, what are the tensions the United Methodist Church currently faces in becoming a global church and in facing new challenges in North America?

Join Paul Chilcote, Professor of Wesley Studies and Mission at Ashland Theological Seminary and a member of the Indiana Conference, as he leads this engaging seminar on Mission in the Wesleyan Tradition and the transitions the church will need to navigate in the years ahead.

Mission in the Wesleyan Tradition: Tensions & Transitions

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

9am ~ 3pm

$45.00 (lunch included)

North United Methodist Church ~ 3808 N. Meridian St. ~ Indianapolis, IN 46208

This seminar is organized by the Wesleyan Connexion Project of the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. It’s a great opportunity for all clergy and laity interested in mission.
Click here to register

 

 

 

Register Now for LCI 2013!

 

Calling all clergy, church staff and lay leaders! Ready to set your congregation on fire for God? Register now for “Ignite: Growing Disciples to Transform the World,” the 2013 Large Church Initiative of the United Methodist Church.

LCI 2013 will feature more than 50 workshops on growing disciples focused on:

    • Stewardship
    • Congregational Care
    • Education
    • Children
    • Youth
    • Serving
    • Worship
    • Communications

 … and more.

 

Hosted by Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa, FL

April 22-24

 

Early bird registration rates and workshop selections are now available!

Registration Fee

On or Before Feb. 1, 2013 – Early Bird Rate

$299 individual

$279 group (four or more people)

After Feb. 1, 2013

$349 individual

$329 group (four or more people)

 Register online at www.lci2013.com

 

What’s Your Next Step?

vickersHaving read Jason Vickersbook Minding the Good Ground: A Theology of Church Renewal, I’m continuing to ponder next steps. Here is a second installment of those thoughts. You can read the first installment, A Death Embrace, here.

 

Selfishly, one of the things I appreciated about Jason’s book is that it confirmed my own thoughts. From my perspective, historically the church has not always held together the relationship between the personal and the corporate in a holistic fashion, which (again from my perspective) has in turn undermined evangelism in significant ways. Nicholas Perrin is on target when he say’s that many Christians are conditioned to read Scripture as God’s saving Word to them as individuals rather than God’s saving word to the church. He goes on to say that this kind of understanding has led to ‘a notion that views the church as little more than a loose association of the equivalents of Jesus’ Facebook friends.’*

Over the years, much evangelistic activity has focused on the person as an isolated entity, as though that was the entire focus of Jesus’ message. But that’s somewhat of a distortion. In Christian faith the personal and the communal don’t cancel each other out, they’re bound together, with each reinforcing the other.

That’s why Jason’s critique of the idea of the church as the ‘community of the already saved’ is so important. But it’s not so easy to swallow. Where I grew up, we’d say Jason’s gone to meddlin’.

But I can’t think of a more important word at this juncture. Salvation is not simply a private transaction between an individual and Jesus. Sin is not just about transgressing divine laws. Atonement is not merely the juridical event of pardon. And (thankfully) the church is not a ‘waiting room for heaven’ or ‘a good place to get something to eat and make a few new friends while we wait to be called home to glory,’ or even ‘a good place to come together for civic involvement or…political caucusing.’**

What is at stake, especially for evangelism, is the recognition that salvation is dramatically more far-reaching and comprehensive than a simple private transaction. Sin is deeper and more complex than the breaking of a few commandments. Atonement is far more sweeping and transformative than the receipt of pardon. And (thankfully) the church is instrumental in all of it – the very context of the Holy Spirit’s activity and the chosen vehicle through which God works for radical transformation.

But convincing folks of all that can seem like a really hard sell these days – especially in the United Methodist Church. And it’s not just because many of us think of the church as an afterthought when it comes to salvation.

Kim Reisman

Kim Reisman

One of my seminary professors, George Lindbeck talked about the importance of church doctrine to the formation of communal identity. He said that ‘Church doctrines are communally authoritative teachings regarding beliefs and practices that are considered essential to the identity or welfare of the group in question…they indicate what constitutes faithful adherence to a community.’ Think about the Quakers, for instance. If I’m a Quaker, but I oppose pacifism, I’m not going to be viewed as a good Quaker, because that’s not what a member of the Society of Friends should be. Lindbeck says that if you don’t draw that conclusion, then it’s most likely because ‘the belief has ceased to be communally formative.’*** The belief may still be a formal or official one, but it’s no longer operational.

That’s the heart of our current crisis in the UMC. Not only have we forgotten that the church is instrumental to salvation, it may also very well be that the doctrinal heritage of the UMC is no longer communally formative (at least in the US). If that’s the case, then (sadly) we really aren’t much more than a loose association of Jesus’ Facebook friends.

 

 

*Nicholas Perrin, ‘Jesus Eschatology and Kingdom Ethics: Ever the Twain Shall Meet’, in N. Perrin and R. Hays (eds.), Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N. T. Wright (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2011), 100, 102

**Jason Vickers, Minding the Good Ground: A Theology of Church Renewal (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2011), 83

***George Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age [1984], (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 60

 

Paul Chilcote

Paul Chilcote

Why have United Methodists been so passionate about mission? What is it that propels them to offer Christ in holistic ways? And yet, what are the tensions the United Methodist Church currently faces in becoming a global church and in facing new challenges in North America?

Join Paul Chilcote, Professor of Wesley Studies and Mission at Ashland Theological Seminary and a member of the Indiana Conference, as he leads this engaging seminar on Mission in the Wesleyan Tradition and the transitions the church will need to navigate in the years ahead.

 

Mission in the Wesleyan Tradition: Tensions & Transitions

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

9am ~ 3pm

$45.00 (lunch included)

North United Methodist Church ~ 3808 N. Meridian St. ~ Indianapolis, IN 46208

This seminar is organized by the Wesleyan Connexion Project of the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. It’s a great opportunity for all clergy and laity interested in mission.
Click here to register

 

Kim Reisman

Kim Reisman

What’s your next step?

It’s a good question – in this case as it relates to the United Methodist Church – what’s our next step? General Conference is a (sort of) distant memory; our regional Jurisdictional Conferences have come and gone. Various groups and people have publically staked out their claims about keeping their covenants or breaking them. So what’s next?

Jason Vickers

Jason Vickers

Now that my PhD work is officially over I’ve begun trying to catch up on my reading. Jason Vickers’ book, Minding the Good Ground: A Theology of Church Renewal was a timely read in the aftermath of all the church politics that have unfolded thus far in 2012. The book is full of important insights that are particularly relevant to the current state of affairs in the UMC. I hope to explore some of those insights over the next several posts.

The first idea I want to highlight comes at the very end of the book – literally the next to last page. Jason writes:

…Many liberals and evangelicals are blinded to the shifts taking place around them precisely because they cannot take their eyes off one another long enough to take notice. It is as though evangelical and liberal Protestants are locked in a death embrace in which both sides are equally obsessed with killing one another. All the while, we keep buried in our basements the solid food for which a spiritually hungry generation is searching far and wide.*

I’m not sure I’ve read a better description of General Conference 2012. But more than that – Jason is spot on in his insight when it comes to the overall UMC. That’s what troubles me. How can we really understand the nature of the church, of what God has called us to be and do in the world, if we are so distracted?

Many folks these days talk about reviving the ‘movement’ nature of Methodism as a way of renewing the UMC. I find that somewhat ironic since in its institutionalism, the UM of today resembles the Church of England of John Wesley’s day. Being or behaving like a movement seems unlikely. A better option might be Wesley’s own approach of seeking ‘the lost sheep of United Methodism.’**

For that to happen though, we’ve got to take our eyes off each other long enough to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit, on whom the very life of the church depends.

 

*Jason Vickers, Minding the Good Ground: A Theology for Church Renewal (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2011), 106

**In Reasons Against a Separation from the Church of England, Wesley described his work as being for ‘the lost sheep of the Church of England.’