TRANSFORMATION & On this tree in Savannah, Georgia (or possibly one nearby) John Wesley nailed his pastoral resignation letter. But only months later his heart would be strangely warmed and bring forth fruit that remains to today. What is God changing in you? #Enthusiast #Enthusiast.life #sanctification

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(photo by Rebecca Whitesel)

Picture of a tree in Johnson Square, Savannah, GA.

Read more about it in the new seeker devotional … www.Enthusiast.life

RECLAIMED & Why brokenness is better than giftedness in ministry.

by Brian Loritt, LifeWay, 12/8/18.

…At 25, I became the first African-American pastor at a historic white church in Southern California.

The best pastors I know aren’t necessarily the most gifted, but the most wounded.  The most dangerous are the gifted ones who can’t empathize.

Along the way I was plagued by an eerie sense that my platform was a lot larger than my character infrastructure could support. Or to say it in football language: I was out-punting my coverage.

I was gifted.

But I was also tragically unbroken, and the symptoms of this disorder manifested itself in the following ways:

  • An inability to connect with those who were afflicted and beaten down by life.
  • A nauseating arrogance seen in the judgmental spirit I nurtured towards those who made mistakes. I would often find myself thinking: What a loser. Why can’t they get it together?
  • Intense isolation. Because my ministerial paradigm made no room for those who had been wounded or defeated, I had to become my own personal PR management firm. The truth is we all have wounds and struggles, but no one could see mine.

In life and in ministry you’ll have trouble. You’ll deal with ungrateful parishioners. You’ll have leaders within your church who have one agenda—to get you out.

People will gossip about you, and even betray you.

I had these wounds; I just wasn’t broken. There’s a difference between the two.

Wounds are painful things that happen to us. Brokenness is the redemptive, Christ-exalting response to those wounds.

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul—in painfully autobiographical terms—pulls us into his journey of wounds, describing his “thorn in the flesh”. While we can make good guesses as to what it was (probably some lingering health issues from his stoning in Lystra), at the end of the day they are exactly that—guesses.

What we do know is that it was painful, shameful, and constant.  Paul prayed several times for God to take it away, and God responded by saying in so many words—no.  More accurately, God tells Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

The best pastors I know aren’t necessarily the most gifted, but the most wounded.  The most dangerous are the gifted ones who can’t empathize.

The word “sufficient” in 2 Corinthians 12 is a poignant one, because it speaks of grace in both quality and quantity. God will give Paul not just general grace, but a specific measure of grace to get through the wounds in his life in a way that gives God glory and blesses His people.

…limp.

A LEADER’S RESPONSE TO BROKENNESS

What was the result of Paul leaning into God’s grace and experiencing Christ-exalting brokenness?

  • He was able to connect in a tender way with those who were hurting. Writing to the Thessalonians he says, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (Thessalonians 2:7).
  • He possessed a deep-seated humility seen in his repeated refrain of being the least among the disciples, or the chief of sinners.
  • He was transparent about his weakness. We know those who have not just been wounded, but redemptively broken. They’re people on public record when it comes to their weaknesses. This is Paul: “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30).

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/12/03/why-brokenness-is-better-than-giftedness-in-ministry/

THEOLOGY & Can the church be both holy and sinful?

by Brian P. Flanagan, America: The Jesuit Review, 10/22/18 and author of Stumbling in Holiness: Sin and Sanctity in the Church (Liturgical Press, 2018).

The Holy and Sinful Church

Catholics in earlier centuries, while maintaining faith in the holiness of the church affirmed in our creeds, were willing to name its failings, including those of its members, its leaders and its communities as a whole. In the midst of the Pelagian controversies of the fifth century, for example, the Council of Carthage in 418 (attended by St. Augustine) taught that when Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer, all Christians—without exception—had to ask God “to forgive us our trespasses” in their own voice and not on behalf of some other people, as though they were sinless themselves.

… when Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer, all Christians—without exception—had to ask God “to forgive us our trespasses” in their own voice and not on behalf of some other people, as though they were sinless themselves.

Christians did not hesitate to call out the sinfulness of their leaders, as in the quote attributed variously (though likely erroneously) to St. Athanasius, St. John Chrysostom and others that “the road to hell is paved with the skulls of erring bishops.” Even cardinals were not exempt; according to one medieval folk tradition, a cardinal’s soul was released from purgatory only when his galero, the wide-brimmed red hat hung from the ceiling of the cardinal’s church after his death, finally rotted enough to fall to the floor.

Why, then, in recent years have Catholics been so hesitant to speak clearly and candidly about the church as sinful? For a few reasons—some praiseworthy, some problematic. The first is our firm belief in the holiness of the church. On the surface, it seems that ecclesial sanctity and sinfulness are mutually exclusive—and, in important ways, that is true. The participation in the life of God that we call “holiness” precludes sin, and in the fullness of life that we can look forward to in the reign of God we will be freed from every stain of sin and every shadow of death.

Yet, as St. Augustine taught so well, in our current time between the ascension of Christ and his return in glory, the church is always a “corpus permixtum,” a mixed body of saints and sinners, including serious sinners who remain part of the church even in a limited way. The struggle for greater transparency to God’s grace and greater freedom from sin also goes on in each one of us who prays the Our Father daily; each of us is aware of our need for forgiveness to live a more holy and free way of life. That experience of the church as a mixed body and of ourselves as sinners who are already holy yet still saints-in-progress is part of the reality of a holy and sinful church.

… the church is always a “corpus permixtum,”  – St. Augustine

Read more at … Can the church be both holy and sinful?

CONVERSION & Sanctification is “the progressive, lifelong aspect of conversion” according to Willimon

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William Willimon, Pastor: The theology and practice of ordained ministry (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2002, p. 363.

MEGACHURCH & 10 Mega-Church Tips for Ministries of Any Size #ScottThumma #GrowthByAccidentBook

By Scott Thumma, Hartford Seminary Institute on Church Research.

“What could my church possibly learn from these behemoths with million-dollar budgets, hundreds of staff, and thousands of excited volunteers?”

In my travels, I repeatedly hear pastors ask this question. I understand why. But my last 20-plus years of research on megachurches throughout the world suggests that churches of all sizes have much to learn from this phenomenon. However, I don’t believe the primary lessons come from their specific ministry efforts. Instead, the most important things we can learn are the strategies behind all their ministry efforts.

I’ve found that one of the biggest keys to most megachurches’ success is their ability to minister in and adapt to an ever-changing contemporary world. A vital church reaches out to both its members and non-Christians in relevant ways, and megachurches seem to do this both accidentally and intentionally.

Here are 10 basic principles gleaned from megachurches that I believe churches of all sizes can apply:

1) Don’t strive for size; strive to serve God…

2) Know your strengths and put them to work…

3) Evangelize in every possible way…

4) Make it appealing, then make it challenging..

5) Worship is not just a “Sunday thing”…

6) Create participants—not members…

7) Connect the congregation…

8) Whatever you do, do it with excellence…

9) Empower people to identify and live out their calling…

10) Sanctification isn’t just for newcomers…

Read the details at … http://www.churchleaders.com/outreach-missions/outreach-missions-articles/156871-10-tips-from-large-churches-for-ministries-of-any-size.html

SANCTIFICATION & The Conversation Continues #DallasWillard

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Gary Black Jr., building upon the insights of Dallas Willard and before him George Ladd, points out that much of Evangelicalism has embraced a “change when you die” philosophy of sanctification. This is that you will only be sanctified in the next world. But Black points out that John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards and others were more in keeping with New Testament theology. And that is that sanctification is a process lived in a dynamic tension between what we are and what we are becoming. To understand how most of modern Evangelicalism has lost an emphasis upon spiritual growth read this important series of articles. Then pick up a copy of my book, “Spiritual Waypoints” (2012) which gives you practical tools that any church can use to foster discipleship through the varying stages of spiritual growth.”

Article by Gary Black Jr., 6/3/14
Read more at … http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/06/03/transformation-the-conversation-continues-dallas-willard/