AN EASTER THOUGHT ABOUT THE METHODISTS

I’m convinced that the temperamental Mr. Wesley would spontaneously combust if he were alive to see what’s happening in the movement that was birthed through his influence. 

The United Methodist Church has fallen on hard times. With the hopes of being more inclusive and open-minded, their recent theological stances have had just the opposite effect. Their numbers are decreasing and many life-giving evangelistic churches are closing because the foundational truths of the Gospel are absent. They no longer believe in some of the truths found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Nevertheless, with that being acknowledged, I will forever be grateful for what was the Stone Drive United Methodist Church at the bottom of my street in Kingsport, TN. This little church was a bright light in my youth.

It was there that I saw my Dad transformed into a new man. It was there that two youth pastors, Bill Fry and Brad Scott, patiently loved me and my neighborhood hooligan friends with a kind of love that only Jesus could give. It was also there that I was given two crutches to lean on as grace-gifts; the hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy” and the Apostles Creed.   

“Holy, Holy, Holy” was my go to every time I was fearful. Bill, the one mentioned above, once told me that he sang it when he was in a spiritual battle, so I figured it would work for me too. I must’ve repeated it 1000 times in my head before I overcame my fear of planes.

The Apostles Creed has proven to be another grace gift. In actuality, it was one I almost forgot to use. For years I didn’t value it. The churches I served weren’t creedal churches and since I don’t have a very formal bent, I never saw the need to pull it back out and use it as a teaching tool. Until recently.

A friend gave me The New City Catechism, which is a teaching tool being used to teach children and congregations some very foundational biblical truths. I was skeptical about it at first, for reasons not worth mentioning, but I can at least say I admire the effort and commend churches trying to pass on the truths of the faith.

Question 49 in the Catechism asks, “Where is Christ now?” And the answer is, “Christ rose bodily from the grave on the third day after His death and is seated at the right hand of the Father, ruling His kingdom and interceding for us, until He returns to judge and renew the whole world.”

What believer wouldn’t want their child to be able to recite that? What pastor wouldn’t want their adults to be able to recite that?

The answer is true and it also has a triumphant tone.   

The same can be said of the Apostles Creed. Below is the version I learned. Read it aloud if you can’t recite it.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy *catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Saying these powerful truths aloud – in triumphant tone – is a good idea. I’m so thankful for the Methodists at Stone Drive UMC who taught it to me. 

This weekend, of all weekends, I encourage you to restate your belief in the risen, reigning and returning Jesus. Recommit yourself to pass on these truths to as many people as possible.

He is Risen!

 

 

 

* The word “catholic” means “relating to the church universal” and was the word used in the original version of the Creed. It does not mean the Roman Catholic Church, but the church, the body of Christ, as a universal fellowship.

DISCIPLING TOWARD TRANSFORMATION, NOT JUST INFORMATION

Like most pastors, I desperately want to see every person connected with our church being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. Unfortunately, I found that most of our approaches to discipleship led to being informed, but not transformed. Most of what I read, and most of the people that I listened to seemed to believe that information would lead to transformation. So everything we did when it came to training was about teaching people and hoping they would apply the lessons that we taught.

A few people would apply the truths that we shared, however most of our people remained spectators, and understood the life of Jesus, but failed to live it. We came to the conclusion that discipleship needed to be not just informational, but must also include healthy lifestyle rhythms that we would hold each other accountable to walk in.

One particular book that was helpful as we tried to process healthy rhythms for discipleship was Surprise the World by Michael Frost. Because it’s rarely a wise move to copy and paste rhythm‘s for discipleship from one context to another we thought through the contents of the book and then came up with some of our own rhythms that we knew would be helpful to our people. We use these rhythms in huddles of 2 to 4 people of the same sex and allow them to shape dialogue over coffee or lunch and hold each other accountable to living this way of life. Here’s what we came up with:

We use the acronym REACH.

REST – I am going to slow down and rest with God today through prayer and listening/meditation on truth. What is God saying to me? How is he calling me to live into His words?

EAT/ENGAGE – I will eat with and engage people relationally this week. Who am I eating/hanging out with? Does this include people from outside of the church? This could be a meal, cup of coffee, golfing, watching a sporting event, etc. anything that builds relationships.

ACT OF LOVE – I will bless others/be a blessing to others this week by doing something loving. Am I blessing people within my community? Am I blessing people outside of our community?

CONFESS – I will confess to someone this week some area in my life where I feel like I fell short, screwed up, or am frustrated with myself. Humility bonds us.

HOME – We will grow as a family this week (This could include your family, roommate, or close friends). Here are some ways to grow as a family: learn something together, bless someone together, have a family fun night, have a date night, ditch the technology, eat at the dinner table.

We have found that these types of meaningful conversations in smaller huddles of people creates an energy around living a dynamic sort of life that is entirely shaped around imitating the lifestyle of Jesus.

For the past four years we’ve hosted a training (Missional Action Group School) to help individuals and churches think strategically and intentionally about discipleship and mission. This is not just a training, but also an experience. We enjoy creating an atmosphere where we can dialogue around these topics, eat good food, and allow people to connect relationally.

MAG School is not only an opportunity for a one-time training, but an invitation to a longer journey as friends who are attempting to make disciples and reach people who don’t know Jesus. We provide coaching for anyone who is attempting to be more effective in their local mission field.

Mark Fesmire had this to say about our coaching, “Any paradigm shift requires intentional focus.  After hearing 3 different presentations on missional living and small groups I was very motivated to create a missional group. But I didn’t manage to create a group that was missional. When I asked to be coached, the steady conversations helped peal back the layers of my old paradigm allowing me to look at what I am doing now with fresh eyes. I keep learning in each conversation.  I would say from my experience that without consistent coaching it is impossible to break entrenched patterns. I firmly believe in the coaching process for anyone attempting to lead a missional small group or trying to help numerous small groups form.”

If you are interested in being a part of our MAG School this year on April 13-14 please contact me at michaeljarrell@me.com. The cost includes the training and most of your food, but we don’t want cost to be a reason you can’t make it, so let me know if that is prohibiting you from attending and we’ll see what we can work out!

Mike Jarrell was a youth director in the Philadelphia area for a few years and loves teens. He left youth ministry convinced that the best way to impact teens is to reach families. Mike then became the senior lead pastor at Cornerstone Christian Church in Duncannon PA. After about 5 years at Cornerstone, Mike and his family followed God to start a missional church in Enola, PA. The Narrow Road Church has been around for 3 years. NRC is a movement of missional communities that follow Jesus on mission and grow in community.

MORE FAILURE PLEASE!

“I’m just tired of hearing all these success stories. For once I just want to hear somebody get up and say it’s not working.” A pastor friend of mine said that to me when we were talking on the phone one day.

I believe we live in the greatest country in the world, but let’s admit it, Americans love success. Sometimes all the success stories cause us to not take action because we fear failure. We don’t want to admit things aren’t working well when it seems they are working for other people. I really believe that we learn more from our failures than our successes.

That’s true in my life, is it true in yours? I am a huge football fan, anyone that knows me knows this. An offense will never be dynamic if it never takes risks. So many of us like to throw short screen passes and play it safe because we fear failure. We are afraid of something not working.

In coaching some of our Missional Action Group leaders, and some of the churches that I work with, I sometimes feel like people spin their wheels and don’t have any new and fresh stories. Part of this is that fear of failure paralyzes us from taking any sort of action. If we are to learn, progress forward, and really make a difference, we need to take action and fail a bunch.

I can’t emphasize enough, if you come back and say, “we tried 10 different things to engage people that didn’t know Jesus and none of them worked,” I would be thrilled! You seriously tried 10 different things to engage people who don’t know Jesus? That’s amazing! What did you learn? What is God teaching you? What would you do differently next time?

Stepping out and attempting things even if they don’t work is part of how God grows us. We must create a culture of action, experimentation, and freedom to fail. As followers of Jesus, we are all about grace, right?

I think the bigger thing we should fear isn’t failure, it’s not attempting great things for the kingdom of God because we sat back with a list of, “what if’s.” Step out of the boat and look at Jesus…. You’ll sink and you’ll learn. There’s grace for that.

Jesus built his church on people that failed and learned. Let’s create cultures where that’s the norm. Experiment, Grow, engage the lost, be creative, and be OK with things not working the first 10 times. Let’s re-embrace adventure together!

At Narrow Road Church we regularly talk about what isn’t working, and on Sunday mornings have celebrated stories of failure because people took leaps of faith and risks for the kingdom. Do you highlight people who take risks even when they don’t work? Do people feel intimidated because they think they have to get it right all the time? How might God be calling you to create a culture of faith, risk, and adventure knowing that we have the safety net of God’s grace?

 

Mike Jarrell was a youth director in the Philadelphia area for a few years and loves teens. He left youth ministry convinced that the best way to impact teens is to reach families. Mike then became the senior lead pastor at Cornerstone Christian Church in Duncannon PA. After about 5 years at Cornerstone, Mike and his family followed God to start a missional church in Enola, PA. The Narrow Road Church has been around for 3 years. NRC is a movement of missional communities that follow Jesus on mission and grow in community.

 

THE GREATEST OF ALL HINGE MOMENTS

Near the end of our recent All Peoples East Gathering in Charlotte, a man got up and made a presentation about hinge moments. Do you know what a hinge moment is?

Using a case study from a church in Birmingham, Alabama this man taught us about hinge moments. Though not an EFCA congregation, the church he spoke of was from another solid evangelical denomination. It was located in the center of what is now referred to as the Civil Rights District. Having started in the 1920’s by a pastor who was a transplant from California, the church initially had a profound impact in the community.

In addition to leading many people to Christ, they had a soup kitchen to help feed the poor, they had launched their own radio station and even opened a bible college. Incredibly, they had done this work in Birmingham with both white and black people. Imagine that for a minute – integrated ministry in Birmingham before the civil rights movement! God was clearly doing a beautiful work.

Then, in 1953, the founding pastor had some “friends” reach out to advise him he was about to encounter some really tough times with the a growing civil rights movement. They suggested someone with his talents and skills should consider taking his talents elsewhere…kinda like the pastoral version of when Lebron James took his to Miami. So off he went to another church far away from Birmingham.

Looking back on the history of the church, people say that it was like a spirit of fear came over him. Consequently, the same thing happened to the church. Whereas they had boldly ministered to both black and white people with great impact, the next couple of pastors and leaders gave into fear and eventually stopped trying altogether.

One Sunday morning, Martin Luther King and about 30 others from his movement showed up at the front door of the church. The pastor and others showed Dr. King and his friends their guns and told them they weren’t welcome.

That was a hinge moment. It was the defining moment when the people in the church openly and brazenly allowed the spirit of the age to be more compelling to them than the Spirit of Christ. For decades following this moment, the ministry suffered. Their weekly attendance dwindled from 1500 to 70, the building became dilapidated, and their witness in the community to both whites and blacks was lost. Everything measurable seemed to cry, “Ichabod!”

Then, in the mid 2000’s, a pastor came who had a heart to do ministry for God’s glory among all the people groups in the community. Slowly, things improved, but it just seemed to be such a grind that the pastor brought in an outside ministry to consult them to see what they could do to get over this invisible hump. The pastor and other leaders refused to accept that God was finished with this church.

Together, the church leaders and the para-church organization did a historic survey of the church and discovered the terrible event with Dr. King. They agreed that this was indeed a hinge moment. The departure of the pastor in 1953 had begun a downward trend, but that moment with Dr. King needed to be repented for thoroughly and publicly.

The pastor and leaders called for a solemn assembly and repented corporately for the church’s sinful past. Then they wrote an article that was published in the two leading papers in the city. The letter was an expression of open and heartfelt repentance. Additionally, they contacted individuals and businesses in order to make things right with them. They repented for allowing the spirit of fear to control the ministry. This repentance was another hinge moment.

Today they are once again doing effective ministry in their community. They minister in a way that glorifies Christ with all kinds of people. This no longer means just white and black people, but immigrants and refugees, as well as to members of the LGBTQ community. The church stands as an incredible testimony to the power of God and of repentance that time and space won’t allow for here. 

The point of this post is this… hinge moments are those rare moments in life and ministry when things essentially change. Directions are changed. Moods and outlooks are different than they were before. 

Hinge moments are real and they are sometimes necessary.

We are in a season right now where the greatest of all hinge moments is remembered – Christmas. Looking back on history, that moment changed everything.

Maybe you need to slowly study your your ministry for past hinge moments? Maybe its time for a new hinge moment?

What is true for ministry is also true for us as people. We all have hinge moments in our lives. Maybe we need some new ones?

If nothing else, thank God for the hinge moment of our Lord’s incarnation and our salvation.

Blessings.

BUILDING A LEADERSHIP PIPELINE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION

The chair was oversized, soft and the perfect place for a late afternoon nap. With kids running around the living room and dinner preparations clanging in the kitchen, he slipped into blissful slumber. We watched in amazement as he slept through all the commotion. Nothing could wake him.

Without warning the incredibly annoying alarm vibrated the entire condo signaling the dryer was finished. It was as if that wonderful comfy chair transformed into the electric chair. The sweet slumber instantly turned into wide-eyed panic. Jolted, his arms flailing, feet running but not yet on the ground, the alarm sent my friend into a flurry to save himself, and our vacationing families, from certain peril. The memory still produces side splitting laughter to this day.

I occasionally find myself in similar situations, but it has nothing to do with sleep. The daily routines, the regular commotion of life and the endless to-do lists swirl around enough to keep me, and probably everyone on occasion, from being aware of some underlying issues that need attention.

It often takes an alarm to jolt us into paying attention to something important. This is true for organizations as well as individuals.

In the EFCA, we had a recent alarm that sounded in the form of some research stating the average age of our Senior Pastors is 55 years old and the we have an increasingly aging missionary force here and around the world.

While we thank God for these faithful servants, this discovery left us with some very important questions for our movement. Where are our young leaders? Who is going to take the place of our retiring leaders when they are done? What are we proactively doing to mobilize the next generation?

The alarm is sounding in the EFCA!

This alarm is why I’m giving the next season of my life in ministry to Apex.

Apex serves the local church by mobilizing emerging leaders who advance the Gospel from here to everywhere. Our experiences in cities all over the world provide the context for Gospel Fluency to see and speak the Gospel in all of life. We exist to provide a variety of training experiences and missions opportunities to young people in order that they might glorify God and build His kingdom with their lives.

It is our clear directive to be a leadership development pipeline from middle school beyond college graduation providing the clear and reachable next step for each participant’s faith journey. So many young people are being asked what they are going to do with the rest of their lives. We believe that if we can motivate and train for next week it will set the direction for the rest of their lives. It’s our deep desire to build an environment where young people are inspired to give their best to building the kingdom of God right now. We want to see a generation of servant leaders introducing their peers to Jesus and that starts the moment they return home.   

Apex is doing its part to answer the alarm bell. We are proactively working with churches to mobilize the next generation. It would be our privilege to partner with you as you seek to leverage every part of your ministry to help students be disciples who make disciples.

If you have any questions or want to get more information on who we are and what we do please visit our website where you will find more in-depth descriptions of our experiences and contact information. 

 

David and Shawna Boerema serve as US Project Directors for Apex. For 20 years they have served in local church student ministry and are passionate about helping students take the next steps in their walk with Jesus. David also serves as the Associate Director of ReachStudents for the EFCA’s Eastern District. Dvid and Shawna live in Central Pennsylvania with their two boys and love to be outdoors, travel and appreciate a cup of finely crafted coffee.

david.boerema@efca.org  –  Shawna.boerema@efca.org