Why Schism is Not an Answer

A schism is when there is a formal division in the body of Christ. It occurs when rival factions – or theological perspectives – believe that they can no longer share Christian fellowship with each other. Instead of working through their differences or attempting to come to a resolution an agreement is made for the two groups to go their separate ways.

Schisms can impact both the larger body of Christ and its representations in local communities. The body of Christ has been torn apart throughout the centuries of the church. Most notable was the Great East-West Schism of 1054, which created the separation of the eastern and western wings of the church. Schisms have led to the number of our various denominations in the United States and the break-ups of many churches in our communities.

These are hurtful moments in the life of the church. The United Methodist Church is not immune from schisms. In 1844, the Methodist Episcopal Church split over the issue of slavery. The two would reunify, along with the Methodist Protestant Church which had split off in an early schism regarding in 1939 to form the Methodist Church. (The United Methodist Church would be formed in 1968 by the merger of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church).

As the United Methodist Church gathers in Tampa for General Conference, there are some who desire for the United Methodist Church to split along theological lines. The issue that is driving this is homosexuality. On the theological left are those who desire homosexuals to have a place in the ordination process. On the theological right are those wanting the church to maintain its position that homosexuality is incompatible with Scripture.

The United Methodist Church has faced this challenge before and overcome it. Throughout this General Conference it appears the fear is more prevalent now than ever before. But, is it appropriate? Is schism the answer to deep theological and practical difference between the left and right wings of the church?

I believe the answer to this question is no.

If we were to advocate a schism, or even have it on our mind in our discussions, then we are saying that it is impossible to be the body together. Even more, we are refusing to come to the table and hear from the other side. We must be willing to hear from each other and, most importantly, listen to the movement of the Holy Spirit. We cannot be defined by our desires and then threaten to leave when those desires are not met.

At the same time, a schism takes the dangerous approach to say it is only with our group , and people who believe like us, that Jesus is truly alive and believed. It is wrong to use God in an “us versus them” way. By doing this, we deny our very calling to be in a fellowship of Christian love with one another.

How can we be witnesses of Christ’s love for a broken world if we are unwilling to be witnesses of Christ’s love with each other? Yes, we should “speak the truth in love” and be willing to engage difficult issues, but it must be done in a way that seeks the Father’s will, and not our own. We must be guided by the Holy Spirit and not our own wishes. When we do, I believe, we will be effectives witnesses of Christ’s love.

As leaders in the church, let us put aside our talk and fear of schism and work together, as the body of Christ, to “make disciples of all people.”

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Sunday’s Sermon: Stories of Resurrection – Response to Love

Do you love me?

It’s a question we have all asked at some point in our lives. As children, we probably asked it of our parents after we were disciplined, or we questioned if they wanted us. In turn, we’ve probably have asked our children the same question when they have done something that meets our disapproval.

We likely have asked it of our spouses. When we are first dating, we will look long into each others eyes with that relationship-defining question. It is also asked when we’ve had a bad fight or the relationship is not as strong as it was. It’s asked not to see if a relationship is going to move to the “next level,” but if it will remain intact.

Each of us can think of other situations where we have asked this question. Why do we ask it? For the most part, it is because we want to hear the words “Yes, I love you.” We each have a deep desire to be loved and to know that others love us. When we ask a question such as “Do you love me,” we do so to seek confirmation of our deepest human need of giving and receiving love.

Today, I believe this question is being asked of us. I’m not the one who is asking the question. Jesus is. As we worship today, Jesus ask us this simple, but life-defining, question.

Do you love me?

In John 21:15-23, Jesus asks the question three times to Peter. It is also a poignant question addressed to you and to me. Do you love me more than these? Do you love me with all you have? Do you love me?

The question isn’t asked in isolation. There is a reason that the question is asked. Jesus is wanting to show Peter, and the other disciples, what is truly in Peter’s heart, what it means to truly love Jesus, and how that love inspires a mission.

Jesus finds Peter and the other disciples along the lake shore. After Jesus’ death, Peter and the disciples who had been fishermen decided to go back to work. They had to provide for their families. All the disciples would have been experiencing grief at the loss of their Teacher and Friend, but Peter’s grief might have been the most prevalent.

Peter was the first among the disciples to make a public affirmation of who Jesus truly is. When Jesus asks the disciples who he is, Peter is the one who makes the announcement that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the One who would save humanity from its sin. It was on Peter’s affirmation, Jesus tells us, that the church would be built.

Peter was also the disciple who denied Christ three times during his trial. Jesus even knew that he would would. In John 13:31-38, Jesus says it is the time for him to “enter into his glory,” which meant that it was time for him to fulfill the redemptive work on the cross. Hearing this and that Jesus would only be with them for a little longer, Peter responds that he was “ready to die” for Christ. Jesus tells him that he really wasn’t and, in fact, Peter would deny him three times when Jesus needed him the most.

Now, let’s not act as if Peter did something more horrendous than the other disciples. None of the disciples were there when Jesus needed them the most. It was Peter, though, who said he would never leave Jesus, and it was his words that came back to haunt him when he denied the very existence of Christ during his trial. The first disciple to make the affirmation that Jesus was the Messiah would make the loudest denial by his words at the trial.

It is for this reason that the question, “Do you love me” is so important, and it is why Jesus comes to the lake shore early that morning. After telling the disciples how to find better fish and sharing in a meal with them, Jesus takes Peter off to the side for a personal and public moment. Jesus knows what is truly in Peter’s heart, but he wants Peter to examine his own heart and also wants the disciples to hear Peter being reinstated into the mission of the church.

Three times Jesus asks Peter if Peter loves him, perhaps significant of the fact that Peter denied Jesus three times. Each time Peter replies in the affirmative. It was more pronounced on the third where Peter shows some of his frustrations at Jesus’ continued asking of the question. He says, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Peter never stopped loving the Lord. In this emotional moment, Peter is receiving healing from the Lord and making a public announcement of where his heart truly is.

Why does Peter love Jesus? Why do we love Jesus? We love because to love Jesus is the proper response to his redeeming act on the cross and his resurrection. Salvation and the fact Christ lives today demands a response. When we have met the presence of Christ and the reality of what Christ did for us, we are called to receive grace. We are also called to love Christ. To love Christ means to show Jesus the proper adoration and affection that salvation and resurrection requires. It means to make Jesus the first in our devotions and hearts.

Let us not quickly say “Yes, Lord you know I love you,” without knowing what it means to say those words. We can easily say the word “love” and say Christ is my priority without really knowing what it means. Loving Christ means to put worshiping and serving Christ as our first priority. Our love of Christ comes before our love of our family, before our responsibilities, and before our own lives and agendas. When we place others before Christ or attempt to make Christ more comfortable, we are not truly loving Christ but instead loving a reflection of our own self and desires.

Peter responded to what Jesus did for him by receiving the grace of forgiveness and responding in love. He knew that Jesus died for his sin. He accepted the grace of forgiveness and responded with love. When the question is posed to us how are we responding? When Christ is looking at you and asks you if you love him, how would you respond?

Look deep within your heart, your soul, to find the answer.

Do you love Jesus? To feel the love of Jesus is to experience the same “burning heart” of the receipt of redeeming love that John Wesley felt at Aldersgate. There, Wesley felt that Jesus truly did die for his sin, not just humanity’s sin.

Do you love Jesus? Loving Jesus is to have him at the center of your heart and the primary devotion of your life. Loving Jesus means your faith in Christ is more important than your family, more important than your home, more important than your bank accounts, more important than your careers, more important than your political party, and more important than your hopes and dreams. To love Jesus means to look beyond ourselves, look deeply into the heart of Jesus, and find ourselves there..

Do you love Jesus more than these? If you do, God bless you and hold on to that love and never let it go. I pray you continue to grow in the love of Christ each day. If not, know God’s grace is here for you today to experience the love and redeeming work of Christ in your life and your heart.

But, the story of love doesn’t end here. After each of Peter’s responses to Jesus’ questions, he is given a calling. Peter has already been called to be a fisherman of people, which means to go out and spread the name of Christ so others will become disciples. Here, he is given the additional calling of shepherding the people of God. Peter is called to care for them. This means to provide for their spiritual growth and discipleship in their relationship with Jesus. In this intimate moment, Jesus responds to Peter’s affirmation of his love by calling him to look after the children of God.

Our response to God’s grace, through the redeeming act of Christ, is love. The affirmation of our love is the catalyst for our ministry and mission. As followers of Christ, when we affirm our love in Jesus, we are given a ministry and mission in response. Jesus doesn’t call us to remain in the emotional high of a response of love. Jesus sends us out in love to share the love of Christ with others.

Each of us have a mission and purpose. This isn’t just for a select few or those with certain degrees or ordination certificates. If you have the love of Christ written on your heart, you have been redeemed for a purpose. That purpose is two-fold. First, it is to love Christ. Second, it is to have a faith that “expresses itself in love.”

This expression is going to take on different forms. For Peter, it was to be a fisherman and shepherd. My expression of love is to proclaim the Word of God, to be a prophetic voice in our world and community, to lead people and communities of faith to deep transformation, and to guide people to faith in Christ. Your expression of love is going to look different, and it is going to be as unique as the personality that God gave you.

Some of us might be called to be prophets who speak out in our world. Some of us are called to be teachers who share some aspect of knowledge with others. Some are called to do the miraculous. Some are called to be conduits of healing, whether it is by their words or the use of their hands. Some are called to be leaders. Some are called to speak passionately. Some are called to be parents who raise the next generation of followers. We could go on and on, but our point is this: Christ didn’t call you to love from the sidelines. He has called you to show your love so that you might glorify God and be a witness in ways that others come to know Christ.

What is your mission in response to your love of Christ? What has Christ tasked you with out of the gifts and talents you have received? If you’re not sure what your mission is, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you. Ask the Spirit to open your heart to the desires of God and the calling God has placed in your heart. Be vulnerable and humble enough to allow the Spirit to open your eyes, your heart, and soul to the amazing mission that has been set for you.

Be willing to serve Christ in all that you do in response to what Christ has given you – salvation and grace. If you do and if we do, I promise you that the mission field around us will be reached. We will reach out in new and inventive ways that share our gifts in service of Christ that offers the love of Christ to each other.

During a General Conference morning worship, Bishop Peter Weaver of the New England Conference addressed the delegates on the idea of a “resurrection revolution.” In the sermon, he paraphrased the Charles Wesley hymn “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” Weaver said, “Love’s redeeming work is done, but God’s transforming work has just begun.”

Our mission in response to love is our participation in God’s transforming work that is ongoing in our midst. Let us join what Christ is doing by using our gifts in love so that others will come to know Christ and be transformed by the Holy Spirit.

Who Speaks for the Middle?

Compromise is a lost art form. Not too long ago, it was a valued characteristic to be able to listen to the contributions of both sides and try to work out a mutual agreement.

Now, we are more defined by the extremes. This is obviously clear when we are speaking of our political discourse, but it is becoming even more so in regards to church discussions. We are becoming just as defined by “left versus right” as our partisan and polarized political process.

It comes with a price. When our discussions about theological and application of Scripture becomes defined by the extremes it is easy to see “the other” as the enemy. That person becomes the one who is “not a true Christian” or “just doesn’t understand Jesus.” Even more, we take the dangerous position to claim that we have the only appropriate and true way to understand faith, Scripture, or God.

There is another price. The more we move to the extremes those who see the value of multiple perspectives are left out of the debate. They have no voice. Just like our political process is void of moderates who contribute to the legislative process our theological discussions are becoming equally void of leaders who publicly see value in both the theologically right and left. Neither the theological left or the theological right should hold the fellowship of the entire church hostage by its own desires. We must be united under a common vision – to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to share the love of Christ to all, and to pave the way for the kingdom to be realized in our midst.

I firmly believe there are more pastors who are like myself who seek to see the theological contributions to both sides. Yet, we have no voice at the table. The extremes have the microphone, because they have the loudest voice not because they have the majorities.

The followers of Christ in the middle must be the people who seek and desire compromise. It won’t happen in the church unless a middle way rises up that desires to follow the directives of the Holy Spirit and prayerful guide the church to be a witnesses of Christ together as a family of Christ.

Who shall it be? Who will it be?

Social Media and the 2012 General Conference

I’m watching the 2012 General Conference from the extreme nosebleed seats: From the comforts of my office in Mackville, Ky., nearly 850 away. The blessings of a high-speed Internet connection and a capable laptop provides instant access through live streaming feeds of the plenary and worship sessions.

If that doesn’t provide enough access for someone interested in the decisions to be made at General Conference there is always social media. Facebook and Twitter were both active yesterday during the opening day of the conference. Perhaps anticipating this the church included an active feed of what was being said via #gc2012.

As with any conversation, social media has its benefits and distractions. This is especially noticeable during important  discussions and debates whether it is in the halls of Congress or in a convention center in Tampa.

The benefits to social media during General Conference should be obvious. It allows everyone to have a voice. With the “old media” forms, which I grew up with as a former journalist, only the “respected” voices would be heard on a television report or read in a newspaper’s account of an event. Social media’s involvement at General Conference allows for the voice of the marginalized and forgotten to be heard. Our leaders in Tampa need to hear from the entire movement of the United Methodist Church and not just those with political influence.

Social media also provides information on different issues. Recently I was informed through social media of an issue that will be discussed at General Conference. It is not one of the three major issues that will receive the most attention both inside and outside the church (reorganization, guaranteed appointment, and lifestyle discussions). Social media brings to light petitions “old media” would not have discussed. The large amount of petitions up for a consideration means not every issue will receive attention. Unfortunately, it also means important issues can get forgotten.

However, social media also has its drawbacks. This is true in regards to deep discussions about the future of the United Methodist Church.

The most obvious of these drawbacks is everyone has a voice. While we applaud that social media gives everyone a voice at the table we can also recognize its potential distraction to the process. The fact everyone has a voice does not guarantee that a person’s voice will be used in appropriate ways.

During the worship and plenary sessions, Twitter was filled with comments that were critical of whatever the given poster felt was inappropriate. During the opening worship, it ranged from the songs being used to the appropriateness of the style of worship. It was especially on display during the plenary session’s lengthy rules debate. Twitter was used to express frustrations with certain delegates and attempts to change the rules. Many of the frustrations came about if a rules change, especially regarding protests, would impact a person’s desires.

We would all be wise to be cautious about how we use social media to engage any process. Social media, and our 24-hour news cycle, does not offer time to provide appropriate reflection on important issues. We want to express things now. Often in the heat of the moment we are not taking the time to properly think through different perspectives. As well, the limit of 140 characters does not allow for appropriate discussions, so we must be wise on how we use this important forum.

As we go forward in General Conference, social media will be an important part of the story and will allow many to be a part of the process. It’s use can provide information and appropriate reflections, but let us hope that it does not become a stumbling block to hearing and doing the Father’s will.

My Thoughts as We Enter General Conference

General Conference begins tomorrow in Tampa. This is the quadrennial gathering of United Methodist from across the world that sets the agenda and mission for the church.

It is an important General Conference and perhaps the most crucial that I can remember in some time. Major issues such as reorganization and clergy appointments will be discussed. There will also be time for debate on other hotly-contested issues, such as the denomination’s views on  homosexuality. From the outset it appears that much rides on the outcomes and decisions at General Conference.

As we approach the start of General Conference, I have been thinking through some of the issues and want to articulate some of them. My purpose is not to take sides on any one discussion, but to express my thoughts as I have studied some of the issues that will face General Conference.

My thoughts center entirely on my asking this question: “What does it mean for us to be Methodist and Christian?”

Many of the discussions entering General Conference have focussed on our vitality as a movement. The Call to Action report and its legislative findings have come as a result of denominational decline in membership and worship attendance. In response, the United Methodist Church has taken a deep look within itself and asked if the way we are doing church can continue. Some have argued that we need to complete reorganize our structure so that growth can happen.

I applaud the work and service of those who have developed reorganization plans, whether it is Call to Action, Plan B, or the plan submitted by the Methodists for Social Action. One thing is for certain and that is there is a deep love for the church that extends beyond the United Methodist denomination, but all corners of God’s kingdom. No one should doubt the heart or the desire in these plans to seek the best response to create a place for vital congregations in our worshiping community.

My concern is that none of these plans address the core issues that faces the church.

We are not losing members and worship attendance because of how many organizations we have, the numbers on their boards, or even their responsibilities. There is a greater and deeper issue and that is we’ve lost our defining mission. We’ve lost our focus on Matthew 28:19 to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit ” (NLT). The mission of the church is that we are servants and proclaimers of the message of Jesus Christ. Our calling is to make disciples, to equip our laity to be in ministry, and in all ways proclaim the name of Jesus Christ. As Methodists, we have to get back to our focus on Jesus and allowing Jesus to be at the center of our discussions and faith.

There are some who argue we need to get back to our Wesleyan roots and doctrinal heritage as United Methodists. I agree with that, but we must go deeper. As Alan Hirsch pointed out in a discussion at Asbury University last week, we need to get back to our Christology and understanding of who Christ is, his mission, and his purposes for our lives. I believe when we do that we will find our roots in Christ, which will help to expand on our heritage as Wesleyans and Methodists.

Reorganization is necessary as we meet the challenges that face us today, but it is not the entire answer. What we need most is a revival of the Holy Spirit to direct, guide, and lead us in what it means to be followers of Christ known as United Methodists.

Sunday’s Sermon: Stories of Resurrection – A Walk to Remember

A couple of years ago, Abbi and I went to Washington, D.C., for spring break. It was part vacation and business trip. Abbi had an interview with Catholic University. She wanted to learn more about the school’s doctoral program in Hebrew studies. For myself, any chance I can get to visit our nation’s Capital is an opportunity I embrace. It is one of my favorite cities.

We spent two days in Washington. On the first day, Abbi and I had some time to tour the Library of Congress and museums. The second day was Abbi’s interview. So, I drove her to the campus and then I left. There was no way I was going to stick around for lectures and interviews. I was going on a walking tour of the city. I rode the Metro to the Mall. I walked to the Washington Monument, to the Jefferson Memorial and saw the blooming Cherry Blossoms. I even got clothes-lined by a low-hanging branch while taking a video for Abbi. I kept on and walked to the World War II Memorial, then went across the street the Red Cross, and over to the White House. From there, it was a short walk to Lafayette Square and St. John’s Episcopal Church before joining some friends for lunch near McPherson Square. After lunch, the journey continued to Ford’s Theatre. If it wasn’t for Abbi finishing early, I probably would have kept walking.

It was a blistering walk made more so by the fact that we put in a good walk the day before. Even though my feet were sore by day’s end, the walk was one I enjoyed. Each step was a moment to reflect on some aspect of our nation’s history. The stops were not a simply checking off of an item on a travel agenda, but instead was a chance to reflect on the lives of those who gave so much to our nation.

The walk is on my mind, today, as I reflect on the journey Luke tells us in our Scripture passage for today. He tells us of two followers of Christ who are on a seven-mile walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Who these two were we do not know. All we know is one was named Cleopas. Some have tried to make guesses about whom Cleopas might have been, but the safe argument is that these were two followers who had been in some form of a relationship with Jesus prior to his crucifixion and resurrection.

The disciples left Jerusalem on the day of the resurrection. They were leaving believing the resurrection would not take place. Even though there were reports that Jesus was alive, these two followers doubted. That is because they had not experienced the resurrection. All they knew was what they had experienced. To them, Jesus was dead and they were doubting if they could still trust his message.

We can imagine what this walk might have been like, because it was probably like the journeys we take. When we go on a journey or a walk with our friends or family we often share stories in order to pass the time. These disciples did the same thing. On this walk, they consoled themselves by sharing stories of their experiences with Jesus. Their discussions were an act of remembrance of all that Jesus did. They remembered the healings and miracles. They also remembered that Jesus taught with passion and knowledge in ways that were unlike any they had met.

Most likely, though, Jesus’ death was the most prevalent in their conversations. How could it not have been? The images of Jesus’ crucifixion would have been so engrained in their mind that it would have been difficult to not think about it. You cannot easily ignore such horrific images of betrayal and death. It was their most recent experience of Jesus.

It would seem this story is about two followers who are caring for each other while walking to Emmaus. That is not the entire story. Something deeper is going on in our passage. Our travelers are on a journey of faith. It’s the same journey of faith we are on today. Our followers, and we today, are on a journey of spiritual formation that leads us to a deeper revelation of who Jesus Christ is and what it means to be his followers. As Robert Mulholland writes, “Spiritual formation is a lifelong process of growth into the image of Christ.”

The journey took on a deeper sense when Jesus comes upon them on the road. They do not recognize him at first. Jesus takes the opportunity to ask them what they were talking about. Astonished someone could have been in Jerusalem and not have heard about what had transpired, Cleopas invites Jesus into their discussion. Cleopas’ descriptions were based on his own experiences. He had no other frame of reference to go by. His experience was such that he believed Jesus was a teacher who did some great things, they believed he was the Messiah, but now doubted because, to them, he had not returned.

We are like Cleopas in our own faith journeys. Each of us bring our own varied experiences into our journeys of faith in Christ. Life is not something we can compartmentalize as if to say what happens if our life doesn’t impact how we understand and follow Christ. As Wesleyans, experience is one of the ways we believe we come to understand Scripture. In some areas, we have a variety of experiences that helps us to understand different passage. In others, our life experiences limit us in how we approach God and understand our faith in Jesus Christ. It is in this way that we are just like the disciples who were on this journey with Jesus. They had a limited knowledge of Scripture, and their experiences with Jesus, which prevented them from fully understanding the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Jesus understood this about these disciples and he understands it about us today. He takes their experiences and opens their eyes to a deeper reality of truth. He tells them that they do not fully understood that the entire message of what we know today as the Old Testament. Jesus tells them that all of Scripture prepared the way for a Messiah who would suffer for his people’s sin and would be resurrected back to life.

In talking with them, Jesus is walking them trough a time of deep revelation. By this we mean a deep spiritual experience where the Holy Spirit guides us to see and understand more about the Triune God. God takes our experiences and uses them to open our eyes to deeper things of faith. This deep teaching and guidance is so that we might grow in Christ-likeness and a deeper faith than we had before. Discipleship, and really spiritual growth, is about the Holy Spirit shaping and molding us into what God has desired for us in a way similar to a potter shaping a piece of clay.

The question becomes then how can we receive this deep encounter of divine truth? We have to seek it. We will never grow in faith if we sit in the corners and say, “This isn’t for me.” Sanctification is a journey of grace. We have to be willing to step into that journey and be led by the Spirit.

To be in a position where we can grow spiritually, we have to ask the Spirit to move in us so that we might grow in the image of Christ. We are praying that the Spirit will open our eyes to the experience the lengths, breadths, and widths of God’s love and desires. By humbling ourselves in prayer, we are humbling submitting ourselves to the Father’s will, that is expressed through the Son, and is shaped in us by the Spirit. We are praying that God’s will be done in our lives and that we might reflect God’s desires more.

We also have spiritual disciples that can help us to seek after deep revelation and discipleship. We call these means of grace. The means of grace, according to John Wesley, were acts of discipleships that we do in order to grow in our relationship with Jesus. They are prayer, Scripture reading, fasting, communion, and fellowship. In prayer, we are also seeking a relationship with God. It is our way of communicating with God and, more importantly, listening to God. When we read Scripture, the Spirit teaches us about God’s love and desires. As Ezekiel 3:1 says, eat these words so that they will become nourishment for our bodies to live for Christ. In fasting, we are giving us something that hinders us from a relationship with God. By this, the Spirit is at work teaching us what we truly need to live and that is Christ’s love and grace. Communion is a time in which we experience the presence of the living Christ, so that we might be shaped to live as witnesses of Christ. Finally, in Christian fellowship we are walking together whether it is in worship, small groups, or in other forms of fellowship. Together, we are strengthening and encouraging each other, which is a grace and work of the Holy Spirit active in each of us. We minister to each other through God’s Spirit as we share life with one another.

God is at work showing us the depths of the Gospel. As our eyes are opened it demands a response from us. Will we or will we not believe what has been shown to us? When God reveals something to us it is up to us to decide whether or not we will accept it and allow that truth to transform our lives. The disciples in our story allowed what Jesus told them to transform their lives. As their eyes opened, they realized it was Jesus who was talking with them along the road and in their time of communion that evening. They accepted the message and it sprung forth a time of deep discipleship.

As we go along our journeys of faith, my desire for each of us – my desire for me – is that we will embrace the hope of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and grow each day in our relationship with the Triune God. That we will do things that enhance growth and will humble ourselves to allow the Spirit to shape and mold us. When we do, I promise you, that our lives and our relationship with God will be fuller, because it will be shaped by the love of the Living Lord.

What I Learned from Not Preaching

Yesterday, I did not preach.

I’m not alone in making that statement. The Sunday after Easter has routinely been the designated Sunday for pastor sabbaths, which allow for an associate pastor or a guest preacher to do the sermon. After the journey through Lent and the business of Easter, pastors are typically emotionally, spiritually and physically exhausted the week after Easter.

However, Sunday was the first time that I did not preach since appointed to my two churches. We were blessed by the witness of Gerald Lister and Gideon’s International in worship. It was great to hear testimonies from this great organization, but, to be honest, it was also refreshing to be able to “take a week off” from preaching.

In doing that, I was able to recharge and refocus. I also learned some things about preaching and myself. Here are a few of the things that I learned or noticed this week. Continue reading