Wesleyans and The Reformation

[From wesleyan.org]

Oct. 28, 2011 – Dr. John R. Tyson

On the last Sunday in October, many Protestant denominations—particularly those descending from Luther and Calvin—pause to look back to the 16th century and celebrate Reformation Sunday and the roots of their tradition. Where are Wesleyans in this picture?

In the 16th century, our denominational roots were still connected to the Church of England. John and Charles Wesley began their evangelical revival 221 years after Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. So, do Wesleyans have any inheritance in Luther? Yes, the same one we share with all other Protestants. However, it was further refined for us by the role that Luther played in the Wesleys’ own faith pilgrimage and theological reflection.

By faith alone

The most famous connection between Martin Luther and John Wesley came during the father of Methodism’s (1738) “Aldersgate experience,” in which Wesley felt his “heart was strangely warmed” while listening to someone read from Luther’s Romans commentary. What Wesley learned from Luther was his emphasis upon justification by faith alone. As Wesley would write many years later, “Who has written more ably than Martin Luther on justification by faith alone?”

After 1738, Luther became Wesley’s poster child for the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Twice Wesley quotes Luther, from the Latin, that this is the doctrine upon which “the Christian church stands or falls.” That is to say, justification by faith is the watershed between real Christianity and its pale imitations; if we lose sight of this doctrine, we lose everything. Three times during his controversial writings Wesley defended himself against learned opponents by arguing that he agreed wholeheartedly with Luther’s hallmark doctrine.

-Dr. John R. Tyson, Wesleyans and Reformation Sunday, Milieu Online, Fall 2006.

Sunday Night Thoughts

What a crazy weekend – but it’s all good!  We started out this weekend under a Winter Storm Warning.  As you may know, this is very early for snow, especially in central Virginia.  The snow started early Friday evening.  While the snow began to fall, I was painting the Children’s Ministry Room.  You may have heard about Valspar’s HD Color System Paint.  This stuff is good! I had trimmed part of the room and finished trimming the room on Friday.  Then it was time for the rolling the walls.  It was amazing, just one coat of paint covered the walls.  While it may be more expensive, it only took one coat and looks gorgeous.

We woke up to lots of the fluffy white stuff.  We had about 2 to 3 inches of the white stuff on Saturday.  Pam and I cleaned up the paint on the floor and by then the snow had about stopped.  After lunch and a quick nap, I went out for a run and enjoyed it.  It was weird seeing snow on the ground and bright fall colors on the trees.

We got up this morning on a crisp, October morning, but most of the snow had melted the day before.  There was a good spirit in worship this morning.  The praise team did a great job leading worship, but because of sickness we were missing our drummer and our keyboardist was in Guatemala, which meant I had to carry the musical part of the accompaniment.  If all that happened was worship today I would have been excited, but the best was yet to come.

Tonight our church hosted a trunk or treat.  This is quickly becoming a great annual event.  Last year exceeded our expectations and we weren’t quite ready for it.  Tonight again was amazing.  Several weeks ago, one of the clubs from the local high school volunteered to help us and they did a great job.  Thanks to the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, Inc. (FCCLA) of Fort Defiance High School.  We really appreciated your help and you helped our event be a success.  My guess is that over 200 people (both guests and treaters) were at our church this evening.  We had the chance to introduce our church to a whole bunch of people and it was amazing to see the people hang out in our Fellowship Hall. It was interesting to clean-up.  It was so fun because we had to clean up popcorn and hot chocolate (we have to go back and mop in the morning.)   That may seem strange but that’s what ministering to the community is all about.  It was so great and I was so pleased with our congregation.  They did a great job!

Now it’s time to relax a bit and then get ready for bed.

Seize the Day!

Sunday Set List

October 30, 2011
Reformation Sunday

Welcome and Announcements

Call to Worship

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God


Unison Reading

Psalm 46 (selected verses)

Songs of Worship

Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee

The Saving One

Jesus Messiah

Worship Through Prayer

Song of Worship

Made Me Glad

Missions Moment

Wesleyan Kids for Missions – Pastor Pam Argot

Worship Through Giving

Worship Through God’s Word

Living A Life That Matters

We Are Better Together

Galatians 3:26-28; Ephesians 2:19-21

Song of Committment

Blest Be the Tie That Binds


On Our Very Best Day

I don’t always post here on my running exploits.  I leave most of that for Map My Run. Those posts get cross posted to Facebook.  Over the last few months (September and October) I have been making spectacular progress (at least for me) in my running.  During these last two months, I have went from struggling to breaking a 10 minute mile to knocking on the door (on a very good day) to a 9 minute mile.

You may or may not know that I have started a part-time position in addition to being on staff at Parkway.  This position requires me to be on my feet for 6 to 8 hours (with a lunch break of course.)  I was used to running, but not used to being on my feet (especially since the RadioShack days are three years behind me.) This job has put a strain on my feet and legs.  In addition, while I was in Colorado Springs I didn’t do any training, so this has been an interesting week.  The first couple runs this week were great (because I was running on rested legs.) As the week has continued and I restarted my training and working my part-time position, my times have slowed down.

This morning we woke up to snow (yes, in October.)  It was that heavy, wet, gloppy snow.  Fortunately by noon the storm was giving out and the sun came out – this means it was time for a run and that’s what I did.  I know that I would have to take it easy, because Thursday’s run took it out of me – I had worked out too hard.  That being said, I pulled back and as I completed my first mile I had a time of 9:45 (not bad.)  I thought to myself – keep up this pace, so that became my goal — it wasn’t too fast — not too slow.  My final pace was a 9:51 mile, so I stayed right there – that is a training goal in and of itself – keeping the same pace for the entire run.

While I was running I had this thought. Last year I was struggling to complete 5.75 miles in one hour.  It seems like I tried and tried, but even on my very best day, I wasn’t getting there.  Today I knew that 6.36 miles was out of the question.  The question became, what was possible?  It turns out that in an hour I still ran a sub 10 minute mile and still ran over 6 miles – something that I couldn’t do a year ago.

Our Christian life should be like that.  We should always be striving to be more like Jesus (asking the Holy Spirit to help us, because without His help it is impossible.)  We should never be in the same place as we were the year before — we should always be pressing on.  Our very best day this year should be alot better than the year before.

As I was running I had another thought.  Friday morning was a bad day for me – I just couldn’t get into the swing of things and my brain refused to cooperate.  Thankfully my attitude didn’t suffer as a result, but I got to thinking – even on our best days (as Bill Gaither puts it.) Even when we are on top of our game (or we like to think we are) — we are still sinners saved by grace — There is nothing we can do to earn God’s salvation – there is nothing we can do to earn our sanctification – it’s a free gift of God.

Let me close with this video from the Gaither Vocal Band

Joshua Crosses the Jordan

Proper 26 (31)

October 30, 2011

Joshua 3:7-17; Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37; 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13; Matthew 23:1-12

 7 The Lord told Joshua, “Today I will begin to make you a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites. They will know that I am with you, just as I was with Moses. 8 Give this command to the priests who carry the Ark of the Covenant: ‘When you reach the banks of the Jordan River, take a few steps into the river and stop there.’”

 9 So Joshua told the Israelites, “Come and listen to what the Lord your God says. 10 Today you will know that the living God is among you. He will surely drive out the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites ahead of you. 11 Look, the Ark of the Covenant, which belongs to the Lord of the whole earth, will lead you across the Jordan River! 12 Now choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 The priests will carry the Ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth. As soon as their feet touch the water, the flow of water will be cut off upstream, and the river will stand up like a wall.”

 14 So the people left their camp to cross the Jordan, and the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them. 15 It was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge, 16 the water above that point began backing up a great distance away at a town called Adam, which is near Zarethan. And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the town of Jericho.

 17 Meanwhile, the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant stood on dry ground in the middle of the riverbed as the people passed by. They waited there until the whole nation of Israel had crossed the Jordan on dry ground.

It looks like our lectionary readings have taken us past Moses and onto Joshua.  Just like Moses, Joshua was also a leader of the people of Israel.  Joshua would take the people of God and take them (finally) into the Promised Land.  There are similarities between the two leaders.  One of them is part of our narrative today.  Both leaders had to take God’s people over a body of water in a miraculous way.  Moses led the people through the Red Sea and Joshua took the people over the Jordan, while it was at flood stage.  Most of us think of the Jordan River as a big, wide, long river, much like our own Mississippi.  I discovered that it was much different after watching a video series called “Faith Lessons.”  It is a relatively narrow river that winds its way between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea.  Now it was at flood stage so that could pose a problem.  Unlike Moses’ crossing, this crossing was a matter of faith.  The priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant had to step into the water.  When they did, the water stopped flowing.  This is an incredible miracle because God timed it to coincide with the priest stepping in the water.  The water was stopped 20 miles upstream.  All of us have had these Jordan River crossing experiences.  God asks, “Will you trust me?”  “Will you step out in faith?”  “Will you step out in faith before you see the solution?”  Our family has recently been through one of these experiences.  God seems to bring them to us every once in a while to remind us that we need to keep placing our faith in Him.  What Jordan River Crossings are you facing today?  Trust in God — step into the water — see what He will do.


The Changing World of Missions

[Ed. – Today’s post comes from the pen of Keith Drury – professor at Indiana Wesleyan University.  This comes from his weekly posting called “Tuesday Column.”]

Sometimes I’m tempted to think the most radical church changes in the last 30 years have been in worship but I think more changes may have happened in missions. Here are the changes I’ve seen in the last 30 years, since 1980.

 1. Collapse of the “just-send-us-your-money-and-trust-us” mission boards.

Before the 1980s most missions boards simply raised money for missions. Churches gave their money and the missions boards spent it sending out the best missionaries they could find. This was virtually the only way denominations raised missions money. Churches had annual missionary conferences and raised “self-denial offerings” and sent bucketfuls of undesignated money to their denominational office to spend the best way possible. When missionaries did “deputation” they told specific stories about their field but the offerings went into the general pot to support all missionaries everywhere. This model has just about collapsed everywhere with a few notable exceptions (Nazarenes?).

 2. Growth of missionaries raising their own support.

The trouble with the first model for denominations was that eventually an independent missionary showed up on the church’s doorstep and said, “Please support me—I am not like denominational missionaries who get paid out of a common pot—if I don’t raise my support I can’t go to the field.” Lots (and lots) of churches bought this pitch and began funneling support to these “faith missionaries”–especially if they were related to someone in the church. Denominations and boards with method number 1 were simply forced to switch to individual missionaries raising their own support or they couldn’t compete. Some worried that there would be some really good missionaries who might be poor fund-raisers, or (worse) there’d be some really bad missionaries who could raise lots of money, but most denominational missions agencies in the 1980s or 90s succumbed to this individual support-raising system. Now everyone is out there raising support on the same basis—“help me or I can’t go.”

 3. Merger of home missions and foreign missions.

Even if denominations didn’t actually merge these two missions departments, local churches merged them. Churches dropped the “s” from missions and offered a single mission pot. The mission now included everything over the ocean, over the state line, and across the street. A church might still recruit a high powered missionary to give the sermon on faith promise Sunday but when the money came in, it went to the local Christian radio station, the town’s crisis pregnancy center, the city mission, Habitat for Humanity, church planting in the district, supporting local students at college, along with supporting foreign missionaries. To get a local church’s support missionaries had to “apply” for it through a committee like they were applying for a grant. Missionaries started recruiting money person-by-person at this stage, and eventually facebook and email began replacing church-to-church visits.

 4. Preference for short term.

In the earlier stages above, almost all missionary money was channeled into long term projects—like paying actual missionary support to a person who would move to country for a few decades and learn the language. Increasingly many churches considered these missionaries “overhead” or merely “denominational bureaucrats” and sought instead whiz-bang short term projects that produced more excitement. It seemed like you’d get a quicker return on the dollar of you supported your brother in law to spend two weeks building a school in Zambia than just tossing your money in the sack toward a missionary’s salary or pension. You got to see your brother in law come home transformed and contribute something to your church. It seemed sexier to buy a thousand pairs of shoes than pay the salary of the person who would hand them out. Missionaries could more easily get people to buy shoes, or fill shoeboxes, or drill wells than they could to raise their own support to be an actual missionary. Missions was moving from people to projects.

 5. Evangelism to social ministry.

As evangelicals lost their nerve to do evangelism at home they increasingly had less motivation send evangelistic missionaries abroad. Evangelicals had wearied of “The Four Spiritual Laws” and talking about “the lost” who are “headed to hell “ or having heroes who were “soul-winners.” In their weariness along came all kinds of social ministries that were worthy—drilling wells for life-giving water, rescuing AIDS orphans, establishing schools and colleges, or fighting sex trafficking…and a score of other worthwhile things. Evangelicals still expected people to get saved, but evangelism was not the primary focus. It became a collateral benefit. Professional missionaries plugging away at evangelism found less zeal for their work on returning to the USA, and saw greater interest in shorter term social projects with “no overhead” for the missionary’s salary or for the centralized missions office.

 6. Local church becomes its own missions board.

The latest change is the local church itself (especially large churches) becoming their own missions board—doing missions direct and “cutting out the middle man” that avoided boards “taking their cut.” Combined with all of the above, this final change yields a totally new approach to missions since 1980: Raising money locally to support local and global (“Glocal”) projects that are mostly short term involving our own people involved especially in social ministries. Smaller churches can band together as a district and do the same—even launching and supervising their own mission fields sometimes in “partnership” with the former centralized missions boards.

Worship and Change

As the Church peers out its window at the culture that surrounds it, it must make a decision: Will the Church open the window to see, really see, what is going on?  As we enter the twenty-first century, it would be nice to say, “Let’s stay the same.”  But the world out there has changed and continues to change rapidly.  The world in which young people are now being raised is not the same as the world in which many already in the church grew up….Change surrounds us.  We in the Church cannot help being changed as well, for we do not have the luxury of staying the same in a world that is rushing forward at breakneck speed.  In moral terms, much of the change is neither good per se nor bad; but the way we respond to the changing culture will tell us much about ourselves.

Daniel T. Benedict and Craig Kennet Miller, Contemporary Worship for the 21st Century  (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1998), 33.

A Church Built Up

‎”Alas! Much has been done of late to promote the production of dwarfish Christians. Poor, sickly believers turn the church into a hospital, rather than an army. Oh, to have a church built up with the deep godliness of people who know the Lord in their very hearts, and will seek to follow the Lamb wherever he goes!”

Charles Spurgeon