Two average pastors in a shameless selfie.
My ministry teammate Joe Iovino and I have started a new podcast we’re calling “The Average Pastor.” Since neither of us is a celebrity pastor and both us wrestle with ideas, issues, and insights for the local church, we thought it’d be great to have a podcast for regular preachers and church folk whose church are less “mega” and more neighborhood–a “festivus for the rest of us,” if you will (grievances may be aired but feats of strength will be minimized). These are the kinds of conversations that we often have here in the office basis, and we thought it would be great for our church (and anyone else who’s a pastor or a member of any church) to have access to our average-yet-maybe-inspirational thoughts. We’ll be doing our best to put out a new edition every week. So far we’ve talked about the nature and order of traditional worship, and about the devotional life. If you’re looking for something to listen to in the car on the way to work or consider while you’re taking a walk–and have always wanted to listen to the ramblings and rumblings of a couple of average pastors–this podcast is for you.
You can download the podcast from iTunes by searching “TLUMC Podcasts” (we’ll be setting up a separate podcast channel soon), or you can listen or download from our website. We hope this will spark some conversation and get you thinking about your own life in Christ!
In the Kingdom of God, being weird is a very good thing.
Wow, what a week we have here a TLUMC with Vacation Bible School! It’s a week of holy chaos that’s full of joy and excitement. I look forward to it every year, as I did when I was a kid.
This year’s theme for VBS was “Weird Animals,” which invited the kids to look at some weird animals in nature as a reminder that God really loves to work out of the box. We looked at animals that live only in strange places, a mole with a nose like a star, a fish with leaves for fins, a lizard that runs like his tail is on fire, a hedgehog with a prickly personality. But even more so we looked at the fact that we humans can be weird, too—each of us unique, each of us with our own struggles, each of us with our own levels of understanding. In fact, when you look at the Scriptures, it seems that God is always choosing the weird, the unlikely, and most unique people to do his best work. While the rest of the world thinks of “weird” as being a negative, God gravitates toward the weird and makes it great.
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(Wesley’s words are in bold).
10. BECAUSE the Experiment has been so frequently tried already, and the success has never answer’d the Expectation. GOD has since the Reformation raised up from Time to Time many Witnesses of pure Religion. If these lived and died (like John Arndt, Robert Bolton, and many others) in the Churches to which they belonged, notwithstanding the Wickedness which overlowed both the Teachers and People therein; they spread the Leaven of true Religion far and wide, and were more and more useful, ’till they went to Paradise. But if upon any Provocation or Consideration whatever, they separated, and founded distinct Parties, their Influence was more and more confined; they grew less and less useful to others, and generally lost the Spirit of Religion themselves in the Spirit of Controversy:
We, too, are in danger of losing “the Spirit of Religion” in the “Spirit of Controversy.” We’ve seen it happen too many times, even in our Methodist tradition. We’ve seen splinter group after splinter group, with narrower and narrower expressions that tend to breed controversy from generation to generation and increasing levels of schism on one issue or another. To quote Rosanne Rosannadanna, “It just goes to show you that it’s always something.” Separation means that our influence is more insular and more confined. It means that the great common mission projects that we have mutually supported for many years will suffer and wither. Wesley didn’t want to be just another sect, he wanted to change the world. What we need is not another denomination, but a new Methodist movement. More on that later.
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(Wesley’s words are in bold)
7. BECAUSE, whereas Controversy is now asleep, and we in great Measure live peaceably with all Men, so that we are strangely at Leisure to spend our whole Time and Strength, in enforcing plain, practical, vital Religion, (O what would many of our Forefathers have given, to have enjoyed so blessed a Calm?) This would utterly banish Peace from among us, and that without Hope of its Return. It would engage me for one, in a thousand Controversies, both in Publick and Private; (for I should be in Conscience obliged to give the Reasons of my Conduct, and to defend those Reasons against all Opposers) and so take me off from those more useful Labours, which might otherwise employ the short Remainder of my Life:
I am not in agreement with the direction the majority in my annual conference have gone on many issues, but I have also not been persecuted for my beliefs. Controversy is certainly not “asleep,” but I have always been “at Leisure to spend [my] whole Time and Strength in enforcing plain, practical, vital Religion.” Wesley is right that compared to our apostolic “Forefathers,” and even our ecclesiastical ones, our climate for continuing to preach the gospel is still a blessed calm. Indeed, as a member of the orthodox minority whose church is growing I have many clergy colleagues and members of the Cabinet who are interested in learning from us about our process for growing disciples. Working toward separation, engaging in posting charges against other clergy, or making loud speeches and protests at conference and denominational meetings tends to “banish Peace from among us, and that without the Hope of its Return.” Wesley saw talk of separation as a quagmire of controversy that would “take [him] off from those more useful Labours which might otherwise employ the short Remainder of [his] life.” I can’t help but think the separation talk is preventing us from redeeming the time we’ve been given as well.
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Part 2 of a series using John Wesley’s “Reasons Against Separation from the Church of England” as a model for evangelicals in the UMC.
In this installment, we begin looking at Wesley’s “Reasons Against Separation from the Church of England” itself and how it might instruct us in the present crisis facing the Church. Wesley had twelve reasons for not separating the Methodist movement from the Church of England, and here we look at the first six along with some commentary on how we might apply them today.
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