Author Archives: Juliana Lopes

A Solid Foundation by Brian Yeich

For over a year, we have been renovating my grandparents’ house which was built in 1943. We replaced windows, electrical and plumbing. Progress was visible as the house came into form, yet all the while, lurking underneath, problems were brewing. 

Confession is good for the soul, and mine is that we should have inspected and addressed the foundation first. As we began to uncover the original subfloor of the house, the problems became evident. For those who don’t know, Louisiana has a very humid climate. Humidity is not friendly to pier and beam houses constructed with wood beams and floor joists. Floorboards were rotten, cracked and disintegrating. However, it was even worse than we knew. As we began cutting out the bad subfloor, we discovered that the floor joists were also deteriorated and needed to be replaced. Our carpenter surmised that some of the damage came from above, but in other places the damage started below and then came to the surface. 

This leads me to another confession. I sometimes approach my own spiritual life in the same manner. I address those things I can see – the things on the surface, but I fail to allow the Holy Spirit to plumb the depths and address those foundational issues in my soul. If I am committed to Jesus and committed to a life of missional discipleship, I must keep an eye on the foundation. Just like our house, if there are problems in the foundation, they will eventually come to the surface. When that happens, the stage has been set for struggles, temptations and broken relationships. 

Just like my house, I can’t always see the foundation problems myself. I need to be in community with others who are joining me as we follow Jesus. The early Methodist movement was characterized by these kinds of relationships. People watched over one another in love as they met in class meetings, bands and other small group contexts with the goal of being formed into the likeness of Jesus. From the Holy Club’ to his dying days, John Wesley understood that deep community and spiritual friendships were essential to pursuing the life Jesus calls us to.  

I know many Christians who don’t have such valuable spiritual friendships in their lives and that saddens me. Many of these Christians look like they have it all together. Just like the new windows on our house, it seems things are in great shape until a real challenge comes. Then the weakness in the foundation becomes clear. Things begin to crumble, creak and ultimately, crash. 

I think we can still learn from John Wesley and the people called Methodists who pursued Christian holiness by gathering with spiritual friends.  This model can still help us grow closer to Jesus.

As of today, I belong to four fellowship bands connected with the Inspire Movement. Inspire Fellowship Bands are updated Wesleyan bands of two to four persons meeting together to help each abide deeply with God and live missionally in the world. Each of my bands is unique. One is a local fellowship band with a friend from college. The others, which meet on Zoom, include an Irishman, a missionary to Eastern Europe, a Texan, and guys from Indiana, California and the Carolinas. These are very different groups, yet each gives the others permission to examine the “foundations” of our souls. While our conversation may sometimes drift to the mundane, we try to draw each other back to what is really happening deep in our souls as we follow Jesus. Those foundational questions like, “How is it with your soul?” keep us focused on the underpinnings of our faith and not just what’s on the surface. 

My friend and mentor, Dr. Phil Meadows often laments that the lack of real Christian community in our modern times is a major factor in why people have left.  Along those lines, I recently read a new book, The Great Dechurching. The book seems to make a good effort to understand who is leaving and why they are leaving church. The authors identify several de-churched groups who identify community, friendships, and belonging as the reasons people have left the church, and some of the reasons they might return. It could be argued that these persons found their churches lacking a sense of deep Christian community and thus few calls or opportunities to examine their “foundations.” 

With an unexamined foundation, problems will eventually come to the surface. When they do, people without community often cannot navigate the challenges. As the challenges mount, the very church which could be remodeling their faith gets blamed and left behind.

So, what do we do? 

We all need to examine our own foundations. In order to do that we need trusted spiritual friends to speak into that reflection, help us draw closer to Jesus, and follow the nudges of the Spirit to shore up that foundation. For those of us in leadership, this is especially urgent as people are leaving the church. People around us need not just another face-lift but a deeper examination. This means we have to have our own house in order, from the floor joists through the utilities to the finish. Once we have tended to our own solid foundations, then we can begin helping others find those spiritual friends who can help them walk with Jesus. 


To learn more about the Inspire Movement, visit:

Little Christs

by Maxie Dunnam
for the Wesleyan Accent
a resource of World Methodist Evangelism


Christians are “little Christs.” Being Christian is being Christ in the world. What Christ has been and done for us, as Christians we must be and do for the others. We must live as Christ in our daily relationships.

If my expression, “little Christ,” is new to you, maybe even a bit troubling, I remind you that Martin Luther was convinced that Christians are to be “little Christs.” We Christians are to be a continuation of the Incarnation. 

The apostle Paul talked about the Church being the Body of Christ – a continuation of the incarnation. He expressed it concretely, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, … and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19, 18 NKJV). What Christ has been and done for us, as Christians we must be and do for the world.

What does it mean to communicate Christ’s presence to others, to be “little Christs” to the world? Two biblical images are useful: disciple and pilgrim

As disciples, we are apprenticed to our Master, Jesus Christ. A disciple is a learner, not in an academic sort of way, but in the same way that one is an apprentice to a craft-person; learning the craft at the work site while doing the actual work. So, as Christians, we are always in a growing-learning relationship with Jesus Christ.

Pilgrim adds to the meaning of being a disciple because it suggests that we are going someplace; we are on a journey. We are journeying to God, and on that journey we walk in the company of Jesus, who is our guide.

Jesus expressed it emphatically: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). When Jesus wanted to define the meaning of discipleship, he asked people to grow and go with Him.

A story in the New Testament clarifies this call of Jesus. A young rich man, a ruler of the people, came to Jesus and asked, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus told him to keep the commandments. He responded that he had kept the commandments; that was the desire of his life, and he was committed to doing that. But Jesus, always perceptive about persons, made this piercing observation, “You lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” Then he added this invitation, “Come, follow me.” (Luke 18:18-22 MKJV)

The call is clear – it is a  call to be a pilgrim, to walk with Jesus, to be his disciple.

Discipling Over Programming

by Rob Haynes
Teaching Pastor
Christ Wesleyan Church


I’m Sorry I Didn’t Make Disciples Sooner

I come to you today with a confession: 

I failed to take seriously the command of Jesus to make Disciples. For too long, in my three decades of ministry, I ignored the simple and direct command of Scripture to make disciples who will make disciples. It wasn’t on purpose. I thought I was doing a great job, but I now know that I was woefully deficient. 

Alongside this confession, I am hopeful, more so than ever. I am convinced, more than ever, that our denominational heritage of discipleship in Classes and Bands, the original Wesleyan/Methodist Small Groups, is the answer for the current and future church. However, for nearly thirty years I missed that message. As I said, it was not a sin of commission, rather of omission. Allow me to illustrate.

I began serving in ministry in the mid-1990’s. The prevailing model of ministry at the time was to build great programs. If we built a great program, then many people would come. Some of them might return. They would get involved in another program that might keep them connected to the church. A few of those would go a little deeper and might lead another program. You get the idea: we were taught to program so that we could build a program that would build programs. 

Allow me to brag just a moment: I became good at building programs. I could build something that could get people to come out and even some of them would return. As a youth pastor, I created events for students after football games that attracted hundreds of teenagers. I put together some great mission trips to some cool places. As an associate and lead pastor, I replicated these practices with adults. The names changed, but the methods were the same.  

However, I am not sure I made many disciples. When I look at the mandate of the gospel, I see several things pointing me to make disciples, but nothing about occupying people’s time with programs.

This may seem a little harsh. It may even seem foolhardy to some people. You may be reading this and thinking that I am crazy for not wanting to attract people. However, I have found that if we spend all our time in ministry merely trying to attract people according to the current whims of the culture, then they will merely move along to the next thing that catches their attention.

I was confronted with this reality in a couple of conversations when I was a youth minister.

One day, I ran into Anthony walking into church on a Sunday morning, guitar in hand. Anthony was an influential teenager in our church. He was a talented musician, a leader in his school, and was friendly and outgoing. I asked him if he was coming to the really cool thing that I had planned for next Saturday. I can’t even remember what I had programmed, but it was another way of keeping people busy at the church. His reply cut me to the quick: “I’ll come if I can’t find anything better to do.” Ouch! This was one of the key people I expected to see there! If he wasn’t going to come, I was in trouble.

The second was with some parents of the students in my ministry. On a Sunday morning we were talking in the Sunday School hallway in between the worship hour and the Sunday School hour. They were lamenting that their teenage children were not coming to church. Their conclusion was this: With absolute resolution parents should get their teens out of bed and bring them to church! Then it hit me: of the three or four families standing before me, none of their teens were in church that morning. When I asked why this was, they each sheepishly offered half-hearted excuses of tired children or over-programmed schedules. 

The church, and me as their minister, was not offering anything different than what they were getting anywhere else. I was just putting Jesus’ name on it. Much like retailers competing for market share, I was competing for the attention of teens with forces that grab their attention much better than I could. 

I wish I could tell you that I learned my lesson immediately. Oh, if only. However, I succumbed to the pressures of these forces for several more years in ministry. If you serve in ministry, maybe you have seen it too. It takes on different shapes depending on the place and target age groups. It can look like “Caring Ministry”, “Pastoral Care”, “Age-Level Programming”, “Men’s Breakfast”, or even “Sunday School” and “Small Groups.” 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the church being a center of community activity or with providing fellowship for those who are facing loneliness, isolation, or disenfranchisement. However, we must be cautious not to confuse programmed entertainment with discipleship. And the Church’s primary role is to make DISCIPLES, not to merely entertain those who show up.

I did not learn this soon enough. I continued to make the mistake of following the whims of my church members. They wanted to be entertained, and to put the church’s name on it. Sure, we talked about the Bible. We talked about Jesus. We enjoyed one another’s company. However, I seldom saw life-changing ministry happening. I blamed many things, but rarely the right thing: My failure to make more and maturing disciples.

So, at this stage in my ministry, I have decided to put all my energies into disciple-making over programming. In the church we planted a few years ago we have made this the key focus of everything we do. This, by no means, reduces the role of mission or evangelism. Rather, just the opposite. Because I do not treat them like a programming audience, it means that I am not solely responsible for mission or evangelism. It means I am learning to walk with people as they discover the Holy Spirit’s desire as to how they should serve in faith sharing with others. The best way I have seen to do this is right in the middle of our heritage as Wesleyans as demonstrated in the Class and Band Meetings. 

Let’s face it: the Church is facing several challenges today, challenges from which the Wesleyan/Methodist movement is not immune. I do not fear for the future of the church. Rather, the global and historical witness of people committed to discipleship gives me hope. 

The GPS/SatNav in my car gives me an important reminder about this hope. When I lose my way, it tells me that it is time to “recalculate” and get back on the road heading the correct direction. It is time to get back on the path to which God has called us: to make disciples, not merely comfortable and entertained church-attenders.

This is my confession. May You, O Lord, have mercy upon us, spare those who confess their faults, restore those who are repentant, and grant that we may hereafter live a godly and righteous life. Amen.

One in Whom Christ is Felt to Live Again

by Maxie Dunnam
for the Wesleyan Accent
a resource of World Methodist Evangelism


Someone has defined a saint as “one in whom Christ is felt to live again.” That really is a definition of any of us who would be truly and fully Christian. The whole meaning of living the Christian life is continuing the life of Christ, replicating that life in the world. This happens through the power of the Holy Spirit and obedience–our seeking to be and do everything Christ calls us to be and do, which means that what Christ has been and done for us, we must be and do for others. Clearly this is a journey that continues into eternity.

One of the most Christlike persons I have known is Pauline Hord, an older member of a congregation I served. She was the most unique blending of prayer and personal piety with servant ministry and social concern I have known …

Pauline’s passion was literacy and prison ministry. She worked with our public schools, training teachers in a new literacy method. Until she simply “gave out”, she gave three days a week, four or five hours a day, to teaching this new method of literacy in model programs.

But, also, once a week she drove from Memphis to Parchman State Prison in Mississippi, to teach prisoners to read and write. Along with this, she ministered to them in a more encompassing way as she shared her love and faith, and witnessed to the power of the gospel …

During his administration, President George Bush started a program in the United States called “Points of Light.” He was calling for citizens to exercise positive and creative influence and service in the areas where they lived. In the different cities and communities of America, people were recognized for being “points of light.” I nominated Pauline Hord for that honor, and she was written up in our daily newspaper.

President Bush came to Memphis to honor the seven most outstanding “points of light” in our city – the people who had done the most for the sake of humankind. Pauline Hord was one of those selected. The President invited those seven to have lunch with him when he came for his visit to Memphis.

But he made a mistake, setting the luncheon on a Wednesday. When Pauline received the invitation, she apologized. Wednesday was her day to go to Parchman Prison to teach prisoners to read and write, and witness to them of the love of Christ. She could not give that up to have lunch with the President.

To have known Pauline was to catch a concrete vision of what it means to live as a Christian, one in whom Christ was felt to live again.

Being Christian

by Maxie Dunnam
for the Wesleyan Accent
a resource of World Methodist Evangelism


Often, when I’m teaching the Christian faith, I ask people to name one person who best communicates the meaning of the Christian faith and way. One of the persons that is most mentioned is Mother Teresa. I have probably read as much of what others have written about her and her own writing, as I have about any other “hero of the faith.” I know a lot about her but I did not know her personally.

I met her once. She came to Memphis to dedicate a convent of her Missionaries of Charity. There was a great worship service and celebration of Mass in the Coliseum with over eight thousand people attending. A “holy hush” fell over that huge gathering as she and her sisters entered. 

My wife and I were fortunate to be among a few the Bishop invited to meet and be blessed by her after the Mass. My experience in that service and her hand on my forehead blessing me is a lifetime memory. I understood, in that brief encounter, how she became the influence she was in Malcolm Muggeridge’s conversion.

Muggeridge wrote one of my favorite books about her. He was a brilliant newspaperman in Great Britain and an antagonist of the Church and the Christian faith. Late in life, primarily through the influence of Mother Teresa, he was converted to Christianity and became a powerful defender of the faith. He spoke of Mother Teresa in this way, “In the face of a Mother Teresa I trace the very geography of Jesus’s Kingdom; all the contours and valleys and waterways. I need no other map.”

He had seen her and her Missionaries of Charity in the slums of Calcutta go about Jesus’s work of love with incomparable dedication. He wrote, 

When I think of them, as I have seen them at work and at their devotion, I want to put away all the books, tear up all the scribbled notes. There are no more doubts or dilemmas; everything is perfectly clear….What mind has conceived a discourse, or tongue spoken it, which conveys even to a minute degree the light they shine before men?

I wish I had known her personally. I met her only once. With Muggeridge, “In the face of a Mother Teresa I trace the very geography of Jesus’s Kingdom.”

Our Kingdom Niche

by Kim Reisman
Executive Director
World Methodist Evangelism


Scripture focus:

The truth is, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, because the work of the Son brings glory to the Father. Yes, ask anything in my name, and I will do it! (John 14:12-14, NLT)


I believe God has a plan for each of us. Not some sort of cosmic predestination or fate. A uniquely created purpose, an individual destiny, a divine destiny – divine because God created it for us. Our created purpose or destiny is the reason God designed each of us so carefully, with special gifts and talents. Discovering what that created purpose is should be a primary goal as we follow Jesus. Without an understanding of our created purpose, without a sense of why God wired us the way God did and gave us the talents and gifts that God did, we will continually struggle with the connections between our faith and daily lives. We will have no basis for understanding God’s plan in connecting our faith with the activities that go on around us day after day. Jesus promised that we would do greater things even than he did. We will never be able to fully claim that promise for ourselves if we lack an understanding of what our purpose within God’s kingdom actually is. We must discover our Kingdom niche.

An important first step in this process of discovery is to examine the gifts and talents that God has given us. It can sometimes be difficult to identify our particular “gifts,” but be assured, all of us have talents and gifts. What we often miss as we try to identify our gifts is one of the clearest signs – enjoyment. The things we enjoy are frequently connected to the areas in which we have talent.

My experience with writing is an easy example of this. I love to write and am also fairly good at it. Yet, at one time I believed that to be able to use my writing in ministry would be “too good to be true.” One of the tragedies of our current age is that we have lost a sense of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. I certainly missed it when I dismissed my enjoyment of writing rather than recognizing that enjoyment as the working of the Holy Spirit urging me to take something that I did well and use it for God’s purpose. I probably would have been content to privately enjoy my writing if a colleague had not suggested that quite possibly God had blessed me with a love of writing precisely because God wanted me to use it as part of my ministry. What an eye opener that was! Using my writing as part of my ministry had seemed like a luxury, when actually it was a necessary part of the way God intended to use me.

God has blessed each of us with a unique assortment of talents. God has given you a love for something because God desires that you use that something as part of God’s overall Kingdom work. When we develop an understanding of how God has gifted us, we gain insight into our divine destiny – our Kingdom niche. We’re better able to see what needs to be done to exercise those gifts as a deliberate part of our created purpose. For some of us that might mean moving into territory that makes us uncomfortable, or undertaking challenges that enable us to develop our abilities more fully. For all of us though, it never means taking on commitments that do not suit us.

I have a dear friend who wanted to sing in the choir at his church. He came to rehearsals and was warmly welcomed. After a few weeks, however, he realized that he just is not, and probably never will be, a singer. He decided that the choir was probably not a part of his overall Kingdom niche. Now he teaches a high school Sunday school class – something he does very well and really enjoys.

Jesus promised that we would do even greater things than he did. As you pray and fast this month, open yourself to the movement of the Holy Spirit to make you more aware of your gifts and talents. Maybe you need to spend some time thinking about your giftedness. Create a list, beginning with the things you enjoy. Focus on one of the abilities that you have listed. How might you use this gift for God?

Through this process, I pray that you would become more and more aware of your own gifts and talents and open yourself to God’s power to use them. I pray as well that having done that, your faith and your daily life will become intimately connected as God uses you for Kingdom work.

The Good News of The Good Life

by Joseph Seger
Resource Lead
World Methodist Evangelism


We need to change the world. This message continuously repeats throughout the world today. Whether we believe it or not, we see, hear, and encounter it everywhere. From our social media feeds and the many causes shared there to the virtue posturing of the latest ad, the message continues – life would be better if we only – the answers vary, but the same questions arise.

Should life be better? What is the good life?

We may know it by sight or feel. We may desire it as we look at the people around us. We certainly share it in the stories we tell. Good stories give our hearts and minds room to play out real life’s struggles. They also reveal the issues of the human heart.

I recently watched the Lorax with my children. A classic Dr. Seuss tale refreshed in a clever way. In it, the people of Thneedville are sold fresh air and plastic everything as a result of environmental constraints and constant advertisement. A world only animation could offer in a fun way. Still, amidst the laughs, the social critique of Western civilization jumps off the screen. An individualistic approach to life has led many societies promoting the ‘good life’ by ‘biggering and bettering’ in Seuss’s classic observation. Keeping up with the Joneses and the so-called American Dream pull its followers into the business of busyness.

It made me pause and take stock of how I might be caught up in a real life reflection of this fictional tale. Am I really just giving my children experiences or am I also pursuing this empty promise? Do I pursue what I believe to be good or just the next thing offered? Has the good news of advancing lifestyle pursuits greater digital access moved me to live under FOMO (fear of missing out), or its recent iteration of FOBO (fear of better options). Am I caught up in this hesitating loneliness and the gospel of plastic consumerism? How should I be living?

It’s a question which applies to us all and haunts human history – How then shall we live? It forces us to pause and reflect on our current path in life. I won’t burden you with my own reflections (though we have remarkably less lying around these days). I will give you the question which often haunts me, ‘Am I living the good life?’

Philosophers and politicians have offered varying answers. History tells us how these proclamations have swung societies and nations back and forth in life’s pursuits. Great empires rose, fell, and were torn apart by the ways the people have grabbed a hold of an offered answer – or the ways in which they failed to consider a way together.

This is still true today. The world changes as it stays the same. Of late, people have clung more to ideas not from moral or thought leaders, but rather entertainers, influencers, and advertisers. Attention has flowed towards those who can capture our gaze over those who have shown character and wisdom. This leads to fads, gimmicks, and novelty demanding our life fulfillment.

Yet nothing is new under the sun. Blaise Pascal, the 16th century mathematician, brilliantly articulated this truth in his Penses, “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”

We cram the biggering and bettering into a bottomless hole that has but one satisfactory answer.  God. Only God can sustain our longing, being, and purpose. The better product, the funner event, the shinier life, the tribal prestige, the ambitious agenda – all fall away against the march of time. Or as Ecclesiastes teaches, “Meaningless, meaningless – all is meaningless.”

How then shall we live? The one answer Pascal reveals is not a principle or definition, but rather a God-centered life well lived. We have stories of someone who revealed this life to us and it is good – some say good news for us. For the answer is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The answer is Jesus, who told us long ago about the emptiness of other pursuits,”The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Jesus’ answer has an invitation which extends still today. The good life lies in the way following his teachings. The good life comes from loving our neighbor, seeking justice, coming alongside the downtrodden, loving ourselves, and walking humbly with our God. It remains good news to those not yet living in it that abundant life can be had by all. It offers life unswayed by advertising and social advancement. History reveals countless lives which witness to these truths. And we are all invited to add our lives to the many who have walked this path.

I confess I have at times been swayed by the pursuits sold and modeled to me by many. Over time, I have seen and felt them turn to ash. Only Jesus’s way has endured the trials of time. My hope is that people look at my life and see not the ‘biggering and bettering’ of consumerism’s empty promises, but rather the abundant life of obedience to Jesus, the fount of eternal life. And about this, I care a whole awful lot.

How then shall we live? By following Jesus and inviting others to join in the journey. By this the world will indeed change.. May we share this good news well as we tell stories of life lived along the path Jesus calls us all to walk.

Methodism Around the World – Brazil

In July the wonderous movement of the Holy Spirit was experienced in Brazil.

From July 24 -29, Central Methodist Church in Londrina, Brazil, World Methodist Evangelism, Agência Malta Metodista, and many dedicated teachers worked together to host a regional young adult seminar called Metanoia.

The word metanoia has Greek origins and is defined as a transformative change of heart.

With the hope of cultivating leaders who will help build faith-sharing movements, Metanoia gathers together passionate young adults for several days of worship, study, and training. This gathering is a unique opportunity for these young leaders to connect with each other and with God, and to learn with others who are passionate about sharing the gospel. This experience, also allows these young people an opportunity to discern their calling as they are encouraged to live more fully as committed disciples of Jesus Christ.

These young leaders are the catalyst to motivate their generation to impact the world with greater courage and integrity on behalf of Jesus Christ. As they build relationships that extend beyond our own contexts, they expand their vision of God’s purpose for their lives.


Here is one testimony from our time together:

Loeci –

I had high expectations for Metanoia. I had planned for my whole family to come but it didn’t work out. My daughter became sick about a week before we were set to leave. Very sick. What’s worse, we were told she would need to spend 7-10 days in the hospital. My family is most important to me, so this meant I might miss Metanoia. Since I was at the hospital for so long, I took the opportunity to share the gospel with other mothers who were also there with their kids. Meanwhile, I was praying for a miracle, for quick healing for my daughter, so I could attend. I prayed, put it in God’s hands, packed my bags, and kept praying.

After several days of uncertainty, my daughter was finally released from the hospital just a few minutes before I needed to leave! I was still nervous about attending Metanoia, but my husband and daughter told me to go. They said it was important for the relationships and to discern what God had for us next. I had felt called to serve orphans and widows in another country, but the timing for me and my family was not right, so I asked God to give me my next step. After attending Metanoia, I now have clarity on what’s next: to serve that same hospital where my daughter was cared for!

The picture is me sharing with my husband and Pastor Flavio about everything that I learned at Metanoia and about the work I would like to do in the hospital!!

Our King Carries a Towel, Not a Scepter

by Rob Haynes
Content Development Team
World Methodist Evangelism


The world watched last September as millions mourned the death of Queen Elizabeth. Subsequently, many watched with great interest as Charles was enthroned as King in May. The pageantry and celebration had not been seen in a generation. As King Charles assumed the throne, he was given the regalia of royalty: a crown, an orb, and a scepter. However, it is the scepter that monarchs have used across centuries and cultures to symbolize power and authority.

What we hold in our hands can say a great deal about who we are and our intentions. If I approach you with a football or with a first aid kit or with a dinner plate, I am conveying different messages. It also may say something about who I am or what skills or authority I possess. While anyone may hold a football or a dinner plate only the king, by rights, may hold the scepter. However, what if a king were to give up his rights to such power in favor of a more peculiar demonstration of power?

John’s gospel gives us a beautiful account of the Thursday night before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. The final hours that Jesus spent with his disciples is full of rich messages. One of the most beautiful scenes is when Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. Chapter 13 tells us that Jesus knows that His time is now short. Judas Iscariot has already committed to betraying Jesus. John points out that Jesus knew “that the Father had given all things into his hands…” (v.3, emphasis mine) This means that Jesus could have set things on a different path. He could have stopped Judas’ plot. He could have thwarted those who sought to take His life. He could have defeated the Romans. The power was in His hands. He could have wielded the scepter that was rightly His.

However, “He took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.” (v. 4) The Greek word used here that we translate “took off” can also mean “laid down.” The hands that deserved the scepter that rules the universe, laid down his robe—and his life—and picked up a towel that was reserved for the lowest of salves. He took the time to wash the feet of those who would abandon Him in just a matter of hours: including the ones who would return to follow him and the one who set the plans of his death in motion. He deserved the power. He chose peculiarity.

Many parts of our culture today demand that we grab as much power as possible. This power, we are told, comes in the form of political influence, financial gain, or a favored reputation in social circles. Even in parts of the church today people are vying for money, influence, and worldly power. However, none of these are the pattern of Jesus. He knew that the peculiar pattern that His disciples must follow is the pattern of the Cross. In doing so, He would prove that true power comes in the Resurrection.

Modern-day followers of Jesus are called to follow this same peculiar pattern. The Bible’s answer to the challenges in today’s world, and our individual relationships, is not more struggles for power, status, or influence. Rather, the answer is showing one another that our Savior has called us to choose peculiarity over power. We are, of course, called to follow Jesus in holiness and righteousness. Along the way, others will let us down. We, ourselves will fail sometimes. Our response, by Jesus’ example, is the pattern of the Cross. In this pattern, the power of His resurrection is made complete in us.

Many Christians tell me how they long for things to be different. They tell me of their ideas on how to bring about change in the individuals, institutions, and social systems that are marred by the sin of reject God’s teaching. No doubt, our world desperately needs the transformation that comes through Christ’s message of hope, forgiveness, and a call to holiness. At the same time. Jesus’ followers must resist the urge to grab the scepters of power the world dangles before them. These apparitions of power never last. Rather, imagine a world where Jesus’ followers came together to convey His message with the towel of servanthood. People will wonder at our peculiarity. When they do, we should point them to the Cross and watch Jesus’ Resurrection power make them new.

Christ at the Center

by Kim Reisman
Executive Director
World Methodist Evangelism


Scripture focus:

Clothe yourselves with the armor of right living, as those who live in the light…Let the Lord Jesus Christ take control of you. (Romans 13:12, 14, NLT)


Last month we focused on the way in which justice undergirds our faith because it is an attribute of God. This month, I want to focus on temperance. Just as biblical justice expands and deepens the classical notion of justice, so it is with the temperance of Scripture. It expands and deepens classical temperance, which the Greeks understood as “nothing overmuch.”

The virtue of temperance has gotten a bad rap over the years, but it is simply the proper ordering of what is good within our natures. Rather than attempting to eliminate our natural inclinations, temperance seeks to order them, thus producing a well-ordered soul, a well-balanced self, and a well-proportioned life.

Plato viewed temperance as a rational ordering of the soul that kept it free.The opposite of temperance then is intemperance or imbalance in which the soul is not free but in bondage to a particular aspect of its nature. This bondage can occur in two ways. Part of the self can rule the whole – we see this in situations of addiction. Or, the whole self can become fragmented, pulled apart by the excess of many things.

Temperance is valuable as we seek to connect our faith to our daily lives. We’re confronted on an almost-daily basis with choices about how we will live our lives and the role faith will play in them. As we make these decisions, temperance protects us from being dominated by only one part of our whole selves. It keeps the drive to succeed in our careers in check and thus avoids excessive conflicts at home. It guards us from believing we need to be everything for our families to find personal fulfillment. Temperance protects us from the excess of many things by enabling us to avoid filling our lives with too many competing demands that can lead to a loss of balance because we can no longer find our center.

Temperate followers of Jesus know themselves. They recognize what’s important and can set priorities and goals. When we’re temperate, we understand the idea of delayed gratification and are willing to make sacrifices for what we want. Temperate people make wise judgements about what to do and not to do as they seek to order their souls.

Biblical temperance is about finding balance within ourselves, but more importantly, it’s about being centered – centered on Christ. Again, there is a deepening of the classical notion. It’s not enough that the soul is well-ordered; it is to be well-ordered toward love – the love of God and the love of our neighbor. The well-ordered soul that results from temperance isn’t for our own benefit, even though we certainly do gain from it. It’s for the sake of God and neighbor. The Workbook on Virtues and the Fruit of the Spirit explains it this way:

In classical Greek thinking, the mind conquers all problems; thus, the root of evil is ignorance. Reason is what saves us; therefore, temperance is the rational ordering that comes through the exercise of the mind. Christian temperance is, on the surface, quite similar; but it has a completely different foundation. The biblical notion of temperance asserts that it is not ignorance but sin, that distortion of our heart, that is the root of evil. Reason alone is unable to save us. Reason can fix ignorance, but it cannot fix sin. Only Christ can fix sin. Therefore, it is not reason that produces temperance, but the Holy Spirit that indwells us when we come into relationship with Jesus Christ. Temperance, then, is the living of a Spirit-filled, Christ-centered life. (1)

This is the crucial point when it comes to following Jesus and connecting our faith to our daily lives. As Christians, we claim Christ as the center of our lives. We look to him to provide order for our souls, for “when Christ is the Lord of our lives, nothing else can be; when Christ is not the Lord of our lives, anything and everything else will be.” (2) When Christ is at the center of our lives, we’re able to live temperately, with balance and order within our souls. We’re able to organize our lives toward love of God and neighbor, making decisions that are right for us and connecting our faith in visible and tangible ways to our everyday lives.

As you pray and fast this month, reflect on the ways in which intemperance might be entering your life. Is there an area of your life that is dominating and blocking you from experiencing balance and a well-ordered soul? I pray that as you place Christ more and more at the center of your life, you would be able to live by the Spirit, keeping in step with the Spirit at each turn of your day.




(1) Maxie Dunnam and Kimberly Dunnam Reisman, The Workbook on Virtues and the Fruit of the Spirit, Upper Room Books, 1998, p71

(2) TheWorkbook on Virtues and the Fruit of the Spirit, p71