Tag Archives: Embrace

Community: Connecting the Dots

Recently, the World Methodist Evangelism staff met for a time of connection, relationship-building, and vision casting. As our team has expanded and grown, we look forward to new ways of living out our mission to equip church leaders in the Wesleyan Methodist family to share their faith effectively. 

Technology allows flexibility for our team to work, with our Associate Director of Education and Leadership Development Dr. Rob Haynes living in Alabama, our Associate Director of Community and Creative Development Elizabeth Glass Turner located in Ohio, Executive Assistant Shirley Dominick coordinating from Indiana, and our new Director of Development Bonnie Hollabaugh working from Tennessee. We are able to join in weekly video conference calls together, seeing each other’s faces, hearing each other’s voices, and utilizing email and phone apps to stay connected daily. 

Yet there is something irreplaceable about face to face meetings. In these contexts, we are able to stand circled in prayer, eating together, laughing together, and continuing to learn how God has wired each of us uniquely for the work at hand. In those moments, the concept of embrace is embodied: we open our arms, wait, close our arms, and release. 

It can be tempting in an era in which many of us spend chunks of time online to think that a social media post stating our beliefs is sufficient as a way of sharing our faith, or that cleaning out the back of the hall closet for donations is an ample expression of generosity. Yet Christ calls us to be his hands, his feet to those around us in a very physical, tangible way: to be ready to embrace others, not just mentally or emotionally, but to be prepared to physically embrace living, breathing people, who are flawed, or hurting, or growing, or obeying God’s call as best they can. 

Many resources have been published recently on the value of physical proximity and neighboring in our living out of the Christian faith. As we continue to live into digital existence, we stay rooted as communities of Christ followers who give and learn together. People who follow Christ are people who value creation and who value embodiedness, because Jesus took on flesh in the Incarnation, redeeming physical life and raising it from the power of death. As we share communion in congregations around the world, we remember this truth: that we depend on the Body of Christ, broken for us. We taste bread and grape and we know that our senses are speaking to us of God’s love. 

Joining together in fellowship, in physical presence, allows our senses to whisper that among a group of particular people, we belong. We have entered each other’s presence, we have embraced each other as people being shaped more and more into the likeness of Jesus, and we received grace. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

The Embrace of the Self-Giving Christ

A Trinitarian foundation for evangelism begins with God’s initial self-giving in creation, and extends to God’s self-giving in Jesus Christ. At the heart of our faith is the belief that God became human in Jesus, and in Jesus, the redemption of all creation has begun. This is important for evangelism because it highlights God’s faithfulness, not just to humanity, but to the entire physical universe. The destiny of the whole world is tied up in Jesus Christ. Thus, redemption is not the process of being redeemed from creation. Creation is not something that needs to be escaped or destroyed for a new creation to come into existence. What God created, God called very good. Our Wesleyan tradition emphasizes this. Therefore, redemption is the redeeming of creation, where all of creation (not only human beings) is perfected and restored to its intended integrity and wholeness and where God’s holy love is in all and over all.

God’s self-giving in Jesus Christ becomes an even clearer model to ground evangelism when we recognize the dual themes made evident in the cross. As our crucified Lord, Jesus stands in solidarity with all who have suffered, while at the same time offering atonement to all who have sinned and fallen short. In other words, God’s self-donation is for both the oppressed and the oppressor, the perpetrator and the victim. It is impossible to understand the fullness of God’s self-giving love without both aspects. It is impossible as well to understand the holistic nature of evangelism without these twin themes. Christ’s self-giving love overcomes human hatred while at the same time creating space within Christ to receive estranged humanity. These two dimensions, the giving of self and the receiving of the other, are intrinsic to the internal life of the Trinity and, therefore, form the foundation for authentic evangelism.

The life and death of Jesus Christ reveal a crucial pattern for us: radical obedience to God and selfless love toward other people. As we explore the essential values of evangelism, we will not discover a mandate to perform certain deeds or learn particular doctrines. We will discover a pattern laid out for us in the life and death of Jesus.


Embracing God Who Creates


Creation is never an extra in Christian faith; it is foundational. All else moves outward from there. That idea is not always as obvious as it should be. It is easy to flip things around and think of God as the Redeemer who also creates, rather than as the Creator who also redeems. But that would be a mistake borne of placing ourselves at the center of the universe, rather than the one who truly belongs there – God.

God creates.

God redeems.

Christian faith is deepened and enriched when we get the order right. This is especially true in the arena of evangelism, where our focus is often on individuals and our fervent hope that they might come into relationship with Jesus Christ. There is no doubt this is an extremely important focus. Yet, where we begin a journey often has a significant impact on where we find ourselves at the end. Thus, where we begin our thinking about evangelism is very important.

The faith we receive when we encounter Jesus Christ is faith in a Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Of course, the second person of the Trinity is vital; but our creeds remind us of the order: we believe in the Father, Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. Starting there widens the scope of redemption considerably – it is indeed good news for all creation.

When the essence of evangelism, those values that lie beneath our practices, rests firmly on an understanding of our Triune God, there will be a consistent ethos, a “way of being in the world,” that colors all our efforts, regardless of where we live or the distinctive aspects of our culture.

As Christians, we worship a creating, redeeming, sustaining God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the God who redeems not only human beings, but the entirety of creation, which Paul tells us is even now groaning as God continues to work within it for God’s redemptive purposes.

We worship a creating, redeeming, sustaining God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the God who is working, even now, to eliminate evil and bring to fruition the justice and peace of the kingdom inaugurated in Jesus of Nazareth. It is this God who creates. It is this God who redeems.


Adapted from Dr. Kim Reisman’s “Embrace” faith-sharing study.