Tag Archives: United Methodist Church

Elizabeth Glass Turner ~ Reckoning Before Revival

There is a reckoning unfolding that we would avoid if we could – unless we are one of the people who have been crying out for it, praying for it, watching the horizon for it.

But the people who pray for revival and the people who pray for reckoning aren’t always the same.

In the open air of summer camp meeting, I watched with child’s eyes as adults around me responded to altar calls from evangelists. Most of the people sitting on rough wooden pews were not atheists; they were looking for sanctification. Often, they were looking for release – catharsis, tears, freedom in individual hearts and minds. Preachers cautioned against returning home without living out the work claimed to have been done in the heart kneeling at the altar rail. I lost count of the times I went to the altar to pray.

Good was done in those camp meetings. When revivalistic Protestants speak of revival, it almost always entails looking back and looking forward – back to something that was, forward hoping to see it again. A lot has been written in the past few years that helps to puncture the yearning for a supposed golden time or the vague chase for nebulous revival.

Exploration of travailing prayer looks at the presence of focused, laboring intercession preceding spiritual awakening within the footprints of church history. Travailing is childbirth language; it is the language of being in labor, experiencing the pain of contractions. Rather than lament the absence of an idealized past with varying descriptions of revival – rather than hope wistfully to experience those descriptions of revival if God chooses to allow it (as if God is preoccupied on the phone rather than willingly pouring out the power and presence of the Holy Spirit) – discussions of travailing prayer highlight the rhythms of awakenings around the world the past few hundred years. Through this, we find helpful posture and practices for those hungry for spiritual awakening. A willingness to engage in travailing prayer should precede scanning the horizon for signs of revival.

Discussions on travailing prayer seem to be a necessary and pivotal counterpoint to any approach to revival that reduces awakening primarily to a personal experience of subjective emotional response. If we do not accept the burden of laboring in travailing prayer, we cannot complain of the need for awakened revival.

But I would say today, on a cool spring morning in the early years of the 21st century, living and breathing on American soil, that the people who pray for revival and the people who pray for reckoning aren’t always the same people. But they may be praying for the same thing.

People who pray for revival may want Holy Spirit power; people who pray for reckoning want the power of God to flip the power of oppressors upside-down.

People who pray for reckoning are people who are already used to praying travailing prayer, because they don’t have to go far to find themselves groaning in spirit.

The power of God may be poised, waiting to see whether the people accustomed to praying for revival will awaken to the deep-seated memory that revival and reckoning were never separated in the first place.

Reckoning came before the glory of the Lord would be revealed. The apocalypse – the uncovering – the unveiling – the revealing of God’s glorywould not occur without reckoning.

The people of Israel learned and forgot this time and again.

When the Word Became Flesh and walked around revealing God’s glory to untouchables and undesirables and overlookeds and underfeds, reckoning thundered in his wake; the same God spoke the Truth of God and to some it sounded like blessing and beatitude and to others it echoed of woe and dread.

To desire God’s glory without submitting to God’s reckoning is to desire the benefits of God without the costs of the way of Jesus.

Judas wanted to be near power and glory. Judas was near power and glory. Judas could not submit to the reckoning that occurs in the presence of God who was walking around eating fish and raising the dead and sitting in the houses of imperial collaborators.

Judas acted out of self-preservation and then regretted it; but the apocalypse – the uncovering – the unveiling of his own heart and motives became a further moment of reckoning for the rest of the disciples. In the face of the crucifixion, they also faced the revelation of Judas’ actions. Gospel readers know that before Judas tried to bolt as a disciple, he embezzled from the treasury box – a box funded by wealthy women supporting Jesus’ ministry.

In Acts 1, about 120 men and women – disciples of Jesus – gathered together earnestly praying, before Pentecost – before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In the midst of this travailing prayer, before Pentecost, they face what Judas has done – “he was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”

Reckoning comes before revival.

Had the wealthy women disciples noticed discrepancies in the treasury and prayed for God to reveal the truth of what was happening?

Had Judas stolen from someone who’d given their last two mites, their five loaves and two fish? Had someone powerless seen his quick, hidden dip into the group funds? Had someone prayed for reckoning? Someone who was dismayed but not shocked to learn about Judas betraying Jesus?

We cannot pray for revival without being willing to face the reckoning. If we submit to the reckoning, we may or may not see revival, but we will have submitted ourselves to the justice, mercy, and power of God – “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)

An impoverished unmarried woman prophesied in a time when her homeland was occupied by foreign forces:

“And Mary said:

‘My soul glorifies the Lord
     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.'”

This ferocity from the mother of Christ celebrates the fact that for many, reckoning means hope.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
” She rejoices because God has been “mindful of the humble state of his servant.”

Her suffering had not been overlooked; her humiliation had not been forgotten or ignored; the injustice experienced by her people was being answered in the arrival of the revelation of the Son of God – the God of jubilee and freedom, hope for widows and welcome for strangers.

People who pray for reckoning are people who are already used to praying travailing prayer, because they don’t have to go far to find themselves groaning in spirit.

There is a reckoning unfolding that we would avoid if we could – unless we are one of the people who have been crying out for it, praying for it, watching the horizon for it.

But the people who pray for revival and the people who pray for reckoning aren’t always the same.

Where in the Book of Acts can I find the Holy Spirit pouring out on groups of believers easily characterized by shared race – when that race is so predominantly represented because congregations and traditions sprang up geographically in places that less than a lifetime ago had Sundown signs posted at city limits? How can I say I long for individual and corporate spiritual awakening if I pray for revival in a room dominated by other white Americans?

Predominantly white towns and regions did not happen accidentally. Thousands of American churches are predominantly white because decades ago explicit signs or implicit laws made them that way and kept them that way.

Some of the oldest, storied, traditional Black Methodist denominations exist because white Methodists kept them out. Consider the AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Zion Church:

“The origins of this church can be traced to the John Street Methodist Church of New York City. Following acts of overt discrimination in New York (such as black parishioners being forced to leave worship), many black Christians left to form their own churches. The first church founded by the AME Zion Church was built in 1800 and was named Zion; one of the founders was William Hamilton, a prominent orator and abolitionist. These early black churches still belonged to the Methodist Episcopal Church denomination, although the congregations were independent. During the Great Awakening, the Methodists and Baptists had welcomed free blacks and slaves to their congregations and as preachers.”

Revival and reckoning had gone hand in hand – during the Great Awakening, Methodists and Baptists had welcomed “free Blacks and slaves to their congregations and as preachers.” But in the wake of the awakening, hearts closed; decades before the Civil War, the debate within the Methodist Episcopal Church over accepting Black ministers led to the official formation of the AME Zion Church.

Sitting in the humidity watching adults fumble down the aisle of the open air tabernacle toward the altar, crickets and cicadas loud against the singing of “I Surrender All,” almost every face around me was white.

How can God take seriously the prayers – even the travailing prayers – for revival and spiritual awakening that are prayed distracted from the cries, laments, and groans of those praying for reckoning?

We want revival only inasmuch as we desire to submit ourselves to reckoning, and the predominantly white Protestant Church in the United States on this Eve of Pentecost 2020 has shown nothing so clearly in the past six months as its damnable refusal to submit to anything, much less the convicting reckoning of Almighty God.

We want revival for ourselves and reckoning for our adversaries, rather than reckoning for ourselves and revival for our adversaries. The way of the cross of Jesus Christ welcomes the painful scrutiny of the Holy Spirit upon ourselves and the Holy Spirit’s merciful grace toward literally everyone else.

White Christians who pray for Holy Spirit power need to ask ourselves if we have a history of using power well. If we cannot answer that with a “yes” then we should beg God to spare us from pouring out any holy power on us that would consume us in its blaze. We should beg God to spare us until we have the character to withstand the presence of the Holy Spirit – “our God is a consuming fire.”

Desiring proximity to power and glory without submitting to the reckoning that occurs in the presence of God will place us squarely alongside a disciple – but not the disciple we would wish to emulate.

If revival does not come for you, it cannot come for me. If reckoning is what you are praying for, I cannot ignore it. If my prayers for revival sound trite while you groan for God to hear your pleas for justice, then I must join your groans and prayers for reckoning, sharing in your travailing as I can.

Ferocious Mary, mother of God prayed table-flipping prayers years before her son walked into the temple for a day of reckoning.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

If Christians are baffled at why our prayers are being sent away empty, maybe we should consider that it is because we are avoiding the reckoning while praying for the revival. The arm of God will crash down on us like thunder if we think we deserve the outpouring of the Holy Spirit while avoiding truth; if we think we are entitled to revival while others need to prove their worthiness.

The Holy Spirit of God poured out on women and men, empowering them to speak in different languages. Jews from all different regions heard God calling out to them in their own languages, with their own wordsGod’s heart in the sound of their own accent:

“‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

Pentecost has always only meant that the pouring out of the Holy Spirit means hearing God’s wonders. The Holy Spirit was set loose witnessing to the Resurrected Christ: “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.

If I do not have ears to hear the groaning for reckoning, I do not have ears to hear the wonders of God.

If we justify church leaders who abuse their positions to exploit others, we do not have ears to hear the wonders of God.

If we ignore the groans of suffering people inside or outside the church, we have stopped up our ears to ignore the wonders of God.

If we resist the opportunity to learn our own history and the history of others so that we can better grieve and lament our broken, shared story, then we dim the volume of the wonders of God.

If we scorn the accounts of the hurting out of the compulsion to justify people who remind us of us, we silence the mouth of Jesus; we drown out the wonders of God.

A few months ago, Rev. Shalom Liddick preached on intercession. Anointed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, she testified to this truth:

“I’m your keeper – you are mine. The fact that God came to Cain and asked, ‘where is your brother?’ tells me something. It tells me God will ask me about my community. ‘Hey – where is…?’ It is my responsibility to pray for you. Where are you, friend? We live in a culture where we want to be independent. But I need to make it a point to always present you before God, and you need to make it a point to present me before God.

Remember: you are your brother’s keeper; you are your sister’s keeper. You’re a watchman. And where God has placed you, God has placed you on purpose. Watchmen stand in the middle to communicate, to see, to defend. An intercessor stands in the middle to intervene on behalf of somebody else.

God calls me and calls you to be people who get in the middle and say, ‘God, can you help my sister? Can you help my brother? Can you help my community?’ God is present – in the middle – of everything.”

Reckoning comes before revival, and before we open our eyes on Pentecost Sunday, we must face the question of whether or not we have failed to be each others’ keepers. Whether we have neglected to stand in the middle and intervene.

In John Donne’s classic poem, “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” he considers the question not only of inquiring whose funeral a bell announces, but also the dilemma of whose responsibility it is to ring a bell announcing a sermon. Reflecting on funeral bells tolling, he wonders if the bell could ring for himself, if he were too ill to realize how ill he was:

“PERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he
knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so
much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my
state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that.

The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she
does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action
concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which
is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member.
And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is
of one author, and is one volume.”

Can one be so sick they do not recognize the extent of their illness – to such a degree that they do not realize the funeral bell tolls for them? Can our souls carry unseen disease, visible to those around us but hidden from ourselves, so that we do not even realize the reckoning is ours?

On responsibility to ring the sermon bell, he muses that those who realize the dignity of the task will quickly respond to share the responsibility: “The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth.” The bell tolls for the person who thinks it summons them.

But whether or not we have trained our ears to hear the summons is another matter. And this is the tragedy of Pentecost: “Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.'” We cannot hear what we do not listen for. We cannot hear revival if we believe it doesn’t sound like reckoning.

Every time a funeral bell tolls for someone else, it tolls for me, because their death diminishes me.

“I’m your keeper. You are mine. God came to Cain and asked, “where is your brother?”

The people who pray for revival and the people who pray for reckoning aren’t always the same people. But they may be praying for the same thing.

Come, Holy Spirit.

And let justice, like revival, roll down.

Omar Al-Rikabi ~ Being a Waffle House Church in the Storm

“A terrible screaming began among the English,” John Wesley wrote in his journal, “But the Germans calmly sang on.”

Sailing aboard The Simmons from England to the American Colonies in 1736, John Wesley found his ship overtaken by storm after storm. Ironically, the ship sailed in October in an attempt to dodge hurricane season, but now here they were, with the wind and sea tearing the main sail in two and water flooding the boat.

Wesley, a minister starting what would be a failed missionary trip to Georgia, was scared of drowning and found himself in a crisis of faith, “ashamed of my unwillingness to die.” But also on board were 26 Moravian missionaries from Herrnhut, Germany, and as he worried they worshiped.

It’s fitting that the founder of our movement hoped to avoid hurricanes, because today the United Methodists are facing their own category 5 storm: General Conference 2020, which will make landfall in May and determine the future of our denomination (and for good measure, we’re also facing the other hurricane of General Election 2020) .

The thing about hurricanes is that we can see them forming out at sea a long way off, days away. The anxiety builds when the weather reports put all the different “spaghetti model” forecasts on the tv screen showing all possible trajectories, turns,  landfall locations, wind speeds, and flooding.

But no one really knows where a hurricane will hit and how bad the damage will be until it actually gets here. And if you’ve ever been through a hurricane, it doesn’t matter how much you prepare or even if you’ve been through one before, when they hit they’re still a shock and they do some kind of damage. The issue is how much, and what it will take to recover.

No matter what “side” you’re on in General Conference (or the General Election), we see it on the map, and anxiety is building. There will be shock and damage. But nobody knows what will actually happen until it gets here, and so we’re left with doomsday forecasts for months.

So what are churches to do while we wait, and who are we going to be in these storms?

What’s our plan? Breakfast. Our plan should be breakfast. Stick with me on this.

In Acts 27, the Apostle Paul sets sail for Rome, and along the way “the weather changed abruptly, and a wind of typhoon strength (called a ‘northeaster’) burst across the island and blew us out to sea.” (Acts 27:14, NLT) The crew panics and starts heaving cargo overboard to lighten the load. They lower the lifeboats, but Paul convinces them they’ll all drown if they jump ship, so they cut the boats loose. They can’t see the sun or the stars, so they can’t navigate. And in dramatic fashion, the Scripture says, “at last all hope was lost.”

All fear and no hope. Sound like anything some of us hear from the pulpit or the pundits?

Finally, after two weeks of fearfully trying to outlast the weather, Paul’s had enough and offers them…breakfast: “Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. Altogether there were 276 of us on board.(Acts 27:33-37 NIV)

Did you catch it? It wasn’t that the sailors couldn’t eat because the storm left them with no food. They had plenty of food but were too afraid to eat because of the storm. And what did Paul serve first? The Eucharist. Holy Communion. The body of Jesus Christ: “[he] took some bread, gave thanks to God before them all, and broke off a piece and ate it. Then everyone was encouraged and began to eat.” That’s the Lord’s Breakfast he started with right there, and the crew had so many seconds and thirds that they were throwing food overboard!

As our hurricane approaches, how do we do the same? How can pastors and congregations learn from and lead like the Apostle Paul?

By looking at the “Waffle House Index.” The Waffle House Index is an informal metric FEMA has used to determine how bad a storm is and how long recovery will take. You see, the folks at Waffle House have a whole system for keeping restaurants open in a storm. They know how to do natural disasters. The index is three colors based on what they can offer: green means Waffle House is still serving the full menu; yellow means they’re serving a partial menu because there is no power or water; red means no menu and the restaurant is closed, so you know the damage is bad – really bad.

We need to be a “Waffle House church,” first offering people the body and blood of Jesus Christ, then offering a full menu of the faith even in the midst the storm.

How? Well first, we need to know our menu: the full story of Scripture and the robust depth of our theology, not just our favorite orders (the items we like to pick and choose). How do we learn (or re-learn) it? Maybe we need a congregation-wide confirmation class, a deep dive into the Apostle’s Creed, maybe a renewed form of class meetings and banded discipleship. Whatever a Holy Spirit imagination gives us for preaching and teaching, we can’t know our menu just for the sake of more information, but for the sake of transformation into being like Christ.

Second, we need to become better customers. Yes, there’s a lot of talk about how Christians shouldn’t be consumers, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. If you’ve ever waited tables, you know customers are most known for one thing: complaining. Maybe it’s because “the customer is always right” even when they’re wrong. I get it, because if you feel left out of the preparation process (not in the kitchen, so to speak), or your expectations haven’t been met (“This isn’t what I ordered!”) it’s easy to become disenfranchised. But we’ve got to move away from all the grumbling, criticizing, and fear-mongering. In other words, we’ve got to stop screaming.

Finally, we need to move from being customers to being waiters. Theologically speaking we’re supposed to be “servants,” because Jesus says things like, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life.” (Mark 10:45, NLT) And of course, one of our mandates is to have the same attitude of Jesus Christ who took the position of a servant. (Philippians 2:5-7)

Consider a story from last November of a Waffle House in Birmingham, Alabama. Because of a glitch in scheduling, just one cook was on duty after midnight to manage about 30 hungry and inebriated customers. He couldn’t keep up, but then one customer got up, put on an apron, and started washing dishes. Another started cleaning tables and serving coffee. With the two customers-turned-waiters at work, the lone employee could keep cooking.

To be this kind of servant in the storm evokes what Wesley wrote about later in his journal at sea: “There is something special about these Germans. They are always so happy! And, they do the menial jobs on this ship without protesting.”

Remember, we’re not a bunch of inebriated customers at one in the morning, we’re servant people filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). This means our storm might give us the opportunity to creatively step up and serve the souls of some hungry and angry people (aka “hangry”). But like Paul, we’re serving them Jesus in the middle of the storm because Jesus is the one who created the very wind and waves (Colossians 1:16) and then later spoke to the storm and told it to calm down (Mark 4:35-41).

And isn’t it interesting that when he was in the storm at sea Wesley asked himself, “How is it that thou has no faith?” which is the same thing Jesus asked his disciples in their boat? Jesus is asking us the same question now. “You have one business on earth – to save souls,” Wesley said.

What does that business look like in our churches in this season of storms? It looks something like the way late chef Anthony Bourdain described a Waffle House: “Where everybody, regardless of race, creed, color or degree of inebriation, is welcomed. Its warm, yellow glow, a beacon of hope and salvation, inviting the hungry, the lost, the seriously hammered all across the south to come inside. A place of safety and nourishment. It never closes. It is always faithful, always there for you.”

Eventually, Jesus will return and there will be no more storms (literal or metaphorical). And when he does we know that, “The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, [Jesus] will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat!” (Luke 12:37, NLT)

Until then, we might as well set the table.

Elizabeth Glass Turner ~ The Courage to Be: Conferencing and the Kingdom of God

While United Methodists spend a great deal of time, money, and energy attempting to shape potential outcomes of the specially called 2019 General Conference in St. Louis, it is quite possible that the conference most potently rocking the Kingdom of God already took place in St. Louis over the summer.

The fate of the United Methodist denomination is not unimportant; but perhaps neither is it as vital as we sometimes think; after all, the connection is only about 50 years old and is only one expression of global Wesleyan Methodism. No, the fate of the universal church does not hang on the continued existence of the United Methodist Church, as I’ve written elsewhere. And on this website, we feature contributors from a variety of Wesleyan Methodist denominations. Certainly, the UMC has value – I mean ecclesial value, not just net worth, which bears pointing out in days when talks of formal separation are occurring.

But the Kingdom of God is far more expansive than any one denomination or tradition.

And one might well wonder if a modest St. Louis conference last July is the first ripple of an expansive, if demanding, movement. The leadership of the Revoice Conference represented several Christian traditions, Protestant and Catholic, Episcopalian. Over 400 people were present, and thankfully, Revoice leaders made plenary and pre-conference sessions available – for free, and thank you for that, conference organizers – on YouTube.

As the official website states, “The annual Revoice Conference is a gathering designed to encourage and support gay, lesbian, same-sex attracted, and other gender or sexual minority Christians who adhere to traditional Christian teaching about gender, marriage, and sexuality. General sessions offer opportunities to worship together with other likeminded Christians, and workshops cover a variety of topics, aiming to encourage and support gender and sexual minorities in their efforts to live faithfully before God. We also offer workshops for straight family members, friends, pastors, and other faith leaders, helping them to understand the challenges that gender and sexual minority Christians face in their faith communities and society at large and equipping them to respond with gospel-centered compassion.”

In our current cultural moment, reaction was swift from all different directions; critiques were levied at organizers, either because they were promoting celibacy, or because they chose to use phrases like “gay Christian.” In this sense, rhetorically they couldn’t win. In another sense, when one watches the plenary sessions, it’s clear that in a deep, profound, cosmic sense, they couldn’t lose. Such is the nature of chosen sacrifice. At the time, Twitter went into overdrive, and allies cropped up in figures like Southern Baptist professor and writer Karen Swallow Prior, who, despite having recently been hit by a bus – by a bus – took to the organizers’ defense.

After watching the three general sessions, here’s what I came away with:

Humility. The sweet spirit and bold courage of each presenter was evident. Each had the courage to be…well, to be. To be themselves, in their own skin, with their own stories, in the context of a great and loving God of transformation. I was humbled, watching these siblings in Christ who knew critics of all stripes were ready and waiting to dismantle their very personal testimonies and communal convictions.

Deep sadness. The conference was organized wisely around three hubs: praise, lament, and hope. This ordering makes sense, I think, for participants. For viewers who are straight, I think I’d recommend watching in the order of hope, praise, and lament: we need to sit a while with lament and not hurry through it. I was grieved, and I think you will be too, as I listened to testimony of lament – and it is powerful testimony.

Hope. Not everyone will agree with the theological beliefs that ground this conference. But I was encouraged to see that in a cultural moment where so much seems defined by polar opposition, here something grows that is unique, different, and beautiful. It does not particularly fit one mold, because it seeks to follow Christ as best it knows how, and following Christ means you simply can’t be pigeonholed.

Much of the work of this conference is based on the thinking and writing of New Testament scholar and Anglican celibate gay Christian Dr. Wesley Hill, who has authored a couple of books on the subject and has a website here. His excellent discussion topics frequently have the sting of intellectually honest analysis; he has a high view of scripture; he believes in the great tradition of the church; he has experienced mistreatment from within the church. There is a great deal here that will strike to the heart either of progressive or conservative readers.

The Spiritual Friendship website, which features multiple contributors, gives space for ongoing discussion about Christian community, friendship that is robust or even as I would describe it (I don’t know if he would) covenantal, service, and hospitality. Because as unique as this venture may sound to 21st century Western ears, in fact, there is a rich tradition of Christians choosing to live celibate lives and to serve others and the church through that. So too are there meaningful examples throughout Scripture and church history of deep friendships that sustain us in our need for human relationship.

What the Revoice Conference has given us, in part, is a potent call to receive the leadership of this ecumenical group of Christians who are wrestling through theology, philosophy, Scripture, and tradition as they exercise the courage to be. For a long time, straight Christians have spoken to topics of human sexuality. We are not in the wrong to do so. However, through gatherings like Revoice, the Holy Spirit is asking us if we are ready to listen and learn from the spiritual depth of our Christian siblings who are leading intentional, deliberate, and sacrificial lives.



Note from the Editor: The featured image is part of a work of art entitled, “A Friend of Solitary Trees” by Shitao, dated 1698.

Interview ~ Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett on Lent

Wesleyan Accent shares the opportunity to explore the Lenten season with Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, who serves the Birmingham Episcopal Area of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church in the United States.


Wesleyan Accent: Growing up, Ash Wednesday was something vaguely Catholic-ish printed on the calendar; I didn’t observe it until later in life. What role has Ash Wednesday played in your life? How has that changed (if at all) depending on what season of life or ministry you’re in?

Bishop Wallace- Padgett: I was first introduced to Lent as a child. Ash Wednesday was a big deal to me during the early years of my Christian walk because it was the day when I would “give up something for Lent.”

As a child I usually eliminated chocolate or candy from my diet as my “sacrifice” for the season. I thought my practice had much more integrity about it than what my buddy did. He gave up peas- a vegetable he didn’t like!

As I grew into young adulthood, Ash Wednesday became more to me than the day that launched Lenten observances. Though I still observed a Lenten fast, Ash Wednesday was the entry way into a 40-day experience of penance and reflection. I found special meaning in the imposition of ashes as a powerful reminder of my mortality and brokenness.

WA: What’s been one of the most surprising or poignant Lenten experiences you’ve had personally? Have you ever had a particularly difficult Lent?

Bishop Wallace-Padgett: My most poignant Lenten seasons have occurred when I have fully engaged in observing multiple Lenten practices such as reading a daily Lenten devotional, observing a Lenten fast, participating in special Lenten and Holy Week worship services, giving money to an outreach ministry and adding an extra act of service to my weekly routine.

I have discovered that there is a correlation between the depth of my Lenten journey and the height of my Easter experience. Lenten practices do not make me “holier” and thus more ready for Easter. Rather, like other holy habits, they increase my openness and readiness to experience Christ’s presence in my life.

WA: Some of us have been on both sides of the altar during Lent – receiving ash or bestowing it, observing Lent or planning sermon series for the season. I would imagine that there are a couple of layers of additional swapped roles when you find yourself in a place of ministering to pastors from the episcopal level. How has your perspective on Lent changed as you’ve moved from role to role? 

Bishop Wallace-Padgett: My perspective on Lent has changed over time. This has been affected more by changes in my own personal spiritual journey than by the different roles in which I have served. As my relationship with Jesus Christ has deepened, my Lenten journey has grown more meaningful. I loved journeying through Lent as a local church pastor with a specific congregation. This was a rich and bonding experience.

In my current role, I am journeying with an entire Annual Conference through Lent. I preach often during Lent, including Holy Week services. I also attend as many special services during Lent as my schedule permits.

On another level, it feels appropriate that much of our appointment-making work happens during Lent. The reflective, prayerful posture required by the appointment-making process fits with the mood of Lent.

WA: Lent always seems like a strange play between individuality and community – it’s highly personal on one level, and yet a communally shared experience of traveling the church calendar together. How do you think this dynamic is beneficial to Methodists?

Bishop Wallace-Padgett: One of the strengths of Methodism is the dynamic between individuality and community. On one hand, John Wesley’s heart was strangely warmed, indicating a deeply personal experience with Jesus Christ. On the other hand, he developed a system of accountability within the context of community through class meetings and bands. We are a community of people who are on our way together in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Lent and Ash Wednesday have survived as Christian observances because we need them. Our souls long for a deeper faith. While these special days are sometimes misused and trivialized, for those believers who observe them earnestly, they are a powerful influence for growth in our walk with Christ.

Lent is a season that calls us to personal introspection. It also is a time that accents our life together in community. You are right. Lent brings with it a unique dynamic that emphasizes both the individual and the communal nature of our life together.

WA: And as always, is there something we should have asked but didn’t? Do you have any other reflections or comments?

Bishop Wallace-Padgett: Thank you for inviting me to participate in this conversation. My prayer for us both and for those reading this interview is that we will have deep, meaningful and life-giving Lenten experiences that prepare us for a joyful and powerful Easter.



This originally appeared on Wesleyan Accent in 2015.

Elizabeth Glass Turner ~ What A Successful Conference Looks Like

It is the season of punditry.

So goes life as a U.S. citizen who belongs to The United Methodist Church. General Conference cycles match up with the presidential election cycle: every four years, we encounter heated tempers, technicolor bluster and threats to move to Canada. This year the hype in the United States is reaching near radioactive levels of intensity. Beneath the strident cadence of religious and political talking heads lies a current of fear – not unwarranted: will the radioactivity evaporate our identities, leaving only our shadow imprinted on the wall?

Those who lament that public discourse has gotten out of hand have a point. On the one hand, as the historical hip-hop musical/runaway success “Hamilton” reminds us, our nation’s DNA is laced with potent personalities arguing for the best way forward. As caustic as presidential debates may get, no one has once again died in a duel at the hand of the Vice President (yet). On the other hand, it’s like a splash of cold water to view old footage from 1980’s political debates. The change is astounding. Something is qualitatively different.

The past few days Twitter has been cluttered by pastors, District Superintendents and Bishops praying for a “successful” General Conference. In 2016, what does a successful General Conference look like? Does it look like one where parliamentary proceedings avoid giving the floor to anyone with a spray tan and blueprints for a giant wall? Does it look like a gathering with international media coverage that manages to avoid protests, riots and arrests? Does it look like a gathering with international media coverage that manages to foster protests, riots and arrests?

Does a successful General Conference look like #itstime, #wearemore, or #faithfulumc? (The #wearemore hashtag is the branding apparatus of Bishops with ulcers who are attempting to remind everyone that this is a long road trip and we are more when we are together, regardless of who is squabbling in the backseat because “he’s looking at me funny!” The question is whether the grave topics under consideration at General Conference are mere backseat squabbling or whether #theyaremore than that.

What does a successful General Conference look like? A lack of blow-up’s, a hopeful kick of the can down the road? A presence of confrontation, an urgent appeal for honesty and resolution?

How do you have a successful conference when participants are wedded – for a variety of reasons – to positions they feel they must hold at all costs?

The problem with pluralism is the evaporation of telos. How can we move toward a common goal successfully together? That telos, that goal, that end-game, means significantly different things to us. The problem isn’t that we can’t work together. It’s that we’re working towards different ends. To minimize those differences disrespects everyone involved.

In the case of human sexuality within The United Methodist Church, for instance, it doesn’t shut down the argument to proclaim that the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled: many religious bodies – significant ones – still practice a mode of spiritual formation that reflects a traditional stance on marriage and sexuality, including the Roman Catholic Church under the popular leadership of Pope Francis, conservative Judaism, and many branches of moderate Islam. And so United Methodists of different convictions may be willing to work together, but underneath that sentiment is the dread often felt in a dead-end relationship: where is this headed? Is it sustainable? I care about this person, but do we have a significant compatibility issue? What if we’re loathe to stop working together but we are working towards different ends?

So rather successful outcomes – because those vary widely depending on who you ask – what are the attributes of a successful 2016 General Conference of The United Methodist Church?

A successful General Conference will be one in which honesty is practiced with humility. The constituents, organizations and movements present need to be extremely honest about their intentions, goals and convictions – no matter what that means for the future of how we live and worship. Fear of divorce can lead to a lack of bluntness, the inability to frankly and simply express oneself. But the honesty must live and breathe in the ecosphere of humility (not that humility means capitulation). Humility doesn’t mean setting aside conviction. It means the willingness to serve another with whom you disagree while you live your conviction with integrity. It means holding the door open for someone who has made your life difficult.

A successful General Conference will be one in which respect is shown in the mode in which business is conducted. If business is interrupted (a great deal of time, energy, money and travel go into planning General Conference) by special interest groups, be they the Green Party, Right to Life, or GLAAD, then it is fair to ask if the behavior embodies respect for the gathering, however much one might agree with the platform of the protesting group. This is particularly pertinent when it comes to non-members of The United Methodist Church demonstrating on the floor during business. This becomes potently illustrated if you conduct a simple thought experiment: would you vote to allow non-United Methodist members to demonstrate on the floor during business if they came to demonstrate on behalf of a certain presumptive presidential nominee? (Or would you vote to allow United Methodists to demonstrate on the floor during business if they came to demonstrate on behalf of a certain presumptive presidential nominee? Here I suggest the convened body should have a say, and not just the presiding chair.)

A successful General Conference will be one in which the worldwide nature of the church will be celebrated as central to the United Methodist identity rather than an appendix to its agenda. If non-English speakers’ perspectives are dismissed, because of the content or because of their place of origin or race, then respect will not have been shown. Eight years ago international delegates to General Conference faced challenges like receiving their preparatory materials months after North Americans did. They sometimes were asked to vote on what in English were oddly worded amendments or proposals after having the content translated twice, such as from English to French and from French to Swahili. Rather than embrace global delegates, some North Americans, seeing their presence as a hassle, promoted the idea of giving them their “own” conference – a gross failure of basic inclusion at best, and reminiscent of the days of American segregationalism at worst. An intentionally “international” opening worship service serves to highlight the global reach of the denomination – but perhaps in a similar way to highlighting diversity at the Oscars.

As the World Methodist Council reminds us, Wesleyan Methodism has deep, historic roots globally. The Council, which includes The United Methodist Church in the denominations it represents, brings together at least 80 denominations from over 130 countries involving over 80 million people. General Conference is not a time to practice geographical hubris with a colonial residue of paternalistic impatience. Simply put, despite all the “ministry of monitoring” that goes in to making General Conference inclusive, how many members of General Boards and Committees are North American? For all the talk of sharing power, North Americans seem particularly loathe to do so.

Finally, a successful General Conference will be one in which decisions are made. What a simple sentence: what a complex proposal. If honesty is practiced with humility, some decisions need to be made. Sometimes the worst outcome is one in which millions of dollars and work hours are spent in order to tread water. The worst case scenario isn’t, as actress Gwyneth Paltrow would put it, a “conscious uncoupling.” The worst case scenario is that blood pressures will skyrocket and mud will be flung all so that nothing changes – a dysfunctional and untenable position.

A failed General Conference has little to do with whether or not The United Methodist Church chooses to continue to exist in its old form or in new iterations. A failed General Conference will be one in which honesty is swallowed by the desire to appease or to protect the status quo; in which humility is swallowed by a sense of entitlement; in which disrespect is shown in the mode in which business is done; in which the worldwide nature of the Body of Christ is re-sketched with North American features; and in which no clear, coherent, time-bound decisions are made in any direction.

Go, therefore, to your committee meetings and plenary gatherings, to the visitors’ gallery and the restroom, to planning sessions and café tables, and consider your conversations, plans and prayers with these questions in mind: if we’re really honest, what do we want this to look like in four years? If we’re really honest, what is it likely to look like in four years? What decisions will help those to be one and the same thing?

…on earth, as it is in heaven.

Maxie Dunnam ~ Repent But Do Not Whimper

In 1992, distinguished New Testament scholar, Leander E. Keck, delivered the Lyman Beecher Lectures at Yale Divinity School on the theme, “Toward the Renewal of Mainline Protestantism.” He expanded those lectures into a very helpful book, The Church Confident. On the cover of that book was a challenging word. It was not a subtitle—but a sort of personal admonition from the author: “Christianity can repent, but it must not whimper.”

I’ve been thinking about that admonition a great deal lately. Frustration and confusion are crippling us in United Methodism. The possibility of separation dominates the conversation where two or three Methodists (particularly clergy) are gathered together. Though schismatic action has been going on for a long time, that word and the word “division” have become more commonly heard now. The truth is, we are a divided denomination. Thankfully some of our bishops are acknowledging that fact and are fostering helpful conversation about it. Bishop Michael Lowry focuses on the issue in one of the chapters of the book, Finding our Way.

We United Methodists are not alone in the Mainline in this matter of separation. The Episcopal, Presbyterian and Lutheran Churches have already experienced formal division. Keck did not specifically address the dynamics that have led to division in these denominations, but he acknowledged the malaise and impotence of the Mainline, and expressed hope that the British historian Paul Johnson would be proven right in his suggestion that “the current crises of the mainliners is actually the birth pains of the Fourth Great Awakening.”

My prayer is that Johnson is right. The setting is ripe for revival. And the essential response to that possibility is for God’s people not to whimper. Acknowledge our sin, and repent, yes, but not whimper. When we look at the Great Awakenings in our country, with the great Methodist Revival on the heels of them, two things were dominant: one, strong, clear proclamation and teaching of Biblical doctrine and two, passionate, earnest prayer.

Could it be that we are mistakenly centered on institutional unity, when a prior issue is crying for attention: unity in the Gospel. We can have institutional unity without revival, but we can’t have revival without Gospel unity that will come through repentance and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

At the close of His ministry, Jesus commissioned us for Kingdom work:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.

(Matt. 28:18-20)

In response to this commission, the American church in the 20th Century tended toward two distinctly opposite poles. One branch (the Mainline, sometimes called liberal) championed an optimistic commitment to social transformation as the central mission of the Church. Unfortunately, the salvation of souls diminished in priority, thus giving way to what was known as the social gospel. The other branch (often labeled evangelical, sometimes fundamentalist) responded in opposite fashion by stressing personal conversion, the dangers of the world, the centrality of evangelism, and an expectation of a promised place in heaven. One group made converts without making disciples; the other group sought to make disciples without conversion.

The crisis of our time can be the occasion for Gospel revival, where personal conversion and discipleship are integrated. One without the other is not the whole Gospel.

Those last words of Jesus to His disciples represent the marching orders that are to be followed until He returns. There is no more powerful motivational text for Christian mission and evangelistic zeal. And yet, this text is not shaping the ministry and mission of mainline churches. Could that be the primary cause for the crises of our mainline churches, and particularly our United Methodism? If it is so, Keck’s admonition needs to be heeded: we can repent, but we don’t need to whimper.

Ken Loyer ~ Doctrine and Renewal (Part 2)

This post continues a series of reflections on doctrine and renewal. In my last post (Part 1) I shared about the challenges that we face in the UMC to recover our distinctive Wesleyan doctrinal heritage. I mentioned that one of those challenges is moralistic therapeutic deism, a counterfeit “gospel” that has worked its way deep into the minds and hearts of many pastors and lay people in the UMC. I also suggested that we desperately need to return to the theological and doctrinal sources within our tradition in order, first of all, to be more fully formed by those sources as Wesleyan Christians, and, secondly, on that basis, to engage in critical and constructive ways with the issues of our day. I believe that this kind of retrieval is absolutely vital to any hope we have for the renewal of the UMC.

Before talking more about renewal, though, I want to share another story. This one involves a reaction to a YouTube video called “What is Methodism?” that I showed students in a seminary class on United Methodist Doctrine:

The student writes,

“I listened to the video and was amazed that someone would put this video on a public website. It does not make us look good – only one woman actually had any concept of what she believed. But it accurately conveys our sense of who we are – most of us haven’t a clue. We vaguely know that our pastors encourage us to minister to people, but I hear very little about the Gospel, about Christ, or about holiness coming from our leaders. Instead, we hear about the cause of the season, whether it be immigrants, oppressed workers…or – well, you’ve all heard it. At our meetings, we sound like the tear-jerker movie society while all around us people walk past our mostly empty churches headed to soccer games or drug buys.

Yes, this is common in our churches, partially because I have not attempted to define Methodism or generate a pride in being Methodist, but have focused upon using the word ‘Christian’ as I define the character of a good Christian, which hopefully is what our church members will become. If I focus upon Methodism, there is too much disconnect between what I am preaching and what they see in the publications.”

My student shares his thoughts frankly here, and whatever we might think about some of his word choices, he clearly identifies a major challenge facing our church today. What does the UMC believe? What do (or should) leaders in the UMC teach? And in both cases, why? We need to attend to such questions carefully, prayerfully, and when necessary, repentantly. I don’t think Steve Long puts it too strongly in his claim that when UM pastors are generally far more comfortable explaining their personality type on the Myers-Briggs personality test than they are of talking in any meaningful way about the Chalcedonian formula, then we have a theological and intellectual crisis in our church.

So if such stories identify the problems of doctrinal neglect and confusion, where can we turn for a solution? In the face of the challenges before us, what hope is there for a way forward? I believe that we will discover the most promising way forward through a deep retrieval of our doctrine and a comprehensive re-reception of it at every level of our church, especially in the local church since that is the most significant arena for making and growing disciples of Jesus Christ. This retrieval project will be a long and difficult one, but it is critical. My hope is that efforts to reclaim our theological heritage and develop a richer theology for the renewal of the UMC today will continue to bear fruit and spread throughout our church and world. I see doctrine as a light on the path to renewed vitality for the UMC.

Wesley warned of the sort of problems that we now face in his 1786 tract entitled “Thoughts upon Methodism” where he writes this: “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast… the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.” Here Wesley not only provides a warning but also points to a remedy: holding fast the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which the Methodists first set out—or in other words, recovering the Methodist heritage in its fullness.

I hear echoes of Wesley in 2 Timothy 1:13-14: “Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.”


Elizabeth Glass Turner ~ Too Big To Fail

“Too big to fail.”

A few years ago – and it doesn’t matter what your personal political opinion was on the government bailout of American automakers – this phrase rang repeatedly in American consciousness.

These businesses were too big to fail. We couldn’t afford to lose them, no matter the cost. They were essential to our identity and our economic well-being. Of course, the argument itself was faulty. Since when do the merits of saving something – or attempting to save something – rest solely on its size? Nonetheless, Americans were pressured to act with these four words. Too big to fail.

It’s an interesting concept – too big to fail. What about the church? Can a Christian denomination ever be too big to fail?

Certainly, the Roman Catholic Church had immense power and wealth stored up – in the year 1516. The year before a monk hammered a long notice into some wooden doors.

(That’d be Martin Luther.)

And I’ve wondered if a similar sentiment is present behind increasingly urgent calls for unity within the United Methodist Church – that the denomination is too big to fail. It’s certainly been part of the fabric of North American life for a couple of centuries (going back to its origins on this continent, and not just to its most recent incarnation since The Merger of ’68). Before the locomotive connected sea to shining sea, there were Methodists. Before Wilbur and Orville Wright, there were Methodists. Before the stock market crash of ’29, there were Methodists. Before Neil Armstrong left a boot print in lunar dust, there were Methodists. Before the World Wide Web, there were Methodists.

The Main Street Methodist church has an almost Rockwell quality to it, like Woolworth’s used to. And all of these industrious Methodists sent missionaries around the world, and now it’s a global denomination, too, and has been, for years. But even if Methodists are the apple pie on the American religious potluck table – are they too big to fail?

Have we fallen prey to the idea that others can’t do without us? After all, the world – not to mention the Kingdom of God – will continue, UMC or no UMC. It would be egocentric in the extreme to suggest otherwise.

But it is my belief that the Methodist movement has value in the family tree of the faith. And Methodism was a movement, before any Main Street churches ever became a fixture in thousands of communities in our country. After all, John Wesley never set out to create a denomination; he was a Church of England lad, if not quite a proper one.

In fact, Methodism almost had the feel of a religious order in its infancy – the kind that St. Benedict or St. Francis set up within the Roman Catholic Church. There was a strict rule of life (have you read those questions early Methodists had to ask each other regularly?!), and Methodism was a sect in the context of a larger body of believers (originally, the Church of England).

And if the roots of Methodism do have the feel of a religious order, how might that affect how we understand our identity today?

The Methodist movement, as it grew, was an expression of a calling that all were invited to, but few were likely to be interested in.

Wesley organized the movement to maintain a high expectation of lifestyle among members. Methodists served anybody, kept little, and went anywhere. They were teased – or criticized – or violently chased – for always being preoccupied with preaching, the Bible, and prayer (though perhaps less teased for their regular care for the poor and the imprisoned and ill).

Taken together, it’s almost a description of a Protestant monastic order that intersected with public life: a religious order for that beloved Protestant cry, the priesthood of all believers.

This Methodist movement didn’t start out too big to fail – only, perhaps, too eccentric to last. And certainly not mainline.

No historical or cultural expression of the Body of Christ is too big to fail – though it may be too big to survive. And that’s alright. If we perceive ourselves as too big to fail, then we’ve actually already failed – at least in our sense of prevenient grace, and in the awareness of our roots as an odd Protestant religious order.

All I know is, I’m more interested in taking part in the Methodist movement than I am in being a member of a certain denomination.

Which I think Wesley would’ve understood all too well.

Tammie Grimm ~ Doing Discipleship by Being a Disciple

“The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” 

The Mission Statement of the United Methodist Church.

I am an ordained United Methodist clergy and I have a confession to make. I have a love-hate relationship with the United Methodist mission statement. As a Wesleyan, I love it because it is grounded in the biblical witness of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” My heart is warmed by the succinctness and sincerity it expresses, that as agents of God’s grace in this world Christian disciples can be a part of building the kingdom.

At the same time, however, I am frustrated that so often we turn this statement into a mandate for church programming. In many ways, we reduce discipleship to programs in order to engage people in ministry and mission. Typically, discipleship is another name for educational ministries or spiritual formation courses in which persons participate.

In some congregations, discipleship ministries include mission and outreach that members engage in on behalf of or with the community. And all of that is great – these are good things for people to do and worthy programs for congregations to provide. But discipleship in the Wesleyan spirit cannot and should not be compartmentalized to what a particular ministry of the church does.

Discipleship is a way of living. It is as much about being a disciple of Jesus Christ as it is about doing the things of Jesus Christ.

John Wesley preached that persons who do the good works associated with Christian discipleship without being like Christ, were “Almost Christian.” He maintained that more than doing good things, Christians needed “the same mind that was in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5). This means that as Christian disciples, we need to seek the perspective of Christ, to have his character and conviction within ourselves that motivates our outward actions. When Paul directs Christians to imitate Christ in Philippians 2:1-5, he urges readers to be like Christ so that they may do as Christ did. He associates having the mind of Christ as having the love, the humility, and the focus that Christ had (v.2). When we imitate Christ’s humility our interior selves are consistent with our exterior actions. Reading the Philippians passage further, we discover that in being humble as Jesus was, in being compassionate and loving, our regard is not for ourselves, but for others (v. 4). Thus, in attitudes and actions, our focus on others demonstrates what it means to love God and neighbors.

As Christian disciples, we do not serve a meal at a homeless shelter or sign up for a Bible study because it will count towards our good works or help a church program succeed. We engage in mission and outreach because it is centered on others, because it is what Christ did and we seek to be imitators of Christ. Through serving others we demonstrate love in tangible ways towards our neighbor because Christ’s humility has taken root in us.

Make no mistake, engaging in outreach and service to persons in the community is a valid way to be a disciple – as long as the interior life is being attended to at the same time! When questioned by teachers of the law, Jesus responded that we show our love for God and neighbor with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).

I find it particularly relevant that three of the four facets listed; heart, soul, and mind, refer to specific interior aspects of our being. Our discipleship is more than just participating in mission or attending a Bible study that is offered in our local congregation. Our discipleship is lived out when we attend worship, when we take time for a spiritual retreat for renewal, when we pray with one another and for the needs of the world.

True Christian discipleship does typically mean we are doing things but only when we are being disciples and cultivating our interior selves to be like Jesus so that we can do as Jesus did. In order to make disciples, we need to be disciples of Jesus Christ and let our discipleship be a way of life that attracts others to be a part of God’s good work in this world.