Saturday, December 28, 2013

Love Emmanuel

Love can’t be forced. Obedience can be coerced, if necessary. Following a strict code of behavior can be gained by laying out the rational and positive reasons for adherence. A relationship can be engaged long-term through a series of intertwining commitments, peer pressure and cultural mores that promote the relationship.

Love? It can’t be forced. Love is best freely given and received.

God is love. God in love has revealed laws that point to goodness (don’t steal, be faithful to your spouse, respect those in charge) and humanity is better off when following God’s law. Positive moral codes of behavior similar to those in the Bible have been embraced by one degree or another in many cultures. It stands to reason if the universe was created by God that some semblance of a moral law would permeate hearts everywhere. And it stands to reason that something is not quite right with humanity insofar as no culture anywhere has people who always follow even what they believe to be right, whether it be out of fear of punishment (temporal or eternal) or in anticipation of reward (eternal or temporal).

But love, that is God’s aim. And love, not law or reason, holds the ultimate power to transform.

So, Christians believe, God radically changed the course of the cosmos by entrusting his very own son into the hands of a human family. To be born, raised by a mom and dad, experience the horrors of persecution and joys of family, the frustrations of trying to keep food on a table and sense of accomplishment achieved through hard work well done. To learn at his mother’s knee even as he teaches the religious leaders of his day. Perhaps, some would see him for who He is – truth, light, love embodied - and fall in love with him, too. And through this vulnerable exchange become himself a merciful high priest who understands the suffering and temptations of a sin-riddled, confused, hungry people made amazingly in the image of God. And God in Christ, with the full abandon that love alone can engender, gave himself as an atoning sacrifice for all the confused, heavy laden, angry, violent, selfish and arrogant people whom He better than anyone else could ever know were formed by the Lord to become a joyful, creative, aware, free, peaceful and truly wonderful humanity.

Let’s fall in love with Emmanuel – God with us – all over again. Receive His amazing, lovely forgiveness along with the promise of a life with Him that leads to our daily renewal and the promise of a heart full of love for God, others and ourselves.

Your Global Impact Partners

Proclaiming the good news of Jesus and feeding the hungry! Prayers and medicine to heal the sick! Clean water resources and living spiritual water! Raising levels of literacy and teaching the Word of God! Introducing people to the Heavenly Father and establishing networks to support orphans! Seeing people become new creations while planting trees and restoring God’s creation to sustain whole communities! NCC church, you do all of this and more when you support Free Methodist World Missions.
   We take the great commission of our resurrected Lord Jesus seriously. “Go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19). Therefore, while we bear witness in our own cities, regions and nation we also understand the “ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) as an integral aspect our connected gospel vision. Free Methodist world missions and global partnerships account for most of the nearly doubling of the Free Methodist movement over the past half-decade. There is no question but that your missionaries are fruitful.
   Who are the missionaries our churches support?
   The NCC has formally committed to supporting three of our global missions partners. Based in Kenya, Mike and Vicki Reynen are Africa Area Directors. Al and Diane Mellinger are missionaries to Bulgaria, combating atheism and loss of hope with the good news of Jesus. Steve and Jenny Evoy are Area Directors in Asia, overseeing some of the fastest growing Christian movements in the world.
   One benefit of being a denominational missionary (like the Reynens, Mellingers and Evoys) is that more time may be devoted to serving Jesus on the field of harvest and less time invested in raising money abroad for the task. They can do that because they have denominational support. We members of NCC churches are that denominational support.
   Every NCC church is asked to make an annual commitment to one, two or all three of these servants we have agreed to support. We make these commitments every fall. Now is the time. Prayerfully consider how your church might enjoy sharing in the spiritual fruit and reward of participating meaningfully in the Great Commission. “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way…they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others” (1Cor9.11-12). Visit for more info.

Friday, September 27, 2013

What About Church Membership?

Membership can be controversial.  On the one hand, American’s mistrust institutions as a whole so are less likely to “join” them as members.  On the other hand, American’s have fiercely loyal tribal and brand identities (you’ll pry my Apple product from my cold, dead hands!). People pay massive amounts of money each year to upgrade, participate in and promote their ‘brands’ (be it the latest android driven tech or sports jersey).  

Church membership is core to Free Methodist identity. There are many biblical arguments for church membership, and many that would seem to make it irrelevant, the Bible alone does not provide the clearest guidance on the topic. Many large denominational churches in America are shrinking, though  they often hold membership dear. Then again, many large non-denominational churches that reject membership on principle are also in crisis and shrinking. Church shrinkage is not a function of whether or not a group has membership. Neither is church growth a function of membership. However, the largest percentage of churches that are growing, whether they are denominational or independent, do in fact have membership in one form or another.

Church membership is an important tool in healthy spiritual and character formation when membership means something.  Growing, healthy congregations generally have membership criteria is clearly articulated, simple to apply and creates a higher standard of expectation among the church as a whole. Sometimes clearly articulating membership means not calling it "membership." Some refer to a faith or church covenant, or growth principles. 

Membership can be seen as something like, “I pay my entrance fee and get my membership with my secret decoder ring.” It is unhealthy when members have the right to vote on significant matters of church direction but do not participate fully in the major aspects of the covenant. For example, very destructive events in a church’s history have occurred when a building project is under way, or a new pastor is coming into the church, or significant outreach plans are being considered and members who rarely attend church, do not contribute to the financial well-being of the church and who do not engage in the communal spiritual growth practices like small group discipleship or evangelistic outreach come out in droves to block the progress of the active participants who may not be actual "members" but are actually engaging Jesus.  Yikes! It happens.

To make membership dependent upon behavior that conforms to a checklist, however, seems fairly unproductive and outside the realm of a spirit-of-grace-apart-from-the-law. We believe in grace and the power of a spirit-filled community to have a positive impact on people who connect with such people (the church).  For example, Free Methodists believe that infants and children may be baptized because they understand the rite as a means of grace, per Paul’s teaching in Romans, that is not unlike Old Testament circumcision – a community act of faith on behalf of one not able to actively participate in faith that identifies that child in a binding, covenantal manner to the community faith.  In other words, it’s like saying, in the sight of God we declare this child to be one of us and is under the protection of God and this church. Of course, that child may choose a different course come age of reason, but the child is not excluded from the means of grace, growth and good discipleship in community simply because she doesn’t understand what it all means yet.

Who does understand "what it all means" anyway? I have yet to find an elder of the highest character or deepest intellect that could, with a straight face anyway, declare to have perfect knowledge of God’s own doctrine and perfect practice of God’s holiness. That is not to say that Christians cannot mature and grow, and even by a work of God’s grace, be so full of the Holy Spirit that her imperfect knowledge and imperfect behavior is nonetheless motivated, inspired and characterized by the love and peace of God. But in my experience, even this "entire sanctification" is not the rule of thumb.

So how perfect should we expect our church members to be?  What should we require of them?

The Free Methodist Church has a membership covenant.  It is a solid statement of our community understanding of the teachings of Scripture as applied to our current era, and it contains a great deal of guidance regarding biblical doctrine, human relationships, health and well-being and more.  I am a Free Methodist Superintendent, though an inductee to the Free Methodist Church after having lived a life of sin, addiction, anger, malice, racism and rage – set free by God’s grace in Christ’s salvation. I was not raised Free Methodist. But I have been part of the church for some time now and love it with every fiber of my being. I agree with our membership covenant, and seek to be guided by it, though I have not always agreed with each jot and tittle of it, yet do live in harmony with the covenant and to promote it as biblical, healthy and reasonable. 

The Free Methodist "membership covenant," however, has been identified by the denomination as discipleship guidelines. That is, our doctrine, practice and relationships should be growing in ever increasing ways to harmonize with the principles of the covenant. Full adherence to the covenant is not required prior to becoming a member.  

Here is what is required to become a member of a Free Methodist Church. These are meant to allow membership to be as closely tied to biblical conversion and informed healthy community principles as possible without a holiness that is rule-based rather than grace-empowered. These are the ABC’s of what we commit to as members of a Free Methodist congregation (I paraphrase the Book of Discipline ¶8800):

A) I believe God has forgiven my sins through faith in Jesus, that the Bible is God’s Word and my authority and I commit to growing in Christ, the move of the Spirit in my life, and the nurture of the church.
B) I accept and will live in harmony with the Free Methodist constitution which guides doctrine, church governance and conduct. 
C) I will embrace the mission of the Free Methodist Church and participate to fulfill that mission through giving my time, talents and resources. 

The good news with this criteria for membership is that it allows for members to be received and to actively participate in the blessings of the church, and to bless the church and community, fairly early in their connection with Jesus as savior and the church as an enfolding and nurturing expression of the body of Christ.
I have tried to articulate the iPath for the NCC: iNvite, iNcrease, iNvolve and iNvest.  As a church is about the business of inviting people to consider the claims of Christ, and increase the likelihood of a positive response through acts of intentional hospitality and demonstrations of love, they will also need to immediately involve those who express interest in Jesus and the church.  Do not put people in a long waiting cue of various tests and hurdles before involving them in ministry and membership! That’s a sure fire way to impede the work of the Spirit and growth of the church. Immediately give those who show interest some way to be involved, to serve, to grow, to give, to pray, to be prayed for, to learn, to teach.  As soon as someone expresses faith in Christ, and a love for the church that has loved them, and a desire to connect, and as soon as they know what that means, invite them into membership. 

With General Conference approaching in 2015, I wonder if there are ways to improve how we view and implement membership.  Is there different language to communicate biblical community and membership principles that may speak to our culture more effectively?  Are there different standards that should be embraced?  For example some churches have made faith in Christ primary, and then have articulated more clearly than the membership ritual does, that a member must A) Attend worship regularly, B) Give faithfully, C) Connect with a  growth group and D) Serve in some way.  What do you think? If there was a way to improve membership practices and initiation in the Free Methodist Church, what would it be?

Send your ideas to me, Supt. Mark Adams, and I will eagerly and prayerfully be considering each one.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Who's Gonna Do It? Finding and Growing Fruitful Leaders

   The pastor moaned, “There’s no one stepping up to lead.” “There aren’t enough volunteers to run the food ministry,” complained the coordinator. “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the harvest field,” (Luke 10:2) said Jesus.
   Excellent leaders and fruitful servants abound. The Father endowed everyone with gifts, passions, abilities and experiences which Christ purposes to bring ripe spiritual everywhere. But these gifted, fruitful leaders often start out hidden and buried right in front of us. Buried beneath layers of lack of belief, poor vision, insecurity, ridiculous expectations, and lack of love.
   Great commission people will be daily looking for others to invest in. That’s what Jesus meant when He said, “Go, make disciples.” Those with “eyes to see and ears to hear” will find leaders in their midst.
   What do we look and listen for? In my experience there are visible signs that someone, with your investment, will soon shine as a leader.

   Look for people who assume responsibility, and refuse to blame others when things go wrong; and better yet, give others credit when things go right. Look for people who embrace learning, ask questions, and when corrected embrace the opportunity to grow rather cry, “well then, you can just find someone else if I’m not good enough.” Look for the courageous and “mavericky” spirit that asks questions about how things are done, or is unafraid to express a well-considered opinion – particularly when it pertains to a problem’s solution. Look for people who seem to put the good of others or the organization above themselves. Look for people who tend to have others around them and who invite or encourage others to do stuff and be with other people.
   Every church has people like this, and they are solid gold. Bring it to the surface. Here’s how.
   Spend time with your emerging leader. Reflect openly and personally with them the positive characteristics and potential that you see. You’re belief in them is an extension of the “shield of faith.” It clears away muddy lack of belief.  
   Invite the neophyte to join with you on your big mission to change the world by taking on a particular task, while explaining personally why you know them to be capable. Share your vision, and give them an opportunity to see how they fit into the larger picture which expands their own vision and empowers their God-given purpose.
   Promise to be with them, guide them, pray with them, instruct and resource them along the way. Keep your promise. Insecurity and ineffectiveness are not resolved through pep-talks, but through learning skills and being given experiences to grow. This only happens when you do it with your “disciple”. And soon insecurity is replaced with confidence in God’s gifting.
   Let the emerging leader emerge! Give immediate opportunity to do something, with your support. Something other than attending another class or waiting until their life meets your view of the perfect leader. I’m not suggesting you put a newbie on the board of administration, but too many churches are infantilized by leaders with ridiculous expectations of who can play any fruitful role in the life of the church. Everyone, at every stage of spiritual or leadership development, can and should be invited to contribute in some way.
   Wrap it in love. Love is the life-giving living-water that softens the hardest soil to bring forth the sweetest fruit . . . over time. 
   Do this, and you will not lack for leaders, and servants who love you and your church as you partner together in Christ. 
   Or . . . you could just put another blanket announcement in your bulletin that you have a need. Though I suspect that even Jesus, if he had relied on a synagogue bulletin announcement, would have failed to acquire even 12 twelve disciples. Jesus with all His “Son-of-God” power and charisma, had to call each one by name, and invest years in loving, training, believing in, encouraging, forgiving and growing his movement-makers. So do you.

Monday, May 13, 2013


   My family calls it the barefoot desert death march.  I took my wife and sons for an August visit to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. Chaco is a difficult to find but spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of massive stone ruins, complex road systems and calibrated astronomy and observation tools – the heart of a thriving Chacoan culture which gave birth to modern Southwest Native Americans. Among the many petroglyphs at the sprawling Chaco site is the “1054 Supernova” that depicts the stellar phenomena which created today’s Crab Nebula.
   Hiking to this particular petroglyph requires an 8 mile jaunt in blazing heat across a closed trail. It was closed because a flash flood had cut through the trail, requiring any souls desiring to behold the ancient star chart to traverse a muddy, fast-moving desert river. To cross the river, the family de-shod, leaving shoes on the bank of entry.  We then dared to travel barefoot the ½ mile (1 mile round trip) from the river to the cave overhang housing the ancient Anasazi image.
   Avoiding scorpions and rattlesnakes was no problem, though we saw them. Tarantulas and lizards added to the desert charm. Scrambling together through the blazing sun was even fun, for a while. Admittedly, the kids (teens) did not seem to see the great significance of a long, hot hike just to see an old scrawl on the side of a cave wall created by the “Ancient Ones.”
   What the family remembers most is that dad failed to pack enough water. We had enough for half-way. 102 degrees and no shade after a barefoot crawl through desert wilderness is not everyone’s cup of tea. But walking four more miles (with shoes now) and no water did not win dad any “Father’s Day” points. We were thirsty. The hot, steamy, sun-baked water bottles in our truck awaited the family after the trek and under other circumstances would have been repugnant. We enthusiastically guzzled the steamy liquid!
   The barefoot desert death march… It made us thirsty.
   Sometimes in life we seek after laudable goals, and launch out on our trek to achieve them. Good goals. Providing for our families. Growing the church. Leading people to faith in Jesus. Being physically fit. The treks take different forms. But without preparing for the trek, good and remarkable as it may be, by bringing our supply of “Living Water” – we will run dry, we will burn out.
   Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (Jn.7.37,38).
   At Annual Conference 2012, the collected pastors and delegates agreed (voted unanimously) to make a top priority of developing the spiritual leadership within the NCC over the coming two to three years.  There’s no big secret of how to do this. There is only one source of Living Water who dwells within a willing heart and springs forth to bless the faithful, and from the abundance of that joy, bring new life and hope to a parched and weary land.
   We are focused on drinking from that well this year. Pastors and delegates, servants of God all, we want our churches to grow. There are patterns and systems and skills that can help every church do this more effectively. But there is never a substitute for a heart transformed by the Holy Spirit, passionately directed by love for God and neighbor. God will not lead new converts to dry wells from which to drink.
   Annual Conference 2013 is themed “Thirsty.” Let’s come thirsty for more of God. Let’s leave with rivers of living water flowing from within.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Cro-Magnon, Hiroshima and the Carpenter's Son

I want to shout it out! I feel joy and love and hope. 

I do not feel over-the-top happy, nor can I truly say that I am always full of deep love for others nor can I honestly admit that I never grow sad or have doubts.  But I must admit, I am compelled to share that more often than not I do indeed experience joy, more often than not I do indeed feel love and more often than not I do indeed live in an abiding hope.  The reason is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Before my conversion to Christianity, or more aptly put, my realization of who Jesus really is, I was not often joyful, I had little love for myself or others and I felt despair more than I felt hope.  Jesus made the difference.  I came to a small country church in Northern California a young man full of doubt and anger on Easter Sunrise 1980.  I had not been to church in years, and though confirmed a Roman Catholic, had decided Christianity - and all religion - was fairly worthless.  I went to church at the insistence of a friend, and only because she offered to drive the 60 miles it would it take to get me to that ridiculous (in my mind) place. 

Once there I heard it. The resurrection story. I had heard it before, but this was the first time it occurred to me – and it occurred with a power I had never experienced before – that it might be true.  The pastor said (he didn’t shout, jump and down, or use other silly histrionics that I loved to mock), “Jesus is alive. He rose from the dead.  Buddha remains in his grave.  Confucius remains in his grave. Mohamed remains in his grave.  Even Moses remains in his grave.  But Jesus left his tomb, he is alive.”

It struck me then, and it still does, that if indeed Jesus rose from the dead, then He is who claimed to be -  the “Son of God”, whatever that really meant.  I felt thunderstruck. Literally, I felt electricity-like charges flow through my body (weird, huh?), and I knew it . . . I just really knew it to be true. Jesus rose from the dead.  My life was forever changed.  I have been following Jesus as best as I know how, which mostly means relying upon God’s grace with a deep and humble understanding that no really has any sense of God’s true grandeur or power or grace.  And as a result a man who used to very much distrust and dislike most people now mostly loves people, and can receive their love; a man who used to sense depression and discouragement (despite being, for that time, fairly “successful” and “popular”) now senses mostly hope, gratitude and faith. 

For me, the resurrection is the lynchpin of the Christian faith. The risen Jesus is indeed demonstrated to be the “Lord of All” and the “Son of God” and the “Savior” because of the resurrection.  Not just another prophet/martyr/philosopher/guru. The Lord. My Lord.

Following my conversion, several years into my new life as a Christian, I doubted again.  What if the resurrection is a fairy tale?  My goal was truth, and if there is a God, surely God wanted truth.  And if the truth led to the possibility that there is no God (the assumption I had before my conversion) then, well, truth must be truth.  What is real is always, in my opinion, better than what is pleasant but illusory. 

Researching the resurrection led me down many paths, for this is a topic that has had considerable debate of course, throughout the 2000 year Christian era.  I do not here have time to trace out the path of years of examining this core tenant of what led me to experience a life-change.  But I can say that I am convinced that the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is an historic fact.  The resurrection of Jesus was not a hallucination, a resuscitation, confabulation or a conspiracy.  The resurrection of Jesus is simply a fact of history. 

Cro-Magnon painted nicely on walls in France.  Nefertiti was the Great Royal Wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten.  Hannibal crossed the Pyrenees with elephants and troops.  Jesus rose from the dead.  Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States during the Civil War.  Americans walked on the moon. 

I am a Christian because God changed my heart and because I have become convinced intellectually that Jesus died on a cross and rose from dead.  Many historical events have global impact today despite their occurrence long ago (the first stone tool used by ancient humans, the Magna Carta, Hiroshima, etc.).  History’s zenith is the resurrection.  God gave tangible, clear, powerful evidence of His existence and intimate, compassionate, effective love for all humankind.  Jesus is that evidence.  The resurrection seals it.   

My heart is strangely warmed. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Fearlessly Hopeful

“Do not be afraid, I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One, I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever” (Rev.1.17,18).

Saint John heard these words during a time of deep persecution of the church, as Christians had been tossed to wild beasts and set on fire for the entertainment of the population, scriptures were being sought by soldiers and destroyed, along with those who would seek to hide them. The church, despite deep trial and struggle to the point of blood, did not die any more than the Lord of the Church.  Despite pain, suffering, despair, losses and burdens, the word of God to his people from Genesis to Revelation has been most frequently, “Do not be afraid.” 

Many American churches are losing members, Christians are mocked, holiness is viewed as hypocrisy and love is mere sentimentality. Christ followers in the USA sometimes feel weak and despairing. Stop it!  We are a people of HOPE!

Christians are people of hope, not denying that the ‘faithful’ or anyone else should ever suffer. Christians are people of hope because the author of hope is He who parted oceans and raised the dead and is the center of reality. The pain and suffering which occurs to all mortal flesh is not the final word, nor even the present word. The present word is Emmanuel; God with us, even God who has suffered with us. The present hope is transformation from inglorious to glorious, spiteful to compassionate, loneliness to community, impoverished to generous, mortal to immortality.  We see that every day! How can any believer lose hope?

The Lord of the Church is the Living One. He was dead. All looked grim. God appeared, as Pope Benedict recently stated in his final address to the church, to be asleep. But the author of life itself arose from death and is alive, confirming to those who believe that the true story of the world, of our lives, including our pain and loss, is one of victory and life. 

The stuff of the cosmos, quarks, bosons, hadrons, strong and weak forces, were birthed through the eternal mind and unimaginable power of one who IS love itself, LIFE itself.  There is reason to celebrate every day – especially during the Easter Season.  Do not be afraid, be the people of HOPE.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Global Impact in the Free Methodist Church

You have global impact, North Central Conference.  Surpassing one million members is a fantastic milestone for the Free Methodist Church.  We are one of but a handful of Christian movements that continues to grow in America, and exponentially around the world. It’s not an accident. It is the result of a dedicated focus upon Christ’s great commission to “GO!!!” to all the nations, making disciples.

A significant way we take the Great Commission seriously is our missions movement. We develop and deploy smart, dedicated, spirit-filled women and men to develop seriously excellent cross-cultural skills and who are capable of contextualizing the gospel of Jesus in winsome ways in places where the gospel has either not been heard or has been badly distorted.  We call these folks missionaries.  Our missionaries raise up servant-leaders, train and equip, and set loose upon broken and hurting segments of our global population redeemed, renewed, restored and responsive indigenous leaders to keep the movement of being more like Jesus going.  

WE raise up missionaries. WE send them into the world. WE support them and the ministries that are given birth until they are able to sustain themselves and continue the process.  Some of our first missionaries went to the Philippines, and now the Free Methodist Church of the Philippines sends missionaries throughout Asia and even to the United States. That’s how it’s supposed to work.  

WE make that possible when we continue our dedicated support of one of the best, most fruitful aspects of being a Free Methodist in the 21st Century – FM Global Missions.  

Every NCC church should have already decided their annual missions support for 2013. But most have not. At Annual Conference 2011, the pastors and delegates voted in the affirmative to make their missions giving goal a Happy Meal per attender per week.  That’s five bucks a week for the folks who come to church.  A church averaging 50 worshipers, then, should consider committing to global missions 5 bucks (that’s about what a Happy Meal costs), per attender, per week. That’s about $1,000 per month, which is about $12,000 per year. 

Some churches will be led to give a lot more, seeing this goal not as a burden but a joyful way to participate in the most fruitful “Great Commission” endeavor we engage.  Some churches will not be able to give that much, serving primarily the homeless or rapidly mobile immigrant populations, or in very economically depressed regions.  But every North Central Conference church is in a covenantal relationship with each other, our global partners, and I dare say our Great Shepherd Jesus Christ to fulfill the God-given command and holy privilege of GOING into the world to make disciples.  That is why we send missionaries and missions dollars.

Our network of NCC churches have given the following: 2008 - $347K; 2009 - $209K; 2010 - $226K; 2011 - $200K. 2012 (figures through 11/12) - $151K.  That’s not bad. But there’s a downward trend line. We can do better.

We have 4000 people worshiping each Sunday in our NCC churches. If we were able to make our Happy Meal commitment, that would be over $1,000,000,000 each year. If we limit the Happy Meal goal to those who are committed members, that’s about 3000 Christ-followers, the NCC churches would generate over $750,000.00 a year to win the world for Jesus.  

We are capable of much.  What is your church’s commitment?

If your church has not yet made your annual COMMITMENT, your covenantal estimate of about how much you believe you can give to support global missions, the time now. 

It is essential that you make a commitment. The FMCUSA will not send missionaries or support global projects that do have apparent commitment.  You SHOW YOUR COMMITMENT by logging on to our FM Missions Web Site at the beginning of each year and entering the commitment amount.  t’s pretty easy to do. It’s devastating to our movement if we don’t do this simple thing.  

Clear instructions on how to make commitments are located both on the web site and at the web site (

Church may commit to any Free Methodist missionary or country share project they wish to support.  Most of our churches are supporting the work Jerry and Jan Coleman and the projects of Eastern Europe, Jim and Deb Wilson and the projects of Southeast Asia, especially the Philippines, or of Mike and Vicki Reynen and projects in Africa. These are the areas and individuals we support because these missionaries were raised up and sent out from among our churches.  However, as the Spirit leads you and your congregation, we have solid global impact options all over the world that may better fit your passions and spirit-led goals. 

Have global impact. I suspect the literally millions who will find Jesus as savior, discover clean water in their villages, be set free from literal bondage to the sex trade, receive medical care in the name of Jesus, and eat for the first time in a week will be glad you and your peers gave up a happy meal a week to make the world a better place. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Entire Sanctification ... Being All In!

“Entire Sanctification” is an odd and exciting term.  It is a cornerstone Free Methodist doctrine.  It has also vexed and offended many.  The doctrine is particularly frightening for the modern mind when paired with another phrase from our Wesleyan heritage – “Christian Perfection.”   Jesus Christ, our founder (not John Wesley, contrary to popular opinion), was the first to voice this concept.  “Be perfect, therefore,” said Jesus (Matthew 5:48), “as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  And “Entire Sanctification” are the words employed by the Apostle Paul when he prays for the Thessalonian church, “And may the God of peace Himself fully sanctify you, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Literal Translation Bible). 

John Wesley, our historic mentor, pointed not to some unique experience of his own, or novel understanding of the Bible when he called upon those in the renewal movement of his day (called Methodism today) to be sanctified through and through.  He pointed to the Bible, Old and New Testaments.  He drew from the writings and experiences of the early church fathers.  He gave voice to what he witnessed in the lives of believers who, through faith alone received God’s forgiveness and (often after a “salvation experience”) an experience of Spiritual awakening, fullness of the Holy Spirit, which led to such a transformational life change that the only to explain it was that Jesus was somehow living in and through these believers in powerful ways. 

These life transformations were in stark contrast the common experience of Wesley’s Christian peers.  His intellectual Oxford peers had lost nearly all sense of experiencing the power of God in their lives as they traded the treasures of the heart for an intellectualized, often sanitized, version of Christianity that led to Deism, moralism, and other ‘isms’ that were less than God’s desire.  Wesley’s peers in the streets, mines, prisons and distilleries of Great Britain believed the church to be by and large irrelevant for them, with often lifeless spiritual leaders bringing little more than the ritualistic functions expected of them for marriage, baptism and burials. 

Maybe today’s Free Methodists need to find new language.  But we don’t need to find a new message.  Jesus didn’t call for half-hearted, lukewarm commitment to the Kingdom.  The Apostle’s did not die as martyrs preaching a gospel of comfortable acceptance of sins, brokenness, injustice, poverty, self-centeredness.  The early Christian movement did not seize the hearts of slaves and soldiers, artisans and emperors by asking nothing and promising more of the same.   The promise was declared that God’s kingdom belongs to those who are fully, radically, uncompromisingly devoted to following the King.  The promise was that a broken life might be made whole.  A broken world might discover restoration.   As the Ambassadors of the new Kingdom, we go into the nations and teach everything our Lord teaches us, proclaiming and incarnating through the Spirit God’s holiness and love.

John Wesley used 26 different phrases and Biblical references to describe what we today narrowly refer to as “Entire Sanctification.”  He did so because he was deeply concerned that people might become fixated upon or have negative reactions to any one of the terms that he felt the Bible employed in describing the concept.  So, today, I imagine that no matter what different terms we may choose to use, someone will doubtless take exception and claim it is not what they can in any way believe. 

I’m going to take a shot at it anyway.  Free Methodists believe that God expects AND empowers those who will turn to God (either to repent of wrongdoing or to embrace a more beautiful and true life or any combination therein) to be 1) all in with Jesus, 2) radically devoted to God, 3) refuse compromise with the world, 4) full of the Holy Spirit, 5) wholly available for God’s purposes, 6) settling for nothing less than everything God has in store, 7) not holding back or onto anything that hinders God’s work through us, 8) sacrificing anything to be everything God intends us to be.  

Maybe John Wesley said it best when he said, “What I mean by Christian Perfection is nothing other than love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” 

I wonder where Mr. Wesley got that from?

Don’t settle for less than all God wants to be and do in and through you.  Let’s be all in!