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Discipleship Blog

WSBC: Mere Christianity Book IV

Tripp Gulledge

Hey Everybody,

 

Here are Bo's thoughts on Mere Christianity's final book. Stay tuned for the ways Discipleship might continue to do Book Club-like things this fall and spring. We hope this has been a good experience for you.

 

BOOK FOUR: BEYOND PERSONALITY: or FIRST STEPS IN THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY

 

            Since we are covering so much this week, I’m going to do my best to condense what I have to say, but feel free to go crazy with whatever came to mind in the comments.

 

            In this first section, the way Lewis talks about theology is a very Wesleyan school of thought (If you were wondering why Lewis—not a Methodist—and John Wesley—Methodist—think of certain things in similar ways, it is may be because of both of their experiences with the Anglican Church of England. Lewis, I would say, most probably read some John Wesley theology at some point, though.) Anyway, the way that Lewis cites how important it is to build one’s theology not only around personal experiences but also based on those that have come before you—all of the experiences of Christians from the past 2000 years and the Jews even before that. You may remember the Wesleyan quadrilateral from confirmation class. Lewis’ point is that you can’t have a surface level understanding of Christianity because that would not truly be Christianity. I like what Lewis goes on to say about how Jesus is begotten of God and not merely created, and I think he lays this idea out well.

            He goes on to attempt to show what it means for God to be “Three-in-One” and says that this is a higher state of being than we can comprehend, we only know what it is like to be one person, just like we would only know a straight line if we lived in one dimension. Do you think this example works for you? The trinity is a hard concept to understand for sure. Lewis touches on prayer here and expands on the subject in the next section. Specifically, he addresses the issue of God being able to hear and answer all those prayers at once. Lewis says, “Almost certainly God is not in Time… If you picture Time as a straight line along which we have to travel, then you must picture God as the whole page on which the line is drawn.” He then talks about this as it relates to free will and adds his disclaimer that this theology is not mentioned specifically in Scripture, and that being a Christian does not mean you have to believe this.

            Lewis spends the next section discussing this point: “The Son exists because the Father exists: but there never was a time before the Father produced the Son.” He then takes about how we are not begotten by God, we are made, and therefore the purpose of Christianity is to become more like Christ (since we are not Him already, we are merely something made by God, not God.) He continues on this track of thinking in the next chapter, saying, “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.” He then presents us with the toy soldier analogy that I’m sure could get a C in a seminary class if you took that and presented Toy Story as a metaphor of God’s grace.

            I’m interested to hear what everybody thinks of the (for lack of a better phrase) “fake-it-till-you-make-it” act that he talks about in Chapter 7. He also here touches on the idea of Prevenient Grace—that God is working through us and giving us grace before we actually even know him. Lewis goes even farther to say that this “Is the whole of Christianity.” He finds it essential that we “pretend” to be like Christ in order to actually become more like Him. Any thoughts on this? I think it is a very interesting claim that deserves some thought. 

            Does anyone have any thoughts on a connection to what Lewis says in chapter 10 to the idea of cheap grace inLife Together?

            This last chapter, “the New Men,” is trying to illustrate the point of how we do actually change when Christ comes into our lives. Lewis says that this is the next stage in our evolution—to become like Christ. I like the way Lewis closes his final Book, and I am excited to hear everyone else’s thoughts on the book as a whole. I hope everyone enjoyed the book and more importantly, I hope it made everyone think critically about his or her faith and in turn made it stronger.

WSBC: Mere Christianity Week 4- Feathers WILL be Ruffled!

Tripp Gulledge

Big thanks to Bo for tackling this book, cause the stuff on marriage is tough to read. Interested to hear what you guys think!

 

WEEK FOUR

 

BOOK THREE: Sections 6-12

 

            This first section on Christian Marriage is bound to ruffle some feathers. I think his idea on comparing “being in love” (what a lot of us what call “the honeymoon phase”) to “love” (what we would call “being in love,” probably) is an interesting one. I think we should understand that the honeymoon phase will end at some point in relationships at some point and be prepared for it, so that we can settle into the next stage that is typically much harder and takes more work. (If I’m not mistaken, I think the honeymoon phase typically lasts 2-6 months in relationships and then most couples hit a rough spot around 2 years that often takes a good bit of evaluation and work to get through it.)

            He then talks about the issue of wives submitting to their husbands. I’ll be honest; I don’t feel able to speak on this with authority because I have a hard time with this verse and understanding it completely. I will say, that his second point where he seems to suggest that women are naturally people who submit doesn’t really hold up for me. I see this as a very 1940’s-1950’s way of seeing marriage and I don’t honestly see it as an adequate way of understanding Christian marriage.

            In this section on Forgiveness, Lewis says that loving your neighbor as yourself is the most unpopular virtue to follow for Christians. Do you think forgiveness is the main or one of the main aspects of loving your neighbors? What do you think about his thoughts on how it relates to loving yourself? 

Lewis then presents Pride as the worst of all shortcomings and its counterpart—humility—as the center of the Christian morality. Do you agree with Lewis on this? I think that he makes a good point in saying that the man who actually is humble “will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.” I agree with Lewis that it is important to recognize whether we are seeing ourselves as humble or if we actually are acting it out.

Lewis talks about Charity as not just simply giving to the poor, but as “Love, in the Christian sense.” He talks about this charity not as an emotion that lasts for a moment but rather is attempting/willing to love a neighbor. He says, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as you did.” Lewis seems to believe in a “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality to achieve the virtue of Charity. Do you think this is a good way of doing it?

The section on Hope is another brief one but he makes a good point that has its foundation in Scripture. Lewis talks about how we, as Christians, should set our eyes on Heaven rather than the earth. He further makes the claim that we cannot hope to improve the earth without first having our hope in Heaven. I think this is important to hear, because I think the whole point in trying to improve the world (at least a very important aspect of it) is trying to bring a bit of Heaven down to earth. He closes by speaking on the idea of Living Water (though he doesn’t mention it by name) by saying that Christ is the only thing that can satisfy our thirst—Heaven is the only thing that can fill that whole in our hearts.

Lewis closes Book Four with two sections on Faith. The first covers faith when it is used to mean “Belief.” With this, we come to the problem of whether or not you can control your belief. If faith is the way to salvation, then what do we do if we don’t believe enough. Lewis seems to suggest that God can play a role in this, and I agree with that. There is a point in the Gospels when a man brings his demon-possessed son to Jesus and asks him to heal the boy. Jesus tells him “Everything is possible through belief.” And the father says, “I do believe; [and I think here, he shows that he has doubts in his saying that, so he continues,] help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9). I think that this passage shows that there is some action on the part of God our attaining faith. Lewis continues that once we have accepted Christ, we need to understand that our emotions won’t always be high, so we need to continue to read Scripture and doctrine and be in prayer each day to constantly remind ourselves of what we believe in and why. I think that this can be hard for people who have been in the Church a long time: why do we believe what we believe? Has anyone had moments where they found themselves asking this and did or did not have an answer? Lewis continues on talking about faith in a new way, by arguing that it is something that has to be practiced. He says that you have to “Leave it to God” by which he means putting all your trust in God.

            There was a lot going on in this Book, so if you have any thoughts, leave a comment!

WSBC: Mere Christianity Week 3

Tripp Gulledge

Hey everyone,

 

I'm very sorry about the hangups with SquareSpace lately, we never did get last week's post online. But here are the reflections for the first portion of Book 3. Bo left us a couple questions, so be sure to leave your comments here.

 

WEEK THREE

 

BOOK THREE: CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOUR (parts 1-5)

Book Three is very long, so we’ll do parts 1-5 this week and the rest next week

 

            This book is tackling the issue of morality, and Lewis begins by giving us his “Three Parts of Morality.” They are:

  1. ‘Fair play and harmony between individuals’
  2. ‘With what might be called tidying up or harmonizing things inside each individual.’
  3. ‘With the general purpose of human life as a whole: what man was made for: what course the whole fleet ought to be on: what tune the conductor of the band wants to play.’

Lewis really drives home the point that you cannot have just one of these to be moral. He makes the distinction that morality is not an ideal because it is not based off individual taste. Morality is universal, as described in Book One. Because of this, we cannot simply focus on this first part of morality that deals with treating other people nicely. While this is important, Lewis argues that it is equally important to keep your own individual morals in check as well as to choose to follow morality with the ultimate goal in mind. I like his analogy of a band; if you play guitar, you can’t simply worry about keeping time with the other musicians. You have to also play the right chords yourself and remember why you’re playing the music in the first place (to win a competition, maybe.)

            Then, we talk about Virtues. Lewis lists seven: Four Cardinal Virtues and Three Theological. In this section, though he only discusses the four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude. I think that his discussions of each of these are interesting, but his sentences on fortitude especially caught my eye. He says, “…you cannot practice any of the other virtues very long without bringing this one [fortitude] into play.” This is a very interesting claim. I really like the close of this section. He talks about how it is not good enough to see these as actions we should carry out but rather virtues that should become part of who we are, not merely what we do sometimes. He describes three reasons why if we see them as actions we should sometimes do (like a bad tennis player hitting one good shot) and the second one really stood out to me and I think is very valid: “We might think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules whereas He really wanted people of a particular sort.” What does this say about how we are supposed to live our lives? I think there are several pieces of Scripture that would be interesting to look to with this mindset, so comment if you think of one!

            Lewis goes on to talk about Social Morality and the Church’s role in politics, economy, and society. He cites the Golden Rule as a morality “meant for all men at all times.” Lewis will say at the end of the section that the Golden Rule can only be achieved when one loves their neighbor as themselves, which can only be achieved when one loves God by obeying Him. With this mindset, Lewis discusses an ideal Christian society. He lists a few important things, including that it is up to laymen to be the major economists and politicians and etc., every man must work or not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10), obedience between people and their authorities, it would be a cheerful society, and Charity would be given to the poor. Lewis makes some major statements on giving to the poor, and I’d like to hear people’s thoughts on them. He closes by saying, “A Christian society is not going to arrive until we become fully Christian.”

            Lewis then connects Christian morality to Psychoanalysis. He tries to answer the question of ‘what makes a good man?’ (From a Christian viewpoint.) He uses the psychoanalysis example to argue that the idea good and bad actions can be relative: when a bad person performs a good action, it might be a better action than when a good person performs a good action. He then says that the importance of making good choices and pursuing morals is that it is not only choosing good actions one after another but rather forming yourself into a better person and leading yourself towards a “harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with [yourself.]”

            Now for what you’ve all been waiting for: the sex chapter. 

            Lewis here is mainly talking about Chastity, and how we’re not supposed to have the sex before marriage (see Hebrews 13:4 for an example.) But, Lewis is getting further than the surface level here and arguing for chastity outside of marriage and moderation in general when it comes to sex and sexual desires. He talks some on whether or not a society that “hushes up” on sex like the Victorians compared to a more modern society creates more sexual desire. He seems to think it is better to be hushed up. I’m curious, though; if people think Christian communities should try to stay away from the subject being as taboo as it is. Do you think it is better or worse for us to be hushed up about the topic? 

Lewis has some good one-liners in this section, including, “Before we can be cured we must want to be cured.” This to me is a good way of looking at the issue. As Lewis establishes, if we want to become chaste or to even act more obediently in areas we struggle in, we can not attempt this alone; we need God’s help in this. This is a very Wesleyan idea, and our buddy from last summer, William H. Willimon, writes in United Methodist Beliefs, “[John] Wesley understood ‘perfected’ not in the state of a senseless moral completion but rather in the sense of being mature, with sure signs of a visible progression in our fulfillment of God’s intentions for our lives.” Perfection isn’t merely about not messing up, but is about desiring to be obedient to God and asking for his help in the process.

Lewis closes the section by saying; “I want to make it as clear as I possibly can that the center of Christian morality is not here [with merely the commandment to not have sex before marriage.]” This is a good point that we need to remember, because I think many times Christian communities see sexual sin as far worse than others. Lewis makes a good point that this isn’t our only moral and this belief isn’t the center of our faith, Christ is. 

           

            This felt like a stopping point, so next week we will pick back up with “Christian Marriage.”

WSBC: Mere Christianity - Intro + Part 1

Auburn Wesley

This week's post comes from Bo Segrest! Check it out and let us know what you think!!  

WEEK ONE

I won’t lie: This stuff is pretty dense. I think it is important while reading, though, to think critically about Lewis’ arguments. It is common, from what I’ve seen, for many people who either grew up in the church or have been a part of the Church for a long time to have accepted many theological concepts at face value early on and then move on and never question beliefs in a healthy way. This doesn’t mean that our beliefs are wrong if this is what happened with us; that’s not the point I’m getting at here. 

  Proverbs tells us to not be simple minded and to be wiling to increase your understanding of God by asking hard questions and evaluating what you believe. (This isn’t a paraphrasing of a specific verse, but this is one of my takeaways from looking at the book as a whole. Thanks to everyone who came to mine and Stevan’s Wisdom Bible Study.) Also, take a look at the opening verses of Hebrews 6: move beyond elementary understanding (Go deeper! Don’t take the easy, surface level way out!)

This is all to say that I found while reading this book, that while this stuff seems like elementary concepts at times; things that some of us learned in Sunday School at an early age,  (like for example, that we have a sense in right and wrong,) that Lewis is taking us very deep conceptually and philosophically. So, I hope that you all have a lot of thoughts on all of this. What about these concepts have you never thought about before? Do you agree with Lewis? What about his arguments make sense? What doesn’t? and etc. etc. I also encourage you all to comment what passages of the Bible these arguments made you think of, if any.

I added questions that I’d be curious to hear thoughts on, but don’t feel like you have to answer them. I’m just curious about everyone’s thoughts on the book in general.

Now that this preamble is over, let’s get started.

BOOK ONE: RIGHT AND WRONG AS A CLUE TO THE MEANING OF THE UNIVERSE

The first section of this book focuses on what Lewis calls the “the Law of Human Nature.” He describes this as humanity’s inherent moral code. He gives some examples of morals that all cultures have shared throughout History like deserting battle being bad or betrayal being frowned upon. He goes on to describe this “law of nature” as the only law we are bound to—like gravity, physics, etc.—that we are “free to disobey.” This is an interesting claim to me. Lewis finishes by stating that humans 1) believe in the law of nature and 2) break it. 

            Lewis then introduces “Some Objections” to his argument from the first section. The first objection introduced is that the moral law is simply a “herd instinct” to help someone. But, Lewis says, “Feeling a desire to help is much different from feeling that you ought to help whether you want to or not.” He says that this sense of right and wrong is what would, for example, drive a person to save a drowning man even though it will risk his or her life as well. The other objection introduced is that morality is simply a social convention (and more specifically, a product of parenting and education.) Lewis basically claims that this is a fallacy, saying that because something is taught to people, like a moral code or a multiplication table, does not mean that it is untrue. Lewis then attempts to answer the questions: Do people have superior moralities to others?  And What makes the morality of one person better or worse? He basically wants you to think about it along these lines: we all agree now, for the most part, that slavery in America was an immoral institution. Many claimed though in the time period that it was an institution that it was, in fact, moral. We all agree, though, that the former opinion is the better morality. Lewis says, and this rings true for this example, “How can you have progress if one [opinion] is not better or truer?”

            We still haven’t seen his entire argument for this book, so hang in there. (Remember, I said this was dense.)

            In the third section of this first book, he discusses “the reality of the Law.” He starts by saying how odd it is that the human race is “haunted by the idea of a sort of behavior they ought to practice” and do not practice it. He also says that decent behavior is not simply behavior that is convenient to us. He uses the following example to prove this: If a man trips you on accident, that is not a bad act, even though you were hurt by it. If a man tries and fails to trip you, that is a bad act, even though the act did not harm you.

Lewis here in the next section goes through different viewpoints on how the Universe came to be. Lewis gives a summary of his argument up to this point, saying, “All I have got to is a Something which is directing the universe, and which appears in me as a law urging me to do right and making me feel responsible and uncomfortable when I do wrong. I think we have to assume it is more like a mind than it is like anything else we know…” 

Lewis cites, in the final section, the fact that the Universe is here and has been made and the evidence of the moral law he has put in our minds as evidence for the “Something”—a Creator. Lewis then questions what it means for God to be ‘good,’ and what that means for us and our salvation. I’m curious about everyone’s thoughts on this section.

I was thinking about this book today before I typed this up, and I was trying to think about anything in Scripture that I would think about in a new or different way with this argument in mind. Being created in the image of God is a concept that I have been thinking about a lot lately. So if we are, in fact, created in the image of God, then it would be safe to assume that since we have this inherent morality given to us by God, God must also have that. This is, for me, where the argument comes together. (I’m not saying Lewis’ argument is incomplete, just that this is where it really gets me.) To me, that is why there is a better or truer morality, because God must have a morality. I’m sure it’s complicated and beyond our comprehension, but it is very humbling for me to think about how I cannot really have a perfect morality because I am not God. 

This all tells me that I should have humility in knowing that my morality is not perfect, but also comfort in knowing that His is. Any thoughts on this concept?

How does this inherent morality connect to salvation and the character of God and goodness?

So, how does this idea of superior or inferior moralities play into how we understand what is moral or immoral?

Can we ever all agree on one morality on at least some issues?

How do we discern just things and institutions from unjust things and institutions?

WSBC: "Life Together," Chapter 5

Tripp Gulledge

    Well, here we are in the last week of, Life Together, my how time flies. Uh-Oh, we have to talk about sin this week… so let’s jump in! Bonhoeffer has led us through several practical guides and philosophical explanations for the joy that is experienced in genuine Christian community, and he says that the confession of sins to one another is the final breakthrough. Bonhoeffer is of the opinion that sin bears such a weight on us that, no matter how authentic our time together is, how much we love one another, how devoted we are to scripture study, etc. we may still feel utterly alone under its weight. I think he’s on to something at the beginning of the chapter when he talks about this Pius fellowship mentality that we are prone to in churches; he says we often get taken aback when a, “real sinner,” is brought into our midst… as if what sin we already lived in was no big deal. If we were more honest with ourselves and one another, it’s likely that we as the Holy catholic church would be more welcoming to the average Jill who feels like her sin has pushed her too far away from God. And it’s likely that we would find ourselves more at home within Christian community when we realized others were struggling with the same things we were. But it doesn’t just stop with pointing out flaws, mistakes, and offenses toward God, there’s an absolutely essential forgiveness piece, as well, and it’s crucial to involve a brother or sister in this. Christ came so that all sin committed for all of time might be forgiven, and Bonhoeffer explains that your brothers or sisters in Christian community can stand in Christ’s stead in reminding you that your sins are forgiven in Jesus’ name. Methodism was built on the foundation of the small group; there were groups called classes and bands that shared each other’s struggles by confessing sin, praying for one another’s sins, and holding one another accountable at least weekly. Here is some more information on those things. If you uphold the seriousness of these sample questions, but update the language a little bit, you and your friends may find this very helpful. http://housechurch.org/miscellaneous/wesley_band-societies.html 

    Let’s talk about the two dangers of confession that Bonhoeffer names. He writes, “It is not good for one person in a Christian community to become the hearer for all others, for he will be overburdened. Thus, confession will be for him a mindless and empty routine” (P. 120). I think this danger speaks to everyone, even though not all faith traditions believe in one person hearing the sins of all. I think there is a danger in allowing the confession of sin to become a mindless routine. It is not helpful, by my understanding, to simply add general confessions of sin without giving thought to specific instances. Sin, as I understand it, refers to those offenses we make against God in which we allow selfishness, lust, idolatry, anger, or other passions besides Christ-like love to take over our hearts. If you disagree, feel free to drop something in the comments, but I think Bonhoeffer’s warning still stands to all. The second warning is given to the one who confesses. “For the salvation of his soul let him guard against ever making a pious work of his confession. if he does so, it will become the final, most abominable, vicious, impure prostitution of the heart” (P. 120). Yikes! All I really have to say about this is to echo the next thing Bonhoeffer writes, that the whole reason we are confessing our sin in the first place is because we are humbled by the grace of God, despite the fact that we are not worthy by our own merits.

    The topic of confession leads directly into Communion, based on the historic understanding of Holy Communion. In the United Methodist Church, we invite one another to Christ’s table with the following invitation. “Christ our Lord invites to his table all those who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin, and seek to live in peace with one another. Therefore, let us confess our sin before God and one another.” I think Bonhoeffer would echo this sentiment, based on his quote that says Christ commands us not to come to the altar without a clean and right heart. When I was younger, my dad used to explain it to children as a more serious version of washing your hands before dinner. Why do you wash your hands before dinner? So you don’t put something dirty into your body. Why do you confess your sin to God and before your brothers and sisters before Holy Communion? Because we must come to Christ’s table with a pure and humble heart. Communion continues with a congregation praying a prayer of confession together, and often times, the pastor presiding over Communion will offer a few moments for congregants to silently confess their sin. When this is finished, the presiding pastor declares, “Hear the good news, Christ died for us, while we were yet sinners. This proves God’s love toward us. In the name of Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven!” And the congregation responds, so as to remind the pastor that he or she is also made blameless before God. “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.” And all say together, “Glory to God! Amen!” I could go on with a word by word explanation of Communion because I love it so much… but I will spare you. I will leave you with a hot take from Tony Jeck and the lovely closing quote from our man, D.B. Tony offered to us in the gathering and scattering series that Holy Communion is the perfect representation of the rhythm of gathering for worship and scattering for mission. After gathering to receive Christ’s body and blood, we pray the following, “By your Spirit make us one with each other, one with Christ, and one in ministry to all the world until Christ comes again in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet.” It’s almost as if we pray, “until next time…” and then we have a sort of sending forth dimension to the whole thing. And so here’s the closing thought from Dietrich. “The fellowship of the Lord’s Supper is the superlative fulfillment of Christian fellowship. As the members of the congregation are united in Body and Blood at the table of the Lord, so will they be together in eternity. Here the community has reached its goal. Her. the joy of Christ in his community is complete. The life of Christians under the word has reached its perfection in the sacrament” (P. 122). Well if I said anymore after this, I think Paul would call me a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal… ;) See you guys next week with the first of Bo’s reflections on, Mere Christianity.

 

Stay woke out there,

Tripp

WSBC: "Life Together," Chapters 3 & 4

Tripp Gulledge

    Hello again, my friends, we will tackle both chapters 3 and 4 this week, so here we go. Chapter 3 is used to contrast the rhythms of the day with others by presenting Bonhoeffer’s suggested model for individual discipleship practices that he believes will best compliment what experience the Christian has with the rest of the Christian community. Sometimes I find it hard to reflect on Bonhoeffer because I find myself just wanting to regurgitate the whole text… I think the opening paragraphs of the chapter do a great job of establishing the importance of both the day with others and the day alone. Its best summarized by this quote, “We recognize, then, that only as we are in the fellowship can be we alone, and only he that is alone can live in the fellowship. Only in the fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone, and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in the fellowship. (P. 78). In other words, what is the point of personal discipleship if you don’t let it be shaped by the practices and wisdom of those around you? What is the point of having those conversations if nobody has anything personal to share? How can your experience in a Christian community be healthy if you are too afraid to be alone with God?

    If you thought last chapter was fruitful in terms of discipleship practice tips, this one will knock you off your feet! Bonhoeffer outlines three times during the day when aloneness is critical: scripture meditation, prayer, and intercession. Here’s Bonhoeffer’s challenge concerning scripture meditation,: to read God’s word for YOU. Here’s a helpful quote, “In our meditation we ponder the text under the promise that it has something utterly personal to say to us this day and for our Christian life, that it is not only God’s word for the church, but also God’s word for us. Individually, we expose ourselves to the specific word until it addresses us personally, and when we do this, we are doing no more than the simplest untutored Christian does everyday. We read God’s word as God’s word for us, we do not ask what this text has to say to other people (P. 82).” Most of the readers of this blog are members of council or leadership, so you find yourself responsible for communicating the word in some way or another. Sometimes that means you fall into the trap of reading a passage of scripture and thinking, ‘how am I going to preach/teach on this? How would I explain this to a friend? How do I read x, y, z news story into this scripture…’ We have to remember that God’s word is always in some way personal to us. If we outback our coverage and start trying to find sermons in everything we read, we will suddenly find that we no longer have that personal relationship with and love for God’s word.

    We read that scripture meditation should lead directly to prayer, here is my favorite quote from that section. “Prayer means nothing else but the readiness and willingness to receive and appropriate the word, and, what is more, to accept it in one’s personal situation (P. 84).” I think this explanation calls us to adopt verses of scripture as our prayers during all circumstances. In times of great joy and abundance, we praise the Lord for his goodness. In times of trial and pain, we praise the Lord because we know he is faithful. Tony and I were chatting about the practice of lecctio divina, which is a multistep method for meditating on the word. One of those steps is called, “oratio,” and it refers to the step during which you write a prayer based on the verse of scripture that you have read. Personally, this is an element I would very much like to improve in my devotional time. I feel like it’s important for us to find methods of response that are expressive, and I think prayers can do that well.

    The last of these three times of meditation is the intercession, that is, the lifting up of our brothers and sisters in prayer. I had never thought about it this way, but Bonhoeffer suggests that intercession helps us to see our brother or sister as a fellow sinner, to picture them at the cross, and to then feel their pain and suffering as our own. Bonhoeffer’s humble approach led him to say on page 86 that we can no longer hate and condemn one another when we fully understand that we each have crosses to bear just like our neighbors do. I encourage you to intentionally add some time for intercession in your daily time with God and ask that he help you to be sincere in that time so that when you pray, “Lord, have mercy on my brother or sister,” you really mean it out of compassion for them.

 

 

    The rest of chapter 3 is really great, but let’s move on to chapter 4 for now. I said a few lines ago that most of you are very involved in the leadership here at Wesley, well chapter 4 is for you! There are four types of ministries outlined here, and they all fall under one theme. There is this general idea that the world tells us that everyone has a place, a place of authority or submission, a place of weakness or strength, a place of poverty or wealth. Bonhoeffer’s argument is that these positions, good or bad, aren’t supposed to impact the way that life happens together. When we minister to one another and to a community at large, we must move past the dynamics of power, because the ministries of listening, active helpfulness, bearing, and proclaiming, are for all people. I will pose one question per ministry and leave it to you guys in the comments to achieve world peace with your answers. :)

 

  1. “He who can no longer put up with listening to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God as well (P. 98).” In what ways is conversation helpful for discerning God’s will for a person or a community? How does God speak through people?
  2. Where do you believe is the balance between serving your brothers and sisters and idolizing the ministry of helpfulness?
  3. “It is only when he becomes a burden that he becomes a brother, and not merely an object too be manipulated (P. 100).” How do you see your brothers and sisters as burdens, without acting like you see them as burdens?
  4. “We are concerned with that unique situation in which one person bears witness to another person by speaking the whole consolation of God, the admonition, the kindness, and the severity of God (P. 104).” When we do our duty to proclaim the word of God to our brother or sister, we have a responsibility to include the admonition, kindness, and severity. Which one do we have the hardest time with?

I hope you enjoy the reading, and I hope you let the Spirit work this in you mind a little bit. Let me know what you think in the comments. Shoutout to Mr. Bo Sigrest for dropping a comment last week!

Choosing Christ, Choosing suffering

Auburn Wesley

Tonight's post comes from Dr. Jason Borders, our pilgrimage guide, ordained elder in the UMC, professor at Huntingdon College in Montgomery... and all around amazing guy! We're really grateful for his leadership in these days AND that he took the time to write this to help us begin to sum up some of what this experience is doing in us, collectively and personally.  Check it out... 

Who do we say Christ is? Who are we in Christ? These important questions have come up more than once by members of our group as we’ve journeyed this land together. And as we near the end of our pilgrimage, I wonder if our bodies are helping us answer these questions, particularly as they relate to suffering - the kind of suffering Christ is talking about when we’re called to pick up our cross and follow. Our hands and feet have been supporting us, moving us, sensing pain, and enduring fatigue - masked by the occasional shot of Turkish coffee! We chose to put our bodies through this pilgrimage. We chose to walk in the rocky river-bed trail of Zaki, below Bethsaida. We chose to hike the treacherous path along the arid, wilderness cliffs of Ein Gedi. We chose to traverse the steep terrain to touch the ancient stones of Montfort Fortress near Haifa. We chose the difficulties and possibilities this pilgrimage afforded us. And we did so, perhaps, not realizing how pilgrimage may be a first step in learning to choose suffering. 

In most circumstances, suffering is something we choose to avoid. We pray, often, that suffering not be in our future. Often, we claim that our ailments, frailties, and shortcomings are our “cross to bear.” But I’m not convinced that’s true. To suffer for Christ is not to optimistically endure the pains of life that we all experience - to keep a stiff upper lip and positively push forward, so to speak. Rather, to suffer for Christ is to choose to be part of the hardships of others. The kind of suffering Christ calls us to enter is much like the choice of pilgrimage. It is a choice to enter suffering that we do not deserve, and might not be ours otherwise, but choose to bear anyway. Discipleship is first and foremost the path of those who choose to enter the suffering of others (all others) and, in Christ’s name, take up the cross by bearing one another’s burdens.

 Today, on the Mount of Olives, over looking the City of Jerusalem 

Today, on the Mount of Olives, over looking the City of Jerusalem 

Our group may not have all the answers, but we are coming back with a resolve to be the church wherever that may take us - walking this land has taught us that. Rather than seek out places to find God, we are re-oriented around a God who finds us as we walk with others in the broken places. And in many ways, now, we have come alive to the fact that the would-be pilgrim should be careful. If you walk just far enough, you may just let your guard down long enough to be found by a God who was there all along, hand outstretched, saying “Follow me!”

Wonder + the Work

Auburn Wesley

Hey Y'all, Greetings from Jerusalem!  Today was our free day.  A chance to explore the city a bit.  Some of us got these AUmazing shirts with some Hebrew on them... as one does when in Jerusalem... 

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I posted a bit of my (Tony's) experience over on my blog.  You can read HERE! 

Grace + Peace, 

Book Club Wk 2: The Day with Others

Tripp Gulledge

Boy oh Boy... Stephanie gave me access to edit the blog and I finally set it up... look out, inter webs! So here we are, week two of our study of, "Life Together." Chapter 2 is called, The Day with Others, and it gives a beautiful outline for rhythms of life that we can experience as a community. I think what I will do is share a couple of reflections I have about community life first, and then pose some questions for you.

 

First, we keep going to these Jewish historical sites, and I am reminded of something wise Tony once told me. When preparing for a study on Habakkuk, I asked him about the numerous laments of the prophets, and he had this to say. For the Jews, it's about the successes, failures, hurt, and healing of the people as a whole. When you speak to the Jew of the Old Testament, he or she hears you addressing all generations from Abraham to the current generation. When you speak to the 2018 Christian, he or she thinks only of themselves. I think of this because, at Masada, we learned that the Jews preferred to slaughter one another, rather than have themselves humiliated in slavery... Again! Today, many of the group went to Yad Vashem, which means memorial and name. This is the state of Israel's memorial to the victims of the holocaust and other anti-semitic events. I thought about the vast Hall of Names, where they emphasized the act of naming each victim who is known so far. I can't help but admire the way that the Jews value their community, and long for a community bond that looks out for each other in that way. Finally, we have talked a lot on this pilgrimage about group interpretation. In the 1st century synagogue, the rabbi would read the text and then sit down as everyone else talked about what it meant to them. Wow Christians.... what would that look like?

 

On to some questions and discipline/practice tips for your study.

 

1. Bonhoeffer believes that the only necessary things to tie a community together are Christ and the Word of God. What is the danger of adding MORE requirements for participating in a community? On the other hand, the United Methodist Church has a list of requirements for official church membership. They must have done this for some reason, right? Why?

2. If the Word is what unites the Christian community, then corporate study is critical. How do you engage God's word in a group setting regularly?

3. Bonhoeffer suggests the importance of rhythm over the next two chapters; I think commonality in practice is a critical way to help one another work through scripture/the world/stress. How would you like to adopt more common rhythms?

Note: I would direct you to Katie Kirk and the Book of Common Prayer for a daily liturgy startup.

4. Find a buddy to read psalms together. Bonhoeffer talks about how these present the heart of Jesus, who would be the only one who could understand the push and pull of God and man throughout the psalms. Consider taking turns reading the contrasting half verses, so that you can see how they interplay with one another. (Tip: Don't let the same person read the God parts all the time.)

5. Why do we worship together?

 

So I have confirmed that we have comment capability here... I would greatly appreciate if we had some conversation out of this. Let me know what you guys think down below. Feel free to drop your own questions, answer mine with tips for one another, or wreck my commentary. Until next week, stay woke!

 

Shalom,

Tripp 

David - The OG Hillsong

Auburn Wesley

Today's post comes to us from Tripp Gulledge.... 

Hello friends!
At about 6:40 this morning, Tony was talking about our blog post for tonight and I leapt at the opportunity to write it! On the schedule for today was a hike to Ein Gedi (Hebrew for spring of the young goat.) This was the place where King David hid from Saul and likely wrote many of the psalms. I couldn’t wait to be in the place where the OG Hillsong album dropped!! This was also the place where Jesus was led to be tempted by Satan (see Matt. 4).

 Our view of the Dead Sea from on Ein Gedi 

Our view of the Dead Sea from on Ein Gedi 

A bus ride fill of dadjokes later, and we were there. We began a treacherous hike up a narrow cliff face and stopped to look at the gorgeous Dead Sea and the ruins of an old temple along the way. About halfway up to what is known as, “The Lovers’ Cave,” a park ranger informed us that we could go no further because of the threat of rain in Jerusalem, which would flood the trails.

 Tripp on Ein Gedi! 

Tripp on Ein Gedi! 

[Update: if it rains at all on our trip, Dr. Borders is buying us all lunch!]

We were a bit disappointed to turn around, but once again reminded of the theme of our adventures, “It’s About Orientation, not Destination.” We stopped on our way back down to read the story of Jesus’ temptation and discuss what it held for us.

 We met some nice people from Minnesota and they took our picture! 

We met some nice people from Minnesota and they took our picture! 

After finishing our trek at Ein Gedi, we drove to Masada, an important site in Jewish history. It was here that hundreds of Jews were trapped by the Romans on a mountain, and chose to kill their families and themselves, rather than submit to slavery. As far as historical sites go, I found this to be the most gripping. It was powerful to see how the Jews fought for their honor in that way.
     

After exploring Masada, we took a very quick trip to Qumran, the home of a small Jewish sect, and best known as the place where the Dead sea scrolls were found. We didn’t spend a ton of time here because we were determined to gloat in salt!

[Fun Fact: the Dead Sea is 33% salt! (Your friendly neighborhood Atlantic Ocean is only about 3% salt.]
[Not Fun Fact: that water will wreck your eyes!]


After our float, we came back to the hotel and had dinner together. We concluded the day with a worship jam with our new friends from Western Carolina Wesley Foundation... we taught them our benediction!!! Look out for a big post tomorrow, as we find out how various team members spent their free days!

 Auburn + Western Caroline Wesley Foundations UNITE for worship! 

Auburn + Western Caroline Wesley Foundations UNITE for worship! 


Shalom for now friends.

Destination vs. Orientation

Auburn Wesley

Today's post comes from Anna Grace Glaize!  Shalom!! 

We're in Jerusalem!!! My little introvert head is overwhelmed by all the people and things, but my heart is so full. Our group's the best, and I love it. The pun game is strong. 

Here's an update on what we've done so far--Today we did the Herodion, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and the Israel Museum. Yesterday we did a hike to Montford Fortress and stopped by Caesarea Maritima on the way from Galilee to Jerusalem.

Messy Thinky Things--There have been a couple of themes that keep coming up during this trip. One of the things we keep coming back to is the problem with viewing the end goal of discipleship as destination instead of orientation. Lots of times we think of discipleship as a trek to somewhere as opposed to looking at it as a reorienting toward God no matter where we are. That distinction has been especially important for us as we go to all these sites, some of which are physically demanding. Though we've talked about it a lot, I'm just now beginning to realize how much the whole destination mindset has impacted me.

I think I finally started to see the difference just after the Montford hike. During the hike, there was a moment when it became clear that not everyone who wanted to would make it to the fortress at the top. It wasn't anyone's fault. We were short on time, the drive was longer than we thought, etc. Some of the folks behind me on the hike just wouldn't have enough time to go all the way to the fortress.

Still, it felt wrong.

We're in this thing together, and going some place where a few of our fellow pilgrims couldn't go upset me. Like I said, it was nobody's fault, but I was angry at the situation. It wasn't until a few hours later on the bus that it fully sunk in that the point of what we were doing wasn't to get to the top. The point was the doing. We all had a chance to walk with each other in a pretty place. We all had the chance to experience the journey. Those of us who got to the fortress had fun, but so did the folks who got an extra 30 minutes to sit at a picnic table and talk. There was no destination, per se.

It was about doing the thing together, even if the doing part looked different for each of us. The goal wasn't the destination, but the reorienting of ourselves to one another and the experience.

Later on the bus we talked about how the same was true with God. There's no special place we have to get to as disciples. God is with us, and all we have to do is position ourselves toward him. 

Part of why this is on my mind so much is because it seemed so trivial initially. I mean, we all got told in middle school that it's all about the journey and not the destination. Still, though, sometimes the world sends a different message. It kind of seems like to be worthwhile you have to be the best at something.

I think a small part of me believes that if I'm not the best I suck, and--just to be clear--I'm really not the best at anything. I'm starting to realize that's the destination part of my mind at work. What a graceless way to view the world. Thankfully we don't have to depend on our messed-up selves to get us to God.

Instead, we have a God who finds us.

Hallelujah for that.

From Galilee to Jerusalem

Auburn Wesley

Today we moved from Galilee to Jerusalem.  But along the way we made a few stops.  First at Montfort Fortress - an old crusader castle.  It was a pretty amazing hike up and down... and then down and back up again.  But the view from the top and the breeze that was blowing through the ruins... AMAZING!  

 Montfort Fortress - our view from where we BEGAN our journey... 

Montfort Fortress - our view from where we BEGAN our journey... 

 From the top!! 

From the top!! 

Then we headed down the coast toward Caesarea, stopping to put our feet in the Mediterranean and look at an aqueduct that was used to move fresh water some 60 miles down the cost from the mountains to the amazingly posh first century city of Caesarea.  

 Miles of aqueduct remains on the coast

Miles of aqueduct remains on the coast

 Tony, Tripp, Frank - and the rest of the group enjoying a 15 min. play time on the Mediterranean Sea!! 

Tony, Tripp, Frank - and the rest of the group enjoying a 15 min. play time on the Mediterranean Sea!! 

Then our last stop before moving onto Israel was the city of Caesarea, itself.  Herod the Great built his castle here, Pontius Pilate lived here, Peter came to Cornelius (in Acts 10) here, it's also where Paul stands trial before another Roman Governor, Felix (Acts 23-24).  You can tell it was majestic and full of every 1st century amenity life could offer.  

 Here's what's left of Herod's palace on the sea in Caesarea... beautiful view!

Here's what's left of Herod's palace on the sea in Caesarea... beautiful view!

 The palace extended down onto the sea.  Pretty sweet set up!  

The palace extended down onto the sea.  Pretty sweet set up!  

 Before you reach the palace, off to the left is this theater... it's been renovated and is still used as a concert venue! 

Before you reach the palace, off to the left is this theater... it's been renovated and is still used as a concert venue! 

 Just before the palace, to the right, is this arena where chariots could race and other sport could be had.  

Just before the palace, to the right, is this arena where chariots could race and other sport could be had.  

Finally, we made it into Jerusalem just as final preparations for keeping the Sabbath were being made.  We had a great dinner and group conversation.  Now it's time for rest.  Tomorrow is a new day!  

Shabbot Shalom! 

"Who Do You Say I Am?"

Auburn Wesley

Today's post comes from Anna Grace Glaize! 

 On the Sea of Galilee! 

On the Sea of Galilee! 

Whew, have we done a lot! Today is day four in the country, but it feels like we just got here. The days have flown by. Tomorrow's our last full day in the Galilee area, and I'm trying not to get sad. I'm hype for Jerusalem, but who knows when I'll get to wake up to a gorgeous view of the Sea of Galilee again. Here's a quick recap of what we've done so far (feel free to skip this part): Bet She'an, Beit Alpha, the Church of the Annunication in Nazareth, the Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaeum, boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, the Ginosar Boat, and Bethsaida. Today we did Tel Hazor, Tel Dan, Caesarea Philippi, Nimrod's Fortress, and the Golan Heights. 

    If you got overwhelmed reading all that, you have some sense of why time is passing so quickly! I'm having an amazing time and am constantly impressed by the level of depth in our conversations. Today we spent a lot of time on what Jesus says to Peter at Caesarea Philippi. He asks him, "Who do you say that I am?" We've been asking ourselves the same sorts of questions.

    Being in Israel has really helped us wrestle with all this. We're learning about how Jesus' world shaped him, and, in doing so, questioning how our world has shaped us. Of course, being influenced by our cultural contexts is inevitable. Yet, as Dr. Borders pointed out, being a good disciple means being willing to let God change and shape our worldview. That process can be kind of scary. Letting it happen requires trust. But each time it happens we get a little bit closer to becoming who we were intended to be. We get a little more human. We get a little more Christlike. 

Good things are happening in the hearts of our pilgrims! We may end each day tired, and a few of us are growing weary of shawarma, but we're all having fun and learning a lot. There's a whole lot of joy in this group. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. You'll hear more from us soon!

Shalom, ya'll!

 At "Abraham's Gate" at Tel Dan 

At "Abraham's Gate" at Tel Dan 

Israel Pilgrimage

Auburn Wesley

Over the next couple weeks we'll be sharing stories, questions, ideas, experiences we're having while on our pilgrimage to Israel.  We begin with this post that our Associate Director Tony Jeck wrote on his own blog.  CLICK HERE! 

Tomorrow we'll have a student or two to share some of their experience.  Thank you for your prayers and support.  We are very aware of God's presence and provision for us in this place!  

Grace + Peace

Following Jesus Through Holy Week - Tuesday

Auburn Wesley

Today, as we continue with Jesus, we see him go toe-to-toe with the religious elite.  Tripp Gulledge and friends have put together a way for you to hear the Scripture of Holy Tuesday from Mark's gospel... along with a guided reflection/prayer time. 

We hope this can be a part of the way you journey with Jesus to the cross! 

Grace + Peace, 

Following Jesus Through Holy Week - Monday

Auburn Wesley

Yesterday was Palm Sunday.  We watched Jesus as he entered the city of Jerusalem and immediately stirs things up!  He's on a collision course w/ the powers that be... religious and Roman, alike!  

For the next 3 days we're going to keep following Jesus through Mark's gospel, watching and listening to him as he moves toward the cross.  Here's a bit of a reflection our discipleship team created to help us to do just that.  It is set up in the ARM office at Wesley, along with a prayer response, if you are able to come by and read and reflect and pray with it.  

If not, we hope you'll take a few moments to consider the following, where ever you are! 

Scripture: Mark 11: 12-21

“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.  On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’[a]? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’[b]” The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. When evening came, Jesus and his disciples[c] went out of the city. In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”

Reflection - 

The fig tree in leaf was a sign of the life and vitality of Jewish temple life… which isn’t just about a place where worship happens.  The temple then was like an interesting mash up of going to church and going to the chamber of commerce at city hall.  It was at once the religious AND economic center of the people’s life.  And this is fine.  Jesus isn’t judging that. 

He’s judging the kind of religious and economic life that’s happening here.

The chief priest and scribes and many of the other authorities at the temple are making very good livings by what they charge for the ordinary economic life of the temple - what it costs to purchase the necessary things to offer sacrifice.  In addition Rome’s presence is here in the temple (as the center of economic life) and they charge a sizeable tax on the people.  And if that weren’t enough, on top of that King Herod (who was a puppet of Rome) added extra tax to the one Rome demanded, by which Herod grew his own personal wealth.  All of this fell squarely on the backs of the people - many of whom lived in or on the edge of poverty their whole life. 

Can you see why Jesus would be so enraged by what he sees when he walks into the temple.  Why he would say, “This is supposed to be a house of prayer for ALL people (most especially those who are poor and in need) and you’ve made it into a den of robbers!” (a place where the rich are ripping off the poor and doing it in the name of faithfulness to God... and in collusion with Rome).

Questions to Ponder

If Jesus were to show up in the temple of your own life, what would he be driving out? What would he be declaring as lifeless injustice? What would he name as not producing good fruit?

What are ways that you LONG for new and good fruit to spring up in your life?  What is a prayer you would want to pray about that?  

Who are the people, where are the places where you feel drawn to special care and concern for those in need? How can you begin to join Jesus there?

 

Summer Missions: Katie Rhodes

Wesley Worship

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This May was the third year in a row I have been to Tanzania. The place has a chunk of my heart. While in Tanzania we created an English lesson plan and taught it to the street youth to improve their conversational English skills. This allowed us to get to know each youth. We learned their background, their personalities, and their smiles.

I am not someone who is good with goodbyes; they’re heartbreaking. I easily get attached to people. But I’ve learned both with growing up as a preacher’s kid moving around and with traveling, you have to make the most of every opportunity, leaving your heart on the line every time. If you hold back for fear of goodbyes, it hurts yourself, the people, and God’s work.

Being in Tanzania poses a lot of opportunities for fear and therefore many opportunities to trust and depend on God. My faith was stretched to trust God and leave the comfort zone behind. I felt God push me to put myself out there, speak up, interact with people, and go for it when everything screamed hold back. Who are you helping when you hide? Not even yourself. We invested everything we had into the youth we were teaching. Because of that, we were able to connect on a deeper level with them.  

As Megan said Sunday, it’s harder to incorporate the lessons from a mission trip when you get back to an American way of life. It’s harder when you’re not faced with tangible fears daily, not being shocked by stark poverty daily, and not in that mission trip mindset. Things do not look as clear. But God calls us to treat every day as a “mission trip”. He calls us to die to ourselves and to love others. God want to use us to touch the lives of those around us. So like in Tanzania, I have to learn to leave my comfort zone behind, put my heart out on the line for those around me in my own culture, and trust in God with my fears. 

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Summer Missions: Wil Sanders

Wesley Worship

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I worked with Alabama Rural Ministry this summer helping run their summer missions camps. For seven weeks this summer, we had assorted youth groups coming to either Tuskegee, AL or Livingston, AL to spend a week doing home repair and helping to run the day camp for local, at risk children. I was one of the day camp counselors for the Livingston site. My experience with ARM wasn’t at all what I expected it to be. Honestly in almost every way it was different from what I thought I was signing up for when I put in my application. And while there were definitely struggles we faced from the very first day till the very last, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything because of the awesome youth I was able to meet and try to help grow throughout the Summer. Whether it was just talking to them to get to know them better, playing basketball with them in the gym of the day camp, or telling high school seniors how great Auburn University is, they made my summer amazing and I couldn’t have made it without all of them.

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Summer Missions: Crystal Boutwell

Wesley Worship

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I spent my summer on a little island in Savannah, Georgia interning with the youth group of Isle of Hope United Methodist Church. Those two months were both the most mentally and physically exhausting yet spiritually rewarding months of my life. On paper, my job meant planning and executing the big trips of the summer, leading Sunday school and youth group, along with the day-to-day operations of a youth ministry like writing notes to or getting lunch with kids. In reality, my job meant jamming to Disney music, eating Chic Fil A every other day, and getting kicked out of malls.

The youth director that I worked with gave his interns the opportunity to let our voices be heard in all the decisions of youth this summer and I appreciate that because it allowed me to see the background music that makes up youth ministry. This summer shaped me and my vision of the church in so many ways. Spending that much time with teenagers made me fearless in not only words but in faith. The biggest thing I took away from this summer is that although in the adult church we love for things to be clean and presentable—especially our sanctuaries and fellowship halls—but teenagers (and let’s be honest most adults) aren’t clean and presentable—especially those we are called to minister to. If we are to be a church with open doors and hearts, we can’t be afraid to get messy and allow messy people into our lives and buildings.

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Summer Missions: Grant Keith

Wesley Worship

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This past summer I had the opportunity to go to Neuenburg, Germany to work alongside the Neuenburg International Church and the Neuenburg Atomics. This summer offered many great experiences along with challenges. Mission work in Germany is unlike many other countries. They aren’t in material need, but their spiritual need is great.

                  The hardest part of this summer was not seeing tangible results. Germany doesn’t offer the results like working in a third world country does. You hope that by the way you live your life and the way you reflect Christ makes the guys you are around see a difference and question what it is that gives you that difference. There aren’t wells needing to be built to give clean water. There aren’t house that need to be built to give shelter. There are churches that need bodies, and bodies that need church. Seeds were planted this summer and hopefully continue to grow long after the time I spent there thanks to the few Christians that are there to continue that growth in those guys lives. 

                  A few of the highest moments of this summer was winning the league that the Atomics were a part of. The team had their best season in the history of the club, winning 23 games and only losing 1. A long with the winning the title, we were also just an hour away from the Swiss Alps. This offered the opportunity to go and climb in these mountains and experience just the awe of creation. Standing high above the ground, facing a fear of heights, and just being in complete speechlessness is a feeling I won’t soon forget.

                  This experience offered a chance to be in a culture completely different from the deep South. The growth and development that I was able to have was amazing.  It offered the chance to grow into my faith and establish what I truly believed. Not being surrounded by believers is something that will push you and motivate you to become stronger in your faith and I’m thankful for every minute spent in Neuenburg this summer.

                  In Christ,

             Grant Keith 

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