New Room Renewal

LyonBy Thomas Lambrecht –

What a joy it was to be among 700 United Methodist clergy and other leaders committed to the renewal of Wesleyanism at the recent New Room Conference in Nashville. The fact that this year’s conference doubled the attendance at last year’s initial conference revealed the deep hunger of many leaders to be encouraged and equipped with a vital Wesleyan Christianity. The Seedbed team did an excellent job satisfying that hunger. Here are a few of my take-aways.

Worship Vs. Discipleship: The Rev. Mike Breen, an Anglican pastor, reminded us that church is not just the delivery of an excellent worship experience, but also the development of disciples of Jesus Christ. The Acts 2 model of meeting in the Temple and in the home needs to be replicated in today’s church for it to regain its power. Breen maintained that the church of the past several decades had neglected the “home” dimension, with the result that many of our church members are disciples in name only.

Breen quoted research by sociologist Rodney Stark, who maintained that the strength of the early church was the “family” dimension of the faith, since the public spaces for large gatherings of Christians were often unsafe or closed to them. Early Christians engaged the discipleship process as extended families, including multiple generations, extended relatives, friends, and even house servants in a common body.

When we try to disciple people in the public space (Sunday morning worship) it doesn’t make a lasting change in their lives. The formation of small groups and family-like groupings are designed to be a place of healing and transformation in discipleship. In a hostile culture, these small groupings will be the glue that holds the church together.

Wesleyan Identity: The Rev. Andrew Thompson, formerly a professor at Memphis Theological Seminary and now pastor at a large church in Arkansas, focused on who we are, referring to John Wesley’s pamphlet, The Character of a Methodist. Thompson boldly stated that “there is no Methodist identity today. There is no positive characteristic that distinguishes Methodists.” He then expanded the question to: What is the character of a Wesleyan, in order to separate the question from denominational identities. Thompson focused on these points: 1.) The universal need for salvation from sin and death, 2.) The universal offer of prevenient grace, the free gift of God offered to all, 3.) The need for ongoing sanctification so we can become more and more like Jesus in our everyday lives, 4.) The possibility and calling to become complete in Christ in this life – the goal of “going on to perfection.”

Needing the Holy Spirit. The Rev. Jo Anne Lyon, general superintendent (presiding bishop) of The Wesleyan Church, reminded us that developing Christ-likeness requires the infusion of the Holy Spirit into our lives. God’s infused love expels sin and transforms both individuals and society. We cannot manufacture transformation through programs or rules. Instead, we are to seek and welcome the presence and power of the Holy Spirit into our daily lives and experience his transformation in us.

Back to Egypt? The Rev. Lisa Yebuah, a United Methodist planting a church in Raleigh, North Carolina, spoke powerfully from Exodus 16 about resisting the temptation to go back to the familiarity of “Egypt” when change becomes too difficult. In the hunger and uncertainty of transition to the new thing God is calling us to do in ministry, we forget about the problems of the past and romanticize our “Egypt.” Instead of going back, Yebuah called us to turn toward the wilderness journey God has for us, for there we will see the glory of the Lord. It is in the wilderness, Yebuah reminded us, where God provides holy food in difficult places (the manna and the quail). Our problem is that we often fail to see God’s provision for what it is and instead long for the food of captivity to our past.

New Room was encouraging and uplifting. Many young pastors went home encouraged and inspired to carry on in Christ’s ministry with renewed vigor. The next New Room Conference will take place September 21-23, 2016, in Franklin, Tennessee.

Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergyperson and vice president of Good News.

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  1. […] doctrines of holiness and sanctification. Some other impressions of the conference can be found at Good News Magazine, Matt Lipan’s blog, and an article by Mark […]

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