The Rev. Angela Pleasants prepares participants of the WCA Legislative Assembly for communion. WCA photo by Katy Patterson.
By Angela Pleasants –
In addition to being a local pastor, I am also a chaplain for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in North Carolina.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in my sergeant’s office watching a video of Mark Gungor, a popular speaker and minister, using two mannequin heads as props in a sermon. One head was male. The other was female. After jokingly doing the sign of the cross, he pointed to the female head and tried to explain how women think. He described the female brain as intricate as an internet expressway. “Women can think of many things at one time,” he said. All of our emotions get involved. We hop from one subject to the next and to the next.
Then he pointed to the male head and said that a man’s brain has little boxes in it. There’s one thing in one box. Men have a box for the spouse. A box for the children. Another for the job. None of the boxes can touch. “Men open one box at a time and that’s what you deal with,” said the minister. You open one, and then the next, and then the next. Jokingly, he said men even have a box in the basement for the mother-in-law.
“Also,” the pastor said, “men have what’s called the Nothing box.” That’s right, the Nothing box and in that box is nothing. That’s why when wives ask husbands what they are thinking about they can so often say, “Nothing.”
The minister’s humorous illustration made me think about the correlation between how men keep track of the boxes in their brains and the way that our society encourages us to put people into boxes. We all are tempted to do it. We want to try to put people in a box, close it up with a nice bow, and put a label on it. Why? Because it makes us feel better when we can put someone in a box and label that person. Therefore, it validates us.
Of course, that is a secular world view that tries to box and label people. The sad part is that it has trickled into the body of Christ. My question is, “Why have we in the body of Christ today permitted the secular worldview to dictate, define, and identify who we are?”
Paul said, “Do not be conformed to the world.” Why? Because the world is not yet redeemed. It is not spiritually discerning. It does not hear from God. Yet we still allow it to dictate how the body of Christ is supposed to think.
When Jesus came up out of the waters at his baptism, the voice of heaven names who he is as the Son of God. “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16). Then Jesus goes into the wilderness and is tempted for 40 days. After that time of temptation, he begins to preach. “Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Then he begins to teach and heal.
The Sermon on the Mount is our defining moment as the body of Christ. It begins, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Matthew 5:3). In other words, blessed are you who know that we are spiritually bankrupt and that we need something outside of ourselves. That is Jesus Christ.
Jesus goes on to teach about salt and light, and how our righteousness should exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. He teaches us about humility, to seek the kingdom of God, and not to be driven by selfish ambition.
Jesus said, “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” Matthew reports, “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority – quite unlike their teachers of religious law” (Matthew 7:24-28 NLT).
He was teaching about the foundation. If you did not dig about 10 feet into the bedrock, the storms would come and knock the house over. Storms hit all the houses – those that had foundations at the bedrock and those that were merely on the shallow sand. Which one will be left standing? The one on the solid foundation.
Of course, Jesus was not just talking about the physical building of brick and mortar. He was talking about a spiritual foundation.
To the crowd of his day, Jesus was saying, You have heard the shallow teachings that have been built on the shifting sands of the religious leaders of the day – the scribes and the Pharisees. You can choose the path of the “establishment,” and the path of ease and comfort, and remain on the sinking sand of the religious leaders of your day.
Or, you can follow the path with a solid foundation. It may not be easy. It definitely won’t be comfortable. The way is narrow. There will be persecution. There will be attacks. But the end result will be eternal life.
Jesus gave them a choice. Which way will you choose? The sinking sand or the solid foundation?
That is the choice we have today as we live in the kingdom of God. We can choose the sinking sand of the establishment. We can continue to be comfortable and at ease.
Or we can continue to stand firm in the solid rock of Jesus Christ, standing firm in the gospel truth. I love when Paul said, “I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” The choice is ours.
When Jesus spoke those words on the Sermon on the Mount, this was the defining moment for those who made the choice to enter into the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ. What do I mean by defining moment? It was the moment where Jesus set forth the theme and nature of the kingdom. It was also showing God’s grace and showing how Christians are to live.
Saints, we have a defining moment right now. What is going to be our choice? Jesus said that when we choose the way of the kingdom of God, we are blessed. We are blessed when we come to him realizing that we are poor in the spirit. We are blessed when we mourn over our sinful nature, knowing that he is the only one that can heal and forgive us. We are blessed when we are merciful. We are blessed when we serve as peacemakers. We are blessed when they persecute us.
Jesus said we will be lied to, mocked, and persecuted, but rejoice because it happened to the prophets. The kingdom of Heaven will be ours. This is our defining moment. Let us celebrate that together.
Angela Pleasants is a United Methodist clergyperson in the Western North Carolina Annual Conference. She also serves as the chair of the Racial and Ethnic Equality Taskforce of the Wesleyan Covenant Association. This article is adapted from her address to the Wesleyan Covenant Association 2021 Global Gathering.
The Rev. Dr. Carolyn Moore addresses the 2021 Global Gathering of the Wesleyan Covenant Association. WCA photo by Katy Patterson.
By Carolyn Moore –
A well-known Reformed pastor and theologian once said, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.” It’s a good line. It opens up the creative pores and asks what are the 9,997 things God is doing around me right now that I’m not even aware of? What relationship is he repairing? What movement is he birthing? What miracle is already in the works? What if God is doing far more in your life and you’re not even aware of it?
In Acts 16, Paul is sitting in a room in Troas feeling some dejection. Things had not gone so well on this trip. Good ideas were met with contention and doors were closing. It starts with the simple suggestion that they go back and visit the believers in all the towns where they’d started churches and already preached. Then they started to brainstorm who they’d take with them. Barnabas thought they should take John Mark. Paul didn’t. That debate erupted into a huge blow up. We could spend a lot of time psychologizing this scene and deciding who was right and who was being ridiculous but if we go down that road we’ll miss one of those 9,997 things God doesn’t want us to miss: The Holy Spirit directs the mission – not us.
Paul wanted to visit the believers but you don’t get the sense that was the mission in the mind of the Holy Spirit. “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas” (Acts 16:6).
For the lack of an open-door, Paul is left to wonder what in the world God is up to. Here’s this go-getter apostle trying to win souls for the kingdom, begging for an opportunity to do what he does best. And there is God slamming every door that distracts Paul. Slowly the Holy Spirit nudges Paul towards the coast where he will finally be able to gaze across the sea towards Macedonia and catch a glimpse of God’s heart for the nations.
Every door has a threshold. That is the point of entry at the bottom of a door that leads us from one room to the next. In spiritual terms thresholds mark progress. They represent forward movement in our spiritual maturity. It would make sense that it would be precisely at the thresholds that we experience the most pressure. When I approach a threshold that takes me from one level of intimacy with Christ to a deeper level, I begin to encounter greater pressure right at the threshold itself, just before the breakthrough.
That pressure can sometimes feel overwhelming. There we are waiting for the threshold of a new spiritual place, hearing God’s invitation to come on in. And meanwhile some devilish force is luring us backwards creating pressure against our progress, thresholds, or doorways. Another biblical word-picture is gate.
“Gates are where we win or lose. That’s why Scripture uses gates as the place to be broken through,” writes Barbara Yoder. “We must break through intimidation, faithlessness, fear, hopelessness, despair or whatever else looms like an unconquerable foe at the gates. The threshold is where we either cross over or hold back, opting to be safe in our homes. Yet once we cross over it is where we meet the incredible supernatural power of God to break through before us, victorious over every obstacle. It is after we leap that we begin to possess our inheritance for the current season.”
Paul was sitting at the coast of Troas, this threshold moment being lured by the Holy Spirit through a doorway into Macedonia where he would begin to possess a revolutionary call to take the gospel beyond Asia and into the world. “During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready to go to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:9).
That’s so Paul, isn’t it? He is like a spiritual battling ram – breaks down a door, steps over a threshold into a whole new spiritual territory. I don’t know why he didn’t see it coming. I mean he had already preached this moment. In Acts 13, we find him battling the incessant complaints of religious people who are anxious over the mixing of races and evangelization of foreigners. Paul’s response to them draws from Isaiah’s word to the Israelites, reminding them that truth is not a private affair.
Paul quotes from Isaiah 49, “For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” This word moves us right up to a threshold, a doorway, because most of us are content to nestle down inside our own salvation and be comfortable. But Paul won’t have it. He needs us to hear the prophet’s word as our call too. ”I will make you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6 ESV).
Dr. Tim Tennent teaches us that the missionary task is bigger than we tend to give it credit for. “When we see the church being planted cross-culturally we begin to see that the gospel is being brought to new people groups, and that is the missionary task,” he writes. God is always stretching us towards the ends of the earth, towards the ones who don’t yet know.
“Even if every Christian in the world became an evangelist and they witness to everybody they knew, and everyone they knew became Christians, and they themselves became evangelists, even after you had a tremendous movement to Christ all over the world, there would still be over a billion people who had never even heard the name of Jesus,” Tennent writes. “Why? Because they had no friends or neighbors to evangelize them, to speak the word of God to them. So however vibrant the church’s life may become in various parts of the world where the church is planted, however vivacious the people’s ministry may be, however mature the church’s growth, the world will not be reached, the Great Commission will not be fulfilled, until people cross cultural barriers and bring the gospel to those who have not heard it.”
That’s why the threshold moment in the life of Paul is so critical. There he stands at the far edge of the movement. Paul, maybe the only follower of Jesus bold enough to do such a thing, opens the door so the world could be introduced to a global Messiah. Why? Because if Jesus is not Christ for the whole world, he’s not Christ for any of it.
In Acts 16:13 we read, “On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God … When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer of the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us.”
What an example of our thesis that God is doing, 10,000 things. Here is Paul opening up the gospel door for Europe and when he gets there, he finds himself evangelizing women. How bold!
Down by that river sharing the gospel with Lydia, Paul crosses yet another threshold and finds himself on the creation side of Genesis 3 and, by that obedience, God opens the door for Lydia to join the fellowship of biblical women who dared to walk back in the Garden of Eden and claim their call to carry the good news to a lost and hurting world. We thank God for Phoebe, Junia, Priscilla, Mary, Tryphena, and all the women that Paul said worked hard for the Lord.
The first century church proved that when men and women worked together to build the kingdom of God, operating in freedom and in the power and giftedness of the Holy Spirit, the effects of the fall are reversed, and the glories of the gospel are exposed. Paul has a word for the future Global Methodist Church: Don’t forget the Macedonians. Don’t forget the ends of the earth.
Hope above the fog. A few weeks ago, I presided over a funeral in Florida and had the chance to walk on the beach at sunrise and was staring at the horizon, waiting for the sun to break through. That morning, the fog created a band above the horizon.
Staring at the fog line, waiting for the sun to show up, I thought about us and waiting for the dawning of the Global Methodist Church. I also thought about that quote, “God is always doing 10,000 things around us and we are aware of three of them.” And I wondered what if we are waiting for something that has already happened? What if God has already placed his stamp on this vision. Has he already sent it forth into the world like a sun that has already risen above the horizon yet hasn’t broken through the fog? And what if while we’re focused on the dawning of something that God has already blessed to happen, he’s off doing 9,997 things we’re not even aware of yet.
Just as I thought about that, I turned around and saw all of these people staring in the direction of the horizon. There was a door. It wasn’t a physical door, but it was definitely an open door. It was actually rows upon rows of hotels and there were people just waiting to see the sun break over the fog.
Those rooms were full of people who must surely be starving, as I once was, for a better answer to life. Some of them were perishing for lack of it. And I can literally hear the cry, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” So, I stood there looking at the hotels and the fog and wondered and grieved about how much time all of us have spent desperately staring toward a horizon waiting for a sun that has already broken through while a world of lost and hurting people are starving for a better answer.
Be encouraged. Don’t focus on the fog. Focus on the door. Because God is always doing many things in the world and right now, he is inviting us to step through a doorway to become a light to the nations because the world is our parish, and the world is God’s mission.
Carolyn Moore is a United Methodist clergyperson and the founding and lead pastor of Mosaic Church in Evans, Georgia. She also serves as the chairwoman of the Wesleyan Covenant Association Global Council. You can read more of her essays by visiting her webpage (artofholiness.com) and podcast. This article is adapted from her address at the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Global Gathering in April.
The Rev. Dr. Jonathan Razon addressed the 2021 Global Gathering of the Wesleyan Covenant Association remotely from The Philippines because of travel restrictions due to the pandemic. Photo courtesy of Dr. Razon.
By Jonathan Razon –
Martin Luther changed the course of human history in 1521 when he was twice brought before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and was told he must take back all of his teachings. As we all know, Luther refused to recant. “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of popes and councils because they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. So help me God. Amen.”
Regrettably, we all know that throughout church history there have been tyrants and bullies who have abused their powers to manipulate and deceive God’s people. So, what was the source of Luther’s faith and fearlessness to stand up to the Holy Roman Emperor and the power of the papacy, the tyrants and bullies of his day? How was it that an obscure monk from the countryside was able to courageously speak the truth and launch the Reformation?
The source of Luther’s fearlessness was his rediscovery of the primacy of sacred Scripture and the essential truth of the gospel, namely, our justification by grace through faith in Christ alone. The gospel freed him to speak the truth to the political and religious powers of his day.
Luther was convinced that the truths revealed in the Scripture and the Church’s great creeds are timeless. They are truths that inform our moral and ethical teachings, and consequently shape the good ordering of church and society. Luther knew that in order for the church to fulfill its mission, its leaders must teach, defend, and model in their daily lives the lifesaving and life-giving ethical teachings rooted in Scripture and the Church’s creeds.
Without such leadership and fidelity, the church loses its way; leaders and people begin to do “what is right in their own eyes,” and if chaos is not corrected, confusion will reign among the faithful. Unfortunately, we have witnessed this happen in the recent histories of some Christian denominations.
With this in mind let me turn to those once timid, but ultimately fearless, apostles Peter and John who boldly preached the truth of Christ’s resurrection. In Acts 4, we see the high priest, the elders, and the scribes – the religious authorities of their day – question and bully them, treating them like common and ignorant followers of a crucified criminal. However, even though Peter and John were thrown in jail and reviled, they were not intimidated. They were fearless in their defense of the gospel.
Where did Peter and John get their fearlessness? Of course, they had recently seen and spoken with our risen Lord. Yet, they still needed to be filled with power of the Holy Spirit to make their bold defense before the religious authorities.
After the Apostles are questioned about their preaching and the healing of a crippled man, Luke writes, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said … ‘Rulers and elders of the people! … It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed’” (Acts 4:8, 10).
Christ’s resurrection and the infilling of the Holy Spirit gave Peter and John the courage to bear witness before leaders who could have turned them over, as they did Jesus, to the Roman authorities. But they did not do that. Instead, the Bible says that even though the religious authorities still regarded Peter and John as “unschooled, ordinary men,” they now recognized the two men’s “courage” (Acts 4:13).
How can we be courageous and fearless in the places where God has called us to serve? Surely the experience of having just recently seen our resurrected Lord and talked with him gave them confidence to stand before the religious authorities. But then I think of what Jesus said to doubting Thomas after he had given him the opportunity to touch the scars on his hands and the wound on his side. Our resurrected Lord said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” And since all the disciples were in the room when Jesus spoke those words to Thomas, I like to think Jesus’ words were for all of them.
Jesus was also thinking of you and me when he said those words to the disciples. He knew that when it is our time to be fearless, we must do it by faith alone and trusting that the Holy Spirit will fill us with courage and wise words. It is not always an easy thing to do. Writing to the early church, Peter said in his first letter, “though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. … Though you have not seen him, you love [Jesus] and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls!” (1 Peter 1:6, 8-9).
Wherever we live in the world today, Christians are realizing we must become more courageous and fearless in the face of everything from insults to outright persecution.
Our principal model is of course Jesus himself, who as the Truth always taught it and defended it. He did so with compassion and pity for those who denied the truth. Even from the cross Jesus cried out, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus demonstrates for us that our battles are not against people who make fun of us, who revile us, or who may even persecute us, but they are with powers and principalities beyond this world. We must discern and learn what Christ-like courage and fearlessness looks like as we face our circumstances.
Like Peter and John, we must be happy warriors who actually exhibit fearlessness and courage for the sake of our enemies, not simply to defeat them. Because when we read Acts 4, we can tell that Peter and John are first and foremost declaring the truth because they want people to know the truth for their own good. They know it leads to life.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached and modeled boldness for us in the great Civil Rights movement in America. His witness, and the witness of so many others, was steeped in the courage and fearlessness of Jesus and the Apostles. They stood for the gospel truth in the face of those who not only belittled and slandered them, but they stood for it even in the face of those who beat them and murdered them. By displaying Christ-like characteristics, they not only added people to their ranks; they even won over many of those who had yielded up their hearts and minds to the dark powers and principalities of hell.
Continuing the Wesleyan Vision. We Filipinos, like people all around the world, were inspired by the courage and fearlessness of Dr. King and the many brothers and sisters who followed in the footsteps of Jesus and the Apostles. They demonstrated for us what our Christian courage and fearlessness must look like when people belittle our faith, attack our beliefs and ethical standards, and even persecute us for declaring that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.
Recently over three hundred Filipinos (myself included) signed a statement entitled, “Continuing the Wesleyan Vision: A Call to Unity in Holiness and Truth.” Those who signed the statement are clergy and laity from all over the archipelago of the Philippines and even Filipino migrants in diaspora – those living in the Middle East, Europe, and North America, or wherever they can find work to support themselves and their families.
As signatories we are all painfully aware of the decades-long dispute that has undermined the health and vitality of our denomination. As United Methodists who love to share the good news of Jesus Christ in both word and deed, we are very troubled that some clergy and bishops in the United States are unwilling to promote and defend the Holy Bible and our church’s teachings that are grounded in it.
We are very disappointed that, at our special 2019 General Conference in St. Louis, some U.S. clergy and bishops openly said they would defy the will of our global General Conference. Additionally, we are also very disappointed that after that conference some U.S. clergy and bishops took out full page ads in major U.S. newspapers belittling what we Filipinos believe, and the teachings that our UM Church had just reaffirmed. Their willingness to do these things has sown the seeds of confusion in the Philippines and undermined our courageous witness to the teachings of The United Methodist Church.
Therefore, as Filipino United Methodists who hold to the primacy of Scripture, we believed it was necessary for us to boldly say we are committed to our church’s teachings regarding marriage, sexual ethics, and ordination that are rooted in Scripture. These beliefs have been taught by the church universal for almost two thousand years, and they are affirmed by the vast majority of Christians the world over.
We do not want to see these healthy, life giving teachings over-ruled by a small, progressive group of rich, elite U.S. bishops and clergy. We do not want to see these teachings changed by U.S. leaders who appear to be more committed to “virtue signaling” to a progressive and permissive culture in the U.S., than to the time honored teachings of the Christian faith.
Our passion is for spiritual vitality, accountability to the life-giving teachings of our faith, and for doctrinal integrity. We want to continue to reach our young people with the good news of Jesus Christ. We do not want to lose them to other evangelical denominations in our country or, even worse, to a secular culture with permissive and destructive values. We envision the birth of a new Global Methodist Church that is committed to discipling our young people, and dedicated to bringing Filipinos to the saving work of Jesus Christ.
We hope to recapture the Spirit-filled passion of the early Methodist movement in the British Isles, North America, and especially that of our Filipino forebearers. We want to recapture that passion and adapt it to new ways of evangelizing and discipling people towards Christlikeness in the 21st century. We hope and pray for the creation of the new Global Methodist Church – a faithful continuation of the original vision of Methodism to “spread scriptural holiness throughout the land!”
As a small country representing small annual conferences, our challenge will be great as we take our stand for God’s truth as it is revealed in the Holy Bible. But it is not relative truth or subjective truth; we believe it is the Truth! It is always true, no matter the region or place. Despite the challenges, we Filipinos will courageously and fearlessly take our stand with Jesus Christ, who is the Truth for all time.
Jonathan Razon is a United Methodist clergyperson and the senior pastor at The Living Faith United Methodist Church in Murong, Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines. In addition to being a pastor, teacher, and human rights worker, Dr. Razon served as a delegate to the UM Church’s 2016 and 2019 General Conferences. This article is adapted from his address to the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Global Gathering in April.
Dr. Timothy Tennent addresses the 2021 Global Gathering of the Wesleyan Covenant Association. WCA photo by Katy Patterson.
By Timothy Tennent –
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:16-20).
The The Wesleyan Covenant Association is to be commended for the vital role it has played in this long struggle to restore historic orthodoxy and Wesleyan affinity to our beloved church. We also cannot forget the long-standing role of Good News and the Confessing Movement, as well as movements such as the Memphis Declaration and the Houston Declaration. For decades, so many have joined this long and tortuous struggle, but a new future is dawning.
The General Conference may have been delayed yet again but you cannot delay God’s work in the people called Methodist. As we prepare for this new movement, let us not forget to stand firm in our commitment to the authority of God’s word, the supremacy of Christ, the great message of sanctification, discipleship, and a global mission to the ends of the earth.
It’s in the remembering of this great theme that Methodism is a missional force that led Francis Asbury to ride 275,000 miles on horseback in our opening days. We are to call and lead people to God, going all the way back to the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ. And whether it be evangelism or planting churches or establishing new global relationships, we have a mission to join with God’s mission in the world.
There was a time when we conceptualized North America as being the center of the world Christian movement, but today it is the fastest growing mission field in the world. We have to think differently about what it means to give birth in a mission field.
All across the world so many of our WCA partners are in the midst of one of the most vibrant movements of God in the history of world. And we get to join God in that mission of Christ to the ends of the earth.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” Jesus said (Matthew 28:18). He is the one who holds all authority and power. We are the people of a risen Lord.
The world has seen countless leaders throughout history from Nebuchadnezzar to Joan of Arc, Alexander the Great to Abraham Lincoln. Many leaders have led great movements, fought great fights, dreamed great dreams, thought great thoughts, but no one has proved more powerful than the grave.
We sometimes forget the radical nature of the question that the angels asked the women who arrived at the tomb. “Why do you seek the living amongst the dead?” It’s a reminder to us of a very important point that we are the people of the risen Lord. What is the implication of that question?
It’s like he’s asking, Don’t you know that Jesus holds the keys of death and hell? Don’t you know that the saints have been redeemed? Don’t you know that sin has been conquered? Don’t you know that the blood of the Lamb has made you more than conquerors? Don’t you know that he is the resurrection and the life? This is the gospel message.
This is what reverberates from the empty tomb to where we are today. We are not waiting for the Council of Bishops to meet and vote on something. We are not waiting on the Protocol. We have already been called into his mission. We’re already the people of the risen Lord. Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
There is no Global Methodist Church unless Christ is the risen Lord. There is not a future for us. We might as well go home if Christ is not risen. But if Christ is risen, we have a global mandate to the ends of the earth. That is why Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
The only imperative in that passage is not the word “go.” They have already been going. They are up in Galilee. They have been going for days. The only imperative in that passage is “make disciples.” The whole passage is arranged around three participles. As you are going, make disciples. As you are baptizing, make disciples. As you are teaching, make disciples. It reminds us that it is our central work.
The people of the risen Lord can’t help but go – blasted out of the empty tomb. Our calling is to make disciples “of all nations.” The word there, ethnos, is where we get ethnic groups from. What he is saying here is not simply put the church in every country of the world. That’s not what he commanded. He said, “Make disciples of every ethnic group in the world.” There are 24,000 ethnic groups in the world. We are called to plant the church and bear witness of Christ to every ethnic group in the world. Today, there still remain 7,000 people groups with no witness of Jesus Christ, no viable church in their midst, and many haven’t heard the name of Jesus.
People ask if I am exhausted by all the endless conversations at General Conference about issues that we should never have had to discuss. Of course, I am. What really bothers me, however, are the conversations we never had time to discuss, all the mandates we never thought about. Wouldn’t it be great to have a whole day of annual conference to speak about how to mobilize the gospel to the ends of the earth? When is that going to happen? It will happen again. Because God has plans for us.
Let me offer a word to those that are committed to build a new denomination. A new church cannot be built on the foundation of anger, however well placed it may be at times. You cannot build a church with the bricks of discontented United Methodists that come into your movement. You cannot build a church with the mortar of triumphalism. None those things will last. Instead, we have to be a global force of evangelism.
I want to challenge you. We need to reach 1 million new people for Jesus Christ. To do that we have to plant 10,000 churches. We have to be focused on the mission that God has called us to.
In this mission, we must never lose our long standing commitment to theological education. “Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you,” Jesus said (Matthew 28:20). If we do not train our clergy well – and in turn, train our laity well – we will be eaten alive by this culture. A feebly-trained clergy cannot stand against the challenges we’re facing in the days and months ahead. We have enormous challenges.
Yes, it’s expensive. That’s what scholarships are for and I promise you that across this country there will be schools standing ready to help train all future ministers with the best education possible.
“Behold I’m with you always, even to the end of age,” Jesus said. Isn’t that the great news? He is the risen Lord, he sends us out, and he will be with us until the end of the age. We have some very challenging days ahead, but Jesus is standing with us.
For a moment, think back to December 12, 1980. You may not know what happened on that day, but that was the day that Apple stock was first put forward as a public offering.
If you could go back in a time machine, what would you do? You would buy stock. You would put all of your money into Apple stock. People would criticize and say, “What are you doing investing in apples?” Whoever heard of Apple? They wouldn’t know what you know now. You would put all your money in it. You would go to your friends and borrow money. You would invest because you knew where it was going. You knew the future.
As believers, we know where this is going. God is going to bring his gospel to the ends of the earth. Imagine if God were to allow the newspapers to produce one last headline when Jesus returns. The last headline of the New York Times: “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ and he will reign for ever and ever.” The last headline of the Wall Street Journal: “Every knee has bowed, every tongue confessed, that Jesus Christ is Lord.” And, of course, USA Today something like, “Jesus wins.”
God has called us and given us a great mission. We are the people of the risen Lord. He has given us a global Great Commission and we have a mandate to the ends of the earth.
Timothy Tennent is a United Methodist clergyperson and the President of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. A theologian and a scholar of missiology and Global Christianity, he regularly writes at TimothyTennent.com. Dr. Tennent has authored several books, and his latest, For the Body: Recovering a Theology of Gender, Sexuality, and the Human Body. This article is adapted from his address at the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Global Gathering in April.
The Rev. Keith Boyette addresses the WCA’s 2021 Global Gathering. WCA photo by Katy Patterson.
By Keith Boyette –
One of the hardest seasons in life is awaiting the birth of a baby.
I’ve done it three times. The nurses told me that my title was coach. I think that was to make me feel good about my presence in the room because I don’t think that my wife appreciated or needed my coaching. Labor and delivery often do not go by the book. There can be unexpected delays, changes in circumstances, and moments of uncertainty. But eventually one way or another the moment arrives and the baby is born. All that hard work and all that pain suddenly seems to evaporate as this new life comes into the world and you hold your flesh and blood, knowing that this is a gift from God.
The waiting part is filled with frustration, anxiety, and a desire to make things happen, but the birth is filled with joy, victory, and a new vision. As the psalmist declares, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). The psalmist continues, “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy. That I may sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever” (Psalm 30:11-12, NLT)
You and I are awaiting a birth. The name is revealed: The Global Methodist Church. We know a lot about this church, we eagerly await the moment of birth when it’s legally formed and begins to operate. But we’re not there yet and that is so frustrating and discouraging. More than a few of us are impatient. Some of us want to force the issue: Deliver that baby! After all, we’ve been waiting for this delivery for months, even years.
The Hebrews waited 400 years for deliverance from servitude in Egypt. They wandered 40 years in the wilderness before they could cross the Jordan to the Promised Land. And God’s people were in exile for 70 years before they were permitted to return to their homeland in Israel.
Our wait has been long but compared to those biblical delays, well, maybe not so long. Still, I’m tired of waiting. I’m impatient. I get anxious. I am discouraged at times, but I have learned that God does amazing work when we are waiting if we trust him and allow him to work.
If delivery had occurred sooner, would we have been ready? When the baby comes you can’t say it’s not convenient yet. You have to be ready to move. And if there is one thing I have learned in my lifetime, it is to trust the timing of God. I have seen over and over again his timing is perfect. His ways are mysterious. I don’t always understand them but in retrospect, I always see his wisdom.
I want to thank the thousands of people around the world who have worked to prepare for the launch of the Global Methodist Church. All of those persons who have served on the Global Council of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and delegates to our global legislative assemblies. So many people have served as officers and board members of our regional chapters, intercessors, and partners in ministry that have joined in this journey.
The members of the Transitional Leadership Council have met weekly for more than a year preparing to usher this new baby into the world. So many have generously given time, resources, and prayers to sustain this work.
The purpose of the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation is to demonstrate to the world that we Methodists, despite significant conflict, could love one another as we part ways, blessing one another in our separation. God sent us a Jewish lawyer to find the way. Unfortunately, recent events in various annual conferences have undercut the environment created by the Protocol. I urge persons of good will in continuing to pursue the goals and objectives embodied in the Protocol.
Our stepping out into a new day is not dependent on the adoption of the Protocol but it is the best way for most churches to address the future if they are going to be a part of the Global Methodist Church. Launching the GMC does not free churches from their present entanglement. The Protocol implementing legislation justly permits churches to align with the Global Methodist Church with all of their buildings, property, and assets without paying significant sums of money.
This is the fair, the right, indeed, the Christian approach to resolving the impasse. Leading bishops, centrists, and progressives acknowledged this critical point when they endorsed the Protocol and committed to working for its adoption.
The announcement of the impending birth of the Global Methodist Church is a moment of great hope for Methodists worldwide. Committed to the Wesleyan tradition, the Global Methodist Church will unashamedly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Our unity will be in the person of Jesus – not in an institution.
We are single-minded in our mission. We dare to proclaim the message of our forefather John Wesley that God desires to transform our character so that we increasingly reflect the character of Jesus. Using Wesley’s phrase, we are prepared to become “more vile” for the privilege of sharing Christ with people of every nation, tribe, and tongue – especially with the poor, the outcast, and the marginalized.
We desire to be a truly global church that enables the strengths in one region of the church to be shared across the church in every part of the world so that we all mutually benefit. Rather than being a church dominated by being U.S.-centric, we expect to be a church that experiences the rich diversity of leadership and vision that rises from all corners of our connection.
We see our connection being rooted and grounded in the great confessions of faith so eloquently expressed in the sermons of John Wesley. I believe we’re on the cusp of a great theological revival. Rather than being fractured in what we believe and practice, we will humbly submit to Christ and live in obedience to the teachings that he affirmed from the Old and New Testaments.
I suspect most of you have heard the words of Mr. Wesley as he looked forward to our generation: “I am not afraid that the people called Methodist shall cease to exist in Europe or America, but I am afraid lest they exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast to both the doctrine, the spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”
As we launch into the new future that God has called for the people called Methodists, we will not settle for the form of religion. We will press on to experience the fullness of the power of God that he promises to his church. We will hold fast to the doctrines that have been entrusted to us by those who have faithfully delivered the faith to our generation. We will know nothing but the Holy Spirit which God has poured out upon his people, seeking always to be filled to overflowing. And we will be a church that adheres to God’s discipline as we seek to be a fitting dwelling place for him as he draws near to us and draws people to himself.
We live in what some have referred to as an already-and-not-yet season – between the first coming as Jesus as savior and his second coming when the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our God and King. In a similar vein, we are already in another not-yet season – we can be Methodists of the Global Methodist Church in anticipation of its launch very shortly. We can live out its doctrine. We can embody its mission and vision. We can keep our eyes focused on where God is calling us. We can be the church God is calling us to be, regardless of what the powers and principalities of this world dare to say.
Declared in the phrasing of the 18th century, John Wesley said, “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not if they are clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth.”
Will you choose to be part of a generation who by the power of God working within us will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven upon the earth. Will you join me?
Keith Boyette is a United Methodist clergyperson and the president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and the chairperson of the Transitional Leadership Council of the Global Methodist Church (in formation). He is an elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church. This article is adapted from his address to the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Global Gathering in April.
Krystl D. Gauld was one of the featured speakers at the 2021 Global Gathering of the Wesleyan Covenant Association.
By Krystl D. Gauld –
One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”
Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.
The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter” (Acts 10:3-5).
According to Google, “audacious” means showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks. Merriam-Webster deems it an adjective, describing a person as intrepidly daring, adventurous, recklessly bold, and contemptuous to laws and decorum. But Luke, the author of the book of Acts, shows us what it means to be audacious.
It begins with the humble yet bold question of a Gentile: “What do you want, Lord?” And it leads to a breakthrough response that ushers in the opportunity for Jews to freely proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people of every culture, faith, and demographic.
In Acts 10, we meet Cornelius. The Bible tells us that he was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household; but his pious lifestyle wasn’t enough. All of the good deeds he found in his heart to do could not buy him forgiveness and eternal life. It could not beget his freedom in Christ or bring him a forged relationship between him and the Father. Still, by way of messenger, God visits Cornelius in his home and enters in.
Luke also tells a similar story about Jesus and the centurion. Like Cornelius, the man was also a Roman military leader. “Lord, don’t trouble yourself,” the unnamed centurion tells Jesus by way of messengers, “For I do not deserve to have you come under my roof” (Luke 7:6). He says this, even to Jesus, because he knew that Jews didn’t visit the homes of people from other races. What if all of your life you were taught – through tales and practices, traditions and past events – that there was a group of people, a race, or a nation that was better than you and everybody else?
It was no secret. People of other nations understood very well that Jews were God’s chosen people, his favorites. It was widely believed that the Lord was on their side and only their side. It was also believed that certain people – Gentile people – weren’t good enough.
This created an international divide between Jews and non-Jews. It was believed that there were deserving and undeserving groups of people. Us versus them. The chosen versus the inferior. The favored versus the unseen. Those considered clean versus those who were so dirty that there was no cure for their human condition. Yet, at this moment, an angel crosses an interracial threshold to visit this Gentile in his home and calls out to him, “Cornelius!”
God calls out a Gentile! To the Gentile and the unbeliever, God says, I know your name. I know exactly who you are. I know exactly where you are, and I want to come in.
With confidence, we can shout out to the world, “God knows your name. You are not a bother. You are our brothers and sisters. You are not an afterthought. You are on God’s mind.”
With God no one is unreachable. No one is too dirty. No one is unredeemable. God is calling out to those people. He is saying, They may be different, but they are not less than. They are still worthy enough and worth dying for.
God accepts anyone who fears him and wants to do what is right. For any non-believer, foreigner, or stranger willing to turn away from sin and towards Christ, our response should be, “Here I am, Lord, send me to them. You want them reconciled: I am going in.”
What is it that you want, Lord? Some translations describe this as a frightening experience. Yet, Cornelius pushes past his fear and musters the audacity to ask, “What do you want, sir?” An angel responds: “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.” How meaningful it must’ve been for Cornelius to know that the God of the Jews was looking down on his gifts and his offerings.
The author makes it a point to tell us that Cornelius was a captain in the Italian regiment. He was a Roman. That means he was an enemy. Between the Jews and the Romans, there was a deep-rooted history of discord and animosity. By birth, Cornelius was a part of the group of people that had oppressed, mistreated, and persecuted Israel. About fifteen years prior, they participated in a hostile killing of the King of the Jews: our Jesus.
While Greeks, Romans, Jews, and several other people groups lived and mixed, it was only in a functional way. They were not friends. There was underlying hurt and ill sentiments among the nations. Yet, it’s almost as if God tells Cornelius, I see you, Gentile, seeking after me and you are going to find me. You let me in and now I am going to let you in.
God is still the redeemer, even of the Gentiles. The Son is still the man that enters neighborhoods to tell excluded women that he’s seen everything they’ve ever done. Jesus is still asking the lamest of folk, don’t you want to be healed? The Holy Spirit is still converting thousands, reaching the captives, and even our captors.
His spirit is still communicating the Father’s vision to his followers. It’s a vision not for ourselves to create a church that will solely separate us from those who want to compromise Scripture and the faith. But it is a vision that empowers us to “go with the gospel” into places where people who perceive themselves to be our enemies because they are still at odds with God.
We are to come out of our silos of safety and comfortability to permit access to our small groups and sanctuaries. We are to partake in fellowship with those who may have never been our friends before, those that are deviants, considered deplorable, disgusting, scary, and even dirty.
Our faith is about more than a group of people recognizing that God does not favor one nation, one race, or one group of people over another. It is so much bigger than Christ’s church cultivating the courage to love our contenders. It is about Jesus reminding us that he died for all – his friends and his enemies.
This is what the Lord tells Cornelius that he wants: “Send men to Joppa,” the angel says in verse 5, “to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter.”
Peter and Cornelius were on opposite sides of warring races. Still, God summons an audacity within Cornelius. He invites Peter, a Jewish person, to come into his home as if he were his next-door neighbor. This is culturally inappropriate, this is socially scandalous, this is even dangerous. However, this conversation reveals God’s vision for the church.
God is communicating his vision to Cornelius in a language that he would understand, the crossing over into territories, strategically beyond enemy lines, to extend kingdoms by evangelizing people.
God later speaks to Peter in a form that he would understand, hunger. Peter is up on a rooftop to pray. It was about noon, lunchtime, the next day. As Peter is praying, his stomach probably starts to rumble. For Peter, what looked to be a huge blanket contained a feast – an overwhelming presence of every kind of animal, reptile, and bird you could think of (Acts 10:11). God nudges a hungry Peter, to go, kill, and eat.
Yet, Peter objects. The Bible tells us that three times, Peter rejects what the Lord is offering. It was not aligned with tradition, and he was not going to cross that line. Peter did not realize it was God’s broadest and most vibrant vision for the church. He didn’t know that it wasn’t about food but it was about all kinds of people.
God is speaking to his church today in a language we understand: Renewal. Newness. A new and renewed Global Methodist Church. Even still, it is about evangelizing people. Every kind of person. Strategically and practically, that means we are going to have to cross our perceived enemy lines. God is revealing to us our future as a Global Methodist Church. He is showing what he wants. And it should stretch us. It should puzzle us. It should even scare us. It should make us want to say “no,” but through the providence, power, prompting, and pushing of God’s spirit, we can give birth to this new and radical disciple-making movement God has planned for us.
And this movement will not be about our way of life for people; it will be about a way to live everlasting for all people. It will be about the way, the truth, and the life, our Lord, who saves and redeems all people.
It won’t be about traditions and legalisms that create cultural divides and fortify enemy lines. It will be about how Jesus crossed those lines so that the dead could come alive. It will be about how when sin separated us from God, and lines were drawn between us and them, God took it upon himself to cross it: from heaven, Jesus crossed over into earth becoming fully man, while still divine, to carry the fault of our sin. We were at odds as sinners – doomed, dirty, due death, and destined for hell. And he was perfect, absolutely righteous.
He wanted to make things right with us. He carried an old rugged cross to the mount that he was willing to die on for us. He suffered for our transgressions so that truly, today, we can be with him in paradise. It will be a movement about Jesus; how he then went across the true enemy’s threshold into hell, snatching back the keys of death, damnation, and the grave. So that we could be set free from the slavery of our sin, so that we can be found blameless just as he is blameless, and so that we could be made well. It will be about how his resurrected life crossed out condemnation, crossed out a dire debt that we owed that we could never repay.
It crossed out the suffering and sin of those of us that have turned to him. And now we, too, can cross lines that will push back death in parts of the world where people are still hurting, sick, despondent, and in despair. For Jesus, he is our crossover king, our Passover lamb, and the undefeatable cure for our human condition.
Krystl D. Gauld is the Executive Director at Dignity Housing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. An advocate, student, and young adult leader in the church, she is currently working on a Doctor of Theology degree at Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown, Pennsylvania. The Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference has twice elected her to serve as a General Conference delegate. Newly married, Krystl lives with her husband Damian Gauld in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. This article is adapted from her address at the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Global Gathering in April.