June 18, 2015 

Friends:

Like me, most of you woke up this morning to the terrible news of the shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, my home state.

I am saddened and angry to hear that a gunman sat through a Bible Study and then took out a gun and killed the pastor and eight other people; nine lives of God’s children taken in cold blood!

I am especially sickened that this heinous crime occurred in a church, in a sanctuary. Lord, if we cannot be safe in our churches, where else can we go? But painfully enough, this is not the first time such a crime has violated the sanctuary of God’s space.

Even as people of faith who share the Wesleyan tradition of grace, we feel doubt, anger, sorrow and sympathy collide in our hearts. We may be wondering where God is at this moment. (more…)

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“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free…” Luke 4:18 (MSG)

ImageLent is a 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter where we recommit to our spiritual disciplines, repentance and fasting, and we remember the life, death and burial of Jesus, and prepare for the celebration of his resurrection. At the end of our 40-day journey, one of the great hopes is that we have realigned our lives with the life that Jesus lived.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Jesus’ ministry was not his interest in the secure, affluent, popular, well educated or politically well connected in society. Jesus had a passion to dwell among and to serve people who lived beyond the boundaries, people who were without power and people who lived on the margins of society.

Jesus ministered to those who were poor, homeless, prisoners, and carrying heavy burdens. These same people in our society are often easy to see, but many times difficult to engage. This is true especially when we are consumed with our own personal agendas rather than a Kingdom agenda. When our consumer acquisitions leave no room for us to share or give anything away. When our to-do lists are so packed that we do not have any time to share with those who Jesus ministered to. When this happens, the people who are hurting and living on the margins just become a part of the landscape that we tend to ignore-unless they get in our way.

If we are realigning ourselves with the mission of Jesus during this 40-day journey toward the resurrection, we have an opportunity to recommit ourselves to the mission of serving those who Jesus served. We can commit to serving the poor who are trapped by systems and have no visible escape route. We can go to the jails and the prisons to proclaim the Good News. We can be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world so that they may have their spiritual sight restored.

Selfishness, self centeredness and self-indulgence are the core values we experience when we have lost sense of our mission to serve those who Jesus served. Sharing unconditional love is an oxymoron in a society that teaches it is all about me. My challenge to us as we begin this journey together is to find a place to serve beyond our comfort zones, that is, if you are really willing to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

Prayer:  Lord, open my eyes to all who need to hear the Good News. Give me the words to say and the courage to speak. Give me the discipline to live out your mission with the people that others avoid, ignore and shun.

William T Chaney Jr
Infinite Grace Fellowship
West Baltimore UMC

 I have been consulting with congregations and pastors for 20 years around their “worship wars”.  Very few weeks go by where I do not get questions about how to negotiate the introduction, financing, purpose, or function of an alternative service.  In mainline denominations the “traditional” service is usually the strongest service where the people who serve on all of the administrative committees have the power to open the doors or shut the doors to a new service prospering.

It is amazing how many church councils have a clear conscience in voting on a budget that provides the traditional service with a $25,000 budget and then they give the alternative service $5,000 to start up and sustain themselves.  The cycle has become quite predictable.  When the church leaders evaluate the new service for vitality they claim that there are not enough people, the level of ministry is not equal to the excellence that they currently experience in traditional worship is not reflected in the new service and “it is taking the pastor’s time away from concentrating on our service”. 

New services tend to reach new people who are not indoctrinated in our church centered world. They may not be instantly committed and often do not give significantly at the beginning.  New services are excellent opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those who are far from God or have been hurt by the church in a casual, conversational and caring worship environment.  By eliminating the alternative service you are removing God’s children from the fountain of grace that should be flowing throughout the entire congregation.  

“The responsibility of the older, more mature members in starting a new worship service is to pray for it and pay for it”  Bill Easum  

He said this many years ago and now in my role as Guide, coach and consultant I understand the wisdom clearly.  It takes money to get a worship leader who can build, develop and disciple band members.  It takes finances to get the appropriate multimedia equipment and sound reinforcement.  It takes pray to strengthen the prodigals that are searching for God. The leaders, who are pursuing the vision of reaching the lost, left out and marginalized in your community need prayer for wisdom and guidance.  It takes finances to do community outreach and connect the church to the needs of people in the community.  If you expect the same excellence that is present in the established service, you have to budget appropriately.  This may mean cutting the traditional service budget so that the kingdom of God can flourish.  True community is where the people live with all things in common including finances.

As mainline churches seek to be relevant to this generation, I suspect that the worship wars will continue.  One guiding principle is you can’t cheap thrill excellence.  And the second is the responsibility of the mature body of disciples is to “pray for it and pay for it”.

I had the blessing of waking up on Prayer Mountain in Korea this morning.[i]The young Adults of the Southern Conference of the Methodist Church and the Young Adults of the Baltimore Washington Conference have been on a joint prayer retreat since Tuesday and we are concluding our time here on Prayer Mountain. We are inside this morning because of the rain but the experience of a prayer retreat in the midst of current world history is slightly overwhelming.  The global recession is devastating to many countries, poverty and illiteracy are easily overlooked as we focus on our own experience of working to live rather than living to work. Girls in many nations are being kidnapped and forced into prostitution yet the church has been silent. Our building projects, fellowship dinners and multiple committee meetings seem to be preventing the church from engaging the serious issues of ministry and mission that are not just located in our local communities but should be the common enemy of all Christians. The opportunity to turn off the busyness of our everyday lives and concentrate for 24 + hours on the needs of others, to listen to the Voice of God through the Scriptures and in my spirit has a recalibrating effect on my life and my commitment to personal prayer, study, simplicity and silence in connecting with God daily.

            One of the spiritual cultural differences that I have experienced here in Korea is getting up for “early morning prayer.”  It is no longer a phenomenon but a daily part of my life after 7 days.  The lesson is that we can take daily time for set aside prayer by reordering our priorities. There have been up to 1000 people at the 5:00am worship and many stayed for prayer afterwards.  One observation is that it appeared that more than half of the congregation walked to church and left to catch public transportation to work.  There were also prayer services all week at various times. Sansung Church is one of the two churches that I will be preaching at on Sunday.  Thank you for keeping us  in your prayers.

It has stopped raining and the sun is beginning to shine.  There are also several other people waiting to use the computer.

 


[i] Prayer Mountain is a Christian retreat in South Korea, operated by the Yoido Full Gospel Church, Korea’s largest church. It is located in Jori-myeon, Paju, in northern Gyeonggi province near the Demilitarized Zone. It has facilities for 10,000 people.

 Here is the common prayer guide that everyone’s prayer partners will be using.  Also you can check out our blog each day www. yakorea.wordpress.com

I may be posting to Twitter and Facebook but I have not worked out the details of getting a netbook so I may not have access to a computer.

Korea Trip Prayer Guide

 July 15-16 – Pray for safe travel and a good first impression with the Korean Methodist Church.

 July 17-18 – Pray for our first night with our 1st host family. Pray that we would handle the language barrier well and adjust to a new culture the taste of Korean food. Pray especially for Liz Baker.

 July 19 – Pray for us as we worship in our Korean host churches and for  Pastor Brian and Rev. Chaney as they preach and talk about all God is doing in their churches in the USA.

  July 20 – Pray for the team as they attend daily early morning (4am) prayer meetings and learn about Korean spirituality. Pray for Rev. Park.

  July 21 – Pray for our team as we move to our second host family and adjust to a new location. Pray especially for Franeka Kirby.

  July 22-23 – Pray for God’s Spirit to work among us as we work together with our Korean hosts. Pray for those in the VBS classes that we lead. Pray especially for Georgiana Spillman.

  July 24 – Pray for peace between North and South Korea as our team visits the DMZ. Pray especially for Mary Stortstrom.

  July 25 – Pray that God would deepen our appreciation for his world and strengthen us. Pray especially for Kevin Holmes.

  July 26 – Pray for our team as we worship together and seek God for a fresh spiritual awakening.  

 July 27 – Pray for our team as we attend a retreat with our Korean brothers and sisters. Pray that God would strengthen our friendships for His glory.

  July 28 – Pray for new ideas for ministry during our retreat.

 July 29 – Pray for a safe return trip!