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An Overlooked Hero

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llm-oct14_discipleshipSome of the best Bible story characters are found in Judges. You have Gideon, the unlikely savior breaking pottery-covered torches; Deborah, the Joan of Arc-esque leader who chases away the bad guys; Samson, a hairy, muscle-bulging womanizer who destroys whole buildings with his bare hands; and Shamgar, the guy who … does stuff.

What? You never heard of Shamgar? No surprise. Shamgar does not get the same press as other Sunday school heroes.


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Gaining Faith and Losing Weight

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Photo courtesy of Justin Willoughby

After being introduced in June as a Keystone Conference ministerial candidate, Justin Willoughby shared part of his life story with the hundreds gathered at the Pleasantville Camp.

“At 16 years old, I was sitting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in a hospital bed,” said Willoughby, the 27-year-old assistant pastor of Open Arms Community Church in Bradford, Pennsylvania. “That hospital bed had a scale. That scale weighed me in at 799 pounds.”


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The Only Change That Matters

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llm-oct14_historyWe can’t draw generational lines when it comes to the most important change people need.

Is there a generational gap in the church? Some younger people think that the church is trapped somewhere between Victorian England and “Little House on the Prairie.” Some older folks think the church is now under the conspiratorial control of the “artist formerly known as Prince.”

Neither point of view is true. The church is not being held back by stodgy doctrines of Fanny Crosby. Nor is it being hijacked by vagrant youth workers with tattoos. That is not to say that some congregations are not trapped in the past or mesmerized by the trendy.

The ability to change or not change does not fall neatly into generational categories. I’ve had 95-year-old women pump my hand and greet me with, “I just love your magazine. It gets me to thinking, and I like that.” And I’ve had 30-year-olds afraid to shake my hand for fear that the mark of the beast might transfer.

It’s time for us to quit drawing the lines and choosing up sides around the question of who is open to change and who is not. As I survey the territory of the church, I see where the real division exists. There are those who are hungry for God to come with transforming power and those who aren’t.

Those with an insatiable appetite for seeing God’s transforming power have the ability to revere the past and still receive the future.

True change does not come through methods and strategies. It is not subject to our notions of relevance or irrelevance. It has nothing to do with attractiveness or appeal.

This is a condensed excerpt from a September 1997 editorial in Light & Life Magazine. The editorial also appears in “The Newton Editorials,” a 2011 book published by Light & Life Communications.

Go to fmchr.ch/newtonedit to order “The Newton Editorials.”

This article originally appeared in Light & Life Magazine at http://llcomm.org/.



The Death of the Church

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llm-oct14_GC-picThe problem with following Jesus is that doing so brings us to the cross. Our avoidance of death results from our disbelief that God raised Jesus from the dead and will do the same for us.

Statistics suggest the church in America is dying. But church attendance cannot tell us whether or not this is a cruciform dying. Failing church attendance can be the result of a church that has lost its courage to follow Jesus (think of how the disciples scattered from the cross), or a church that has courageously followed Jesus (the early church lost many members through martyrdom, after all). Church attendance alone cannot tell us whether we have kept in step with Jesus. Far more important than the question, “How can we fill the pews?” is the question, “Are we following Christ to the cross?”


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Share the Good Story

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Bishop David Roller (To read more from Bishop Roller, visit fmcusa.org/davidroller)

In most of the conjecture about how different each generation is from the last, we exaggerate our Western supposition that individuals are capable of significant uniqueness. The truth is less exhilarating: In their essential makeup, generations are boringly redundant.

Sure, Millennials text more than Gen Xers, and young Millennials tend to live longer in their parents’ basements, but all the descriptors are incremental, not radical. At our core, we are all depressingly the same. These shared core characteristics are then molded by cultural forces into apparently unique generations of humanity, but whereas the uniqueness is on the surface, the similarities inhabit the core.

That doesn’t mean generational differences can be ignored as we imitate Paul in becoming “all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). Thoughtful ministers (both lay and clergy) will probe every generation to discover how to best present the good news of Jesus in generationally appropriate ways.

An example is how we Christians talk about guilt.


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Overlooked by the Church

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llm-oct14_foundationWhen I attended church for the first time, a tall guy with a soul patch (the seemingly universal requirement of a male youth pastor) approached. He said he saw my sister and me in service and wanted to invite us to the youth group that met later that night. I said, “Yeah, maybe,” which meant no.

Yet I remember thinking how great it was to have someone approach me and invite me to something my first time at church. It made me feel like church was a place I belonged rather than a place for “old people.”

After I graduated from high school and entered college, my experiences with churches became much different. Several times, I walked into a church, sat down and walked out after a service without anyone talking to me. Sadly, as I work with more young adults, I find out this is common in many churches today.

In Acts 6, widows were neglected. The church grew every day, but these widows were overlooked in the daily food distribution. In their book, “The Slow Fade,” Reggie Joiner, Chuck Bomar and Abbie Smith ask, “What if college-aged people are the widows of a twenty-first-century church?”

In a Barna survey, 59 percent of young adults with a Christian background report they have stopped attending church after going regularly in high school.

I think a mass exodus of young adults from the church does not result from Millennials wanting to miss church, but rather because people in the church do not try to connect with them. The church leaders in Acts 6 became aware of the need, accessed the need and, as a community, met the needs of the overlooked widows. What will you do now that you are aware of the need? Will you try to re-engage a generation that has gone mostly overlooked?

Go to fmchr.ch/Oct14Lynch for an expanded version of this article.

SCRIPTURE:

Acts 6

Adam Lynch, a 2010 graduate of Spring Arbor University, specializes in ministry to young adults. 

This article originally appeared in Light & Life Magazine at http://llcomm.org/.



Sharing Stories and Connecting in Church

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llm-oct14_featureGospel tracts, street preachers with bullhorns and sidewalk witnessing — these things seem like evangelistic efforts of yesteryear. In all of our innovative efforts to engage culture, have evangelical Christians left evangelism behind?

The church does not have the option of sitting idly by while the world continues to shape, transform and influence culture and the way young adults live. The church needs a way to address the relational voids that exist in our communities by using Jesus’ model of storytelling, connectivity and access. The challenge lies in finding effective ways to grow emotionally and numerically, instill a sense of belonging within congregational life, and provide safe and meaningful space for connections to occur and develop.

What allows a church community to flourish and instill a sense of belonging? The church is commissioned to develop a proverbial village to raise up (figurative and literal) children. Within this village, a person experiences a sense of belonging, the space to relate at different depths with different people, the strength of a resilient community of support, and the reassurance of multiple people who are invested in that person.

Becoming a Christian is life-changing. After that initial change, however, many people don’t seem to grow much, if at all. They think becoming a Christian was all they needed to do, and now they have reached the goal and are done growing. This travesty fails to understand the true goal of Christian life and the necessity of continuously growing and learning. The greatest travesty is when Christians are not becoming what God designed them to be. The heart of the body of Christ requires continuous learning and intentionality in relationships. The church must connect hurting people with people offering love and support.


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Light & Life Magazine

Over the course of the next 2 weeks, we will be posting articles from the most recent edition of Light & Life Magazine, a Free Methodist publication. Here is the intro…

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llm-oct14_covView From the Middle (Age)

I think of myself as young, but society (and my younger co-workers) might not agree.

After all, I’ve never used Netflix, and I own two VCRs. The music of my youth is now on the oldies station, and if I can’t find a song there, I can turn to my cassette collection. When I mention a TV show like “The Jeffersons,” I get blank looks. I’ll never land on Christianity Today’s “33 Under 33,” but in just 10 years I can join AARP.

When I walk into some churches, however, I’m still one of the younger people in the room. Where are the Millennials? According to Barna Group researchers, only 20 percent of adults age 30 and younger consider church attendance important (fmchr.ch/barnamil).

What can be done to reverse this trend while respecting people of all ages? I’m probably not the right person to answer that question — no matter how many issues of Relevant Magazine I read or how many hashtags I put on my tweets.

Thankfully, these pages contain the perspectives of several young adults who have much to say about how churches can reach and serve Millennials and the rest of us too.


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Do I Really Need To Know About Youth Culture?

By Walt Mueller

I think I’m your average looking fifty-six year old man. That might be why I get so many funny looks when I go to the mall. The cashiers and people in line behind me either think that I’m a crazed middle-aged maniac, some kind of creeper, or a terrible father. On one mall excursion several years ago I stood in line at the book store to purchase a stack of magazines including YM, Seventeen, Cosmo Girl, Teen, Rolling Stone, and Tattoo Savage. When I catch people curiously glancing back and forth between me and my armload of goodies I quickly utter what I’m sure comes off sounding like a pretty lame excuse – “I study youth culture for a living.” I can always tell what they’re thinking – “Yea, right.”

But is it really that important to know today’s youth culture? And why do I feel it’s so important to convince you as a youth worker to do the same? The answers are many. Here are four.


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Pastors Start Strong

Pastor Darwin Mowat and his wife, Joan Mowat, of the Lighthouse FMC in Barryton, Mich., join in worship during Starting Strong.

New Free Methodist Church – USA pastors connected with bishops and each other Sept. 8–10 during the Starting Strong Conference in Indianapolis.

“Monday afternoon, there was a real sense of excitement as the pastors arrived. There was a sense of hope to build lasting relationships with each other and the bishops,” Ministerial Credentialing Services Coordinator Douglas Britt said. “Wednesday, when they left, those hopes had come to fruition. The new pastors connected with each other and the bishops in a deep and meaningful way that can serve as a springboard to strong relationships of mutual support as they work for Christ throughout the years.”

The conference included both longtime Free Methodists who are new to pastoral ministry and experienced pastors who are new to Free Methodism.


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