Followers of Christ Belong to God

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What are the most important jobs in the church? We know the answer — no job is more important than another. Do we act that way though?

B.T. Roberts is remembered today as the father of Free Methodism. This man followed the wisdom of God even when he lost all respectability in his original denomination. William Kendall was a friend of his, no less faithful, no less wise in God’s Spirit. They encouraged each other through difficult times. But those in charge shuffled Kendall off to an out-of-the-way church. He preached there for about a year. People’s lives were changed. Then he caught a fever and died. His name is in some history books, but he is not especially well remembered. He never got to see the results of his faithfulness.

So — am I willing to be a William Kendall? Of course, most of us would be willing to be a B.T. Roberts if God asked us to. We would be willing to suffer for a while if we would eventually see our work have a lasting impact in God’s kingdom. But what if I die and nobody remembers what I did? Even today, what if nobody notices my faithfulness? Do I want to look important, or at least be attached to someone else who is? In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul corrects this desire by putting leadership in the proper perspective: “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe” (3:5a).

When Paul calls himself and Apollos “servants,” he is not using a term of respect. Plutarch, writing in the first and early second centuries, believed that working “with one’s own hands on lowly tasks” shows “one’s own indifference to higher things.”


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Following a Call to the Arts

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Photo by Cedric Wooten

More than 30 leading artists competed for the role of chief sculptor of the Catholic Memorial at Ground Zero. Renowned painter, illustrator and sculptor John Collier ultimately earned the position for the memorial at St. Joseph’s Chapel in New York City.

St. Joseph’s had served as a worship space for workers from the nearby World Trade Center, and after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, recovery workers stored equipment there. Following the recovery efforts, church leaders decided to include a memorial when the chapel received a necessary restoration following heavy damage from the recovery efforts.

“They wanted to make memorials to the people who had died, and they didn’t want a statue of a fireman and a policeman in the church, so they decided — being Catholics — to choose the patron saints of policemen, firemen and workers,” said Collier, who added that one biblical character also was selected. “They chose Mary Magdalene because she was the first witness to the resurrection” [John 20:1–18; Mark 16:9–11].

The sculptures earned Collier the Optimé Award from Ministry & Liturgy magazine, and he received coverage from national news media. (Go to fmchr.ch/pbsjc for a PBS profile of Collier.)


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Followership: Not What You Think It Means

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Spellcheck does not consider “followership” a word. No matter how many times I type “followership” for this article, that persistent, squiggly red line beneath it tells me: “This term does not exist in common English
usage.”

Even in dictionaries, “followership” is usually defined by its inverse relation to leadership — “the capacity to follow a leader.” No one has come to terms with this word on its own. What does it mean to follow well? 

Marketing and business gurus have made fortunes telling us how to lead others
effectively. No one has opened a Swiss bank account on the earnings from teaching how to follow. But which one did Jesus first command us to do?

“Come, follow me” (Matthew 4:19). In fact, it’s His first command, period.


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Followership

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Going With Him

I grew up attending a small Free Methodist church where we occasionally sang a hymn that concluded, “Where He leads me, I will follow. I’ll go with Him, with Him all the way.”

According to hymnary.org, Salvation Army officer E.W. Blandy was inspired to write these lyrics after deciding to serve in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood instead of in a safer position at an established church. The lyrics
reflect Jesus’ words in Mark 8:34: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

As a young newlywed, I took a brief sojourn from Free Methodism during my wife’s counseling internship at a suburban Chicago megachurch. I didn’t find much difference theologically at this congregation known for pioneering “seeker-
sensitive” worship services, but I noticed a big difference in the lingo. The pastors seemingly avoided the word “Christian” but repeatedly referred to “Christ followers.” At the same time, the church hosted a “leadership summit” that featured well-known pastors alongside corporate executives and government officials. Despite the frequent mentions of “followers,” I don’t remember ever seeing posters for a “followership summit.”

In the decade and a half since then, I’ve heard fellow Free Methodists increasingly refer to “Christ followers,” and I’ve added these words to headlines and articles in this magazine. Meanwhile, some of us host our own leadership summits. One of our strategic priorities (fmcusa.org/uniquelyfm) is “Develop Leaders.” But how can one be a leader and a follower simultaneously? Is this a contradiction?

No, we can (and must) be followers of Jesus while also leading others to Him. That’s what Blandy did way back in the 1890s.

Let’s be followers who lead while also being leaders who follow. Keep reading for followership wisdom from leading/following leaders/followers.

Downloadable PDF: Light + Life August 2015

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Features

The next several articles on our blog have been taken from Light & Life Magazine’s August magazine.


Bravo NextGen of Christ Followers

May I vent for just a moment?

I’m so weary of the doom-and-gloom assessments commonly made about members of the next generation (NextGen). I’m more than weary, truth to tell. I’ve heard and read all about how more than 80 percent of churched teens abandon the church once they leave home for college or university; they don’t believe in absolutes or embrace traditional biblical morality; they feel entitled, don’t know how to work hard, have short attention spans, and want pretty much everything right now! I’ve seen panic in the eyes of fearful parents and despairing grandparents. Worse, I’ve seen disdain and scorn on many church faces as they look at the body ink, piercings and other “exotic accessories” common today. Yes, disdain and scorn — as if to say, self-evidently, “There ya go.” It’s as if simply pointing at them makes some point that we should all find compellingly depressing. Well, all I can do is call on a current expression, “Seriously?”

OK, thanks! I needed that.

Now, in the face of all of it, I want to say, “Bravo, NextGen!” Certainly, you have your issues, but don’t we all? I choose to face whatever truth there is in these assessments as a kind of “means of grace” for those of us who are more ancient than you. If these things are true, or to whatever extent they may be true, there are reasons — some of which the ancient ones don’t want to hear. For example, if you leave the church once you have freedom to do so, there is something wrong with the church and with the ancient ones who are being church in such a non-interesting and unattractive way. What should the ancient ones learn? (I nurse the hope that you will tell us, and we will listen.)

For another example,


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7 Things I’ve Learned from 7th Graders

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7 Things I’ve Learned from 7th Graders

This week, I was a substitute small group leader.

Now, here’s the thing you need to know about being a substitute small group leader: when you sit down for the first time with a bunch of middle schoolers you barely know…you’re not going to have a very spiritual conversation. 

If you’ve ever met a middle schooler (or another human, for that matter), this probably isn’t news to you. Most of us aren’t exactly in the habit of pouring out our hearts to complete strangers.

So if you ever find yourself striking up a conversation with kids who don’t really know you, maybe don’t expect to guide them through a major spiritual breakthrough. Try to establish a few more reasonable goals instead. Like…

  • Remember their names.
  • Laugh with them.
  • Learn about their world.

This week, here’s what I learned about the world of a few seventh grade girls.


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The FMC and Immigration

3 FM CHURCHES APPLY AS IMMIGRATION LEGAL CLINICS

Three Free Methodist Churches have now applied to the Board of Immigration Appeals to become certified as Immigration Legal Clinics. These churches have the opportunity to bless undocumented immigrants by providing honest, legal information on whether or not they can seek legal status. For many, the answer will be “no”, but they’ll have saved thousands of dollars they may have otherwise paid to unscrupulous “notarios” or lawyers who take their money, promising legal status, and then never return their calls. For some, the answer will be “yes”. And for those, these churches can provide legal advice and fill out forms leading to the ability for the person or family to achieve legal status.
To become an Immigration Legal Clinic, a church needs a person with a heart for helping “the stranger among us” who takes a 40-hour class and then participates in a 40-hour internship. The church needs a private room for counselling and a few other things. The typical charge for providing this service is around $200 per person and a church can generally process around 140 applicants per year. So this is an opportunity to create a ministry that partially pays for itself, and – most importantly – results in hundreds of new people coming to the church for help. The church can build a relationship of trust. And the result is that most churches who take on this ministry grow. ALL of them fulfill God’s call to bless the stranger.

If you’d like more information, CLICK HERE.



Who Are You Inviting?

EVANGELICALISM IS GROWING BUT SO IS THE NUMBER OF UNCHURCHED
Recent statistics from the Pew Research Center showed that from 2007 to 2014 the number of evangelicals in America rose from 59.8 million to 62.2 million.  The percentage of U.S. adults who self-identify as evangelicals rose from 34% to 35% over those seven years.  The 2014 General Social Survey reported that 55% of evangelicals attend church – more than any other time in the last 40 years.

At the same time, Barna Research reports that 38% of U.S. adults qualify as “post-Christian”.  That same number – 38% – of U.S. adults qualify as “unchurched” under Barna’s definition.  Unchurched adults have not attended a church service, except for a holiday or special occasion, at any time in the past six months.  (ECFA Church Pulse)

Soooo, who are you inviting to church?


I Don’t Spend Too Much Time on Social Media… Do I?

I’m in a unique position where I hear regularly from teens and from parents. It’s funny being on both sides of the coin because parents regularly complain, “My daughter spends too much time staring at her stupid phone!” And teenagers always protest, “My mom won’t let up about my phone use!”

So who is right?

Last month I had a teenager I know pretty well ask me honestly, “You don’t think I really spend too much time on my phone, do I?”

She had heard all the hype about “too much time on screens.” You probably have too:

So is this just a bunch of helicopter parents worrying too much, or do we really have something to worry about?

Let me come clean. If I am being completely honest:


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Are You Ready?

If you’re a fan of sports, then you have probably been keeping up with all the preseason news on your favorite NFL team. You have very likely read about how they did with their draft. You probably follow the camps and the preseason games (which mean very little).

And you probably can’t wait for the regular season to start.

As a pastor and a sports fan, I start to look at Church the same way. Obviously it’s not really the same. There is no off season when we are doing the work God has given us.

But there are seasons.

For students, we have a 9-month season, a golden opportunity, where they are constantly in the playing field (read: mission field). Have you ever considered school this way?

The government tells us our children need to be educated. They are thrown together with other students of various backgrounds. Despite their lack of desire, they have to be there. What better opportunity is there for Christians to have influence on their community?

While summer is low-key, the fall is when the community gets back to a bigger schedule. Our children’s, youth and college ministries are all kicking off into their regular schedules. We will invite students to come and be a part of our family in worship, in Bible studies, in evangelism training and a whole lot more.

We may not have a preseason as a Church, but you better believe the season of opportunity is upon us.

Are you ready?