Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Engaging People in Our Communities

Whenever we speak about evangelism we inevitably have to talk about how we relate with people.  One of the criticisms of United Methodists today is that we are very nice people who are generally friendly with neighbors, store clerks, and co-workers.  But we have not done a good job of talking with them about our Christian faith.  It is almost as if we are riding the pendulum swing to the other side of "Are you saved?" conversation.  We have a strong distaste for manipulative, Bible thumping questions that will not guide a person towards faith in Christ.  And this is a good thing.

But we live in a time when the pendulum needs to swing back to the center.  And United Methodist Christians need to ponder the kinds of questions we ask the new people we encounter each day.  We are okay with weather questions, natural disasters, sports teams, and construction delays.  But how are we with God questions?

If you tell a neighbor that you are part of Alaska United Methodist Church down the road and that neighbor responds, "I used to go to church, but I don't believe in God anymore," ask them this question.  "Tell me about the God you don't believe in."  Chances are you don't believe in that God either! 

Part of what we are doing in such encounters is honest theology.  People have so many misconceptions about God and the Church.  They have an understanding about Christians that we are all alike and that we draw distinct lines between good and evil.  Some of what we are doing with such honest conversation is helping people know they can trust us with their questions.  And the door is always open for future conversation.  It is possible that such a conversation will be the one that removes the final barrier for another to come to faith in Christ.

Consider this an encouragement to you to think about a couple of God questions you could be prepared to ask someone in your mission field.

Grace Always,

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Devastation in Oklahoma

I do not believe the Bible was intended to be interpreted literally.  If the authority does not lie in the actual, literal words where does it lie?  For me scripture is authoritative when I place myself into the narrative.  When I see my failings, my sin in the story of Moses, or Jonah, or Paul that is precisely when I am ready to hear the word of God speak to my heart.

Yesterday as I watched the horrific scenes of tornado destruction in Oklahoma I began to place myself in the shoes of those who endured the violence.  The outcome of such an exercise?  Compassion.  I searched the UMCOR site to see if they had posted a number for donations, but it had only been an hour since the tornado left the ground.

I am quite sure that my heart cannot make room for all the suffering people in our world.  In our world of instant news technology we can be overwhelmed with human need.  Do you know why some tragic events touch your heart while others to not?  When our world view enlarges we often feel some of the hurt of people wherever it happens on our planet.  God gives us more of God's heart to share the pain of others.  Perhaps we think it is up to us.  Our hearts are simply not big enough to take in all the hurts of the world.  During such moments of human suffering wherever it happens on a large or small scale our role is to imagine the heart of God opening to others and to be the hands and feet of God.

If you feel compassion for the people of Moore, Oklahoma, and want to do something concrete to help please consider a donation to UMCOR at http://www.umcor.org/  The number is 901679.

Grace Always,

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Listen to your Body

I spent an hour with a spiritual director this week to help me discern a decision.  One of the things she said to me was, "Listen to your body.  What is your body telling you about this?"

I appreciated the physicality of her question.  We tend to think of prayer as a mental or still activity.  We all have been told as children to bow our head, close our eyes, and fold our hands.  Be quiet when you pray.

The Alaska ecumenical leaders met recently for a retreat and I was struck by how these bishops and executives and pastors talked about their need to move when they pray.  How do you pray?  And do you need to move when you pray?  And what do you think about the idea of listening to your body during prayerful discernment?

Grace Always,