Sky Links, 5-6-17

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0

Have you ever wondered how the Methodist movement went from 'hot' to 'naught'?  

Alan Hirsch wrote a post called, "It Slayed the Momentum of the Methodists":

  In the opinion of Stephen Addison, a missiologist who has spent much of his professional life studying Christian movements, the key to Methodism's success was the high level of commitment to the Methodist  cause that was expected of participants. This cause declined to the degree that the movement had moved    away from its original missional ethos of evangelism and disciple making and degenerated into mere religious legalism maintained by institution, rule books, and highly professionalized clergy .
In fact, although Methodism in America had experienced massive ex-ponential growth (35 percent of the population in around forty years), two critical “movement killers” were introduced into Methodism in America that effectively hamstrung the movement.
  1. Heightened Educational requirements. In 1850 the leaders of Methodism had tired of the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians deriding them as “uncouth and unlearned” ministers, so they decided that all their circuit riders and local ministers had to complete fours years of ordination studies in order to qualify . Growth ceased straightaway!
  2. Lowered discipleship focus. Ten years later (1860) they no longer required classes and bands—discipleship had become an optional extra. Methodism has been in decline in relation to percentage of the population ever since!

Listening and Hospitality

How are your listening skills?  Adam S. McHugh wrote about how listening happens on the inside and is the best kind of hospitality:

The truth is that only the listener can gauge whether he or she is truly listening, because true listening takes place on the inside. You can have all the trappings of listening – eye contact, appropriate body language, active listening sounds, occasional questions – and still not be genuinely listening. I know, because I have done it. I have been complemented for my listening by people that I knew I hadn’t listened to well, because I was preoccupied with my internal thoughts while sitting across the table from them. I was listening to the voices in my inner world, with their nagging concerns, self-doubts, and judgements, rather than offering my internal attention to the person in front of me. As Steven Covey put it, I was listening to respond, rather than listening to understand.

Unkind Christians who level the 'heretic' charge too easily

Mike Frost wrote a post about the recent fracas (written attacks) over Jen Hatmaker:

I think what conservative evangelicals do to their brothers and sisters who come to different views to theirs is a clear mark of unhealthy religion. And I think the fact that evangelicals seem to focus on one prominent dissenter at a time, making an example of that person by public mockery and critique is cruel and unbecoming.

So, what does healthy religion look like? Well, the opposite.

In her book, Bothered and Bewildered, Ann Morisy identifies healthy religion in the following way:
  1. Healthy religion does not indoctrinate, but teaches people to think for themselves; 
  2. Healthy religion invites us to be humble about what we believe and know; 
  3. Healthy religion does not invest in negativity; it does not major on what it is against but rather on what it is for; 
  4. Healthy beliefs stay in tune with reality, never filling in the gaps for what we do not know.
Here are a few things Mike added in the comments section, that were wise words:

Question:  "I don’t know the specifics on Jen, so just a general comment/question:

When, in your mind, must a leader be called out for heresy or false doctrine? How “bad” does it have to get?

The Bible says that leaders are held to a stricter standard. Jesus was not harsh with sinners; His only harsh words were for wayward religious leaders. I can agree that some Christians do not handle differences well, and that problems are handled in some with gossip, slander and unbiblical methods of correction. But we can’t go to the other extreme and do nothing about wayward leaders."

Mike's answer:  "Good question. Surely, if you think a person is guilty of teaching or promoting heresy your primary motivation would be to want to correct that person and restore them to orthodox faith. Anyone who writes a damning or imperious or condescending comment on their blog is only showing they have no such concern for the person. If your motivation really is loving correction, it’s my view that that can only happen fully and effectively in relationship. Approach them directly; raise your concerns respectfully; where appropriate and reasonable, invite a third party into the discussion. Even if the person you have concerns about isn’t known to you personally (a well-known identity like Jen, for example), a private message or email is a far more respectful (and therefore, more effective) means of exchanging views. If you write a blog to slam her, or design a demeaning meme, or post an essay-style comment on her blog you’re not only being hurtful, but also completely ineffective at the very thing you claim to be doing."

7 Reasons Bi-vocational Ministry Isn’t Plan B  -Josh Presley

Growing up in the church, it was sort of understood that any pastor worth his salt was “full-time.” By full-time, we meant that he was fully financially supported by his church.

Without a doubt there are great advantages to being fully supported by the churches we serve, but I’ve discovered that pastoring bi-vocationally has strengthened and expanded my ministry in ways I could’ve never experienced otherwise. In our time we should not look at bi-vocational ministry as the Plan B of churches that can’t afford full-time staff. Instead, we should view bi-vocational ministry as Plan A for Kingdom strategy.
Here are my notes on Josh's 7 reasons for going bi-vocational:
  1. The church is unburdened financially
  2. The pastor is set free from fear of losing his income if he offends
  3. Forces the church to have a plurality of leadership
  4. Makes church start-ups easier
  5. Pastors who work in the community marketplace make a connection with the local culture
  6. Releases the saints to do the ministry
  7. Grounds you in the reality of work and disciple making, with rest
If you read Josh's article, look at the comments.  Lots of positive stories from guys who have thrived bi-vocationally.

Characteristics of a shepherd's heart

  1. They pray daily for their church members and staff.
  2. They view their family as their first line of ministry.
  3. They connect with and love people in their community.
  4. They choose their battles carefully and wisely.
  5. They welcome structures that make them accountable.
  6. They spend time developing staff.
  7. They expect conflict and criticism.
  8. They connect with other pastors and ministries in their community.
  9. They affirm both theology and practical ministry.
  10. They ask long-term questions.

4 ways to wreck your life, 4 reasons 50-somethings make great pastors and 6 reasons you should lead.

  1. You neglect your marriage
  2. You hold on to offences
  3. You don't take a day off
  4. You believe it all depends on you

  1. We're mature.
  2. We've banked more life experiences.
  3. To us, technology is a means to an end but not an end in itself.
  4. We've established a library of messages.

  1. You will learn more deeply.
  2. You will be able to articulate the faith more clearly.
  3. You will give of yourself more freely.
  4. You will impact others exponentially.
  5. You will be stewarding your gifts and His grace faithfully.
  6. You will be investing eternally.