Thursday, January 22, 2015

Start a Quiet Pentecost in your Congregation in 2015

The ministry of spiritual formation is becoming the leaven in the Bread of Jesus Christ—gradually forming and shaping the culture and ethos of our congregation. We are raising up spiritual leaders and empowering them in their calling. The ministry provides the container for a committed core group to delve deeper into spiritual practice. We are enabling members to reach out into the world and become agents of God’s redemptive, saving grace. (p. 105, A Quiet Pentecost)

These powerful words come from Cherri Johnson at First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They reflect the depth of commitment, community, and spiritual awakening that occurs when people live the Christ-like life of prayer and surrender. As individuals steep themselves in spiritual disciplines, particularly daily prayer, they receive assurance of the Spirit’s invitation to the devoted life of love. Cherri Johnson shares how she developed a focused ministry in spiritual formation over a period of 10 years and the way individuals who have been taught the ways of prayer and small group spiritual formation have created a climate of profound love and service within this congregation.
Cindy Serio describes what can happen when we pray regularly.

One morning as I was meditating on Luke 4:18, these words shimmered off the page straight into my heart: “proclaim release to the captives.” Suddenly I knew God was sending me to the women at a local prison. After a long conversation with the chaplain, he asked me why I was there and I was honest: “I don’t know. I only know that God wants me to be here. He smiled a knowing smile and said, “Follow me.” (p. 60)

Cindy Serio’s story of the impact of her listening ministry with incarcerated women shows how one loving person can make a difference in the lives of many individuals.
As individuals within congregations learn to pray together, congregations can be enlivened by a new sense of mission and purpose. Brenda Buckwell tells the powerful story of a fragile urban congregation that found new life as their leadership team learned to pray the scripture together over several months.
I was astonished. The leadership team of the small urban congregation had just signed their death certificate. In response to the question “What is your greatest desire in ministry?” a tenterhearted gentleman in his early seventies, with head held high, stated, “To keep the doors of the church open until the oldest generation dies.” The team was not surprised by the man’s response. . . . In my astonishment, I paused a moment and then leveled the playing field of mission and ministry for this congregation. With a deep breath and the infilling of the Spirit, I replied: “You can certainly do that if you would like. I can speak to the bishop about sending someone here to your declining ministry to do just that, close the congregation. I am just not that pastor. If you would like to venture forth with me, we can discover God’s desire and mission for this congregation together.” Now it was the team’s turn to be surprised. That very night the leadership team had their first experience of lectio divina, and the journey to amazing new life began at First United Methodist Church in Zanesville, Ohio. (pp. 49-50)

After six months prayerfully discerning mission together, the team unanimously decided to open The LifeWell Free Store in unused areas of their downtown church building. An ecumenical board was created. The community embraced this store where “no money changed hands” and the congregation now thrives.
            As we begin the New Year, invite the Holy Spirit into your heart and into your congregation anew. The book, A Quiet Pentecost: Inviting the Spirit into Congregational Life, relates the experience of more than 40 people who are teaching spiritual practices to individuals and to their church councils and other decision-making bodies. The model for our awakening is taken from John 20 in which Jesus comes among the discouraged disciples after his crucifixion, astonishes them with His presence proclaiming: “Peace be with you.” As He breathes the Holy Spirit upon them, He commissions them for their ministry in the name of the Resurrected One.

            Jesus invites us in the same way today. A Quiet Pentecost is designed to encourage you as well as guide you in deepening your spiritual formation ministry. Video resources are now available to use along with the book’s study guide on this blog. Look around the new tabs at the top of the page. Use these with your planning group along with the study guide.

Let 2015 be the year to receive new life in the Holy Spirit, as we learn to listen for Jesus’ guidance.
Post and photo from: Upper Room Book Blog: Click on the link for easy access to ordering A Quiet Pentecost from Upper Room Books.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Remembering Bishop Rueben Job

From One Degree of Glory to Another

A Tribute to the Life and Death of Bishop Rueben P. Job,
Feb. 7, 1928 – Jan. 3, 2015

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NRSV)

The countenance of Bishop Rueben P. Job shows us the meaning of this extraordinary vision for Christian life, expressed by St. Paul. As tributes pour in for our beloved Bishop Job, words such as humble, faithful, prayerful, visionary, spiritual mentor are used to describe him, as one “living and praying in the Spirit of Christ.”

As pastor, Bishop, World Editor of the Upper Room, author of more than 20 books, mentor and spiritual director to many, Bishop Job exemplified the spiritual life to which he constantly called us. In Bishop Job’s manner of living and dying, we glimpse the possibility of the transformed life described by St. Paul. You and I are invited to look face to face into the glory of God and to allow ourselves to be transformed from one degree of glory into another as did Bishop Job.

Raised on a prairie farm in North Dakota, he graduated in 1957 from Evangelical Theological Seminary, one of two seminaries joining to create Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Bringing the Evangelical United Brethren legacy into The United Methodist Church, Bishop Job became known for his call for the renewal of spiritual life within the church. He contributed to this renewal with his constant stream of publications including A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants, co-written with Norm Shawchuck, followed by A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People, A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God. His book, Three Simple Rules, brought the themes of the historic Wesleyan Societies into contemporary life.

Like so many others, I also knew Bishop Job in a more personal way. He graciously became a discernment partner for us in our family decision in 1993 to move from Northern California to Northern Indiana to work with the renewal of Oakwood Spiritual Life Center. I well remember personal visits and phone conversations in which his wisdom helped confirm our decision.  From this move a few years later came my work at Garrett-Evangelical as Professor of Spiritual Formation.

As we thought on the possibility of creating an endowed professorship in spiritual formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, we could not imagine a better way to honor the seminary’s alumnus, Rueben Job, and to assure the continuation of his work in spiritual formation than to ask his permission to seek the endowment in his name. He honored us by allowing us to honor him in this way.

Peace and blessings, Rueben, in this transition for which you so well prepared yourself. In your own writings on dying and your peaceful passing, you show us how the “mortal body puts on immortality” (I Corinthians 15:53). You surely are being transformed from the degree of glory you shared with us in earthly life to a yet brighter degree of glory in the eternal life.

Prayers for Beverly and your family.

Find many more tributes to the life and witness of Bishop Job at The Upper Room website.

Dwight Judy, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Formation, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, author of A Quiet Pentecost: Inviting the Spirit into Congregational Life