I am one of those pastors who came into the Christian ministry a clear sense of call. I could point to a particular moment in my life when I sensed God’s calling on my life. It was both surprising and overwhelming at the time. But, over time, it became the settled conviction of my heart that God was calling me to preach the Gospel in some way. And, I need to make that clear: in the earlier stages of my life the call I felt was toward preaching. When I started out I had very little conception of what pastoral ministry was and what it might entail. I had come to Christ at the invitation of an evangelist at a holiness camp meeting. The message of Christ had made a profound change in my life for the better. And, I wanted to share that message with others. I felt that a great favor had been done for me — a message of hope had been given to me — and I wanted to extend that favor to others. My attitude was the same as that expressed in the often quoted line from D. T. Niles: ““Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”
Biblical preaching had been crucial in re-directing my life. So, it was something I assumed would be the focus of my future ministry — and it was something I wanted to learn to do well.
I sure have met a lot of people over the years for whom evangelical Christianity — and, I might add, holiness Christianity particularly — was an oppressive reality in their lives. It was something imposed upon them. It was a almost-constant threat of Hell. It was legalism. It was a rigid authoritarian mindset from which they later emerged with relief.
I get that. I have heard the story so often — in so many different forms. I understand.
But, that is not my experience. (more…)
This was posted on my old blog on March of 2013. I have resisted the temptation to tone down the sentiments expressed here.
Right around the time I formally retired from the United Methodist ministry, I surprised myself. I recognized that I was still a Christian. In a way, nothing had changed. Yet, somehow it had.
And, that’s how it still is. I still hunger for worship. I still interpret life by reference to the Bible and the historic beliefs of Christians. I still want to lead others to Christ. I still want to pray. I still love to preach. I still wish I could teach the Bible.
It’s all pretty weird in a way.
Things went bad in the last full time parish I served in the United Methodist Church. The issue had to do with my wife and my family. If it had had to do with me and my conduct of ministry that would have been bearable — but, the attack centered on my wife and family. And the Bishop of the Michigan Area of the United Methodist Church sided with the church against my wife and family. (more…)
A long time ago, while I listened to some spontaneous testimonies, I began to wonder where people get their ideas of God.
When I started out in the ministry (many years ago) I served a small church in the Muskegon, Michigan area. I was young and skinny and had a major chip on my shoulder. I was convinced of the evil of all things (theologically) liberal. (You can get an idea what I looked like at the time from the picture on the left.) I was opposed to all things that smacked of clericalism, very introverted, very opinionated — thinking back on it its a wonder that the people at the Wolf Lake United Methodist Church put up with me to the extent that they did. (People that haven’t known me a long time might be surprised that I was ever like that — but I was.)
In those days the United Methodist, AME, and AME Zion Churches got together on Sunday evening once a month for a Hymn Sing. This was a lay-run event and it rotated among all the various churches involved. (It was always a big thrill for all of us at Wolf Lake UMC when it was our turn to host the Hymn Sing since it filled the sanctuary to capacity — and beyond.) (more…)
Last month a Facebook acquaintance, who posts on the web as the Not So Hostile Pentecostal, had some nice things to say about this blog and web site in a post entitled Top Ten Blogs that You (Probably) Haven’t Checked Out Yet. The words of appreciation were a great encouragement to me. But it also caused me to reflect again on how silent I have become on this blog.
Here is what he said:
Commonplace Holiness is the blog of Craig L. Adams. Adams was a longtime United Methodist minister and now is a lay minister and servant at his current church, Mars Hill Bible Church. Adams is regularly a guest speaker at different United Methodist Churches and his blog still reflects the richness of the Methodistic-Wesleyan tradition. Although Adams blogs on a number of topics, I have been most interested in his thoughts on Entire Sanctification and holiness. Adams’ understanding of entire sanctification is refreshing to anyone who has only been exposed to the prideful and legalistic side of Wesleyanism. In fact, Adams is anything but legalistic or prideful. It was both Adams’ demeanor and his theological insights during our Facebook conversations that were influential in my conversion to a Wesleyan approach to sanctification. Additionally, Adams also takes old Methodist/Holiness books by authors such as Thomas C. Upham and Daniel Steele, and that are no longer in print (and are now in public domain), and types them out into an electronic format so that they are available for free to anyone. If you want to check out some great posts from a progressive Wesleyan and the people who have fed his soul, check out Commonplace Holiness here: https://craigladams.com/blog/
Lately I’ve mostly gone silent on this blog. It’s nice to know that those old posts have been helpful to him — and I suppose they may also have been to others. However, for a long time now I have been overcome by a sense that I just don’t have anything to say right now. I especially to do not have any strong desire to convince anyone of anything. And, that (I’m afraid) really does drive a lot of blogging — at least in the Christian world.
There are reasons that I feel I have nothing to say: some unresolved issues in my own mind. And, some of them are things I can identify and talk about a bit. So, here goes. (more…)
I made a small change to my morning prayers. It’s a response to some of the things I’ve been reading lately. There are two issues that came to mind — consecration and openness.
I noticed that Phoebe Palmer — in her letters — emphasized not only the need for a particular moment of consecration and faith in a believer’s life, but also the need to remain in that consecrated state. This got me to thinking that praying a prayer of consecration in the morning would be a good idea — a way of reminding myself whose I am, and whose goals I am seeking. Thomas C. Upham discussed the Christian’s prayer of consecration here: On the Act or Covenant of Religious Consecration — and he includes an impressive (and lengthy) prayer written by Philip Dodderidge (1729-17510). I was wondering how I could include a Prayer of Consecration in my morning devotions — which, due to circumstances, are sometimes rather rushed. I was looking for something simple, but something that would seriously address the issue. (more…)
I’ve been thinking lately about the things that keep me alive spiritually.
But like a lot of things that don’t start well, it has turned out well. I tell people: “I still do all the things I used to love, but I no longer go to meetings, and no longer deal with Bishops or District Superintendents.”
I never understood the concept of retirement and I still don’t.
Fortunately, I’ve managed to remain busy since I left the United Methodist itinerancy. (more…)
I don’t apologize for taking blog breaks — and I’m not now — but, I must admit, this has been a rather extended one. My last post here was in May. So, I’ve been away a lot longer than usual. I am often too busy in the summer to spend much time on the Internet — though I find it intellectually stimulating at other times. I like to work outside at various gardening projects when the weather permits. I spend more time outside, just generally. I often fill pulpits in the summer. I just don’t have time for Internet activities.
But, this time, there was something more. I just got to feeling like I didn’t have anything to say. (more…)
I intend this as a site that is focused on the Wesleyan teachings about holy living. I know I pursue other topics, but I know what I am about, and I mean to emphasize the call to live a life wholly devoted to God. I believe that this the great animating theme of the Wesleyan tradition — and it is a theme I greatly appreciate.
To this end, I continue to scan and edit old holiness books, and maintain two sister blogs on Blogger: Steele’s Answers and The Hidden Life. I don’t personally agree with everything that is said on those pages — or maybe I should say, I don’t always agree with the way it is said. But, I believe those writers were intending to call us to the living of a life wholly devoted to God and to the genuine well-being of others — and I need to hear that challenge and that call — I’m sure I’m not the only one. (more…)
I see the development of my faith as a connected story. I don’t see it as a matter of once having a certain type of faith and then graduating or switching to another sort of faith. I am thankful to the people who shared the Gospel with me. I am seeking to extend that journey of faith the best I can — as honestly and truthfully as I can.
Yeah, I heard the Gospel among people who talked about entire sanctification in a way that led to some confusion and frustration. Yeah, there were a number of ideas I am sure I picked up from the conservative Christian culture that I later needed to revise or even reject. Sure — though I think I was always skeptical of that “Rapture” (“A Thief in the Night”) teaching that was so much a part of evangelical Christianity in those days.
As I said recently, I see my own faith journey as one story — even though it has taken some unexpected twists and turns.
It is only natural that faith grows and develops. And, the Church ought to be a place where people can explore new ideas and new understandings. It often isn’t, I know, — but I think it should be. New information always raises new questions. Sometimes new information forces us to develop and adopt new paradigms. It’s only natural. But, we should always be open to new information.
I look at it this way. (more…)
I tweet a lot of links and many of them are critical of dictation and inerrancy approaches to the Scripture. I love the Scriptures and I love preaching and teaching the Scriptures, so this may seem strange. In fact, they are closely related to one another. In a sense, I don’t really have an intellectual campaign against Biblical inerrancy — my objections are empirical. My only objection to fundamentalist and inerrancy approaches to the Scriptures is that, in detail, they don’t work.
Recently Greg Carey, professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary posted a blog entry entitled “Where Do ‘Liberal’ Bible Scholars Come From?” It’s a good piece, and I think he is making a good point: Bible scholars become “liberal” (to the extent that they do) from reading and studying the Bible. The Bible itself undermines the fundamentalist view of the Bible. Carey writes:
Though I understand it differently, I love the Bible as much as I ever have. I’m just as passionate for Jesus and for the gospel as I ever have been, though I understand them differently too. But I can say this: Reading the Bible is a terrific cure for fundamentalism. That’s exactly how many of us so-called liberal Bible scholars got our start.
Then Peter Enns picked up on this and began a series at his blog: “I was always taught the Bible says X, but I just don’t see it.” (more…)
Well, my summer blogging slump has arrived. I didn’t think it would — but it clearly has. Taking a break from blogging is often a good thing — but I hadn’t thought it would happen this year. We will have to see how it goes.
In other years I’ve had to take a hiatus from updating this blog during the summer. This is because I am busy with other things during the summer — and last year it was because of my struggle with Menier’s Disease. I am much better now, and expect to be able to be more active at this site — but, (as I said) we’ll see how that goes.
I worked outside ar0und the house on Friday last week — which was great, but I think I overdid it. I felt a little dizziness coming on Saturday, and was slightly dizzy on Sunday when I got up. Dizziness is a serious issue with me and I don’t take it casually. Because staring at the computer screen makes me extrememly dizzy when I am in that state, I’ve stayed away from it. So, nothing is “in the pipeline” to be automatically posted this week.
While I expect to post some at the beginning of this week, I will be attending the 2014 Session of West Michigan Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in the later part of the week. I always look forward to seeing old and new friends there — but I no longer care about the “issues.” The United Methodist Church is, generally speaking, in a very bad place — aging, declining, and fractured over sexuality issues. It may not be possible to pull it out of self-destruct mode. I know I can’t help much. Nonetheless, I love the Wesleyan tradition and appreciate the many people who are faithfully serving within the denomination. (more…)
The Ministerial Association had one program which was very successful and that was the Annual Community Good Friday Service. Because the local Roman Catholic Church had the largest sanctuary of all the churches in town, it was always the location of the service. Years before I came to town, one of the Roman Catholic priests who had been there had written a liturgy for this service. It involved recruiting young people to carry in certain symbols associated with the crucifixion. There was a large wooden cross standing at the end of the center aisle, for all the people to see. The young people would carry the symbols of the crucifixion story up the center aisle, past the cross and place them in the chancel area. Then, there was a reading of the passion story, in which several of us pastors took part. There was a message (the newest pastor in town always got that). Then, there was something called The Veneration of the Cross. (more…)
I don’t know just exactly when it was. I don’t know exactly why. But, many years ago, some time while I was living up in the Boyne City area, I made a quiet spiritual breakthrough in my life. I started keeping regular morning devotions. It was not just that I started praying regularly in the mornings. That wasn’t the breakthrough.
The breakthrough was this: I wanted to pray.
To some, keeping morning devotions may not seem like much of an accomplishment. Isn’t this how Christians are supposed to begin their day? Maybe for some people prayer comes more naturally. Maybe for some people spiritual discipline comes more naturally. For me, it never did. So when I began keeping regular morning devotions, it was really something new.
Now, there had been many times when I resolved to be more faithful in prayer. (more…)
I know that my perspective is shaped by the experiences I’ve been through.
It’s true for everyone. In order to understand where someone is (as we say) “coming from” you need to understand the shaping influences in their life.
I offered a small glimpse of that when I wrote this: Where is the Revival Now? There I said:
I think I’m a real Methodist “throwback” and I’m actually rather glad about it. My early experiences in the faith included Revival meetings and Camp Meeting and Prayer Groups and Evening Worship Services and Midweek Prayer Meetings, etc. They were all aids to discipleship. They were important.
Revivalism was actually a very important part of my early Christian experience. So, as a result, there is a special place in my heart for Camp-meeting and revival meetings. The formative Christian experiences of my adolescence were closely related to these experiences. I know a lot of people feel differently about it. But, I’m eternally grateful to the people who first conveyed the Gospel of Christ to me.
I’m afraid I’ve drifted away a bit. (more…)
Since this is actually a blog re-boot, I thought it would be good to re-iterate my intentions for this web site and this blog — and for my various Internet projects. In other words, I’d like to take a few moments to answer the question: why am I doing this?
There are days when that is quite a serious question. What has kept me at this so long, and what am I trying to accomplish? I maintain not only this blog, but a growing collection of old holiness writings, a blog drawn from the writings of Daniel Steele and a blog drawn from the writings of Thomas C. Upham. So, that’s really quite a lot. And I know a lot of people are on the Internet to convince the world of something — to win people to their point of view, etc. — and my intentions can’t really be described that way. I’m actually not especially interested in convincing any one of anything. My hope is that people will find something here that is interesting, challenging, encouraging, or thought-provoking. And, in another way, my web activities can be seen as my attempt to come to terms with my own past.
The following is my best attempt to explain what I’m doing and why. (more…)