Someone recommended an out-of-print book to me as the best thing she had read on pastoral care. I am not so actively involved in pastoral care anymore, but I was interested in the book and found a used copy through Amazon.
Religious communities do not exist as an end in themselves, they are created in response to a call. Faithfulness to the call comes first. Community follows. Religious communities share a common vision or goal that is supported by theological understanding and nurtured by religious observance and spiritual practice. Secualr communities, too, bond through shared missions that are reinforced through ritual.
While religious communities differ in their theological expression and religious practice, Christians and Jews believe their communal experience is intrinsically rooted in their faith experience. Both groups study the Hebrew Scriptures and other sacred writings for guidance in their communal life. Both Christians and Jews acknowledge that those in their communities are able to love and accept each other and care for the world because God first loved them.
— Margaret Kornfeld, Cultivating Wholeness, A Guide to Care and Counseling in Faith Communities (page 17).
This is a valuable and important statement — and when churches loose sight of this they also lose their continued reason to exist. (more…)
I fear, wherever riches have increased, (exceeding few are the exceptions,) the essence of religion, the mind that was in Christ, has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore do I not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of true religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality; and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches.
I went over to Kingswood, and spake largely to the children, as also on Saturday and Sunday. I found there had been a fresh revival of the work of God among them some months ago: But it was soon at an end, which I impute chiefly to their total neglect of private prayer. Without this, all the other means which they enjoyed could profit them nothing.
— John Wesley, Journal: Friday September 4, 1772.
The original Methodist revival was a movement intended to produce “real Christians,” that is, Christians who would actually live out the faith they professed. In my opinion: we are in desperate need of such a thing today.
In the Methodist revival, the means used to achieve this goal were:
- a message of experienced religion & holiness which drew heavily from the Bible,
- large praise and preaching gatherings (the Societies),
- small accountability groups (the classes, bands & select societies),
- works of service and mercy (generally: addressing the needs of the poor or imprisoned).
This was not intended to produce “Church Growth” or some such thing, it was intended to produce Christians who visibly and noticeably loved God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and their neighbors as themselves.
What can be learned by this evangelistic & discipleship strategy for our day? (more…)
I think I must be some kind of Methodist “throwback” or something. But, 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.
But, I don’t mean that the “form” was important.
I know many of these are considered to be the evangelistic techniques of the past. It is felt that they need to be laid aside for new techniques. And, I’m fine with that. Really. I strongly believe in function over form. Times change. Strategies change. They should. Great. I’m all for new and better strategies.
But, here’s my (major) gripe about the present state of United Methodism: what has replaced the old techniques? (more…)