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"When the student is ready s/he will find a teacher."©

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

INTRODUCTION TO A NEW BLOG SERIES THAT LIFTS UP THEOLOGICALLY UNDERGIRDED WAYS TO INVITE TRANSFORMATIVE CHANGE IN CHURCHES THAT ARE STUCK!


This blog series weaves theological reflection along with descriptions of resources assisting churches with next steps along the pilgrimage we call discipleship.


During forty years of ministry, I have discovered numerous resources providing helpful assistance releasing resistance to change: resources that assist with navigating the journey of change that occurs when we embody the Jesus way of life.


Throughout the series, I will lift up books and I will lift up helpful processes that contribute to new creation birth.


For instance, I will provide descriptions of resources such as:


. "Transformation Journey": A Way of Visioning that helps your church embody your true vision;


. Certified Lay Servant Resources


. Developing and Implementing An Outward Mindset

(Developed by the Arbinger Institute who wrote books such as "Anatomy of Peace,")

In what ways can this essential resource go hand in hand with Christian theology contributing to collaborative discovery and implementation of new habits that help lead to transformation?


Outward Inclusion: a four hour group experience and one of the best resources I have ever seen to invite persons to come together across suspicious societal scripts to expose racism and other isms that separate, isolate, and treat persons like objects.

(Developed by the Arbinger Institute).


EQHR: Emotional Intelligence for Church Leaders

"Founded by Rev. Roy Oswald, author of "Emotional Intelligence for Church Leaders"


Some Resources Developed by The Center for Reconciliation

Duke Divinity School Durham, North Carolina


(These are only a few of the resources that will be shared.)


Hopefully this blog series will be read by pastors and laity who are seeking ways to get "unstuck!"


Indeed, God is at work in countless ways to help us become the authentic persons he breathes us to be. The Holy Spirit hopes we will go para-gliding with Jesus and join persons like Isaiah, Mary, and Joseph on the "Here I am, let it be with me according to your Word," pilgrimage of growing up to be like Jesus.


INTRODUCTION TO When the Student Is Ready BLOG SERIES...


For quite a long time, I have often wondered about Responsive Grace. Of course, this term, was made popular as the title of a book written by Randy Maddox, a Wesleyan scholar. The character and being of the triune God is revealed in the incarnation of the Logos, Word, made flesh. Creator and Redeemer, embodies agape in the life, ministry, teachings, healing, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth; fully God, fully human, our Savior, Lord, Dearest Friend.


Perfect Love embodied in Jesus, the Messiah, goes before us, (prevenient grace), revealing Yahweh loves us first empowering response. Holy Father embodies seeking out, persevering agape through the Son. Spirit connects us. Three in One, One in three. Holy Communion: God with us, enables means of grace, ways Father God embodies "Let me love you more!"


Holy Father resembles the Dad described in Luke 15:11-32.

Persistently desiring the best, Daddy runs to embrace us as we are, where we are. Dad can hardly wait for us to turn toward holy embrace. For instance, we receive God's holy embrace when we come forward to receive the sacrament we call eucharist, holy communion, The Lord's Supper.


Four actions of eucharistic friendship: being taken, being blessed, being broken, being given undergird the prayer of thanksgiving recited by the priest (pastor.) Then s/he takes the bread, blesses the bread, breaks the bread, gives the bread. Even though many have tried, we cannot explain what happens during the sacrament. We, who partake of this "means of grace," cry out, "I have seen the risen Lord. I taste the risen Lord. His blood flows through my veins! We are kin. I felt alone when I approached the table. Now I feel connected to the Body of Christ, the fellowship of believers. I used to be afraid of strangers. Now I want to get to know the persons God chooses to be my kin, my eucharistic friends."


I trust Father God to empower me to embody Not I, but Christ Jesus, ways of being and doing. The risen Christ lives and breathes within me! We rise from the holy table ready to cooperate with the Son-light exposing and uncovering injustice and oppression in a world of darkness. We arise to be prophets seeing to be instruments of lament, hope, liberation, reconciliation!


When I neglect receiving the body and blood of Christ, I become more likely to forget what it's like to receive the agape of God. Emptiness replaces fullness. I become more likely to get lost trying to make myself whole, well, and healthy. I forget to invite God to love me more. I forget my life is an offering of love to God.


When I do partake of holy communion on a regular basis, I realize means of grace are shared in community. When I partake of eucharist on a regular basis, I tend to remember more often throughout each day God goes before us to nurture practices that shape life around four eucharistic ways of being: being taken, blessed, broken, given.


Likewise, when I partake of The Supper of the Lord more frequently, I discover habit formation includes relating with strangers embodied in ways of relating that looks like accepting (taking) someone as s/he is. I envision God blessing our ways of being in relationship, ways of being present. I become more likely to be broken by caring enough to reach out and touch the the other person's tears. Why? I realize the making whole love of Jesus reaches out through me.


When I partake of holy communion on a regular basis, I become more likely to set aside my own agendas and give my life away. I become a better listener who shares prayerfully examined thought. When I participate in holy communion more often, I find that God reforms habits. God nurtures formation of virtues we often call fruit of the Spirit: "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5: 22, "New Living Translation of The Bible.").


Means of grace open passages agape Father God breathes. God takes us as we are where we are; (justifying grace). God blesses and puts upon us the wholeness of Son, our Savior, Jesus. Separation due to sin no longer cuts the umbilical chord. The Spirit makes us one with triune God. Through the offering of Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, Son of Man, we enter into being made right relationship with the Creator and Redeemer of all.


God loves us enough not to leave us as we are where we are opening currents along the journey of sanctifying grace. God grows us up to be like Jesus by allowing us to be broken, by allowing us to feel the tears of humanity. The tears Jesus cried on the cross flow with the tears of the world for all time including the tears we share. Some how, some way, God's redemptive will transforms tears into immersion in the waters of baptism. Throughout the pilgrimage we call life and discipleship, we find ourselves in new creation wombs where travail leads to new creation birth. Divine Potter reshapes us as we die to self and rise in Christ. Like Jesus of Nazareth, we choose to give ourselves away by entering into the tears of others. Christ-like compassion and empathy breathe through us enabling us to be with persons who tend to be cut off and marginalized by society because they remind us what's wrong with the world and what's wrong with us. We don't see them because we fear we will drown in the quick sand like dis-ease that plagues the world: ours, their's, everyone's.


We are inter-dependent... As followers of Jesus, we invite Holy Father to grow us up in his way, in his time. Our growth influences the growth of others. Yet, even we followers of Jesus, tend to resist growth. We demand to control the pace. We want to ride solo on waters called grace. We want to choose the current. Sometimes we cooperate with the wind and invite Creator to place Jesus in the front seat of the tandem kayak we call discipleship. We invite Jesus to guide. We become receptive to "Here I am, let it be with me according to your Word ways of being, doing, and relating.


Triune God walks on water to help us get ready to be with persons we never considered to be kin. Holy Spirit winds guide our journey and empower our readiness to be as holy here and now as God desires us to be here and now.


Changing gears now... If thirty-seven years of full time parish ministry as an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church taught me anything, I realized time and time again being in ministry with the church feels a lot like wandering and walking around in circles with Moses and Israel in the wilderness. We take one step toward the promised land and two steps back. Just like I tend to get stuck from time to time, churches tend to get stuck from time to time too.


It's like we treat trust like a water valve. We act like we think we can turn grace on and turn grace off. We have learned that when we turn grace on, grace will lead to transformation, change, disorientation.


Twisting the water valve we call grace exposes realities we have tried so hard to ignore: we live in a world full of dis-ease, violence, idolatry, overwhelming dis-ease, and war. We hear bird like shrieks. The eco-systems scream, Wake Up! Quit ignoring pollution! We can't wait any longer! Urgently breathe in the clean oxygen of 'Amazing Grace,' be born from above once again with every breath you breath so we all can breathe! We cannot wait any longer for you to set the pace of transformation. Join Mary, Joseph, and all of your faithful kin. Invite God to grow you up to be like Jesus as fast as God desires to grow you up to be like Jesus!


We can hear Jesus now interceding on our behalf with sighs too deep for words. I imagine one of the persistent prayers of Jesus sounds something like this:


Let me agape you more! The world depends upon cooperative, responsive grace, your readiness to grow up to be like me! Lean into my embrace! I will hold you through the storms of new creation birth! I breathe with you as you endure the labor pangs of becoming! Your becoming influences the becoming of others! When you cooperate with movements of grace, you allow yourself to be connected to the One vine that connects us to the realm of God! (John 15).


Some may ask, "Bart, why do you take us on a journey through theology?" Just get to the point. "Why?" I respond. "Why? Because perceptions of God shape us. Some may say, "I'm too beat down by to think that deep. Just tell me what to do!"


I respond, "Why delay waking up?" "What costs accumulate when we delay the awakening that occurs when we dare to grow in God awareness, self-awareness, other awareness?


More and more fragmentation occurs! More and more separation occurs! More and more violence occurs. Walls along borders rise like skyscrapers! Projection, Blame, and fighting lead to splintering disaffiliation. More and more persons depend upon larger guns that shoot more bullets faster to keep the ones we care about safe! More silos arise! Suspicious societal scripts that place persons into social categorizations of better than/lesser than rule the day! The Body of Christ cares more about being right than being in right relationship.


Dear God, help us be willing to be ready to be as Christlike as you desire us to be breath by breath!


A letter to the church:


Dear Sisters and Brothers, the peace of Christ be with you! Be life long learners who dare to be transformed. When you feel afraid and want to maintain the status quo, be transparent, be honest. Share reasons why you're afraid to change. Be willing to swim in the deep theology of our faith. Be willing to partake of the means of grace as often as possible: worship. prayer, small group transformation immersed in holy scriptures, pray many forms of prayer, reach out together, share the truth in love, partake of eucharist as many times as possible, be in relationship with persons who society tends to treat as lesser than.


"When the student is ready s/he will find a teacher!"



Be on the lookout for the next post of this series. In this post, I will describe the remarkable and fruitful visioning process: "Transformation Journey." (A resource for United Methodist Churches of The Western North Carolina Conference).


If you would like to have a conversation, I invite you to go to the home page of this website and complete the contact me section. In this section you will be asked to fill out your name and email. You can include your feedback their or request to find out about more of the courses consulting resources I provide. Then, I will email you back. If you would like to enter into a public discussion related to this blog, I invite you to go to the forum tab located at the top of this page. This will be part of a dialogue inviting participants to share insights and experiences.






































































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