In Defense of “Religion” (Brannon Hancock)

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At some point – I know not when – religion became a dirty word. And this attitude doesn’t just come from critics outside the church. I’ve heard many Christians make this distinction as well: “It’s not about religion; it’s about relationship.” Or “I’m spiritual, but not religious” – religion often serving as a cipher for rituals, moral codes, spiritual disciplines, and the like. A couple years ago, this attitude was brought to its clearest – or at least loudest – articulation by Jefferson Bethke in his spoken-word video “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus.” The video had 1.2 million hits within its first 24 hours online (that’s an average of 14 views per second); 11 million hits the first week; and has been viewed nearly 30 million times in the three years since it was uploaded. (That’s off-the-charts virality, especially for a piece of Christian pop culture.)

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What’s the point? (Colleen Derr)

In one of my classes we are reading through Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, a classic on the spiritual disciplines. A student in the class shared with me that she found the first two sections, inward and outward disciplines, a drudgery and was overwhelmed at how foreign some of the disciplines were to her – things like meditation and solitude. She said that the idea of practicing those disciplines was horrifying because she is an action-oriented busy person who loves being around people, but the corporate disciplines – she was all over those! The reality is the list of disciplines can be overwhelming. Even the title “spiritual disciplines” sounds like something to avoid. Foster’s work is compelling and his suggestion that the disciplines put us in the path of God’s grace is lovely but what exactly is the role of the spiritual disciplines in our spiritual formation? What is their purpose?

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Culture and Christ: 3 Lessons (Bob Whitesel)

Lesson 1: Carefully investigate and examine elements of a culture. Since modern culture is constantly adjusting and metamorphosing, the task of translating the Good News without surrendering its truth or disfiguring it is paramount and ongoing. This arduous task begins with thorough and careful examination of a culture. Anthropologist Paul Hiebert described culture as, “an integrated system of learned patterns of behavior, ideas and products characteristic of a society.”(1) Scrutiny of such an elaborate system is not for an immature Christian, since it requires investigating and evaluating a culture without being tainted by its more sordid elements. However, a failure by Christian communicators to sufficiently investigate modern culture can make us look irrelevant. In an earlier book I interviewed Larry Osborne, pastor of North Coast Church in Vista, California. Larry told me the phenomenal growth of the church was in part because he regularly studies modern culture by perusing secular

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Being Missional to Immigrants (Zach Szmara)

As a pastor, this week is one of my favorite weeks of the year.  It is a week that seems to end in confusion, defeat, and despair but on Sunday I have the joy of proclaiming hope, restoration, transformation, life, and a future.  This message means even more to me recently as I’ve had the amazing privilege of sitting on the front row and witnessing a resurrection miracle over the past three years. It was three years ago, the week after Easter, when my family reluctantly came to Logansport, Indiana.  We were excited about other ministry possibilities, but felt compelled to give this declining church at least 2 weeks of our time before we moved on to exciting other places and left the church in Logansport for someone else to take care of it until it closed its doors. I wanted to move on because I honestly love Jerusalem, Judea,

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Revisionist Ritual (Safiyah Fosua)

Times are a-changing!  From where I sit, the greater challenge in worship is not the change itself, but rather the rationale for change and the theology of emerging forms.  We do not contextualize worship for the sake of making ourselves appear more attractive to seekers, but change is needed when the old ways of saying, doing, singing, or communicating no longer convey the message to new (or existing) ears. A time of liturgical renewal We are living through several major shifts in worship.  One obvious shift has been the huge change in the music and worship styles of weekly worship.  Another, less obvious shift is in how and when we use liturgy and ritual forms.  Some regard liturgy as fragments of historical faith, transmitted to us alongside the Bible that we are obliged to use dutifully.  Others regard liturgy as dated artifacts of the faith of saints past to be

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Bittersweet Ministry (Wayne Schmidt)

There are many ways to describe the life of a minister.  Having been blessed to serve as a pastor for over 30 years, and now to regularly interact with ministry leaders through the Seminary, one descriptor that comes to mind – “bittersweet.” There are certainly times that are sweet – sweet fellowship (Psalm 55:14) with other believers and ministering from the sweet spot of passion and giftedness.  But other times are bitter – like Jeremiah the prophet, those in ministry may feel besieged and surrounded by it (Lamentations 3:5). Being able to discern between the bitter and the sweet helps prevent a “woeful” life (Isaiah 5:20).  They are not always easy to distinguish, like the wounds of a friend and the kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:6).  Not all that is bitter is bad, and not all that is sweet is good. Ministers get wounded – it’s an occupational hazard. 

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Immigration is an issue; immigrants are people. (David Drury)

“It was my first memory in life,” this 20-year-old continued, “being carried over and the current was smashing into my mother’s body and my legs. I was so very scared. My brother nearly died in that crossing.” This young woman shared her story to me and a few other church leaders in Austin, Texas and the tears started to flow. She kept telling her story through the tears… “From that moment on I’ve lived in America. It’s all I’ve ever known. Only when I tried to apply to go to college did I discover that I was undocumented. I realized that because of what my parents did way back when I had to be carried across, I didn’t really belong here or anywhere.” Up to this point I had thought of immigration concerns as a big political issue. But as she shared I was overwhelmed with heartache for her situation,

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THE GOD OF SORPRESAS (Joanne Solis Walker)

The verdict is still out on surprises. I love surprising but I’m just not sure how I feel about being surprised. I guess it depends on the person, the kind of surprise and how well they know me. I am also not easy to surprise. I am too much of a planner! So outside of my hubby Dan, not many people have managed to surprise me. And then there is God! He sure does know how to throw a surprise! Sometimes I am thrilled by the unexpected but other times…well…¡Sorpresa! I decided lent is a great time to reflect on the many ways God has  surprised me. As I prepared to write this post I thought particularly about the many wonderful surprises related to Seminario Wesley and IWU. Too many to share so here’s my short list: Surprised by how God arranged for me to be a part of Wesley

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Top Ten Leadership Lessons I’ve Learned (Ken Schenck)

By now most in the Seminary have heard that I am stepping down as Dean and going back to full-time teaching. I viewed becoming a Dean a calling and a ministry. It was also a great learning experience in leadership, gaining insights from the likes of Keith Drury, Wayne Schmidt, Russ Gunsalus, and colleagues like Bob Whitesel. As I was recently reflecting on some of the lessons I’ve learned, I boiled them down to 10. All these leadership lessons are transferable to pastoring. 10. There isn’t just one type of leader. Different situations call for different kinds of leaders, and individuals with different strengths can lead in different ways. 9. An effective leader leads from his or her strengths and manages weaknesses. We tend to get preoccupied with our weaknesses and waste a lot of time trying to improve them. But our time would be much more effectively used developing

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Break the Silence (Kwasi Kena)

I once lived in a condo community, which included the obligatory fees and membership in a home owners association (HOA). One day officers in the HOA sent a notice to all residents notifying us about a matter that required our vote. The first part of the notice contained the typical details one would expect to help owners vote intelligently on the matter. The last portion of the notice, however, contained an unexpected twist. It stated that “Any non-votes will be counted as ‘yes votes’ on this matter”. I couldn’t be believe it! If I did not vote, the HOA officers would consider that an affirmation of the proposed plan. Said differently, my silence was treated as if it were an action. How Would You Fill in the Blank? For several years I taught an oral communication course. In that class, we examined a communication phenomenon called “filtering and completing”. Here

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