Category Archives: Blog Posts

Asking the Right Questions (Patrick Eby)


Sometimes the difficulties we face are centered in the kind of questions we ask. I am not talking about the questions we ask to make trouble, but I am talking about questions we ask that lead us to the wrong goal. In the classroom, there is no such thing as a “stupid” question, but in life the questions we ask can get us into real trouble.  I want to think about three of those questions.

A cacophony of voices

We live in a world where everyone has an opinion and everyone thinks they are right. Anyone who engages in the debates at some level knows the angst one feels as you see some of your friends yell at each other on Facebook. You know the friends who can find something wrong in almost anything someone posts. The goal is not communication or problem solving, it is total domination. The goal is to have our voices heard. The goal is to win the argument. The goal is to convert the world through the tip of our pen. The question we ask out loud or in our inner being is “How can I be heard?” What do I need to do to help them see the truth? Don’t get me wrong, this is a laudable goal, but the results are just adding another voice to the cacophony.  Or, in the words of Steve Deneff, “You scream so loud they cannot hear you.”

So, what question should we ask? I think it should be centered on the ministry of reconciliation to which we are called. The focus should not be on winning, but on healing. Maybe we should ask, “How can I be a peacemaker?” How can I bring a voice of healing and restoration to a world torn by violence? This, of course, is not an easy question to live out. Some people love the fight. You will have to choose your places and times of engagement much more carefully. You may need to withdraw when you realize the path is not to peace, but to a louder conversation. In our conversation we should seek to show the love of a Father who loved the whole world and yearned for reconciliation.

A world of danger

Danger, death, and disease have been the constant companions of our world. No generation has escaped the grip of grief, but we now live in a world (especially in the West) where we think we can cheat these three forces. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to live in a world where medicine is healing many of our diseases and extending our lives. I yearn for a world where justice flows down like a river. I not only yearn for it, I am trying to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. But, we should never get to the place where we think a safe world is the main goal. What happens when we make this our main question, “How can I be safe?” One of the main things that seems to have happened is the rise of anxiety. It seems like the desire to protect ourselves from every evil has led to a collective anxiety. Maybe part of the problem is the 24 hour news cycle that lets us see every tragedy in real time and the fear that follows when we think, “What if that happens to me? How can I be safe?” If safety is our main concern we will never find peace.

So, what question should we ask? I think it should be centered on the sure knowledge that God loves us, and that a perfect love drives out all fear. The focus should be on facing fear with courage, instead of withdrawing to a safe place. Our question should be, “How can I overcome fear to fulfill God’s call on my life?” Whenever I think about this I think of Martin Luther King Jr., who like his namesake, chose a more difficult path, a path filled with threats, in order to bring justice to others. The safe path for Martin Luther King Jr. would have been to move to England and enjoy the blessings his fame had brought. Instead, he marched into the battle with a message of love and non-violence believing that his message would cost him his life. Do I want to be safe? Yes.  Do I want it to be the main question that keeps me from going where God calls me? I hope that our answer is no.

A world of entertainment

In 1985 Neil Postman wrote the book Amusing Ourselves to Death which is “a prophetic look at what happens when politics, journalism, education, and even religion become subject to the demands of entertainment.” I don’t know that we need Neil Postman to tell us that we live in a culture consumed with happiness, but maybe he helps us to see how our desire to be happy does not lead to happiness. Maybe we don’t need him for that either.  How many times have we decided to be happy and the result was boredom? How many times have we decided to go to the latest movie only to be disappointed? For me, there is an inverse relationship between the expectation of happiness and the actual experience of happiness.  What this means in real life is that although I expect the new Star Wars movie will be great, I will probably leave the theater disappointed. Our question is, “How can I be happy?” How can I find those moments of joy in a life that is filled with the mundane? Unfortunately the question opens us up to all of the marketing in our society.  If you drive our car, eat our food, play our game, you WILL be happy.  All you need in your life is our product. And most of the time (if not all), we have bought into the lie that happiness can be found by pursuing happiness (or entertainment). Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for leisure and entertainment, but when we live for the weekend, for entertainment, we often are left less than satisfied.

So, what question should we ask? I think it should center on our purpose, not our pleasure. The focus should be on why I am here and how can I help others. Our question should be, “How can I be holy?” Holy? What does it mean to be holy? That word is so difficult to define. For me, holiness is learning to live out the two greatest commandments: love God and love neighbor.  When the questions, “How can I love God?” and “How can I love me neighbor?” replace our desire to be happy, an interesting thing happens. We discover happiness or maybe a deeper form of happiness that we call joy. When I invest my life in others I find the peace and contentment I never find in the things that promised me happiness. When I go to church for ME, to have MY needs met, I often leave with complaints of being let down, but when I go to express my love for God and my friends, I often leave feeling I have experienced a little taste of heaven.


The questions we ask matter. They often lead us down a path away from true discipleship. I would challenge you to examine your questions. Can you think of other questions that we ask that lead us down the wrong path? If you have any please post them to give us something to work on together. Maybe together we can begin to ask the right questions.


What Does “Best” Look Like? (Colleen Derr)

What does “best” look like?


There was a book a few years ago that suggested that what we do on Sunday morning should be the “best hour of the week” for everyone who attends.  And at first glimpse that sounds like a great idea.  The best hour would mean it would be exciting and attractive. People would be motivated to attend and mark it as priority on their calendar.  It would also mean that they would remember it all week, talk about it, and tell their friends about it: “You have to come with me, it is the best!”


But how do you define “best”?  What does best look like?


My daughter shared with me a recipe for the “best pancakes ever”!  She has been bragging about these amazing made from scratch, diet friendly pancakes that she loves.  Said she could eat them every day and would choose to make them even if they weren’t healthy.  For three weeks she would ask “have you made the pancakes yet?” and I would have to respond “no”.  She couldn’t believe I hadn’t tried them and would insist I was really missing out on something amazing.  Last night I decided it was a good evening for eggs and pancakes for supper.  I followed her directions exactly, mixed up the batter, pre-heated the frying pan, and made those pancakes.  And they were awful – not just not the “best”, but terrible.  I ate them anyway but have no need to ever make them again.  What’s the deal – did I make them wrong or miss an ingredient?  No – it’s just that her definition of “best” and mine aren’t the same.


Now I’m not confident that what we do in our ministries should be defined as “the best hour of their week”, but I do believe that what we do should be excellent.  What does it mean to be excellent in our ministry?  How do we achieve that?  Is there a “secret recipe”?  No secret recipe but certainly some general guidelines to move from mediocre to excellent:


  1. Start with prayer – Ask the Lord for wisdom, vision, and insight to see what is possible and then pray for the courage to do it!
  2. Seek the Spirit – Understand that even with courage the power to achieve what is possible is greater than our own.
  3. Think about it – Once you have a vision for what is possible, what your people can achieve, and who they can become, think about the “how”. What needs to happen?  Be diligent in your preparation.
  4. Be genuine and humble – Check your motivation and make sure it is the right one. And then be honest, open, and humble with those you serve beside and those you lead.
  5. Do everything on purpose – Be intentional and deliberate about what you do, what you say, and how you do and say it!
  6. Together in community – Recognize that none of us is excellent alone; we are excellent together. Each part of “the body” has a valuable role to play – and it takes us each doing our part in harmony to be excellent.
  7. Stay on target – It is easy to get sidetracked with really good priorities, plans, and agendas. But no matter what we do, it must all point back to the Gospel message. Titus 3 describes what is excellent and how to achieve it:


“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. (Titus 3:1-9, NIV)

This passage also reminds us that the source of excellence is the mercy and grace of God, the sacrifice of His Son, and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.

The “best hour” – may not be the goal but doing everything with excellence so that the name of the Lord is praised and His message of love and hope is heard – YES that is an excellent goal.


CHANGE LEADERSHIP & Should Leaders Be The Source of Change? Maybe Not. (Dr. Bob Whitesel)

Complexity Leadership Theory (CLT), ever heard of it?

Actually, most of my students are studying it, but they don’t know it.  Basically (and this is very abbreviated) “complexity leadership theory” believes that leadership is a “complex, dynamic process that emerges in the interactions of people and ideas” (Sims & Lopes, 2011, p. 63).  By this is meant that CLT recognizes that leadership is a complex matrix (or Mary Jo Hatch would say “collage,” 1997, p. 54) of traits, abilities, skills, behaviors, relationships and influence processes.

This is exactly the leadership mix you will find in these postings:

But, an important contribution of “CLT” has been that leaders shouldn’t make or force change.

CLT says leaders create change, “not by making change happen but by evoking change dynamics among people who work and learn together. The focus on leadership, then, shifts from the individual as a leader to the actions of leadership that foster creative and productive learning within organizations.  Thus, leadership is fundamentally a system phenomena.  Leaders enable the conditions within which the process of adaptive leadership occurs but are not themselves the direct source of change (Marion & Uhl-Bein, 2002, pp. 389-418; Sims & Lopes, 2011, p. 63).

In other words, leaders create an environment when change (within certain change boundaries) is okay.  Leaders don’t force the change themselves, they are “not themselves the direct source of change” (Sims & Lopes, 2011, p. 63).  Rather, leaders foster an environment where change is welcomed, is expected and is encouraged.  Think of creative companies today, such as Apple Computer, whitch engineers the local environment to say “think outside of the box.”

So, if you are a student in a current course or a facilitator of a leadership group answer the following question.

  • How might you create an environment for change in your organization (supposing you were welcomed to do so)?
  • Write a few sentences about how you (or maybe some leader you observed) helped create an environment where change was welcome.  Just share some brief examples of how church leaders can encourage a organization-wide (i.e. system-wide) openness to change.

Hatch, M. J. (1997). Organization theory: Modern, symbolic, and postmodern perspectives.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Marion, R., & Uhl-Bein, M. (2001). Leadership in Complex Organizations. Leadership Quarterly, 12(4), 389-418.

Sims, B. D., & Lopes, J. P. (2011). Spiritual leadership and transformational change across cultures: The SLI leadership incubator. Journal of Religious Leadership, 10(2), 59-86.

This post was adapted from w/ 1,000+ leadership articles. Receive weekly updates by following this library of leadership insights, curated by Dr. Whitesel.

Thoughts on Church and Migration (Luigi Peñaranda)

I must admit that the picture of the little boy whose dead body was being carried by a Turkish police officer opened my eyes. It woke me up. It forced me to see a reality that many of us, perhaps inadvertently (maybe intentionally), have been ignoring. But the church needs to pay attention. Issues of migration pertain to the church because God is particularly concerned with doing justice to the landless (those who do not enjoy the same rights as residents).

In a very real sense, the church itself is to be a migrant community, commanded to scatter (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts, yes the whole book!). In another sense, Christians are “politeuma en ouranois” (citizens in heaven; Phil 3:20), or as Hauerwas and Willimon (1989) suggest, a colony of “aliens trying to stake out a living on someone else’s turf” (p. 11). Jesus deterred some from following him, noting that foxes and birds have a place to reside, but not the son of man and, by implication, not his followers (Mat 8:20). If any community should understand the life of a migrant, it should be the church. But do we?

It is encouraging to hear that, in the midst of rampant reactions with xenophobic undertones, many Christians are loving and serving destitute migrants. Parishes and religious communities have been summoned to host landless families. Good Samaritans are loving their neighbors.

Though, for a moment, the world’s attention is on the European crisis, soon the media will forget. Will the church forget?

In reality, the problem is pervasive. According to the 2013 International Migration Report produced by the United Nations, 232 million people lived outside their country of origin during that year. That is, in 2013, 3.2 per cent of the world’s population were migrants. Things have not gotten better, and the repercussions of these massive dispersions are far reaching.

The church needs to hear the voice of the displaced ones. That entails, not only to respond to the humanitarian crisis, but also to rethink or reassess our theology of the “migrants.” Here are some thoughts to generate some dialogue:


  • Why does the story of “the fall” in Genesis 3 end with “the Adam” being driven out of the garden? Regardless of one’s reading of that text, the question still stands.
  • The Pentateuch talks quite a lot about the “strangers” or “resident aliens” (the Hebrew word is “gar”). There were provisions for them. For instance, they could celebrate Passover (under some conditions; Ex. 12:48; Num. 9:14), they were not to be oppressed or abused (Ex. 22:21-27; 23:9; Lev 19:33), they were to rest on the Sabbath (Ex. 23:12; Lev. 16:29; Deut. 5:14), some of the products of the land were to be left so that they could satisfy their hunger (Lev. 19:9-10), they were to be loved (Lev. 19:34; Deut. 10:18-19), they were to follow the same laws as the “citizens” (Num. 15:16), they were to have access to food and clothing (Deut. 10:18), they were to experience justice and to receive a timely retribution for their work (Deut. 24:14,17). How can the church appropriate these passages?
  • The “stranger” in the land, is often in the same category as the poor, the orphan, and the widow. God takes particular interest in doing justice to all of these people. What does that mean for us today?
  • When the church asks the question “who is my neighbor,” is it trying to justify herself like the expert in the law did in Luke 10?
  • Why is a corporation treated as a person and a migrant often is not?

God…don’t let us fall asleep…again!



Hauerwas, S., & Willimon, W. (1989). Resident aliens: Life in the Christian colony. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2013). International Migration Report 2013.

Sabbath Oven (Safiyah Fosua)

It started with the oven and an attempt to include more hot, home-cooked meals in our diet.  I saw a dialogue on the panel of the stove that suggested that I should be able to program the oven to start and stop at a certain time.  I could already smell a warm, savory casserole, ready for us to sit down and eat at the end of the day.  In my pursuit to work more productively, I pressed every combination of buttons that seemed to make sense:

Start time —

Stop time —

Bake temp —


Not right!

Start time.

Bake temp

Stop time


Again not right!


Finally, in disgrace I retreated to the owner’s manual.  I was able to find what I needed in the index under Jewish Sabbath Mode. No, really, ovens know how to take the Sabbath!


Ovens know how to take a Sabbath; and we do not.


My mind went quickly to my childhood upbringing and my grandparents’ house on the weekends.    My grandparents were God-loving, Sabbath–keeping people.  They loved me and they loved Jesus.  It was not uncommon to find one or the other singing hymns while they went about their daily chores; granddaddy in the garage cleaning tools, or grandma in the kitchen washing dishes.  As a child, I remember hearing the verse:  Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.  Perhaps I heard it around the dinner table before a meal.  Our family observed the custom of reciting a Bible verse before each meal.  One person might have led the prayer to bless the food, but every mouth around the table still had to say something to honor God from the scriptures before it ate.  So, even as a small child, you were required to a memorize scripture to be said before consuming the good food that God had provided.  And, you were expected to have several scriptures in your memory so that you did not say the same one each time you had a meal.

So around the circle we went:

Lord, we thank you for the food that we are about to receive from Thy bounty.  In Jesus’ name.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.

Jesus wept.  (Jesus wept or God is Love were the verses reserved for the youngest children.)


Table fellowship was an important part of our life together as a family.  And, so was the Sabbath.  Weekends at my grandparents’ house were frequently filled with the bustle of preparation for the Sabbath.  Many weekends, while I was still an elementary school-aged child, the big Sunday meal was cooked on Saturday.  It was cooked on Saturday so that we could avoid cooking on Sunday, the Sabbath.

During those years, we did not wash clothes on Sunday.  Or iron them.  We did no heavy housework on the Sabbath.  And most times, we did not cook. We just warmed the food that had been cooked the day before.

On Sunday mornings, we sat somberly and listened to a succession of radio preachers and their sermons.

Did I forget to mention that we were an unchurched family that loved Jesus?  Granddaddy had been deeply wounded by the Church years ago and we had no church affiliation.  We were affiliated with the tribe of Jesus’ followers, and for him that would have to be enough. 

So there we sat on Sunday mornings; somber and quiet around an old RCA radio, hearing sermons from a variety of sources.  I think it was there that I first heard Billy Graham.  Before or after him, one or more of the local church broadcasts.  African-American preachers with a rousing cadence that convinced you that Jesus died for your sins and therefore you should live a more devoted life.  We even sat quietly for the Rosary Hour.

Often the radio stayed on until the radio station switched to secular programming.  For the remainder of the day, we rested.  No work.  No cooking.  No high-energy playing.  Just rest.

If we left the house at all; it was to visit relatives and smile with them for a while before returning home to rest for the remainder of the day, and maybe to go to bed a little earlier because Monday was a work day.

It was a long time before I was able to push past the guilt of working on the Sabbath.  I do not know if my sin of Sabbath-breaking began while I was in college having to work three part-time jobs to stay enrolled, or if it was under the influence of friends who had no concept of Sabbath.  Or, perhaps it was the pressure of having small children and desperately needing to wash clothes before the grind of the Monday-Saturday work week started all over again.

Once I became of age, joined church, and began to hang out with church folks, I was amazed at the frenzied weekends and seeming lack of Sabbath rest.  Somehow, I thought being part of a congregation would take me back to a place in time, remembered and longed for.


And, so,

I continue in my quest to rediscover Sabbath,

Like a hero, or a warrior on a dangerous epic quest.

I am thwarted on one side by the pressure of time-sensitive work that must be completed.

On the other side, I hear the voice of my grandmother, head-bowed at a meal saying:  Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.

And, all around me are the voices of a culture that screams:  faster, faster!


My oven may be programmed to keep the Sabbath; yet I am not, at least not quite yet.


Lord, forgive me.

Well done! (Wayne Schmidt)

This blog post is scheduled for August 31st – Ken Schenck’s last official day as Dean of Wesley Seminary at IWU.  It has been my privilege to work beside him for nearly six years.  We are opposites in many ways, yet I’ve learned so much from him.

I thought I’d share a few of those lessons – not to elevate Ken, because that would be the last thing he would want.  But because I believe God is honored when we recognize how He is at work in those we serve with…much of what God wants to teach us comes out of team relationships.

  • The area of greatest fulfillment may not equal the arena of greatest fruitfulness

The principal architects of the unique learning model of Wesley Seminary were Ken, Russ Gunsalus and Keith Drury.  After the academic design was initially envisioned, legend has it that Keith challenged Ken to serve as Academic Dean in the Seminary’s formative first five years even though Ken’s first love and greatest strength would not be administration.  Keith planted this seed in that conversation with Ken – perhaps Ken would look back one day and realize his greatest contribution was his time of service as Wesley Seminary’s Academic Dean.  And, typical of Ken’s willingness to go the extra mile, Ken ended up serving an extra year beyond the five.

Ken’s first love is teaching and writing (and maybe posting on social media, but that’s a discussion for another time).  Yet he was willing to serve in a role that wasn’t his first love.  Our greatest contribution may not perfectly align with our greatest contentment and satisfaction – yet God may use it in significant ways for His glory.

When I was involved in planting Kentwood Community Church, one of the early endeavors that providing lasting strength to the Church was a course, provided in a small group context, called B.E.A.M. – Believers Enabled As Ministers.  It was our customized way of helping people to discover their personality strengths and spiritual gifts.  It led to a significant percentage of our congregation knowing and focusing on service in areas that fit their wiring.  Yet we discussed regularly the reality that a portion of their service may not be in their “sweet spot” – and yet the Church would benefit from it.  Our contribution must not be held captive to personal contentment.

Now I tried to pay attention to what I called Ken’s “sigh meter” – his sighs that would emerge when responsibilities with low fulfillment factors began to pile up.  Others of us on the team tried to serve in a way that kept Ken in his sweet spot the majority of the time. But not all of our service is within our strengths.  Some of Ken’s most significant work may well have had more than a few sighs sprinkled in.

  • Find the right mixture of flexibility and creativity

Wesley Seminary has a wonderfully unique learning model of integration of Bible, theology and church history with the major practical areas of ministry, delivered through team teaching.  Traditionally, Seminary learning has tended toward the silo structure – courses in Bible separate from courses in theology separate from courses in church history, and all these not connected to the practice of ministry.  The burden to figure out how it all fit together was left to the students.

Ken worked with the Seminary faculty to take responsibility for the integration – to team together professors in the different disciplines with those having experience and expertise in practical ministry.  You can likely imagine this elevated the level of complexity from our Academic Dean and faculty.  Highly creative, yet particularly challenging – quite frankly, many Seminaries wouldn’t even attempt it.

While this approach has had to be modified, Ken has worked with the faculty to maintain a framework for flexibility.  There is constant pressure to reduce the complexity, but with the unintended consequence of leaving the students unprepared to integrate what they’re learning – and to lose the unique genius of informed reflection on ministry practice.  This may leave our students vulnerable to either irrelevance or pragmatism.  Ken has skillfully partnered with our faculty to reduce unnecessary complexity while preserving the creativity and its resulting benefits.

  • Discern the relationship between your strengths and the organization’s season

When Wesley Seminary started, the curriculum was just being created by Ken and the few faculty part of the Seminary in those initial days.  One of Ken’s greatest strengths is curricular design – and then a lack of defensiveness as it was initially tested and critiqued by our faculty and students (we affectionately refer to these initial students as our gracious guinea pigs).  That is just the strength the Seminary needed in that initial season.

At the same time, in those early days, faculty collaboration was informal – usually taking place in the hallway outside one of their doors.  Ken discerned that the next season would benefit from an Academic Dean that would provide collegial leadership to a faculty becoming more substantial in number and growing each year – and helped us to invite Dave Smith to be out next Dean (I look forward to learning from Dave as well), who is known for his strength in developing collaborative teams.

  • Excellence without arrogance is a joy to be around

Ken is brilliant – I call him “scary smart.”  He does better with half a dozen languages than I do with just English.  Before I came to work in the University setting, I was warned about the “academic arrogance” generally prevalent in higher education.

What a privilege to partner with a person who exhibits profound humility in the context of great capability.  Constantly learning and improving, not a false humility that fails to offer one’s best, but a focus on personal growth while ensuring the glory goes to God.  It could have been intimidating to work with him…instead it has been invigorating.

So what are you learning from those you work with?  What qualities in them do you desire to more fully incorporate into your life and leadership?

Ken, on your last day as Academic Dean, I want to say “well done”…and am delighted that my “well done” probably means very little to you, since you live for a “well done, good and faithful servant” that has everlasting significance.

DIVINE DELAY…Really Jesus? Now?

Welcome back to Wesley Seminary! We’ve been praying for you and trust you’ve been praying for us.

How was your summer break? I am convinced God is doing His best to get my attention regarding the subject of His timing, as opposed to my timing on things. During the past week the topic surfaced at least three times in the most unexpected ways. Do you think this has anything to do with being impatient or with wanting God to do things my way and/or at my pace? I suspect He was trying to call me on this during the summer but I must have been too busy! You think?

Divine Delay is the title of a sermon preached by one of my pastors and it messed me up! It all started with Mark 5 and a series called Hidden Meanings. Jairo (Jairus in English) has a daughter and she is sick to the point of death. What does Jairo do?

Meets up with Jesus | Falls at the feet of Jesus | Begs Jesus to come

There have been things in my life that caused me to desperately pursue Jesus, and fall at His feet begging for help. I’m sure you have those stories to share as well. Now the outcome of those experiences are different so what happens next in the story I find to be very fascinating!

Jesus says ‘yes’ to Jairo and they head towards their destination. On the way they are faced with a delay. Yes a delay! Can you imagine? It’s a people traffic jam! People everywhere! They could barely walk! Jairo checks his GPS to see if there is an alternate route (not really!) The only way is to push through the crowds so they make it to the other side. Imagine what Jairo is thinking?

Nothing else could go wrong! Nothing! One more delay could result in a matter of life or death. And then it happens…a delay…as if Jairo needed one more thing to increase his level of anxiousness. It’s a jab straight at his faith. The unexpected happens…Jesus stops! He stops to ask who touched me! REALLY JESUS? NOW? Really? Come on Jesus, the daughter is dying?

Well you know the rest of the story. It’s pretty dramatic. Brant (my pastor) asked: Do you think Jesus was really asking who touched me because he didn’t know? Was the question intended to increase the faith of the woman, disciples or the crowd? Probably all. Based on what happens to Jairo’s daughter, I also think it was intended to sift the faith of Jairo.

The sermon made me aware of something I’ll call suspicious faith. I’m sure someone has a better term but I will define it as: faith to a degree and/or faith with conditions or simply stated a faith that is skeptical. I am wondering if we live within an ecclesial culture that operates under a suspicious faith. We are afraid to pray for the sick…what happens if they are not healed? Demon-possessed…not delivered? Dead…big faith leagues, let’s not do that. Jairo’s faith could not fail him. It just couldn’t. He could not give up on Jesus, when he heard the news of his daughter’s death.

Really Jesus? Now? Jairo could have shifted blame on Jesus: Why did you let this happen to my daughter? Why me? Who could blame him? It is only natural to want to explain things in order to make sense of it. I know I do it all the time. This happened to me because ______. This would not have happened if ____________.  In leadership terms we call this Attribution Theory (look it up). I got an ‘A’ on this paper because I worked real hard (internal attribution). I did not get an ‘A’ on this paper because the professor did not return my call (external attribution). I attribute this to me (internal) or it’s because of someone else (external).

I’m sure we will naturally experience a dose of attribution theory this semester as we try to explain some of the things that happen with assignments and all that fun stuff. We may get away with explaining some of these things with attribution theory. However, there are others that require a supernatural response, which calls us to abandon the suspicious faith.

Just like Jairo our faith will be sifted…Really God, now? Some of you may be in the sifting of faith right now. Should you find yourself wanting God to move at your pace or wondering why you’ve not reached the expected destination, go ahead and take advantage of the program. Examine and assess where you are in terms of your alignment with ministry and God’s calling upon your life. Jairo did not go to the lake prematurely. The woman with the flow did all she could. As my pastor says we must be accountable for our faith. Through it all have patience…don’t be in such a hurry! (Childhood flashbacks!) God has His own timetable and His timing is not yours (mine). God did not heal Jairo’s daughter. He raised her from the dead… Divine Delay.

I can’t help but think about what happened to Pastor Jairo and the ministry at the synagogue. Oremos los unos por los otros

P.S. By the way did you notice all the ‘falling at Jesus feet, begging Jesus and the different kinds of fears’ in this chapter? Did you also notice the woman was sick for 12 years and the daughter of Jairo was 12 years old? I love the Bible! So good!

Joanne Solis-Walker

Is It God’s Will that I change Churches?


Over the past several months, several pastoral friends have prayerfully asked this question, “Do you sense the ministry move from ‘here to there’ would be a faithful transition for me?” This is always a deep trust question that I prayerfully attempt to honor. But this faith adventure with Jesus also has imbedded within it presuppositions that should be identified before moving forward. Simply, let’s look back and in before leaning forward. The best way for me to do this is using a Socratic approach; let me ask you some questions to help you discover truth. So please overhear me talking to a friend about one of the most pressing decisions any pastor can and will make.

First, “Do you assume that the location of your ministry calling is paramount and of primary concern to your faithfulness to the Lord?” (Theology question, “Is the Lord’s working in and thru you restricted by location?”)

Second, as an extension of the first question, “Is there only one place where your gifts can be utilized by the Lord?” Rephrase it this way, if your answer is yes, then you must be assuming that one response you will make is the faithful one and the other must be resulting in your disobedience. (Now, the theological question, what does this reveal about the nature of God and His character and the manner He employs spirit-filled people in Kingdom work?)

My friend…you know my desire is not to gain the right answer but to ask the right question that prepares the “way of the Lord.” So, here we go…

In seeking the Lord’s will, especially for questions that involved significant life change, my questions in prayer are these:

  1. Will this decision and the journey it may take me on make me more servant-like? More humble? (And not just “look” more like a servant but will this serve as a catalyst for my own real transformation)
  2. Will the Imago Deiin me continue to be shaped into His?
  • Will your mind become more like that of Christ Jesus? (Phil 2)
  • Will your “thinking like men diminish as thinking like God will increase?” (Mark 8)
  1. Will this action (obedience by either “staying” or “going”) display to my family, friends, and faith community a movement of the Spirit in my life?
  2. Will my Kingdom influence increase as my needs of self-interest diminish?
  3. Will God the Father and His Son be glorified? Will the Spirit find pleasure in me as His home?
  4.  Does this time of “seeking His Face” (not just His will) cause me to fully submit to Him in prayer, searching the Scriptures, and practicing the means of Grace. (Read it this way: Is the delight of being in His presence so much better than merely gaining information about my “next steps”?)
  5. Finally, have I already said “Yes” to His will BEFOREI know what it is? Do I so trust Him that I am already leaning towards His voice even before He speaks?

Response from my seeking friend;

Wow. That is a lot to take in. Thank you for your guidance Dave. I needed to read all of these. I am not sure it’s possible to answer some of them fully until you step out in faith. How is it possible to know how you will be shaped in the future by decisions that must be made on the present? How do I know if the Imago Dei will be formed in me? These are all great questions. I would expect nothing less.

My friend;

Try to re-read my questions without implying that you are merely seeking to make a ministry placement decision. For the questions are not segmented or focused on making a “right choice” (or the fear of making a “wrong choice”) but making a godly “life choice” (and read that as a Resurrection life-choice). Huge difference. The questions are intentionally designed to get you into the Presence of the God of all Wisdom, not merely making a list of spiritual pros-and-cons for a choice. That, my friend is secondary at best.

In my life there have been rare occasions when the Lord has so powerfully intervened and invaded my world that He has sovereignly taken me out of my current ministry context. Maybe 5 times in my entire life. Mostly I sense He is about changing me IN my current location and making me salt and light to broken and lost people.

In the end, I really think we have historically asked the wrong question: “Lord, what is Your will for my life?” For as a whole, doesn’t that sound self-centered? Rather, why not ask a larger Kingdom-minded question: “Lord, what is Your will, for the world!” Thus, we think global in scope and transformational of our heart.

If “spiritual unrest” is being stirred up in our ministry and maybe you even feel as if you are currently living in the land of ministry-wilderness, maybe it’s not so much to move us out but to change us from within. Let’s get that part right first…before we begin thinking that simply a change of location will fix everything.  Otherwise we take our same spiritual-relational problems into a new setting…and maybe actually contaminate that place with our pain and shame. I want to be a contagion of grace and peace. I do not want to make bad people good…or good people better; I want to be part of making dead people ALIVE. Jesus, start with me.

My friend, a ministry move may be in order. I’m just begging you to ask the first-order question; “Am I running from something (pain, ministry disappointment, financial hardship, lack of divine trust, pastoral leadership issues, laity problems) or am I submissive to the Holy Spirit to use all this to prepare me to be more Christ-like than I ever imagined. Remember, all of life and ministry is preparing us not just to “do something more effectively” but also to “be with Him” and to live in the presence of the Triune God for all eternity. So, the true location question of ministry should not be “here or there” but “in Christ.”

This is the worst “non-answer” I have ever given. But He-Jesus is the best answer to any question you can come up with.


In Jesus’ joy,




A Blessed Six Years!

New Dean David Smith and I are in that strange liminal zone of transition. He will officially assume the Dean’s role a week from today, but he has already served as Dean at the consecration service this last Saturday. Meanwhile, I moved fully out of my office on Friday. It feels a little like the kingdom of God–already but not yet. :-)

The Lord has been gracious in this transition. I am so thankful that David Smith has taken hold of the academic wheel of the Seminary. I can already see ways in which he will advance the mission of the Seminary beyond what I have done. It has been delightful to see how excited the community is to have him return to Marion and to give guidance to the academic ventures of the Seminary going forward.

I have a few reflections on transitions of this kind, including pastoral transitions. They basically boil down to thinking of the good of the community and your replacement. Don’t stop serving the community you are leaving just because you are leaving. Don’t push an agenda on it either. Do all the good you can do in the time you have left to the degree that the community wants you to do it.

Be selfless in relation to your replacement. Don’t give in to the fallen temptation not to want things to go as well after you leave. That is of the Devil. Do everything you can to help your community continue to grow, mature, and succeed after you are gone. Do everything you can to equip your successor to be best equipped for the community to do even better than it did while you were in your role.

I commented last week that I felt good about where the Seminary is at as I leave. I think the faculty have done well to fix the most glaring areas for improvement in our curriculum. Dr. Fosua has completely improved the Worship course. Dr. Peñaranda has completely overhauled our Spanish courses. Dr. Derr is rewriting the two courses that had not been revised since the Seminary started. Dr. Smith will bring great new vision for the academics of the Seminary, but I don’t feel like I have left him anything major to fix. For that I am grateful to the faculty.

It has been a delight to learn from Dr. Wayne Schmidt these last five and a half years. He has taught me much about how to grow a seminary. I have learned a lot from him about how to lead a “seminary plant,” if I ever want to do that again. :-) I am incredibly grateful to him for letting me continue to work for the Seminary throughout the summer.

As those of you who know him would expect, he is a model of selfless Christlikeness and has been so throughout this process. He is completely surrendered to God’s will and doesn’t think of himself but of what will most advance God’s kingdom.

So my deepest thanks to the faculty, staff, students, alumni, board, and friends of Wesley Seminary for six incredible years, the chance of a lifetime. My participation in its founding may very well turn out to be the crowning contribution of my life. It is truly poised to change the church for good in astounding ways. The potential is practically boundless. I expect to hear amazing things coming out of the Seminary these next days!

Keith Drury has asked me if I have felt the predictable second guessing you always do when you make a transition like this one. If so, I won’t admit it! What I will say is that I am absolutely convinced that I am in the will of God and that this was the right time for a transition in the Seminary. And this is not a complete good-bye–David Smith seems willing to continue to let me teach for you some in the days ahead.

Also suffice it to say, I am incredibly excited to join the School of Theology and Ministry (STM) this Fall and to return full time to the classroom. As Wayne has said often, administration was an act of love. But I would teach and preach for free. I chanced upon a strategy meeting in STM on Friday and was amazed at the innovative juices that were flowing. “You guys are awesome,” I found myself saying.

So you haven’t heard the last of me. God bless you, Wesley Seminary!

2018 & 2042: Our Many Colored Future (Kwasi Kena)

The future. People have been and remain fascinated by it. Futurism, an art movement originating in Italy around 1909, emphasized the dynamism of speed, motion, youth, technology and the force of machinery. The movement only lasted nine years; ending in 1918. For some Futurism represented progress and hope, for others warning and fear. George Orwell took a stab at predicting the future in his classic book, 1984. Stanley Kubrick shared his thoughts in the film, 2001: a space odyssey. The business world looks to futurists who explore predictions and possibilities of the future. When I attended seminary in the ‘80s, the book Megatrends was required reading. With such widespread interest in the future, where should Christian leaders focus their gaze today? I suggest there are two sets of numbers that we should not ignore; the years 2018 and 2042.

In 2018, demographers note that the majority of persons aged 18 and under will be non-White in the United States.[1] By 2042, this country will become “majority minority”.[2] In California, Hispanics are now the largest ethnic group in the state.[3] Though your church may be situated in a culturally homogenous community, the chances are increasing daily that your children and grandchildren will encounter multiple ethnic groups during their lifetimes. How then should we prepare them and ourselves to engage our many colored future?

The past year has been a particularly volatile one for race relations in the United States. We have witnessed too many cellphone, dash cam, and security videos of race-driven violence. The worst culminating in the slaughter of nine innocent victims at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

I have been teaching the Cultural Contexts of Ministry course since I first arrived at Wesley Seminary at IWU three years ago. Sadly, each time I have taught the onsite intensive, there has been some type of racially charged national incident to process in class: July 13, 2013, the verdict in the Travon Martin court case; July 17, 2014, the video release of the choking death of Eric Gardner; August 9, 2014, the shooting of Michael Brown; November 22, 2014, the shooting of Tamir Rice, and most recently June 17, 2015, the murder of the “Emmanuel Nine”. I ask students to share how their congregations responded the Sunday following these incidents. Often the room becomes uncomfortably silent. The voice of the church goes mute when it does not have a vocabulary for such situations. The “what-should-I-say-or-do-say” language only emerges after people muster the courage to enter the life of the “Other” and learn from sitting in communal anguish. Developing the cultural intelligence to deal with current events involving race must become part of the ministry toolkit of today’s Christian leaders because 2018 and 2042 are coming.

As we church leaders walk into the increasingly diverse future, what posture will we take with regard to ethnic diversity? In the Cultural Context of Ministry class, we talk about anticipatory socialization, which involves doing the pre-work of learning about some of the core values, beliefs, and history of “others”. This work involves both formal reading and real-world conversations with people from different cultural or ethnic backgrounds. Go beyond finding out about ethnic foods, dress, and arts. Chase the “why” question that forms people’s core values and beliefs. Get their historical view on issues.

As we move closer to being a majority minority country, there is some pre-work that Christian leaders can do. Here is a short list of options that some colleges belonging to the CCCU (Christian Council for Christian Colleges & Universities) use to guide their thoughts and actions regarding how their institutions will relate to diverse peoples on and off campus. I suggest Christian leaders review this list and consider what it would mean to practice each concept in word and dead. Invite people in your churches or institutions to help you discern which concepts would help prepare people in your ministry context to relate to others in our many-colored world with deep respect and Christ’s love.


Peace Making


Social Justice

Intercultural Competencies

Celebration of Culture and/or Individual Difference

Human Flourishing


[1] Persistent Racial/Ethnic Gaps in the U.S. Retrieved August, 2, 2015

[2] Roberts, Sam. “Minorities in U.S. set to become majority by 2042”. The New York Times Retrieved August, 2, 2015

[3] Panzar, Javiar. “It’s official: Latinos now outnumber whites in California”. Los Angeles Times Retrieved August, 2, 2015