Salvation in the Wesleyan Tradition: Grace Upon Grace

What does it mean to be saved? According to John Wesley, salvation cannot be reduced to an isolated decision to make Jesus your personal savior so you can go to heaven when you die. Rather, it points to a process of real transformation in which God graciously empowers us to participate. This not only includes what God does for us in Jesus, but also what God does in us through the Holy Spirit. It not only includes pardon from sin but also resurrection power to be renewed in the image of Christ and made a new creation. In this teaching video, Pastor Mark explains prevenient grace, justifying grace, sanctifying grace, and glorifying grace to paint a more holistic picture of salvation in the Wesleyan tradition. This video was filmed as Pastor Mark taught Theological Heritage I (Fall 2015) in the Course of Study at Candler School of Theology (Emory University).

Why Our Church Gave $1,200 Away in Worship This Morning

This morning our church gave away $1,200 to those who came to worship. Here is why we did.

November is stewardship month, and we are teaching the importance of expressing gratitude and choosing joy through the spiritual discipline of self-sacrificial giving. Christians claim to serve a generous God, and if this claim is to have credibility to a watching world then it must be reflected in our actions, individually and corporately. Too often, the church asks its individual members to do things that it does not do as a larger body. We tell our members to care for the poor, but there’s nothing in the church budget for this need. We tell our members to share with others by giving to the church, but then we spend all the tithes on ourselves. We tell people not to allow fear to keep them from giving, but then refuse to release funds into the community because we fear scarcity. The church lacks credibility when it calls individuals to give generously and courageously while corporately hoarding its resources and refusing to invest in the surrounding community.

In order to avoid stumbling into this hypocrisy, Shepherd’s Community UMC gave away a large sum of money during a very difficult financial season. Here is what we are hoping to accomplish. First, we want to practice what we preach and lead by example. We want our giving to be a living, breathing testimony to the generosity and faithfulness of God. Second, we want people to experience the power of generosity at work; we want people to see, firsthand, how God can take a small investment of time, talent, and money and multiply it through our resourcefulness to make a real difference in the lives of hurting people. Our hope is that once recipients experience this for themselves with our money that they will be more faithful and courageous in investing their own money in such endeavors. Our mission in the United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and part of fulfilling this mission is cultivating a generous, compassionate, outwardly focused, and socially active people who stun the world with extravagant generosity.

So we literally put our money where our mouth is regarding this conviction. We gave twelve $100 bills to twelve families/groups who were willing to work hard to multiply it and give it away to help others. We are calling this the #KindnessProject and asking the recipients to do four things in the next twelve months:

Pray about it. Ask God to help you answer the following questions: What are the needs in my community? What are the needs of my co-workers or friends? What organization or charity can use this money to do significant good for those in need? To whom does God want me to give this money?

Multiply it. Invest your money in a project that will multiply the funds and add value to the community. You can work alone, with your family, or with a small group of friends, but the minimum goal should be to double the investment. While we would encourage you to let people know why you are doing this project through SCUMC, we don’t want you to do it at church for church friends. Get out into the community and serve people you don’t know. As you consider how to multiply your seed money, you can find many fundraising ideas online.

Give it away. Give all of the money away as an act of kindness or compassion to a person, family, organization, or ministry. You might do something for teachers at your school, give it to your favorite charity like the Salvation Army, or purchase a farm animal for an impoverished family in South America through Heifer International. The possibilities are endless. The catch is, you cannot give the money back to our church. We don’t want it. You have to give it away.

Tell the story. Share the story with us and with the world about how you helped others by participating in the #KindnessProject. Once you are ready to share, we will give you time on Sunday morning to talk about your project and show pictures. We would also invite you to give updates on social media periodically so others can see the power of generosity at work through you. Use the hashtags #scumc and #KindnessProject as you post things online so we can search and share all the updates and images. Hopefully, this will create some healthy competition as we try to out-serve each other in love.

May this #KindnessProject show people that we serve a generous God and that the power of generosity can make a real difference in the world! If you would like to donate $100 seed money, please contact Pastor Mark:

Here is the message leading up to the challenge:

The Death of a Pastor-Centered Church

Some churches assume that they pay their pastor to do all of the ministry. He (or she) is the employee and they are the paying customers. Performance is measured according to how the pastor is effectively meeting the expectations, needs, and demands of the membership. In this way, a church becomes pastor-centered and inwardly focused. It gets stuck in codependent caretaking and chronic people-pleasing, losing sight of its real mission: to make new and better disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Once the pastor loses the ability or desire to keep doing the vast majority of the ministry, the church stagnates, declines, and (if there isn’t a significant change in course) eventually dies.

To avoid this trap, both the pastor and the people must stop seeing the church as a place where paid staff offer a variety of free social and civic services, and start seeing it as a base of strategic mission that serves at the pleasure of Jesus Christ. The required shift is from a consumer mentality to a producer mentality. The central question is not, “What can the pastor or church do for me?” but “How can I serve the mission of Jesus Christ through the shared ministries of the church?” One of the most effective ways of creating this cultural shift is by emphasizing the importance of every member getting involved in shared ministry through small groups.

Small groups can be a powerful antidote to the slow drift into pastor-centeredness. Once this important shift happens, the people will start to understand that the vitality, growth, and longevity of a church does not rest squarely on the pastor’s performance, but on the people taking ownership of the mission that Jesus gives us to make disciples for the transformation of the world.

This message will encourage pastors of smaller churches on the brink of burn-out. It will also light a fire in the heart of the laity to take responsibility for their own spiritual growth and to start seeing themselves as ministers of the gospel!

This is message 5 in my most series, Wiser Together: The Gift of Christian Friendship. The other messages, which can be accessed on my YouTube channel, are as follows:

  1. Walking with the Wise: The Importance of Friendship
  2. Giving and Receiving Good Advice
  3. Friends as a Catalyst for Transformation
  4. Sharing from the Heart: Creating Safe Spaces