God is always building his kingdom. He calls, equips and unleashes his people in a Kingdom Force to reach people for Christ, multiply disciples and bring about life on earth as it is in heaven. In our various kingdom roles, we all have the privilege of partnering with God to further his mission in our lives and the world.
In the Education and Clergy Development Division, we have the privilege of seeing God work in varied and powerful ways. Our Wesleyan schools have committed educators who teach and lead students closer to Christ. We are blessed to partner with, encourage and help equip the men and women God has called into pastoral ministry and Christian service in a myriad of professions.
This last year was uniquely challenging for pastors and educators. Rapid and unrelenting change has kept us hanging on, crying out for God’s help. And God did not fail to provide!
With unprecedented ministry pressures, personal losses and emotional stresses, pastors continued to find ways to strengthen their hearts, minds and souls.
Full Strength Network (FSN) is one tool that helped our clergy thrive and effectively minister. Over 800 pastors in 2021 subscribed to the FSN membership and received counseling, coaching, peer support and other resiliency resources. We have received countless stories about how this program provided just the right spark or care for pastors that were struggling or needing a boost to the next level of Spirit-empowered life and ministry.
Last month South Coastal District Superintendent Tim Fox relayed how one pastoral couple had benefited from the counseling in the FSN membership. The tools they gained led to a revised schedule, prioritizing their relationship in new ways, and is revitalizing their marriage. Another pastor capitalized on coaching conversations that reorganized his ministry perspective, helping him be more effective while creating more space to intentionally nourish his relationship with his children and wife.
We are seeing the Holy Spirit move through his servants to help ministers and their families thrive personally and professionally.
In addition to spiritual, emotional and relational renewal, God is providing financial renewal through the Thrive Financial Initiative (TFI). Through direct and matching grants in 2021, over $300,000 has been invested in the financial wellbeing and biblical financial wisdom of our Wesleyan pastors. From debt relief to initiation of pension plans, to better housing and more savings for emergencies, God has been using Thrive Financial Initiative to bless Wesleyan pastors and their families toward a more secure financial future. These efforts will continue for years to come, as just last week, God blessed us through the Lilly Endowment, who granted our extension request for an additional $500,000 for TFI.
Not only does the Spirit refresh and renew the pastors working within local churches; he also continues to call more women and men into his service. These same pastors that are persevering through challenging times are also sensing God’s call on their congregants and recommending them as ministry candidates. They are multiplying disciples and ministers.
Like our pastors, our professors and academic leaders have seen their educational ministry turned upside down. Yet amid these changes and disruptions, his servants have continued to adapt, innovate and persevere. God has blessed their good and faithful service.
As I have participated in our WE5 board meetings this fall, I heard reports from each school of how the worship in chapel and the spiritual atmosphere has been more vibrant and intense than they can remember. And professors and coaches continue to model Christlike character and service in the classroom and on the field.
Southern Wesleyan University’s board meeting was interrupted as the track coach, Greg Thiel, came in with a young woman on the track team who had an announcement. Right there in the board meeting, this young athlete told how she had accepted Christ as her Savior earlier that day. As board member Heather Semple prayed for her, we all celebrated this new birth. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
And if that isn’t exciting enough, apparently word of her testimony had spread, and we had the privilege of witnessing four of her teammates burst into the room at the end of the prayer to celebrate with her. Each of those teammates had made the same commitment to Christ in the preceding weeks.
Stories of new life in Christ, baptisms, changed lives and redemption are happening regularly on all of our campuses.
The Holy Spirit continues to work in dramatic ways like these stories. But God is also at work in the everyday, steady, powerful growth and transformation of a Christian education through Wesleyan schools, the faithful service of women and men serving in Wesleyan churches across North America and throughout the world, and the financial blessings through TFI.
God continues to build and Unleash his Kingdom Force to transform lives, churches and communities. ECD is grateful for our vantage point in seeing the Spirit accomplish God’s purposes in The Wesleyan Church.
Russ Gunsalus is the executive director of Education and Clergy Development for The Wesleyan Church.