We wanted to hear and honor the wisdom of Wesleyans serving across the country. So, we asked 10 pastors from 10 different states the same five questions. Here are some of their answers:
What’s the biggest challenge and/or opportunity for growth the church is facing today?
Taking sides: Many in our pews believe there can only be two perspectives on a situation. This is, often, cheap thinking. While gray is not a fun area to be in, perhaps we would gain ground if we stood in the tension of issues more often and listened. As a pastor, I’ve released myself from having a strong opinion on every [issue]. Instead, I will be faithful to what is before me. I will speak truth. I will preach the gospel. I will listen. By doing so, we will look less and less like the frenzied world around us. (Gabrielle Engle, Overflow Church, Benton Harbor, MI)
Pace of life: The abundance of opportunities and expectations today causes a life without time for worship, introspection, or faith development. A related aspect is information overload. No human was meant to carry the weight of the whole world, and yet daily it feels that is what we are forced to do. The results are anger, sadness, hatred toward one another, and general despondency. Of course, that in and of itself may eventually become the opportunity as [we realize] the progress of modernity cannot change the condition of the human heart. We may, as a culture, reach a breaking point and look for a deeper answer. (Todd Crofford, Real Life Wesleyan Church, Mechanicsville, MD)
What are some ways we can prepare our congregations for interaction, dialogue, and fellowship with people of other faiths and cultures?
Be intentionally present: Don’t get so caught up in your own little world that you miss theirs. Get to know your neighbors. Strike up conversations where you work out, where you buy your groceries, where you get your coffee. Always have the attitude of a learner. (Belinda Selfridge, Sent Church, Plano, TX)
Gospel in context: We need to help our congregations understand that God is at work in the world. He is a missionary God, not bound up in our simplistic categories. We cannot effectively impact people of other faiths and cultures until we are willing to draw near, build relationships and learn from them. The beautiful thing is that the gospel perfectly adapts to every culture. It is our task to shape our ministries to the place where the gospel intersects with the culture. When we under-contextualize our ministries, we will answer questions no one is asking and we will end up affirming aspects of the culture that the gospel clearly challenges. The power of Spirit-led contextualized ministry is that it will answer the questions the culture is really asking and effectively challenge the aspects that are keeping it from experiencing true freedom. (Branden Petersen, Resurrection Life NYC, Manhattan, NY)
How do you practice Sabbath and find renewal?
Find a rhythm: Like most ministry leaders, I struggle to keep this part of my weekly rhythm. I schedule my Sabbath into my calendar. For me, it is the privilege we have to step away from the flow of life to spend extended time with Our Father. My Sabbath involves personal worship, rest, family, fun, and fellowship. (Becci Wood, Wesleyan Church of Hamburg, Hamburg, NY)
Reset and refresh: By being VERY protective of a day off from ministry. I believe that it is a spiritual matter and it is important I follow the biblical mandate. I find renewal by going to a place that is enjoyable for my wife and I and spending time in prayer, reading and study for self-renewal. (Ed Lindsey, Troy First Wesleyan Church, Troy, NC)
Who is your faith hero/mentor?
My first would be my father. It’s been an incredible blessing to grow up under his spiritual leadership as both my father and then as my pastor for a number of years. Seeing his faith lived out on a daily basis had a major impact on me. Second would be Craig Groeschel. I’ve learned a lot from his leadership example. (Byron Spear, Bethany Wesleyan Church, Cherryville, PA)
The professors in the Noggle Ministry Center [at Indiana Wesleyan University]—Dave Ward, Amanda Drury, Elaine Bernius, to name a few. I’ve gone to them many times for counsel, encouragement, and coffee. They are some of the most gracious, dedicated servants I know. They consistently pointed me to Christ, rather than only to their own wisdom (though they have a lot to offer!).They championed me as a woman in ministry. (Elyse Garverick, The Well Church, Christchurch, NZ)
What are your thoughts on raising up the next generation of leaders?
Fresh vision: We, [The Wesleyan Church], are embracing an exciting group of young leaders who are leading us back into what I call “frontline” ministry. It is not just contemporary music and creative messages, it is a purposeful thrust into the communities that surround us, touching hurting people, doing holistic ministry, and impacting our culture. Those of us on the older side must never allow tradition to stand in the way of fresh vision. Jesus broke traditions that had stagnated the church; we also must be able to discriminate between the sacred and the superficial. (Bud Fancy, Presque Isle Wesleyan Church, Presque Isle, ME)
New kind of relevance: The challenge of the next generation of leaders is to make the local church culturally vital to the community again. In a time when the church appears to be losing ground and influence, [we] have an opportunity to reimagine how the local church works in the world. The next generation of leadership should look simplified and focused on reaching the lost and serving the community. Going forward, the local church has an opportunity to serve its zip codes, make a practical difference in the lives of the community, and embody the mission of Jesus in the world. (Adam Munshaw, CrossPoint Wesleyan Church, Carneys Point, NJ)
Gaby Garver is a 2016 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University. She currently lives in Istanbul, Turkey where she works as an editor for the Daily Sabah newspaper. Her favorite pastimes are cooking for friends, writing and camping.