2/26/16

The Legacy of Kenneth G. Donald in India: A Study of the Missiological Implications. By Dr. B.S. Moses Kumar



The Legacy of Kenneth G. Donald in India:
A Study of the Missiological Implications

Introduction

The progenitors of a race and the pioneers of a movement are often remembered as ‘Fathers’. They instill inspiration for the successors, and foster a sense of destiny among successive generations. The Church from the very first century of her existence had ignited the flame of missions. This happened as the disciples of Christ obeyed His Great Commission. They found their way to different corners of the earth taking the light of the Gospel to many people groups of the world. The flickering flame of missions had shone brighter during succeeding centuries. The Gospel of the Kingdom was being preached to all nations during late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. This was in fulfillment of the prediction of Jesus Christ: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14 – NKJV). And there is the challenging history of the Apostles of Jesus Christ and the Church Fathers thereafter.

M. K. Gandhi, who launched and invigorated the Indian Freedom Struggle, has been called the Father of the Nation. William Carey, who rendered unique service in the fields of Indian languages and literature, and, education and social reform, has been acclaimed the Father of the Modern Missionary Movement. In relation to over 100 years of service to the nation by the Pentecostal Holiness Church, two names stand out, who are fondly remembered: 

1)    John M. Turner, Father of the Pentecostal Holiness Church in India, labored since 1920 in the present Jharkhand State for the social, economic and spiritual upliftment of the masses.
2)    Kenneth G. Donald, Father of the Pentecostal Holiness Church in South India, initiated an ongoing movement of equipping and empowering next generation leaders.

This paper endeavors to present the legacy of Kenneth G. Donald in India with an evaluation of his missiological strategies at the end.

The Advent of Pentecostal Holiness Church in India

Pentecostal Holiness Church, with her genesis in the U.S.A. in 1898, was an offspring of the Wesleyan Holiness Movement of the late 19th century, and as such, is older than the Modern Pentecostal Movement. The Manual (2013-2017) elucidates, “As its distinctive contribution to contemporary Christianity, this church has attempted to preserve the Wesleyan tradition while perpetuating the Pentecostal tradition.”[1] Bishop J. H. King’s global tour in 1910 was the beginning of Pentecostal Holiness presence in India, as he spent considerable time in this land. His dream for India took on initial fulfillment when John and Olivia Turner landed in Kolkata in 1921. A detailed saga of the trail of missionaries since then from the U.S.A., Canada and the U.K., and their contribution to human welfare, educational upliftment and spiritual nurture of the masses was recounted in my book, Setting Stones: An Interpretive History of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church in India.[2]

Early Roots of the Donalds in India

Kenneth Donald was a great Apostle of God from the U.K. to India. Though an Englishman by birth, he chose to be an Indian by choice.[3] Born on March 7, 1917 at Coventry, England to George William and Betty Donald, he responded to the Gospel around 15 years of age. He married Joan Elsie on August 15, 1942, and later used to quip that on the day when India got her freedom, he lost his![4] After discharge from the army, where Kenneth served in medical corps for 6 years, the Donalds felt the call for missions. Bible Colleges in England did not accept couples those days; they both took a correspondence course. They finally landed in India in February 1950 in faith, as independent missionaries. Having initial fellowship with Dipti Mission, they began language study to learn Hindi at Landour, Mussoorie, Here they met missionaries of all denominations. In the midst of about 300, the five missionaries belonging to the Pentecostal Holiness Church stood out, on account of their experience and teaching of entire sanctification and baptism in the Holy Spirit.[5] Thus they were drawn to join the Pentecostal Holiness Church, which had its beginnings in India, at Jasidih of the united Bihar.[6]

Though Kenneth and Joan, started their mission in Jharkhand in North India (where they labored for 8 years) as J.M. Turner and his successors did, he completed his mission in Ootacamund, Tamilnadu (another 8 years), sandwiched by about 16 years of labors among Telugus in united Andhra Pradesh. He came to Maruter village in February 1958 to pioneer and labor in Andhra Pradesh.  As Apostle Paul, he planted many churches in the twin Godavary Districts and beyond, identifying with people and becoming ‘all things to all’.

Later he went further down to Tamilnadu in October 1974 to finally locate in the highest altitude of their lives in India - geographically and spiritually: geographically, as they set their tents in the hill station of Ootacamund; and spiritually, as they soared high in spiritual revival and compassionate ministration to the needy. This brought deliverance and inner healing to many. 

Apostle of Pentecost to the Blue Mountains

            Kenneth believed that there is no real success without a successor. The highlight of his ministry was his decision to leave the work he established into the hands of national leadership. He moved down to South to pitch their tent initially at Montauban (a property purchased by a Christian Missionary organization around 1906). For over 100 years Montauban has been running as a Christian Guest House. Kenneth held regular meetings and conferences there and in other places in Ootacamund. Spirit-filled preachers and leaders like William Scott and others were invited periodically.

The Church in Ootacamund in early 1970’s, when Donalds arrived, was not exposed to any Pentecostal experience or Charismatic influence.  In all probability, the Donalds seem to be pioneers of the Pentecostal Movement in the Blue Mountains. As a bold Apostle of the Pentecost, he initiated charismatic worship and ministrations among the few who were responsive to deeper things of the Spirit. The church climate was hostile and ostracizing to the new teaching and the new experience. However, St. Stephen’s Church (CSI) opened up to the ministry of Kenneth Donald, and it was this church that held a memorial meeting in his honor, after his home going.

Apart from those who sought deeper life and spiritual growth, many people with inner hurts came in frustration and depression only to receive a new release and a new life, as the Holy Spirit did a deeper work in their lives. ‘Ananda Ashram’, meaning Abode of Joy, where they stayed most during their sojourn, gave them much gladness as they kept it an ‘open house’ for any seeking refuge and relief through ‘inner healing’. The caring ministration of Joan Donald, like a ‘mother in Israel’ added a much-needed dimension to the work. There was much spiritual counseling and intercession for the needy that people literally thronged to the Ashram.

A Movement Rather Than a Monument

            Kenneth dreamed of having an educational institution with Pentecostal Holiness heritage developed at Ananda Ashram with the help of the products of his ministry in Andhra. It remained a dream until after a decade of his home going. The day came when B. A. D. Vidya Sagar donated a piece of land for a Memorial Center, and Donald Vidya Niketan, a Kindergarten School was started at Maruter in 1992. However, it became inevitable for the venue of such a Memorial to be shifted to Hyderabad. Ultimately Bishop B. E. Underwood dedicated Donald Memorial Ashram on November 14, 1993. It became the venue for Donald Memorial Church, Donald Memorial High School and later Hyderabad Bible College, which hosted Asian Ministerial Training Program: India (AMTP India) for about 12 years - training national leaders across the four Conferences in India. The College serves as venue for the School of Church Planting since 2007, apart from regular theological education. A new dimension was added to the Ashram when Bishop Talmadge Gardner dedicated Joan’s Haven Boarding School, as a fitting memorial for Joan Donald, in 2014. 
 
Joan’s Will

            Over 27 years Joan had been a widow, she served the Lord alone in U.K., helping with local churches near where she lived, personally touching many lives, through her ministry of counseling and intercession. An outstanding breakthrough came at the end of her first 8-year cycle as a widow.  Joan led Mrs. Mavis Gentry, on her deathbed, to the Lord.  As the latter “inherited the glorious riches of heaven, she bequeathed her earthly property to the ministry in India.  It was this single contribution that bought the original property at the Donald Ashram”.  Her beloved husband ministered to the very last day of his life, pouring out into the lives of his ‘ministers in the making’ in South India!  She followed his trail, being effectively used by the Lord till her last breath.  Even in her death, Joan longed to be a blessing to the Church in India – making a large room for India in her Will! Continuing to be a blessing even after death to the land she was called![7]

Missiological Implications

What are the missiological implications of this study? Certain insights and implications may be drawn from the life and ministry of Kenneth Donald, and his wife Joan, which are paradigm setters and signposts for successive generations.

1) From North to the South!

With its start in Bihar, the ‘graveyard of missionaries’, Pentecostal Holiness Church blossomed forth life and light of the Gospel among the many tribes and people groups of North India. It was providential for her to have a leap beyond into the South, a distance of over 1000 miles, when Hobert H. Howard landed at Maruter in West Godavary District. He went to explore the need for ministry at the invitation of a native, whom he met at ‘Kumbanad Convention’ in Kerala in 1955. In the recorded history of missions in India, Pentecostal Holiness Church is the only mission that, having its beginnings in North India, had spread to South India, while it was vice versa with other denominations. As Bishop King’s visit to India was followed by the arrival of resident missionaries after a decade, the visit of Hobert Howard and others after him was followed by the arrival of Donalds in 1958, and two other single ladies thereafter, as resident missionaries in Andhra Pradesh.

2) Calling - To A Task or A Place?

Of the 40 years of their married life together, the first eight years were spent in the U.K. preparing for mission field, the second eight years spent in Bihar, the next sixteen years spent in Andhra Pradesh, planting churches and training future workers, and the last eight years spent in Ootacamund in South India, ministering to the wider body of Christ.  It was as if the Lord had calculatedly measured 5 equal portions of about 8-year duration, for each of these progressive phases of their ministry together. The double amount of time they invested in Andhra Pradesh established the Pentecostal Holiness Church in South India and beyond.

While in Andhra Pradesh, having established the first mission station at Maruter, the Donalds moved to Attili town to start another mission station, as other missionaries continued at Maruter. While most of the missionaries ended up in the place where they were originally called to, Kenneth felt that the call could not be to a place – binding a missionary to that place forever – but to a task. The duration of a missionary at a place, therefore, is to be determined by the completion of the task and accomplishment of the purpose, for which one is sent there. Having moved to his last station of ministry himself, Kenneth affected the move of the only existing missionary, Frances Carter to Chennai when Rev. B. A. D. Vidyasagar launched a new Church Plant in early 1980’s. Sensitivity to where one is needed most, with no localization of missions and missionaries, is seen in the history of Protestant missions in Andhra Pradesh where the principle of ‘comity’[8] was in effective operation.

3) Team Work!

            Teamwork signifies the nature of the Body of Christ, with many members and differing roles. Kenneth realized that no lone ranger would fare well for long in the mission of the Church. Being a wonderful and unique team with his wife, he further worked well with other missionaries in South India, and beyond. Though he preserved the Pentecostal Holiness distinctives, Kenneth endeavored to maintain good relationships with all from the beginning – Plymouth Brethren of the Godavari Delta Mission (GDM) around Narsapur, American Baptist missionaries of Ongole, Lutheran missionaries of Rajahmundry, and Anglican missionaries of the Church of South India (CSI) at Vijayawada – sharing pulpit with their missionaries and national leaders.  The Adult Literacy Programs of Mrs. Joyce Scott were made use of with the literature of Gera Premaiah. The Scripture Union & Children’s Special Service Mission (SU & CSSM) staff from Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church (AELC), Samavesam of Telugu Baptist Churches (STBC), CSI and the GDM found their place in the churches planted by Kenneth. He was a promoter of ecumenical spirit among churches, fostering Christian unity.

4) Training the Task Force!

            It is said that leaders are readers. It is expected of a man of God that he be thoroughly equipped and teachable. As Kenneth believed and preached, one can give only what one has! As we become lifetime learners, we become equipped to equip others! It was amazing to see that Kenneth, who served in backward Indian villages, was an avid reader and a shrewd writer. He contributed widely to the denominational publications such as Worldorama, and Advocate, as well as to devotional publications such as Logos Digest and Dunamis Digest and missiological journals such as Evangelical Missions Quarterly.[9]

            The Discipling Formula of 2 Timothy 2:2 was the guiding light for Kenneth, as he focused his labors around winning souls and discipling them through various ministries, such as Sunday School (with CEEFI[10] Curriculum), Life Liners (Youth Ministry), Women’s Ministry, Short-term Bible School, and Correspondence Course (on Mark’s Gospel) administered by Spiritual Progress Bible School. Pastors’ Retreats are pivotal in the training strategy adopted by Kenneth in later years, which proved essential since his move to Ootacamund. They fostered bond of fellowship among Pastors, and also with the missionary as he identified with nationals. They further helped in resolving inner struggles and personality conflicts among the Body of Christ.  

            Four Retreats in the last five years of his life are significant, as recorded below:

1)    In 1978 the Ootacamund Retreat was held after his move there in 1974. All the ministers in the making from Andhra Pradesh gathered at YWCA Guest House with the adjacent Chapel, and there was a wonderful time of ministry by B. E. Underwood, John B. Parker and Dr. Vinson Synan.[11]
2)    In 1979 the Maruter Retreat took place in February, when Kenneth gave studies on Galatians, which were posthumously published.[12] Apart from background study, Kenneth delivered powerful messages on deeper spiritual themes.[13]
3)    In 1981 at the Maruter Retreat, Kenneth shared his studies on ‘Ministries of the Holy Spirit’, which he presented at the First Session of Centre for International Christian Ministries (CICM), London.[14]
4)    Kenneth’s Final Retreat with Pastors took place at Dhyanashram, Chennai during July 28-31, 1982. The things he shared on the second day were the grand ‘finale’ of his life and message.

These Retreats and other teachings by Kenneth had ushered an emerging generation of national leaders that continues to multiply his ministry.

Conclusion

            Reproducing oneself is the ultimate responsibility of a mature leader, and Kenneth as a seasoned leader had equipped many next-level leaders well. Obedience to divine direction and guidance would yield rich results here and in eternity. Pioneering pains would sure do usher in the joy of consummation and fulfillment. Being a model for others is the prime objective of our Christian walk and service. All these principles were lived by Kenneth before the people he ministered.

            One of Kenneth’s profound messages was on 1 Corinthians 4:15 – “For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers …”. The agony for such a dearth must have molded him to be one, and he became a spiritual father to all. The successive generations aptly and in gratitude call him as ‘Father of the Pentecostal Holiness Church in South India’.


B. S. Moses Kumar, Ph.D.

About the Author: 
Dr. B. S. Moses Kumar is a triple graduate, with Masters in Arts and in Pastoral Theology, and a Ph.D. His dissertation, The Religious Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Theological Perspective was published by ISPCK, Delhi and his seminal work, Setting Stones: An Interpretive History of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church in India was published by LSR Publications, Franklin Springs, Georgia. Dr. Kumar for his Ph.D. in Theology penned the dissertation Incarnation of the Gospel in Indian Culture With Reference to the Art and Poetry of Pulidindi Solomon Raj.   Dr. Kumar is the Field Superintendent for IPHC India. He and his wife Dora are the pioneer-pastors of the Donald Church, and live with their youngest son Donald at the Donald Ashram, Hyderabad, India. He also serves as president of the Hyderabad Bible College. http://www.nativeleader.org/moses-kumar


[1]           Franklin Springs, Georgia: LifeSpring Resources, (2013:12)



[2]           Franklin Springs, Georgia: LifeSpring Resources, 2006. 


[3]           Moses Kumar, B.S., ed. : Biographical Note, in “Free … In Christ” by 
Kenneth G. Donald, Narsapur: Jeevan Jyothi Press & Publishers, (2008:60)


[4]           ibid.


[5]           Moses Kumar, B.S., ed. : Biographical Note, in “Ministries of the Holy Spirit” by 
Kenneth G. Donald, Secunderabad: Authentic India, (2008:76)


[6]           Jasidih was a pilgrim center, and they were guided there by the Pilgrim Mission at
            Varanasi.


[7]           Moses Kumar, B.S. : Tribute Prepared for the Funeral of Joan Donald on December
8, 2009 at Fleet Baptist Church , officiated by Rev. David Bird, p.3


[8]           The principle of comity “demarcated territorial boundaries between missionaries of
            various  societies in order to use personnel efficiently, reduce the duplication of activities,
            and avert competition”.
 
[9]           No. 13, January 1977 and so on.


[10]         CEEFI stands for Christian Education department of the Evangelical Fellowship of India.


[11]         It was here that the author met Dr. Synan for the first time and was prophesied upon.



[12]       Donald, Kenneth G., “Free … In Christ”, Edited by B.S. Moses Kumar, Narsapur: Jeevan
            Jyothi Press & Publishers, 2008.


[13]         Themes like Freedom of the Gospel, Ministry with Oneness, Walking in the Spirit, and
            Worship that Glorifies God.



[14]       Secunderabad: Authentic India, 2008.

            This Book presents themes like Reliance on the Holy Spirit, Ministering with Compassion,

            Dealing with Fear, Moving out with a New Power, According to the Measure of Faith,

            and so on.

           

5/26/15

Under This Banner...

I walked around a large religious conference where the constituents are struggling as an issue drives a wedge in their group.  The issue comes down to the role and authority of scripture in human life. How will understanding of its advice, wisdom, commands, and lessons be applied in and through their expression of faith?  Should the scriptures assume the role of a quaint outdated writing that has some nice things in it or as a vital and real guide for living a life of faith?
 
If I have the control over what I believe and can pick and choose my views cannot apply to anyone else.  If each man or woman does that which is right in their own eyes...well, we have been over that territory and the story is in the Bible.
 
Throughout Christian history there have been times when it was crucial to proclaim, "This I Believe" and to be able to lay out the argument using scripture, reason, experience, and tradition.
 
Colorful stoles used as solidarity for a position become the banner under which a group goes to war. Where once the cross was lifted up to draw all to Christ now a political or social banner takes its place. The current colorful stoles are just one of a line of substitutes to a vital, passionate faith that identifies sin, made clear the way of salvation, acknowledged atonement, practiced forgiveness, and extended grace and love.

5/23/15

Schism and Reunion in the Methodist Church

Schism is defined generally as a 'split or division between strongly opposed sections or parties' and this is usually 'caused by differences in opinion or belief.'

In the 1820's a group of Methodists broke away over the issues of church government and the role of the laity.  This group felt the clergy and bishops were too powerful and made decisions and then expected the local church to simply abide by these decisions with no input from the lay persons of the church. This group formed The Methodist Protestant Church.

In 1844, conflict emerged between the abolitionist northern churches of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the slave owning and permitting M.E. churches of the southern states (primarily). As a result,  the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South developed from a formal split.

In 1939, the Methodist Protestant, the M.E. and the M.E., South reunited to form the Methodist Church.

In 1968, The Methodist Church, the United Evangelical Church united to form the United Methodist Church.

John Wesley was greatly apposed to the idea of schism. He was so committed to the idea that 'love' and 'grace' should so infuse the hearts of men and women dedicated to seeking after God and living a life of faith that it was his understanding that to do less than live in harmony was sin. His sermon "On Schism" is filled with the scriptural admonitions to live in peace and harmony. He specifically mentions the 'petty' issues that might encourage divisions and urges Christians to rise above such actions.

This aspect of his sermon is often offered when issues of deeper significance arise that serve to challenge the reach of harmonious unity.  The base issue often seems to be a question of how scripture is viewed as authoritative to life and how applicable its injunctions are held to modern life.

In reading his sermon it is clear that there are two classes of issues creating schism. One were those interpersonal issues that are revealed in squabbles, jealousy, malice, unkindness and similar issues of the life half-heartedly given over to God's love and the transformation of the repentant life.  The other class was the issue of schism stemming from being forced to do something held to be against the scriptures and a violation of conscience.

"But perhaps such persons will say,[in this issue of leaving or schism] "We did not do this willingly; we were constrained to separate from that society, because we could not continue therein with a clear conscience; we could not continue without sin. I was not allowed to continue therein with breaking a commandment of God."

This clear distinction illustrates that not all schism was bad.
"If this was the case,' [a violation of conscience or perception of sin] "you could not be blamed for separating from that society. Suppose, for instance, you were a member of the Church of Rome, and you could not remain therein without committing idolatry; without worshipping of idols, whether images, or saints and angels; then it would be your bounded duty to leave that community, totally to separate from it. Suppose you could not remain in the Church of England without doing something which the word of God forbids, or omitting something which the word of God positively commands; if this were the case, (but blessed be God it is not) you ought to separate from the Church of England. I will make the case my own: I am now, and have been from my youth, a member and a Minister of the Church of England: And I have no desire, no design to separate from it, till my soul separates from my body. Yet if I was not permitted to remain therein without omitting what God requires me to do, it would then become meet and right, and my bounden duty, to separate from it without delay -"

It can be implied that over the issue of church governance, part of Methodism deemed schism appropriate in light of a threat to a violation of conscience and/or s committing of sin. The same can be said regarding the issue of slavery.  The examination of the arguments used in both of these situations might be very illuminating in light of what was considered a violation of conscience and/or the committing of a sin.  Learning why something was so important and what elements served as the tipping points might serve to address current issues and future challenges for any religious group facing inner turmoil and conflict significant enough to threaten schism.


See more at: http://www.umcmission.org/Find-Resources/John-Wesley-Sermons/Sermon-75-On-Schism#sthash.gTLg4QlP.dpuf

Potholes in the Splendid Road

Earle E. Cairns (1910-2008) was for many years chairman of the history department at Wheaton College. An expert in the field of church history, Dr. Cairns has authored a number of books including Christianity Through the Centuries. This is where I first encountered him in some six hours of Church History courses. It was a readable book and the classes were taught by a skilled instructor.
 
Cairns wrote other works, including God and Man in Time, and The Christian in Society.  As an expert in his field his also served as consulting editor and contributor to several now standard reference works: The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church and was senior reviser of The Wycliffe Biographical Dictionary of the Church. Dr. Cairns holds held the MA and PhD from the University of Nebraska.
 
In reading a 1986 Tyndale House edition, I noted several apparent errors in facts presented and was somewhat surprised. It serves as reminder that there is sound value in the use of footnotes and citations. If Cairns was presenting new information supported by in-depth research that served to provide improved data it would have been lost in the 'common man' reading format of the work. It may be more likely the publisher did not do an adequate job of fact checking or editing the work.  It may be hoped that later editions may have corrected errors to provide a more accurate presentation of information.
 
One instance is on page 76 where the story of John Wesley's moment of assurance that he had been saved was sparked during the public reading of a commentary prefaced by Martin Luther.  In Cairn's work it reads that it was the Commentary on Galatians.   According to Wesley's writings on the event, it was the preface to the Commentary on Romans.
 
He credits George Whitefield with the phase " The whole world is now my parish" and it verbalized as Whitefield headed to North America in 1739 (pg. 70). Most other sources assign the quote to John Wesley as it is recorded in his journal of 1739. "I look on all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty, to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation."  Journal (11 June 1739). Given the fact that both men, at the time, were fellow travelers on an evangelical road of revival in the established church and shared society, either source may be correct.  It is inferred by some researchers that the phrase originated in the Oxford "Holy Club" itself.

Wesley served as mentor and spiritual guide to the gifted Whitefield at one point. Whitefield led the way in the area of preaching in fields and other places out of doors once church doors began to close to such services. In late spring and early summer he introduces Wesley to this experience.  Wesley, so staunchly indoctrinated that according to an orderly church sinners could only come to salvation in the church building, would have a revelation at seeing God at work in the fields of these services.

In the 1877 The Life of Rev. George Whitefield by Luke Tyerman is an allusion to the Oxford origins of the phrase (pg. 316). He notes that Wesley uses the term but then quotes Whitefield employing a similar phrase, however the Whitefield phrase is undated and thus difficult to affirm if one employed it earlier than the other man.
 
The absence of notations informing the researcher of to why one is credited as author and not the other may reflect more the biases of the author.  Whitefield would lead a branch of the 'Methodist' movement along Calvinistic lines while Wesley would move another branch along Arminian lines to the extent a 'Wesleyan-Arminian' theology will develop.
 
These potholes in what is otherwise a most splendid road of reading about revivals and their leaders does cause one to pause and wonder what other mistakes were allowed to slip into the text? If other sources are mistaken in their attributions, it is only right that corrections be noted and the records cleared up. That is the duty of the researcher and the scholar. That is the reason for footnotes.

5/22/15

Mr. Spangenberg and Mr. Wesley

In February of 1736, John Wesley was preparing, along with his brother Charles, to launch out into a ministry in the wide open spaces of colonial Georgia in North America.  Up to this time, John Wesley and his brother had been committed to a steady, disciplined approach to living up to the requirements of their faith. They faithfully rose early each morning to read scripture, the set an appointed time to apply themselves to prayer, and established routines that served to do good works, fulfill charity, and teach the faith. They held fast to the traditions of the faith, observed and agreed with the theological platforms of the historic church (the Apostle's Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Heidelberg Confession, and the 39 Articles of Faith of the Church of England). From before dawn to after sunset their days were arranged to be always in some productive and godly activity of helps, instruction, prayer, or service.
 
Mr. Olgethrope came from Savannah with one of the Pastors of the Germans, a Mr. Spangenberg.   It was soon evident that Wesley and Spangenberg shared much the same faith and fervor of purpose. Wesley inquired for advice in his own life and to measure his conduct (as he prepared to minister in the area).  The German asked two key questions: 1) "Have you the witness within yourself? Does the spirit of God  bear witness with your spirit, that you are a child of God?" 2) "Do you know Jesus Christ?...do you know he has saved you?...do you know yourself?"
 
The questions threw Wesley a bit. His replies were couched in hesitant tones. He knew only with certainly that he believed who Jesus was, "I know he is Savior of the world."  To the other questions he could only utter, "I HOPE he has died to save me..."  He finally said in response to the question, "Do you know yourself?" that he did know, his journal records, "But I fear they were vain words." (pg. 23, The Works of John Wesley, volume 1 and 2, Baker 1996).
 
All that happened to Wesley while in Georgia - the abysmal relationships, the failures in ministry and the creeping sense of failure and self-doubt- all seem to be a continuation of this challenging set of questions from the German pastor.  Just a few years later, Wesley is back in England and the process initiated by the German pastor comes full circle when the words read from Luther's Commentary on Romans thunders into the soul of Wesley letting him know, at last and without doubt, that he has been forgiven and he has been saved. As a result, in his normal understated way, he said his heart had been 'strangely warned.' 
 
So often in describing the Evangelical spectrum of the religious experience there is the emphasis on the historic creeds of the church and the recognition of Jesus as the solution to sin and redeemer of the world.  There should also be the experiential component of personal knowledge of an assurance that allows one to say, "Yes. I know I am saved!" 
 
That was the response the German pastor was looking for and the one that Mr. Wesley finally found. It became the yeast to move people from becoming merely consumed in doing good deeds into people consumed with sharing the Good News!

5/19/15

Envisioning a Church

Researching into church history is often found the stories of schism, of division and the establishment of new groups that better reflect certain styles, beliefs, values, or purposes.  No church, congregation or collection of people is ever perfect. In finding the best fit compromises are sometimes made along the lines of what is most agreeable to personal convictions of the Christian life.  In recent years, with the emergence of the Post-Modern movement of the later 20th century, there has been a return to the basics. This has been illuminating but also very challenging.  It is sometimes very clear how far off course some denominations and groups have traveled from their foundational principles or beliefs.  Tides of social trends, cultural waves, and even political eddies have shifted the flow of their rivers of faith.
 
Current trends seem to indicate that there are some common factors in the churches that are growing and being successful in the Biblical definitions of church. These groups often share a faith handed down through the centuries, they share a faith that is felt on the personal level, they are compelled to share the Gospel with others in real and tangible ways that transform souls,  lives, and communities,  and they are committed to learning the Bible and using it as a 'lamp' to their daily walk with God.
 
So the following is a basic overview of what this author might view as a simple schematic of the elements of a denomination or a body of Christians.  It might serve as a jumping off place for those struggling with defining themselves in a restructure, strategic goal or similar plan. 
 
Orthodox
It is a faith handed down.
 
Experiential
The church as the place where people who have encountered God; know they have been saved; and want to grow to be more like Christ come together as a group to worship God, grow in faith and life, and do good in every way possible.  Faith, hope, joy, love, service, sacrifice, and witness are not mere words but daily parts of life. This is the 'fire' that warms the heart and is contagious. Worship is exciting, energetic, inspirational, moving, and transformative. Daily life is energized, motivated, and filled with purpose to share what we have/feel/enjoy with others.  It is a faith felt.
 
Psalms 5:11-12 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield.
Psalms 47:1 Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
 
 
Evangelical
"Evangelical Christianity, is a worldwide, transdenominational movement within Protestant Christianity, maintaining that the essence of the gospel consists in the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ's atonement." (Wikipedia) The church of "show and tell" Christian life. The church of the open invitation to accompany us and "come and see" what God is doing. The church of putting action with words to achieve specific people centered goals of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering those without a roof, and loving the unloved.  It is a faith shared.
 
"How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!" Romans 10
 
"And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. ' Matthew 10
 
Biblical
“Let me be homo unius libri,” said John Wesley, or a man of one book. He did not mean he would scorn other books but that the Bible would serve as the key and foundational work used in building his faith and directing his life. He read widely across many fields and knew well the varied viewpoints of both his supporters and those who did not agree with his renewal beliefs.  Today the Bible has become on one hand a monolithic tool of dogmatic literalism that wrings from the Word of God the wisdom and the breadth of its contents. Focusing on the small gnats the great camels of grace, liberty, and possibilities go unnoticed. On the other hand, the Bible has become a quaint text out of touch with modern life, an ancient text of blood and death and the cause of great evils in society. It is a mythic writing with some good things but in no way can it lay claim to directing, controlling, or even informing modern life. Somewhere in the middle waits the Bible to be discovered, read and taught correctly, and applied with the balance and grace of its message. It is faith learned.
Psalms 119; Romans 15:4; Job 23:12



The Mission

The mission of the church of Jesus Christ is to invite, introduce and involve people to share the Gospel and it is achieved through a faith passed on, a faith that is felt, a faith that is shared, and a faith that is learned.

Matthew 28:19-20 -   
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
 
--Marilyn A. Hudson, MLIS

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