Have You Ever Needed to be Rescued?

Bishop Steve Wood, Diocesan Bishop

Have you ever needed to be rescued?  Ever need someone to come to your defense?  Ever needed someone to be your advocate?

When I was growing up our neighborhood, like any other, had a bully – he was about four years older than me.  And for whatever reason the summer when I was nine he decided to make my life miserable.  It was really miserable.  Nothing worked.  My dad talked to his dad and it just got worse.  One day I was walking down to my friend Mike’s house – just three houses away – and the bully caught me.  By the time I made it to Mike’s I had a bloody nose and was pretty roughed up.  Mike’s older brother Louie came to the door.  Louie would become one of the best athletes our neighborhood had seen – a two sport star – football and wrestling – but this particular summer he was thirteen just like the bully.  “Stevie, what the heck happened to you?”  I told him the story – I told him about the whole summer of suffering.  Next thing I know Louie’s running out the door.  He comes back a little bit later and tells me the bully will never bother me again.  He told me if anyone ever bothered me to come tell him.  My first experience of a saviour was a kid named Louie Matteo.  He was the big brother I never had.  No one ever bothered me again.

The Bible tells us we have a Big Brother.  The Bible also tells us we have a powerful enemy.  But he is not all-powerful.  In fact, the Bible reveals to us that Satan is a defeated enemy.  The Apostle John says: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”  Paul writes of Christ, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame by triumphing over them in him.”

Jesus disarmed and destroyed Satan, taking away from him the power and fear of death by triumphing over him by His cross and resurrection and opening to you (and me) the gateway to eternal life.  Our stronger, older Brother is both deliverer and Saviour. So, the Apostle John will write, “But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn – not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” (John 1.12-13)

Friends, may your Lenten observation and Easter celebration lead you back to the One who has loved you and fought for you and saved you for Himself.

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What kind of fisherman are you?

Bishop Steve Wood

One of the men who most influenced my young Christian life was a man named John Wimber.  Wimber, as you may remember, was the founder of the Vineyard Church and he had a soft spot for us Anglicans.  I did not know him but my then rector did and so I came into contact with both his preaching and his writings. The “tell” and “show” nature of his ministry was very attractive to me – and remains so.

One of Wimber’s greatest gifts was making the gospel understandable and then helping us ordinary, every-day kind of Christians (through his teachings, encouragement and model of ministry) believe that we really had a part to play in the ongoing unfolding of God’s kingdom.  I have in my files any number of his stories and illustrations.  One particular story he told about fishing and evangelism remains a favorite. Wimber wrote:

In 1990 Larry Shaw was trying out a new outboard propeller on Ohio’s West Branch Reservoir when he saw a huge muskie just below the surface.  Shaw motored over to it, and cast toward it several times with no luck before the fish disappeared.  About a half hour later Shaw returned to the cove where he had first spotted the big muskie.  And wouldn’t you know, it was back!  Shaw turned on the trolling motor and crept closer to the big fish.  Suddenly, the muskie started swimming toward the boat.

Shaw quickly put on a leather glove and stuck his arm into the water, grabbing the monster just behind the gills.  The muskie started splashing and fighting to escape but Shaw held on.  It was quite a fight, but with the help of a nearby fisherman he was able to get the fish into his boat.

The muskie weighed in just a bit over 53 pounds.  If Larry Shaw had caught the fish with a rod and reel, it would have broken the then record for the largest muskie ever caught in Ohio.  When reporters asked him about the fish, Shaw said, “I was in the right place at the right time, and I was fool enough to grab it.”

That’s a good description of evangelism: being in the right place at the right time, and being fool enough to share the good news of salvation found in Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 4 (v.19) we read of Jesus’ call to his soon-to-be disciples; an invitation to be fishers of men and women.  When Jesus used metaphors like fishing his listeners heard what he was saying in a very different way than we do in our Western world.  For most of us fishing is a hobby – a recreational diversion from the business of our everyday lives. I am a casual fisherman.  And so when I come home empty-handed (more often than not) I am still content for having spent a day on the water.

Jesus issued that first invitation to join his fishing expedition to Peter, Andrew, James and John. Fishing was not a pastime for these men. If they failed to catch fish they did not eat.  Fishing was their livelihood.  Repeated failure was not an option.  As fishermen these men would have learned how to adapt their fishing technique to variety of situations.  Was it sunny or overcast?  Calm or windy?  What was the time of year?  What kind of fish were they fishing for?  Some fish are very quick to respond.  Some fish, especially the older, larger, ones had learned the fishermen’s tricks and were more wary and elusive.  When Jesus said to them that they would be fishers of men He spoke in a language they understood.

How does this apply to you? To your church?  Well, what are the trends in your community?  What kinds of people are moving into your neighborhood?  What are the challenges they face?  What are their aspirations?  We live in the South and in many of our communities there remains a strong residual of the Christian faith within our culture. But folks who live in Asheville, Raleigh and Charlotte face unique situations that those of us in the Outer Banks, midlands, lowcountry or upstate do not face (and vice-versa). Good fishermen know how to read their environment. They know what bait the fish are hitting on.  They are aware of their presentation.

Friends, Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples.  Are you going where the “fish” are, or are you waiting for them to come to you?

Gracious Engagement. A Word from our Diocesan Bishop Steve Wood.

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One of the most amazing attributes Jesus demonstrated was his ability to engage people from every strata of society.  Matthew the tax man who became a disciple; Peter the fisherman who became a fisher of men; Nicodemus the scholar and teacher of the law; the prostitute who washed His feet with her tears; the untouchable lepers who found a healing touch; the little children who climbed on His lap; Jairus whose daughter died.

His open-hearted accessibility and love of others, even for His enemies, would become the ethic by which the early church thrived.  So much so that the non-Christian world commenting on the life of the church said of them, “See how they love each other” (Justin).  Throughout church history, Christians have, with varying degrees of success, taken seriously the truth expressed by Paul in 2 Corinthians: “that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.  And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (5.19). The consequence?  No other religion has crossed as many sociological and religious barriers as Christianity.

It is this attitude of gracious engagement that springs from our recognition that we are all equally in need of salvation and share a common bond as the objects of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross that is the distinguishing characteristic of every effective disciple-making congregation.

As you consider the manner of your life, the people and the places that you devote your time, and energy (check your daily planner), and your money (check your bank statement and budget), is it clear that your life – your church – demonstrates that same love for others?  Are you creating an atmosphere in your life, your home, your church, that reflects the love of God for all people – from every nation, tribe, language and people? (Revelation 7.9)

Do you remember the first time you went to church?  Can you remember the anxiety of “standing out?”  Remember the uncertainty of not knowing what to do, where to go or where to sit?  I certainly do.  Over the years I regularly meet folks desperately searching for meaning, truly searching after God, feeling these things upon entering the doors of a church. We have the privilege of joining Christ in our community – building bridges between God and His people.  Engaging and serving them as Christ would – and did.

For His Kingdom,

+Steve

A Word from our Diocesan Bishop Steve Wood

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“Go”
“Wait”

Two simple words which cause us so much trouble!

Go
Jesus told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.  Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.  Lk 10. 2-3

Wait
Jesus gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 4-5

Why is it so hard to do what Jesus commands us to do?  Why do we think we know better?  Part of the “going” and “waiting”, for Jesus, involved teaching (presuming we’ve first learned ourselves) others to obey (Mt 28.20).  Another word we don’t like!  But there it is, 4 times from the lips of the Lord in ten short verses (Jn. 14.15-24) culminating with: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”

Going and waiting are hard.  Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh.  Jonah wanted Judgment.

Peter found himself in slightly different circumstances.

Speaking to a confused church, which apparently wanted God to get on with the judging and were frustrated with waiting, the Apostle penned these words: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3.9)

God does not view time and circumstance as we do. He calls us to go to a broken world (from which we want to run) and to wait in the midst of the sadness and ugliness and pain of human brokenness.  This waiting, though, is not a passive waiting.  It’s a waiting that brings with it the power of the Spirit which empowers our proclamation and demonstration that the Kingdom of God is at hand and that the only appropriate response to the presence of God’s Kingdom is repentance and believe (Mk. 1.15).  The Lord’s seeming delay in bringing about the consummation of all things is not a result of His indifference but of His patience – a waiting for all who will come to repentance.

How utterly unlike Him I am.

It is uncomfortable to live in a sinful world.

And the truth is, I’d rather be comfortable.

I wonder how you’re doing in regard to going and waiting?  I wonder to whom the Lord has said for you to “go” but you’re waiting?  I wonder how many circumstances you find your patience being tried because you are so ready to go – and yet the Lord seems to have said, “wait”?

Do you have a heart that is content with going and waiting as the Lord leads?

Jesus never intended for the faith to be lived out in the imaginary realm of supposition and make believe.  Instead you and I are called to fully live in the present, sometimes hard pressed, sometimes perplexed, sometimes knocked down, but never crushed or abandoned – always carrying within our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed. Always accompanied by and filled with the Spirit

Go.
Wait.

Two very difficult words.

Developing Healthy Congregations

15541267_786901648114635_2912949989732689445_nA Note from Bishop Steve Wood

 

Dear Friends,

As our diocese continues to develop our common life Nancy Bryan has helpfully begun a regular e-newsletter of sorts to ensure we stay connected one to another. Included in these e-newsletters will be a brief article from me.  Being our first such newsletter I thought I’d write you about that which is closest to my heart; developing healthy missional congregations.

Over the course of my ordained life I have continually observed that when a congregation goes flat it is usually because one aspect of their life is out of balance.   As Anglicans entrusted with the great treasure of a rich liturgical life, we tend to do worship well. And, as I’ve traveled from parish to parish across our diocese we tend to love one another well. Most commonly it is the missional focus that has been lost.

So, how can you – and your parish – develop a heart that will grow an outwardly minded (mission minded) church?  Here are five suggestions:

 

  1. Adopt the “apostolic” attitude found in Romans 1.5-6: “Through Him (Jesus) and for His name’s sake, we (you) received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles (unreached people) to the obedience that comes from faith.”  Paul says that each one of us who has received grace for salvation has also received apostleship – meaning we have all been sent into the world as Christ’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5.20).
  2. Find neutral ground to reach out to the community.  The possibilities are limited only by your creativity.  In the Diocese of the Carolinas the Village Church in West Greenville, SC partners with other community volunteers to serve their neighborhood by offering free bicycle maintenance, bike learning (and bike earning) opportunities and community development.  Called the Village Wrench they set up in a neighborhood of West Greenville on the first Saturday of every month. It is a tremendous bridge into the community giving pre-Christian people an opportunity to rub shoulders with Christians in a non-threatening atmosphere.
  3. Cultivate an evangelistic mindset.  Think person-to-person, friend-to-friend, neighbor-to-neighbor, colleague-to-colleague.  This, in fact, is much more important than any program or event your parish could implement. Twenty years ago George Hunter, the author of How to Reach Secular People, suggested that in our secular climate it takes twenty contacts(!) to build a bridge between your friend and Christ. The point is, stay engaged.  Folks will want to see your faith lived out and that takes time.
  4. Spice up your evangelistic life with a little variety.  Again, the evangelistic opportunities are endless.  For example, if you hear a single mom has a sick child you could: bring her dinner, mow her lawn, bring in the mail, visit the child and pray for him/her, share how your faith helped you in a hard time, invite her to church – or a home group, be a friend, have coffee – build a bridge.
  5. Meet people where they are.  Increasingly, the bankruptcy of our secular/pluralistic culture (materialism, atheism, skepticism) is being made clear.  Our society has moved from pluralism (many truths) to relativism (no truth is more true than others) to post-post-modernism (what is truth?).  Many in the church panic and become ashamed of the Gospel, feeling that the Bible is irrelevant to our modern world.  NOTHING could be further from the truth.  In fact, this kind of thinking reflects more clearly a worldly analysis than a biblical one.  The Bible is still living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword – able to penetrate soul and spirit and judge the thoughts and attitudes of people’s hearts (Heb. 4.11).

 

In Christ,

Steve