Discerning the Way Forward Pt. 2

      This week I spent some time at a pastor’s retreat by our Texas Annual Conference. Our presenter was an expert in the Enneagram. The Enneagram is a beautiful personality assessment used for self-awareness. I am always fascinated by things that help me understand myself better. When you know yourself better, you have more emotional intelligence and a great capacity to care for yourself. God designed us this way. My Enneagram number is three. Number three is called the Achiever. This number describes who I am and what my motivation is in my personality. All of us, including me, have a little of all the different numbers, but one is more dominant than the others. My dominant is the number three. Let me share the motivating factor behind number three with you. I am motivated by success. (Side note: I have learned more from my failures, which is valid for everyone.). I like to achieve and do things. I want to achieve and do things that bring success. I believe God made me this way, and I am glad to claim my #3 personality. Why does this matter in our time of discernment? As I ponder the idea of success being the driver of my motivation in return, it is essential to define what success is for me and our church.
          2 Thessalonians 1:3 says, “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.”
            This scripture describes a loving covenant of the followers of Jesus Christ. I believe my definition of success during this season in our church is to remain healthy and strong in our covenantal bond. No matter our affiliation in the future, please know I am working to keep John Wesley bonded in covenant with each other. Our covenant starts with God and extends to each other on a local level. The covenant we share does no good for anyone outside our church if our church does not remain strong in its covenant on a local level. To be in covenant with one another means we will all need to make sacrifices moving forward. I believe this is a faithful definition of success during this season of ministry.  I wanted you to know what your pastor deems success during this time in the history of John Wesley.  
            I received a letter from one of our church members a year ago. Bob Schindler has been a member of John Wesley for many years. Bob serves our church in many ways and helps lead the Men’s Dawn Patrol on Wednesday mornings. One thing I love about Bob’s letter is his concentration on covenant. You can tell Bob loves John Wesley, and no matter what the future holds, Bob wants to be in covenant with his fellow members. Bob challenges us to remain in covenant with each other.

                                          An open letter to our John Wesley Family
      Cheryl and I have considered John Wesley much more than our attending church over the past 40 years. We raised our children, served in positions of leadership, shared heartfelt fellowship, and studied God's word and will, amongst many other involvements at John Wesley.
      Therefore I felt compelled to address the upcoming crossroad facing the Methodist church and John Wesley. Others may choose to speak to the what of the issues but my focus will be on the how. How do we as a church family proceed in love, charity, and unity? I'm reminded of Emerson's quote, "The ends pre-exit in the means" which reinforces Jesus' message of forgiveness and redemption.
       I want to share a concept I learned recently from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks which I believe gives us a common road forward. Rabbi Sacks makes a sharp distinction between a contract and a covenant. A contract, he contends, is generated by self interest where "two or more individuals each pursuing their own advantage come together to make an exchange for mutual benefit.” Contracts, he says, are about "I“.  
      Covenants, on the other hand, "are about you and I coming together for a 'we". He continues, "A covenant creates a moral community. It binds people together in a bond of mutual responsibility and care." Finally, he concludes, "Unlike contracts which are entered into for the sake of advantage, covenants are moral commitments sustained by loyalty and fidelity even when they they call for sacrifice.
      We will have a large cross to bear in the coming months based upon our decisions. My prayer is that our covenantal commitment based upon love and trust will allow God, through Jesus, to sustain our family. Covenant reveals our identity, people of the way, and the ultimate source of genuine healing. What will it be, John Wesley - covenant or contract?

      I believe Bob’s letter is a wonderful challenge to our church.  I also believe staying strong in our covenant will define John Wesley's success in the coming months and years.

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