Beauty for Ashes

“Ultimately, genuine holiness attracts people more than clever publicity.”

This is a quote from my Commonplace Book. It is also the line that summed up for me why the book Beauty for Ashes, by Stephen R. Lloyd-Moffett should be required reading for everyone who intends to become part of the leadership of a church in any denomination (or pre-denomination). The Subtitle for the book is The Spiritual Transformation of a Modern Greek Community. This is the story of one bishop who transformed a community through authentic holiness. The jurisdiction had suffered neglect and sin. It was a broken and worldly community that had fallen into a pattern of seeing the world as sacred and secular.

This is often the season where Church leadership for the next year is chosen. Communities choose council members who will guide them for the next year, or two. Thoughtful spiritual guidance is needed by everyone in leadership roles. The path to wholeness is not found in plans. What this book recounts is that true Christian practice is not found through sophisticated and elaborate plans.

Fabulous programs can be implemented. But, “…the spiritual struggle of the Church is everywhere and always the same.”  Programming will not make a Church whole. Each person participating in the worship life of the community with integrity is the only path to holiness.

The Church, “…does not rely on propaganda or publicity but on emptied wills  and quiet hearts.”

Every member of a Church should be sharing the Good News. We should all gladly “share” on social media the events of our communities. If we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God we should be living like it is true!

“Church leaders should…act as conduit or vessel of the divine, not marketing arm of God.”

This necessitates that all the parishioners of a congregation act like members of the body of Christ, and allow the flow of divine love and activity of the organism pass through them. We have fallen into a slothful habit in our society of “leaving everything to the experts.” We hire people to serve the Church, which is wonderful. Then we fail by expecting the “professionals” to do all the work. That is no more effective than a human body relying solely upon the heart to circulate all the blood.

May God grant us mercy to grow in grace and holiness!

 

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Define Success

imageI am thinking that how we define failure and success tells more about our faith and character than we like to admit. It is relatively easy to say that we are followers of Jesus when times are stable, but it is another thing altogether when it will cost us significantly to behave in a meek way. How do we define success? Is it a nice house, a good job and others treating us with respect?

As Christians we are called to view success as following our Servant-King and responding with gentleness even when life-changing issues are on the line. Failure would be recounting who did and said what, and when. Assessing the situation from a worldly, get-ahead viewpoint would be failure. It should not about us or our feelings. It is all about glorifying God. Contributing to dissension and conflict would be putting ourselves first.

If our job as the Church is to demonstrate Christ’s teachings, then we are required to turn the other cheek. Human desires include slamming the door on our way out to shake things up a bit. That is not what our Savior taught.

A friend once told me they worried about me being such a “gentle person.” They feared that others would take advantage of me. After the conversation I pondered their comments and realized that by the Christian definition  for success, they had paid me a very great compliment.

It is surprising what incidents linger in our long-term memory. When I was interviewed for my job in the Church I was asked one question that startled me. I had been asking and answering questions in the appropriate college graduate manner when I was asked how I saw myself leading. I paused because I felt an answer jump up in my heart that did not seem an appropriate response. I felt the answer driven to my mouth by a force too great to resist. It was a Church so I replied honestly with the truth I couldn’t contain. “With great love, I hope.” I never forgot that part of the interview and I have unceasingly endeavored to live up to the style of leadership I believe in.

I have loved the Lord in the good times and the hard places. To love is to put the beloved ‘s best interest ahead of our own wishes. I will always have great love for my congregation. I have done all in my power to serve and please them all. I have fervently sought to share the love of the Lord and His Word.

This is a season where my health has become an insurmountable problem. My chronic health problems have been exacerbated by trying to remain upright for too many hours a day. My body withstood over a month of the new schedule, but I became ever weaker with mounting tachycardia and fainting. In the end I had a second full outbreak of chickenpox, which is not healing as it should. I am being forced into a period of rest.

To the core of my heart I am grieved that we have come to the end. As an optimist, I cannot help but add that according to 1 Corinthians 13:8, “Love never ends.”

How do you define success? Please tell us about a time of transition that you have experienced. Share with us what you think are some of the hallmarks of a life well-lived.