January 21, 2015

Start a Quiet Pentecost in Your Congregation

By Upper Room Books
Bible-PrayerThe ministry of spiritual formation is becoming the leaven in the Bread of Jesus Christ—gradually forming and shaping the culture and ethos of our congregation. We are raising up spiritual leaders and empowering them in their calling. The ministry provides the container for a committed core group to delve deeper into spiritual practice. We are enabling members to reach out into the world and become agents of God’s redemptive, saving grace.
(p. 105, A Quiet Pentecost: Inviting the Spirit into Congregational Life)

These powerful words come from Cherri Johnson at First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They reflect the depth of commitment, community, and spiritual awakening that occurs when people live the Christlike life of prayer and surrender. As individuals steep themselves in spiritual disciplines, particularly daily prayer, they receive assurance of the Spirit’s invitation to the devoted life of love. Cherri Johnson shares how she developed a focused ministry in spiritual formation over a period of 10 years and the way individuals who have been taught the ways of prayer and small-group spiritual formation have created a climate of profound love and service within this congregation.

Cindy Serio describes what can happen when we pray regularly.

One morning as I was meditating on Luke 4:18, these words shimmered off the page straight into my heart: “Proclaim release to the captives.” Suddenly I knew God was sending me to the women at a local prison. After a long conversation with the chaplain, he asked me why I was there, and I was honest: “I don’t know. I only know that God wants me to be here.z’ He smiled a knowing smile and said, “Follow me.” (p. 60)

Cindy Serio’s story of the impact of her listening ministry with incarcerated women shows how one loving person can make a difference in the lives of many individuals.

As individuals within congregations learn to pray together, congregations can be enlivened by a new sense of mission and purpose. Brenda Buckwell tells the powerful story of a fragile urban congregation that found new life as their leadership team learned to pray the scripture together over several months.

I was astonished. The leadership team of the small urban congregation had just signed their death certificate. In response to the question “What is your greatest desire in ministry?” a tenderhearted gentleman in his early 70s, with head held high, stated, “To keep the doors of the church open until the oldest generation dies.” The team was not surprised by the man’s response. . . .

In my astonishment, I paused a moment and then leveled the playing field of mission and ministry for this congregation. With a deep breath and the infilling of the Spirit, I replied: “You can certainly do that if you would like. I can speak to the bishop about sending someone here to your declining ministry to do just that, close the congregation. I am just not that pastor. If you would like to venture forth with me, we can discover God’s desire and mission for this congregation together.” Now it was the team’s turn to be surprised. That very night the leadership team had their first experience of lectio divina, and the journey to amazing new life began at First United Methodist Church in Zanesville, Ohio. (pp. 49-50)

After six months of prayerfully discerning mission together, the team unanimously decided to open The LifeWell Free Store in unused areas of their downtown church building. An ecumenical board was created. The community embraced this store where “no money changed hands,” and the congregation now thrives.

As we begin the New Year, invite the Holy Spirit into your heart and into your congregation anew. The book A Quiet Pentecost: Inviting the Spirit into Congregational Life, relates the experience of more than 40 people who are teaching spiritual practices to individuals and to their church councils and other decision-making bodies. The model for our awakening is taken from John 20 in which Jesus comes among the discouraged disciples after his crucifixion, astonishing them with his presence as he proclaims, “Peace be with you.” As he breathes the Holy Spirit upon them, he commissions them for their ministry in the name of the Resurrected One.

Jesus invites us in the same way today. A Quiet Pentecost is designed to encourage and guide you in deepening your spiritual formation ministry. Video resources are available to use along with the book’s study guide at http://aquietpentecost.blogspot.com. Let 2015 be the year to receive new life in the Holy Spirit, as we learn to listen for Jesus’ guidance.

Dwight Judy photo[1]

A Quiet Pentecost by Dwight H. Judy (Upper Room Books)

A Quiet Pentecost by Dwight H. Judy (Upper Room Books)

Dwight H. Judy is author of A Quiet Pentecost: Inviting the Spirit into Congregational Life. He is Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and a retired elder of The United Methodist Church. Judy offers spiritual direction to individuals and presents retreats and workshops around the nation. Contact him at http://www.dwightjudy.com.



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