Ministry Musings: “Deep and Wide” (1)

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of co-preaching a revival at the First United Methodist Church in Lakeland, Florida.  Dr. Robert Tuttle was my partner in this venture.  The senior pastor is a long-time friend and his executive pastor is a former student at Asbury Seminary and good friend as well.  It was a week I was really looking forward to, and one I’ll report briefly about for the next three weeks.

The theme was “Deep and Wide,” indicating that the congregation (numbering 4,700) is at a time when they are seeking to move ahead in both dimensions of discipleship.  On the final Sunday, I preached on the theme, using the example of the church in Antioch (Acts 13:1-3) as an example of a church that was both deep and wide in relation to five stated areas.  We’ll look at them in the next few weeks.

First, the believers in Antioch had a communal identity. It was in Antioch that they were first called “Christians” (Acts 11:26).  At least in part this means that they drew a common identification from Christ himself.  They were “Christ ones.”  Today, when we use the same term to describe ourselves it means that we take our identity from Jesus and what the church teaches us about him.

It is the church who tells me who I am; I don’t tell the church what it is.  Churches get into trouble when individuals and groups try to “define” (which really means “control”) the church.  It’s the other way around.  The church “defines” me—at least if I choose to become part of it.  A church that’s deep and wide takes its identity from Christ and from the tradition that has served for centuries to interpret his life and ministry.

We’ll continue to look at the church at Antioch in the next two weekly postings—a church that was deep and wide.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to Ministry Musings: “Deep and Wide” (1)

  1. Margot R Thompson says:

    Good Morning Pastor Steve —

    You wrote: “Churches get into trouble when individuals and groups try to “define” (which really means “control”) the church.” Yowzza! You have thumbnailed a major fault-line in the foundation of churches that have a self-view as “powerful” and “influential” in the community. The urging to align all efforts to welcoming worship and meaningful disciple-making becomes like running in cold molasses. Common wisdom has been that the only remedy is the “graveyard” solution.

    It would be so wonderful to gently persuade ancient power brokers to invest in the younger saints. Come Holy Spirit!


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