The Path to Purpose

BCM Spotlight Banner

BY ZACH ROUTH |

“May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart.”1

Sixteen months ago, I boarded a plane to an unfamiliar place for a weekend of what I anticipated would be fun and fellowship with Moravian friends from across America. My destination was Wisconsin and the Board of World Mission’s 2016 FIT Event at Mt. Morris. In the weeks prior, I had just begun a new graduate program at NC State University pursuing a PhD in Sociology.

It was the opportunity of a lifetime, with a full scholarship, an office, and the chance to do meaningful research at a great school. FIT² was only a blip on my radar. Little did I know, the weekend would provide a nudge that would eventually send my neatly-planned life into a whirlwind of chaos.

Image of 2016 FIT First attendees around a campfire

2016 FIT First attendees congregate around a campfire. | Photo by Mike Riess, IBOC

It started with a conversation around a campfire. Some friends asked me about my plans and my goals. My answers were vague and brief. I was going to do research in education because that was a cause I believed in and where I could make a difference. Some asked if I was going to go into the ministry like my dad and I scoffed at those possibilities.

Conversations continued through the weekend. Presentations, focus groups, and fellowship distracted me from responsibilities back in North Carolina, and poked holes in what I thought I knew about myself.

Photo of FIT First event

Attendees participate in an activity led by Bishop Sam Gray at the 2016 FIT First event. | Photo by Mike Riess, IBOC

By Sunday afternoon, discomfort grew within my gut. As my peers made awesome plans to go out and serve the world, I wondered silently, “What in the world am I doing?” Up until this point my answer was easy: five or so years of graduate school and then I will go on to help others using my research. This answer was no longer sufficient.

“May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people so that you may wish for justice, freedom, and peace.”1

Before I came to college, I knew I wanted a career that would allow me to help others. I first considered being a history teacher, and eventually settled on sociology professor. My research looked into school segregation, spatial stratification, and teacher job satisfaction, among other topics. It was my way of bringing about peace and justice to the world.

As the semester progressed, my discomfort grew. The pressures of school and life as a young adult mounted into a hill of anxiety. The goals I had worked so hard to achieve now seemed like a pipe dream, not because I was struggling, but because my motivation was gone.

By Thanksgiving, I reached a wall. I talked with friends, reflected, and prayed. “What in the world am I doing?” turned into, “Who in the world am I serving?”

I had spent the entire semester learning about the joys and tribulations that define the lives of school teachers. One day it finally hit me. Everything I wanted to achieve could be done as a teacher. There, my work would not be stored in a library or buried in an academic journal. My work would be preparing youth for their future.

Before Christmas, I resigned from my position and transferred into the College of Education to become a high school social studies teacher. Gone was the scholarship, gone was the prestige, but gone was the aimlessness.

Image of man looking down road

Photo by Danka and Peter via Unsplash.com

“May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.”1

“Why do you want to be a teacher?” is the new question I ask myself, and a question I am asked almost weekly. My short answer succinctly describes my belief in public education. The full answer is rooted in my faith as a Christian and a Moravian.

In 2018, I will enter the workforce not only as a teacher, but as a servant of God. My mission field is in the classroom where I hope to share the type of compassion and love that our Lord has shown to me.

Some are called to serve from the pulpit, or in foreign locations, but neither of those options are in my wheelhouse. I imagine I am not the only one who has this sentiment.

Our creator has equipped each of his children to serve one another. Discovering where these gifts are to be used can be a tedious process. It may take some nudging, and you will probably feel uncomfortable, but in the end, you will be led exactly where you need to be.

I am thankful for the discomfort I experienced a year ago. I look forward to living out my purpose for years to come. God has blessed me to be foolish enough to think that I can make a difference in the world, and I am grateful.


1A Franciscan Blessing
Claiborne, Shane, and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Common Prayer: a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Zondervan, 2012.

²Information about FIT 2015


Photo of Zach Routh

Photo courtesy of Zach Routh

Zach Routh is a member of Grace Moravian Church in Mt. Airy, North Carolina and also attends Raleigh Moravian Church. He is a student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina pursuing a Masters of Arts in Teaching: Secondary Social Studies. Zach will graduate in May of 2018 and plans to begin teaching in the fall.

Contact Zach at ZDRouth@NCSU.edu


Requests for republishing, click here
Want to volunteer to write for us? Click here 


Follow the Moravian BCM on Social Media: 

FacebookInstagramTwitter

BCM@MCSP.org | MoravianBCM.org

Stress in Faith

BCM Spotlight Banner

BY LILLY BRENDLE |

Image of young man stressed out

Photo by Tim Gouw, via Pexels.com

Life is full of trials and tribulations. No matter where you are in life, speed bumps that can sometimes feel like walls show up to slow you down. These moments can bring one down to a point where it feels like there is no one or nothing to help you.

Some of my friends are struggling in their identity and life as a teenager. Relationships, school work, what to wear to school, how to fit in. You name it, and a teen is stressing out over it. So many situations stress us out and you have a choice whether to let it slow you down or make your wheels turn a little harder.

I know that thinking about the future stresses me out. College in the fall, my career choices, and even a big test I have tomorrow worries me. Not knowing my purpose or where my decisions will lead me causes me to question myself and my faith. I know that I am not supposed to worry and stress over things that are out of my control, but I do it anyway.  

God says “Cast your cares on the Lord  and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken,” Psalm 55:22. I go to the Lord with my struggles and worries, but sometimes I feel like I am not asking the Lord. Instead, I feel like I am asking myself to fix my own problems.

Photo of forking forest path

Photo by Jens Lelie, via Unsplash.com

As a child, I was taught to trust in the Lord with all my heart and I will be given strength. This message has been said time and time again, and I think we as humans hyper focus on those words and end up stressing ourselves out to make sure that we are following this guidance out of a sense of obligation. We as Christians should instead let go of our tight grip on the things in life and give ourselves the freedom to trust in the Lord. Not only will this help to mellow our stress, but we might find that we become better stewards and examples for others.

Helping others and sharing experiences has always been a passion of mine and helps me to feel more grounded. Not only can you see your words changing others’ behavior, but you get the chance to mean something to someone.

Recently, these situations have been presented to me by some of my close friends. Some people think that it is a sign of weakness to ask for help, because they say “there is nothing wrong with me, I don’t need help” or “I can handle my own problems.” But there is nothing wrong in seeking guidance, because to seek guidance in others of faith is to seek guidance in the Lord. “Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you”(Isaiah 35:4).

Photo of person praising God next to a cross

Photo via Pexels.com

As youth in the church, we should make more of an effort to reach out to our friends and neighbors in need. Even if you aren’t a youth, everyone who helps the least of these will indeed be helping the gracious Lord himself. Through all the stress and anxiety of the world, the Lord is your backbone. Sometimes you forget he is there, but he is the only way you move through the day, despite the stress.

The future will come as it does and whatever God put on your path, he has an intention for it and you. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34. Chose to be stopped by the speed bump or go over it with confidence.

 


About the Author

 

Photo of Lilly Brendle

Photo via Lilly Brendle

Lilly Brendle is a senior at North Forsyth High School. She attends Fairview Moravian Church. Lilly loves to sing and play hand bells in church, as well as participate in youth led events for the younger children.


Requests for Republishing:

Want to republish this post? Most of our writers are volunteers who retain the copyright of their text. Reach out to the author, or we can put them in touch with you. See email address for the Moravian BCM below.

Images used in our blog posts are a mix of the BCM’s images, Creative Commons images, public domain images, or other images the Moravian BCM has permission to use. Some images you may need additional permission to include in your republishing. Where credits have been noted, we ask that you credit image creators the same way we have. Questions? Email us!


Follow the Moravian BCM on Social Media: 

FacebookInstagramTwitter

BCM@MCSP.org | MoravianBCM.org

Trust and Power

BCM Spotlight Banner

BY THE REV. CORY L. KEMP |

Photo of woman praying

We talk about living our faith on a regular basis. What does that look like to you? Asking myself what living my faith looks like brought me to the following, familiar passage:

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” -Matthew 7:7-8

Faith is an active verb. Taking faithful action, by asking, searching, knocking on the door, co-creates a result that is linked with God’s answer of giving, finding, and the door opening for us.

But in between those paired actions and responses something else, something important, is going on that encourages that co-creative relationship with God that builds a faithful, fruitful life of discipleship.

What is this special something? It is the recognition that to move forward we first must trust God’s power in us.

If you know how to drive stick shift cars, you know this lesson.

Photo of car with stick shift

While recently preparing to teach a class on communication as spiritual practice, I remembered a rerun of an Army Wives episode. The family tradition between mother and daughter in this program is to pass on the legacy of being able to shift like a trucker in less than a day.

Daughter is skeptical, mom is persistent.

Before getting in the car, mom shares that the clutch is about trust, the accelerator about power. As her hands make the familiar foot movements, she explains that to move forward you have to trust.

She then draws her daughter’s hands into her own, lifting them to join in the fluid motions of trust supporting power.

And, indeed, the daughter was shifting like a trucker before they sat down to dinner that evening.

Faith is so very much about that willingness to take action, trusting that God’s power will guide us to seeing the next moment of truth, be it the giving, the finding or the door opening.

But, faith is more.

Faith is an ongoing series of asking, seeking, knocking, sometimes constant, always consistently showing God’s action and willing support for us to live abundantly. It is about acknowledging, with deep, abiding gratitude, what God has already entrusted to us by virtue of God’s power in us. In you, and in me.

My thought is that most of us are willing to take that first step; and we are delighted when it is clear that God has heard and answered us in a way we understand. Faith becomes daunting if we get stuck in the fear of what comes next.

False modesty doesn’t create the kind of results God has been credited with through generations of women and men who have used their faith to create lasting change, community and hope in the world. God loves to work through people.

Top view of feet of people standing in a circle. Runners standing in a huddle with their feet together.

But do we love God working through us?

William Sloane Coffin once wrote that faithfulness is more demanding than success. It is. Rather than being defined as a reachable goal, faith is more akin to a lifestyle choice, a way of being and becoming.

And I believe that is the absolute best part of actively living faith as a verb.

Choosing faith means you and I are always standing in trust and power. Reminding ourselves of that makes it a whole lot easier to harmonize our choices and our actions with God’s choices and actions on our behalf. Knowing that, believing that, acting from that, means we are less likely to allow doubt or fear to keep us stuck in first gear.

There is nothing wrong with being in first gear; sometimes that is simply where we are, and God is with us there too.

But it is really satisfying to get the harmony and rhythm of trusting, of letting that trust in yourself and God support your next step forward. And the one after that. And the one after that.

You get the idea.


 

Cory Kimp

The Rev. Cory L. Kemp is founder and faith mentor with Broad Plains Faith Coaching. Cory, employing her signature Handcrafted Faith program, supports ordained and lay women leaders in visualizing, understanding and strengthening their beliefs, so that they may know, love and serve God and their communities with generosity, wisdom and joy.


Requests for Republishing:

Want to republish this post? Reach out to the author, or we can put them in touch with you. See email address for the Moravian BCM below.


Follow the Moravian BCM on Social Media: 

FacebookInstagramTwitter

BCM@MCSP.org | MoravianBCM.org

Why Does the Church Struggle With Millennials? Young Adult Moravians Respond

BCM Spotlight Banner


RESPONSES FROM YOUNG ADULT MORAVIANS |

We recently asked young adult Moravians to respond to this article by Sam Eaton. In the piece, Sam lays out the reasons why more than half of Millennials have dropped out of church. We also asked young adults to share with us their perception of church in general.

The New York Times defines Millennials as being between 20 and 35 years old, or born between 1980 and 1995, give or take a couple years. Below are six responses from Moravian Millennials and their thoughts on the church’s struggle to attract young people.

Young people


1

Many bloggers and church thinkers have written articles on why we Millennials aren’t attending church. I won’t presume to be any wiser than them, and my perspective is admittedly that of a Millennial who does attend church. However, I do know what draws me to the churches I’ve attended. Rather than a rock band and a coffee bar, the two biggest things that attracted me to my church homes have been community and challenging theology.

My wife and I attend churches whose members greet us with a warm, welcoming reception. Instead of us shuffling into an empty pew unchecked, our church homes had members who introduced themselves and invited us to sit beside them during the service (differing themselves from the common “my pew” phenomenon that often exists). Other church members not only excitedly welcomed us, but invited us to stay for fellowship after the service and introduced us among the congregation.

Radical, challenging theology is the other draw. Never have I felt more filled with faith than after a sermon that made me question myself. While there is certainly need for sermons that affirm our core beliefs and tenets, there’s no reason those same sermons can’t relate those to how we can be more radically Christ-like. While I’m hesitant to speak for all Millennials, I will venture to say that many of us quickly lose interest in sermons on safe topics. A pastor who lovingly challenges me to be more charitable, forgiving, and selfless will win my attendance quicker than anything else. Love me. Challenge and teach me to live love. That is what I desire in a church.

-Kyle Todd, member of Bethania Movarian Church, currently attending United Methodist Church Anacortes, Anacortes, WA

 


2

As a Millennial and self-professed Christian, I feel like I’m often tasked with answering for the sins of Christianity, both historical and ongoing. I think my generation struggles with reconciling actions and proclamations of people associated with the church with our values. I would really appreciate candor from the church regarding these discrepancies and guidance on how to actively address these differences while upholding truth and peace.

On another note, a part of the article that really resonated with me was the section on cliquey-ness and the call to “stop placing blame on individuals who struggle to get connected.” I’ve seen church communities fall short on this a lot, and I have failed on this front as well, but an atmosphere of authentic (not transparently forced) inclusion and acceptance (a.k.a. love) would be transformative in a way that appeals to Millennials, in my opinion.

-Alex Ford, (long-distance) member of Kernersville Moravian Church, Mokpo, South Korea

 

Young people


3

Valid points in the article, and I have seen many similar articles lately. I have been sad to see examples where we, as a community of faith, have drawn in, rather than reached out, when we have faced declining attendance and giving. Shouldn’t that provide for the great moments of faith we celebrate from our history? The moments where God calls us to go beyond our own ability to trust something larger may be in the works? Surely we can live like the community we read about in Acts 2-4, and that we hear about from the days of Zinzendorf.

Finally, the article ends with a section titled, “The Truth is, Church, it’s Your Move.” Here is where I disagree. As an older Millennial, but still in the club, I think now is the time for our move-ment. If we feel the lack of resources is driving a sense of deep seated fear drawing the church inward, then isn’t it up to us to take the action (“be the change you want to see in the world”) we are desperately waiting to see? If we want to be seen and heard, and valued, then we need to be willing to jump into the fray with words and actions that add value, and not just critiques to the system.

In many congregations, a group of 20 young adults could join, participate, and collectively wield a loud voice to help shape the growth and ministry of that community.

Yes, the things on the list are concerns to be faced… but the church needs us to be a part of the solution, and not just point out the problem.

-Justin Rabbach, Ebenezer Moravian Church, Waukesha, WI

 


4

The author’s number one reason as to why Millennials are not attending church speaks the loudest; no one is listening to Millennials. Most Millennials are adults (18+) now and they are tired of still being treated as if they were still kids. The church must be willing to implement new ideas from newer generations.

-Anonymous

 


5

I think I agree with most of what is said in the article.

My thoughts are that many perceive churches to lack authenticity, whether that is true or not. The idea of “practice what you preach” is disconnected as churches seem to only look inward with their programs and beliefs. Personally, I hate being lumped into these age group classifications. Sure, they exist and are a way to analyze data but generalizing that data is not healthy sometimes.

Finally, I like Justin Rabbach’s group, Moravian Church Without Walls. Constraining the church to four walls, a steeple, and worship on Sunday morning, is where you miss this large demographic. There are other ways to worship and serve our Lord. Think outside of the paradigm and maybe this “missing” demographic will reemerge; maybe not in the pews, but in other ways.

-Anonymous

 


Church Pews

6

I nodded my head in agreement so many times that I had a crick in my neck by the end of this article. I grew up in the church, my husband grew up in the church, but neither of us has been a regular church member for over a decade. Why? My excuse was always that life got in the way: college, moving away from home, jobs that required work on the weekends. But now we’re in our early 30s, we’re settled in a town we love, we bought a house, we’re off on Sundays, and we both admit that we feel like something’s missing and that something might just be a church family. Yet every time we get a “Welcome to the neighborhood!  Come visit our church!” postcard in the mail I find myself tossing the card in the trash. I’ve been thinking a lot about why that is–what’s really keeping us from finding a church home now?

I felt like every point made in this piece was spot on, but what resonated with me most were reasons 2, 3, and 5 (which I think are all connected). My last memories of church were the painful realization that, for many in my church family, the mission statements, the church politics, the cliquey-ness were more important than helping the people in this world who need it most. As I get older, religion has become more and more about showing kindness to strangers, giving to the poor, and reflecting Christ’s love through actions in my day-to-day life–the values I learned in Sunday school as a kid, but didn’t see the church practice once I got older.

I don’t need a church family to live out those values, and I’m not confident that I could find a church home committed to practicing what they preach. But, it would be so nice to find a place that did, and a place for my future children to learn those same Sunday school lessons that helped shape me into the person I am today.

-Anonymous (forever-a-Moravian-at-heart)

 


Questions? Comments? Contact the BCM at BCM@MCSP.org

BCM LogoThe Board of Cooperative Ministries engages and supports congregations and Regional Conferences in their ministries as together we grow in faith, love and hope, following Jesus in serving the world.

Remembering Our Baptismal Vows to Nurture the Faith of Our Children

BCM Spotlight Banner

BY BETH HAYES |

As we broke into the verse of “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” that says “He’s got the itty little baby in his hands…” the image of our three newest additions to Come and Worship came to mind. There is no better time to reflect on the baptismal vows we make as a community and how we help these young families raise their children in their first Christian family.

Come and Worship families

We presented each family with a copy of Loving Hearts United: A Moravian Guide to Family Living and added copies of our favorite Bible stories. The Covenant for Christian Living says this about baptism:

“As parents, remembering that our children are the property of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and take all possible care to preserve them from every evil influence. For this reason we will seek to approve ourselves as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, setting an example for our children. We will give faithful attention to the spiritual development of our children, both in the home and in the church.”

Our response doesn’t end at this point. We pledge to join with families as communities of God to be there and offer help to parents in faith formation. It takes more than families to guide in this process, it takes more than individual churches to guide in this process, and it takes more than Provincial programming to guide in this process. We have to work together in constant and abiding love to nurture children, youth, and even adults in their faith journey. This experience will be that much richer if we do this together as individuals, congregations, and as a Province.

Not every church is fortunate to have a staff person dedicated to leading faith formation. This is one of many areas in which the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM) can assist. In our mission statement, it is listed as our job to help congregations as they and their congregants walk the continuous faith journey. We provide events and workshops on a provincial level so that all churches have access to the resources that will help us in doing this work as a team. Our denomination is much richer for having this programming to help in faith formation and the growth of the Unity. Be sure to take advantage of opportunities that come your way and pass the word on about these opportunities. Join the Roots and Wings Facebook page to stay informed and see some of the best resources and activities for supporting faith formation. Visit our lending library online (Resource.Moravian.org) or in person and check out many helpful resources as you go on this continuous journey.

There are many ways to help in the faith journey, including, but not limited to:

  • Being a table parent at a midweek meal
  • Teaching a Sunday school class
  • Being a youth leader
  • Helping caregivers in your community
  • Joining the Children and Family Task Force of the Moravian BCM

When you prayerfully consider helping in one of those ways or another, remember the baptismal vows and give opportunities to serve some consideration. This is the way to grow our Moravian congregations healthily, where people of all ages can grow together as children of God’s community.


If you have questions or need additional information, email BHayes@MCSP.org or call the Resource Center at (336) 722-8126.

Beth Hayes portrait

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). 


Follow the Moravian BCM on Social Media: 

FacebookInstagramTwitter

BCM@MCSP.org | MoravianBCM.org

How to Grow Our Faith

BCM Spotlight Banner

BY THE REV. TIM BYERLY |

Like most of us who grew up in the church, during my childhood and adolescence my faith was simple and innocent. Untested, and thus undeveloped, might be a better description. I listened to sermons and Sunday School lessons about God, the Bible, and my faith. I thought a lot about what I heard and liked believing in Christ. I confirmed my faith and was glad when I did that.

When I left home to attend college, almost everything changed. That included my experience of faith. I still attended church when I stayed on campus for the weekend, and I often attended the daily, evening vespers led by the Baptist Student Union (Wingate is a Baptist school). But these didn’t change my experience of the Christian faith. They pretty much just added to what I was already doing on Sundays back home.

Picture of cross

But there was one other thing that I started doing that made a dramatic difference in my experience in faith. It not only changed the way I looked at faith. It invigorated it in a major way. It changed my life.

This other experience which was new to me and which made such a change in how I lived my faith was interactive gatherings of small groups of Christians where we had the opportunity to talk about our spiritual journeys and the Scriptures. We did this frequently, probably two or three times each week. It was like being at Laurel Ridge Senior High Camp, but for an entire academic year. During the summer I found a similar group back home.

In each of these settings, I was engaged in an exploration of what it’s like to live in Christ. I wasn’t just sitting and listening. All of the members of the group found an openness to their questions and to their stories about their spiritual journeys. I found myself growing in my faith. I discovered gifts of service which I used in those small communities. Others in these communities noticed and affirmed these gifts, and I became aware of gifts in others and affirmed these.

Over the ensuing years, my conviction has only grown stronger that interactive groups of four or five who gather to share their spiritual journeys are essential to spiritual vitality and growth. The church can’t thrive without them.

For decades this need was met through Sunday school classes. They thrived and blossomed. Congregations emerged from them, including several in the Southern Province which were organized in the first half of the 20th century. The Sunday school movement has lost this impact over the past few decades. This isn’t because any shortcomings of this model that served so well for a long time. I think it has more to do with societal changes.

cross picture

Somehow we must find a way to offer opportunities for close, heartfelt interaction about our faith in groups of four or five persons. Peter, James and John were a group of three with which Jesus worked. I suspect that he worked with the others in similar settings. Many of the events in Acts seem to have been informal discussions in groups of only a few. Similar  groups were a precursor to the August 13 experience. And similar bands were a foundation stone for John Wesley’s work that became the Methodist Church. This approach to spiritual life and growth is just as necessary now as it was in each of these examples.

Now, a few questions—

  • Have you ever been involved in a group of four or five, or more persons in which you shared your experience of walking with Christ? If so, what impact did–or does–it have on you?
  • If not, did you ever have such an opportunity? and Why didn’t it work out for you to participate?
  • A lot of people agree that we need this but can’t find the time to make it work. Are you one of those persons? What change would be necessary for you to open up time to do this? Do you think you would gain enough through this experience to make the difficult changes in your schedule worth the effort?
  • What happens next?
    • Read this and move on to something else?
    • Read this and think about it?
    • Read this and do something about it?
  • How can BCM help to make this happen for you?

Questions? Comments? Contact the Rev. Tim Byerly at TLByerly1971@gmail.com

Tim Byerly

The Rev. Tim Byerly has worked with the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries as a Project Coordinator for the Living Faith Small Group initiative.