Rules for Early Methodist Preachers

When I wrote The Historic Questions 2.0 last week, I noticed that one question referenced the “Rules of a Preacher” and specifically highlighted rule numbers 1, 10, and 12 (numbers 1 and 10 are included in the current list of questions).

For those who may be curious, here’s the list of rules for a preacher included in the 1784 edition of the Discipline (note that these rules, written in 18th century English, were written for men) …

  1. Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never trifle away Time; neither spend any more Time at any Place than is strictly necessary.
  2. Be serious. Let your Motto be, Holiness to the Lord. Avoid all Lightness, jesting and foolish Talking.
  3. Converse sparingly and cautiously with women.
  4. Take no Step towards Marriage without first consulting with your Brethren.
  5. Believe Evil of no one: Unless you see it done, take Heed how you credit it. Put the best Construction on Every Thing. You know the Judge is always supposed to be on the Prisoner’s Side.
  6. Speak Evil of no one: Else your Word especially would eat as doth a Canker. Keep your Thoughts within your own Breast, till you come to the Person concerned.
  7. Tell every one under your Care, what you think wrong in his Conduct and Tempers, and that plainly as soon as may be: Else it will fester in your Heart. Make all Haste to cast the Fire out of your Bosom.
  8. Do not effect the Gentleman. You have no more to do with this Character than with that of a Dancing-Master. A Preacher of the Gospel is the Servant of all.
  9. Be ashamed of nothing but Sin.
  10. Be punctual. Do every Thing exactly at the Time. And do not mend our Rules, but keep them; not for Wrath but Conscience sake.
  11. You have nothing to do but to save Souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this Work. And go always not only to those that want, but to those that want you most. Observe. It is not your Business to preach so many Times, and to take care of this or that Society. But to save as many souls as you can; to bring as many Sinners as you possibly can to Repentance, and with all your power to build them up in that holiness, without which they cannot see the Lord. And remember! A Methodist Preacher is to mind every Point, great and small, in the Methodist Discipline! Therefore you will need to exercise all the Sense you have.
  12. Act in all Things, not according to your own Will, but as a Son in the Gospel. As such it is your Part to employ your Time in the Manner which we direct: Partly in preaching and visiting from House to House: Partly in reading, Meditation and Prayer. Above all, if you labor with us in our Lord’s Vineyard, it is needful you should do that Part of the Work which we advise, at those Times and Places which we judge most for His Glory.

To compare with later editions of the Discipline, I noticed that the list is mostly the same in 1928 (except for some wording updates). Apparently, however, preachers no longer needed to consult the “brethren” before getting married (rule number 4 was deleted by then).

It’s interesting that all three rules highlighted in the early historic questions, including the first rule, dealt with a preacher’s use of time. In fact, a separate section in early editions of the Discipline expands on the use of time (see Early Methodist View on Use of Time).

Ordination Playlist 1.0

Last night, I created a song playlist—songs to listen to on our way to Lewistown, PA where we will have our ordination interviews Tuesday morning, from 8:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

I included a couple songs from the Songs for Leaders post I wrote a few years ago, and I added a few new ones.

Here’s the list …

  1. “Amazing Grace” (Chris Tomlin)
  2. “Something Changed” (Sara Groves)
  3. “Jesus Messiah” (Chris Tomlin)
  4. “He Reigns” (Newsboys)
  5. “Here I Am” (Downhere)
  6. “Little is Much” (Downhere)
  7. “In Me” (Casting Crowns)
  8. “Until the Whole World Hears” (Casting Crowns)
  9. “Blessed Be Your Name” (Newsboys)
  10. “The Long Haul” (FFH)
  11. “When the Saints” (Sara Groves)

It may not be the best list I could’ve put together, but I only had a few minutes to create it. They are songs that speak to us on our journey as followers of Jesus and as leaders. I’ve given this post a “1.0” in case I update it for the trip to annual conference in June for our anticipated ordination.

What songs inspire you on your journey?

Ordination Interviews

Tomorrow, Joleen and I are going to Lewistown, PA for interviews with the Board of Ordained Ministry—beginning at 8:45 a.m., ending at 12:45 p.m.

The morning will consist of four interviews, each with a different team, probably 3-4 people. Each interview will focus on a different area of work that we submitted in January (see Monumental Milestone). Board members have readour work within the last few weeks.

We won’t know what order we’ll do them in until we get there, but here are the four areas of focus …

  • Theology. This interview will focus on the theology papers we wrote in response to theological questions in the Book of Discipline. This will be the most nerve-racking interview.
  • Worship & Communication. Last fall, we both video-recorded a worship service based on an assigned passage of Scripture (Joel 2.23-32).
  • Life Issues. This interview will discuss our life issues papers, personal reference forms, and medical report forms.
  • Ordination Project. This is a new area. We will give a 15-minute multimedia presentation on the ordination project we conducted in our churches. This should be fun as long as there are no technical difficulties (we will bring our own laptops and connect to their projectors). Every time Board members discuss this new area, they call us “guinea pigs.”

There are a few things that make this year’s round of interviews interesting …

  • This is a new Board because it’s the first year for the Susquehanna Conference, formed last year from the former Central Pennsylvania and Wyoming conferences. While there will be some continuity, it’s still a new Board.
  • Some of the requirements were changed as a result of the formation of the new conference. The biggest change was the addition of the Ordination Project (which replaced the Bible study component). This is new, unchartered territory. And nobody really knows what to expect!
  • Another significant change is the inclusion of an entire (recorded) worship service, not just the sermon.
  • Clergy mentors will attend the interviews with the candidates as a silent, supportive/prayerful presence (although my mentor will not be able to attend my interviews).

Well, that’s a brief overview of tomorrow’s interviews. We would certainly appreciate your prayers that our interviews will honor God!

We’ve been told to expect to hear results of the Board’s vote Wednesday afternoon. Check back (late?) Wednesday for the results!

Thomas & Friends

Last Wednesday, we enjoyed a family day, going to see “Thomas and Friends” at the Johnstown War Memorial. It was a last minute decision as we saw it advertised on PBS the Saturday before.

Both Ethan and Sarah enjoyed the 90-minute musical stage production. There was a lot of audience participation, a lot of music. Percy, Diesel, and of course, Thomas, made an appearance. They were very realistic looking, large enough that an adult rode in them. Their mouths moved as they spoke. Thomas and Percy maneuvered freely around the stage. It held the kids’ attention well.

Late in 2009, after bringing Sarah home, we took Ethan to his first musical, a production of “Peter and the Wolf” in Philipsburg. This was Sarah’s first experience and all faired well!

Keep Alert 2.0

Two and a half years ago, I wrote a brief post—Keep Alert—that quoted Jesus encouraging his disciples to keep alert. I often think about Jesus’ encouragement to keep alert. It fits well with what I wrote to start this Lenten season—Whoever Has Ears … listen, pay attention, don’t miss this!

This is not an exhaustive word study, but the word “alert” appears in the Common English Bible (CEB) 18 times—five times as “keep alert,” twelve times as “stay alert,” and once on its own (“Happy are those he finds alert …” Luke 12.38). Fifteen of these occurrences are in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and the remaining three in Acts, Ephesians, and 1 Peter.

Here’s a sampling of Scriptures (from the CEB) encouraging us to be alert …

Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know what day the Lord is coming. (Matthew 24.42)

Then he said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert with me.” Then he went a short distance farther and fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.” He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you stay alert one hour with me?” (Matthew 26.38-40)

What I say to you, I say to all: Stay alert! (Mark 13.37)

Stay alert at all times, praying that you are strong enough to escape everything that is about to happen … (Luke 21.36)

Stay alert! Remember that for three years I constantly and tearfully warned each one of you. I never stopped warning you! (Acts 20.31)

Peter was one of the guys who had trouble staying alert in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s no wonder that he warns Jesus followers about the need to keep alert …

Be clearheaded. Keep alert. Your accuser, the devil, is on the prowl like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5.8)

Yes. We must pay attention. We must stay alert!

The Historic Questions 2.0

Several weeks ago, I posted the historic questions for those being ordained in The United Methodist Church. The cool thing about the list is that these questions (slightly revised over the past 225+ years) have been asked every year of people moving toward (or entering) ordained ministry. But I have been wondering just how much the questions have changed over the years.

Incidentally, I called them “Wesley’s historic questions,” but I have been unable to determine their origin (i.e., whether or not they came from Wesley). I have been able to trace them back to 1784, the first Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, presided over by Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke. Click here to read “A Form of Discipline” (1787) online at Google Books. Wesley may very well have asked them of preachers in one form or another prior to that.

Back then, these questions were asked of those entering a two-year trial period before being received into “full connection.” Today, entering full connection happens at ordination, but there’s no real mention of ordination in the document (the need for ordination developed during the 1780s in the American Methodist church so it was still perhaps being developed around this time).

In section three of A Form of Discipline entitled, “On the Method of receiving Preachers and their Duty” (beginning on page 11), question 5 asks, “What Method do we use in receiving a Preacher at the Conference?” (13).

The answer begins, “After solemn Fasting and Prayer, every Person proposed shall then be asked, before the Conference, the following questions (with any others that may be thought necessary) …”

So, here are the questions, which were not numbered in the document; they were written in paragraph form. I’m putting them in a bulleted list for readability. I have also bolded words/phrases that denote differences from the current list of questions.

  • Have you faith in Christ?
  • Are you going on to perfection?
  • Do you expect to be made perfect in Love in this Life?
  • Are you groaning after it?
  • Are you resolved to devote yourself wholly to God and his work?
  • Do you know the Rules of the Society? Of the Bands? Do you keep them?
  • Do you constantly attend the Sacrament?
  • Have you read the Form of Discipline? Are you willing to conform to it?
  • Have you considered the Rules of a Preacher; especially the first, tenth, and twelfth? Will you keep them for Conscience Sake?
  • Are you determined to employ all your Time in the Work of God?
  • Will you endeavor not to speak too long or too loud?
  • Will you diligently instruct the Children in every Place?
  • Will you visit from House to House?
  • Will you recommend Fasting or Abstinence, both by Precept and Example?
  • Are you in Debt?

I’m not sure what is meant by speaking “too long or too loud.” I’m guessing it’s relative. In later editions of the Discipline (by 1820, anyway), there was a list of “smaller advices” added to the rules for preachers. One of them stated that preachers should “not usually pray extempore above eight or ten minutes (at most) without intermission” (that’s a pretty lengthy prayer!).

One question asked about the rules of a preacher (I will list them in a future post). The Discipline listed twelve but three are highlighted, two of which are listed in number 19 of the current list.

The question about attending the Sacrament (i.e., the Lord’s Supper) was asked at least through 1848 but was dropped by 1880 (I didn’t check editions in between).

Following the list of questions, the Discipline states …

We may then, if he gives Satisfaction, receive him as a Probationer, by giving him the Form of Discipline, inscribed thus: To A. B. “You think it your Duty to call Sinners to Repentance. Make full Proof hereof, and we shall rejoice to receive you as a Fellow-Labourer.” (14)

I looked at a number of different Disciplines online (1804, 1808, 1820, 1848, 1880, 1884, and 1900) as well as a bound copy of the 1928 Discipline that someone gave me, and by 1880 the list had become much like it is today (incidentally, for many years, those being questioned were asked to “abstain wholly from the use of tobacco” products).

As one who appreciates history, it will be cool to answer these questions at annual conference, questions, which for the most part, have been asked for more than two centuries of Methodism!

(Edited to add: See Rules for Early Methodist Preachers and Smaller Advices for Early Methodist Preachers)

Whoever Has Ears

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Lent is a 40-day journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter not counting Sundays. For many, it is a time of self-examination and repentance—a time of remembering the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In recent weeks, I’ve been thinking about a phrase that Jesus used …

Whoever has ears to listen should pay attention! (CEB)

This, or a similar phrase, appears (at least) six times in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. A similar phrase is used seven times Revelation 2-3, once in each of Jesus’ messages to the seven churches in Revelation …

If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. (CEB)

In each case, Jesus seems to be saying, “Listen up. This is important. Don’t miss this. Pay attention!”

Apparently, this is going to be an important word at Centre Grove this year. I’m teaching through Revelation 2-3—Jesus’ messages to the seven churches in Revelation—during Lent. I also have a series on “hearing God” on the drawing board for this fall.

It’s certainly a word I want to hear during this Lenten season. I don’t want to miss what God is saying. I want to pay attention!

4 Thoughts on Our Ordination Journey

One week from today, Joleen and I will be in Lewistown, PA for ordination interviews with the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. If we pass, we will be on track for ordination at annual conference in June. With interviews just around the corner, here are four thoughts on our ordination journey …

1. What a long journey this has been!
You can read about about our ordination journey in previous posts, such as, Becoming Provisional Elders, Our Journey Toward Ordination, and Ordination Process, The Final Year (you might also be interested in an earlier post, Why We Are United Methodists).

2. We are grateful for the adventure of this journey!
It’s been a long and eventful journey, but God has been with us every step of the way. We wouldn’t have chosen for it to happen the way it did, but I can’t say we’d change any of it, either.

3. We’ve been thoroughly examined already!
Recently, I reflected on how thoroughly we’ve been poked and prodded, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically, including: three or four physical exams (required for both ordination and adoption), two batteries of psychological tests and sessions with psychologists (for ordination), a number of interviews with various committees, and for adoption, we were fingerprinted three times, including two times by the FBI. The good thing about this is, there’s not much else that can be done to us that hasn’t already been done! 🙂

4. Looking back, the thing that I’m most happy about is that we never delayed the process!
It struck me a few weeks ago that as long as our journey has been (13 years in the UMC, 20+ years since each of our calls to ministry) that we never made a choice to delay the process. There was never a time when one of us said, “You know, I don’t feel like doing this now; it can wait till next year.” We did everything at the time it needed to be done. And through it all, we actually only had one delay (albeit a six-year delay as described in Our Journey Toward Ordination).

Well, as we prepare for ordination interviews, we are grateful for our journey and that God has been with us every step of the way. We are excited about what we hope is the final (big) step of this process!

Lenten Blog Tour

A few days ago, I wrote about the Common English Bible (CEB). The CEB is conducting a 40-day Lenten blog tour. According to the site, readers are invited:

… to experience Christ’s passion—and its meaning for our lives individually and corporately—through the lens of a new Bible translation. Follow the Lenten Blog Tour day by day March 9 through April 17 and discover 40 New and Old Testament passages in the fresh, new Common English Bible, brought to light with an unparalleled gathering of personal reflections.

We look forward to reading the reflections on 40 different blogs during Lent. We’re also excited about being a part of it. Joleen and I will write a reflection on Romans 8.12-17, which will be posted on April 2. We look forward to being part of this Lenten blog tour!

Sarah Turns Two!

Today is Sarah’s birthday—she’s two! We celebrated Sarah’s birthday yesterday on our day off.

Thanks to Ethan and Sarah’s adoptions, we have lots to celebrate—birthdays (Sarah’s first birthday post) as well as gotcha days (Sarah’s first gotcha day and Ethan’s last one a month ago).

Here are four photos from yesterday’s celebration and four from this morning …