Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving

Dearly beloved,                                                                     A picture containing text

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Happy Thanksgiving!


"For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with

thanksgiving," (I Timothy 4:4).


What a great holiday! I love Thanksgiving, not just for the special family gatherings, the "fine dining" and the televised football games, but for the fact that it gives honor to God in a unique way. No other holiday focuses attention on being thankful and recognizing the blessings one has received. Christians and Non-Christians alike fulfill scripture on that day, for Colossians 3:15 specifically tells us to be thankful.


Thanksgiving honors God, and God also honors the giving of thanks. In Luke 17 we read the account of the ten lepers who approached Jesus for healing. Like many people, nine of the lepers received from the Lord but failed to take time to thank Him. However, Jesus commended the one who returned to thank Him for his healing. This year I encourage you to take the time to consider the blessings you have received. No matter what your circumstances, you have much for which to be thankful.


Let me also take this opportunity to tell you that one of the things for which I am

thankful this year is YOU. You are a vital part of the Body of Christ, a testimony of

the power of God. I am thankful that the Lord has placed you within our congregation. This year may your Thanksgiving holiday be a joyful time.


In Gratitude,

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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

We Can Still Celebrate


    Two major seasons are before us. Thanksgiving and Christmas (to include Advent). I should add the third: COVID-19 (sorry). Life continues on even in the midst of a pandemic. We are called to the abundant life, so let’s celebrate.

    This isn’t our first epidemic, hopefully it’s our last. Catastrophes have always touched our lives. “Death has come up into our windows, it has entered our palaces, to cut off the children from the streets and the young men from the squares.” (Jeremiah 9:20). Much is at work to thwart the good that God has for us. I want to encourage the people of God to lean into Jesus and celebrate our relationship to God through Him. Consequently, life will be led to celebration. Many of us have been celebrating the ability to gather again weekly and worship together. Something we may have taken for granted.

    This year will be different indeed. The goal is the same but this year will be hard for many to celebrate. One Hundred and sixteen families from our community will be grieving the lost of loved ones due to COVID (usafacts.org/Clay County, Florida Coronavirus Cases and Deaths). What should our relationship to these people be? Should we celebrate amid such loss and pain?  

    I still wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! We will celebrate Thanksgiving, and seek to instill “an attitude of gratitude” within ourselves and our families. Merry Christmas! It can still be merry. We will celebrate Christmas; we must give praise and thanksgiving for the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. We must sing with joy in thanksgiving for the new thing God is doing through Jesus Christ. Yet still, this year’s celebration will be different. “How could we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:4). We do live in a strange, foreign land, although the houses, the landscape, and the people are familiar. We who look for God’s coming already feel like strangers in a foreign land. 

   There’s something we resonate with in the apostle Paul’s words: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have” (Philippians 1:29-30). God’s people know what it is to lament and struggle. Daily we observe a culture unaware of God’s life-giving promises, and we experience the reality of “principalities and powers” that defy God’s rule of life. But out of the gloom and fear, we still hear Isaiah’s invitation: “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” (Isaiah 2:5). Let us rejoice in the words of Charles Wesley, Rejoice, the Lord is King UMH 715:   

Rejoice, the Lord is King!

Your Lord and King adore;

Rejoice, give thanks, and sing,

And triumph evermore;

Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;

                                                        Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

In His Love

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

To Interrupt or Disrupt? That is The Question

    Anyone accepting the new ‘normal’ yet, well, at least normal for now (we pray)? What’s really going on? Given our current COVID context many are finding it to be annoying, confusing, isolating, boring, tense, anxiety-inducing, and depressing. Worse of all many people have died and or fighting to live as we read this. (A doctor in New York recently committed suicide).
    This is a pandemic, yes. With this pandemic comes not only a sickness that can kill you and many people on the planet, but it basically shuts down your life in another way. It has been two hard months of isolating, and social distancing. I’ve heard many people mention that they miss seeing each other, fellowshipping and worshipping together. I miss it too. But I am taking notes, I’m trying to learn and grow both personally and as a leader in the Church. I hope that you haven’t wasted this experience either. 
    I was stuck on a few words last week as I was listening, processing, and praying: Interruption and disruption. Is COVID-19 an interruption? Is this a disruption? I found these definitions: interrupt :(v) stop the continuous progress of (an activity or process). Disrupt: (v) interrupt (an event, activity, or process) by causing a disturbance or problem (Google). So how do you see our given context? Have our lives been interrupted or disrupted? Well both/and. We can see that by definition these verbs are doing something. Considering our ministries--the progress has taken a hit (thankfully not a devastating blow). Considering our mission—not so much. We have had to learn patience and long-suffering but we are still the body of Christ with the same neighbors, family members, and the same great community. Our mission is still to make disciples. 
   The Wesley Covenant Association had this in their recent newsletter:  “This is a time of great disruption that will force us to re-imagine who we are, what we will be about, and how we will minister to the people in our communities. As hard as it is to do in the midst of a tragedy, we need to: (1) carefully consider our churches in light of our mission contexts; (2) pray, and then (3) discern how God wants us to change so we are faithful witnesses in radically altered environments. As Christians, we have always believed times of suffering and hardship are often essential to seeing new visions, but we must be alert and open to them.”
    So church, above, is a good example of what to do and where to go from here? Personally, engage the Spiritual disciplines: Bible study, silence, solitude, fasting, connecting with other believers, and prayer (not exhausted), start with your own prayer life, establish a rhythm now. Notice how well we are still connected. You’re reading this now. We are recording four, sometimes five different groups a week for our worship experience. Our children and youth are still connecting and our Food bridge ministry hasn’t stopped providing for our community. We had two Holy Communion opportunities via the internet (not a big fan). We have married two couples and buried a brother and a sister in Christ. We go on… as we each follow the above instructions for this disruption let us not give up. Consider who we are and our given missional context, pray and discern how God is leading you, us. 
    Do we have a problem? Have our lives been disrupted? In ways, yes. Good news, This season will end; it may create a new normal. Stay alert and open to the Spirit of God and His leading. 
IN HIS UNFAILING LOVE,  Pastor Brian Sanderson

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Here's today's discovery:

     'Discipline' (as defined by Google dictionary)

  1. 1. 

    the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.
    "a lack of proper parental and school discipline"

    synonyms:controlregulationdirectionorderauthorityrulestrictness, a firm hand;
  1. V.20 ("to be taught) παιδεύω paideúō, pahee-dyoo'-o; from G3816; to train up a child, i.e. educate, or (by implication), discipline (by punishment):—chasten(-ise), instruct, learn, teach.
        Anyone else love considering discipline? Ooh I love the Spiritual Disciplines. But just the thought of discipline as punishment makes my backside sting! 'Discipline' surfaced as a key issue in the text I was studying today (1 Timothy 1:12-17). Just like any good Bible student I read a little further for the surrounding context and discovered an issue within the overall Christian mission. Paul in Vv.12-17 is demonstrating the grace of God active in his life (even as a really good guilt-ridden sinner/blasphemer/persecutor/violent man...) and he affirms God's work through Christ with an "Amen." Good, right? Not so fast.
    Vv.18-20 seem to conclude the section as evidenced by Paul's concluding remarks: "18 I am giving you these instructions, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies made earlier about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, 19 having faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have suffered shipwreck in the faith; 20 among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have turned over to Satan, so that they may learn not to blaspheme."
        Wow! Paul said he was turning Alexander and Hymenaus "over to Satan." Now on the surface I would have to assume these were bad guys who did something very serious that offended the Apostle Paul. I admit I've served in Churches now for over eighteen years and I've not seen discipline such as this so, what's this about?
         It turns out 'turning them over to Satan' was Paul's way of removing them from the fellowship of the Church. This act, as bad as it may seem had a purpose---to correct. Paul wanted them to have time and space to consider their actions, become convicted and repent.   
        This is still a vital part of our mission; turning people to Christ and the loving welcome of the Church. From this teaching could we conclude that discipline is needed within the overall Christian mission? In this context discipline includes such terms/actions as: strengthening, purifying, training, correcting, perfecting. We should never seek to permanently exile a fellow servant but we should ALL seek to be Christlike. It's a process. But the process seems to involve discipline of this sort. Much more could be said but it gets you thinking...

    In His Grace and Love,

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Journeying Through This Season

We have experienced life on earth long enough to understand that there are seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. The physical cycle of life demonstrates change. Many people love to capture this transition visually by traveling to the mountains and watching the leaves of the trees change color. Naturally speaking we know seasons change, but I want us to recognize that just as nature changes around us the same happens to us as it relates to the seasons of our lives, more particularly along the Christian pilgrimage. 
     The Christian Church has seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and the Season after Pentecost. These divisions/changes lead the Church through the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. Each cycle of seasons moves us deeper into God’s heart--whole and abundant life for all. The Christian year marks time as a gift demonstrating what God has done for us by grace. 
      As we journey through life we too go through seasons or stages. Currently, parents, students, and teachers are in a back to school season of life that contains within itself other, deeper experiences. Others of us are in a season of loss/grief over the death of a loved one. Others are in a season of engagement, or divorce. Some are experiencing life in a new or remodeled home post-hurricane, Irma, some still waiting on repairs, on and on the seasons change...The good news is that we don’t travel through life alone or unintentionally. By grace, God journeys with us on our pilgrimage toward wholeness in Christ making each season of life meaningful. 
     Where am I? Where are you? The classical pilgrimage toward wholeness is characterized by four stages/movements of God’s grace (these can be viewed as the overall journey toward wholeness or as incremental stages. We’re very familiar with Prevenient, Justifying, Sanctifying, and Perfecting grace but let’s take another look): Awakening- Encounter with God and true self, it’s coming to the realization of who God is. Emotionally, this stage/season is both comforting and threatening. Next, Purgation- Renunciation of blatant sins and willful disobedience, unconscious sins and omissions, the deep-seated structures of being and behavior, leading to trust. Illumination- Total consecration to God in love where God is experienced within and there’s an integration of being with a life devoted to unceasing prayer and increased concern for others. Finally, Union-A depth of relationship with God where one is completely abandoned to God’s grace and transformed for the sake of others.  
     There is no life outside of God. No matter what season of life you are in, wherever you are on the Christian pilgrimage, God is with you. Surely goodness and mercy follow. Allow God’s grace to move you into the community of faith for support, discipline, and mission-a wholeness in Christ for others.
In God’s ever-changing, ever pursuing grace

pic from livescience.com

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Licensing, Commissioning, and Ordination

     During the service of Licensing, Commissioning, and Ordination at the annual conference, I was ordained an Elder in Full Connection with the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. 
     Ordination in the UM Church is a process (some would say an “intense” process, others I have recently learned would say, "confusing" process). So as one freshly on the finished side I'll briefly explain. The application process begins with a series of interviews beginning with the Pastor and the Pastor Parish Relations Committee by one’s local Church affirming one’s call to ministry then on to becoming a certified candidate for ministry as recommended by their charge conference or equivalent (¶ 310.1e of our Book of Discipline). The process then takes the candidate before their District Committee on Ministry (DCOM). Some Pastors such as Licensed Local Pastors return there annually for a continuation interview. Some Local Pastors serve in a Part-Time capacity and others Full-Time.
    Many feel God is calling them to become a pastor, but do not see seminary as a reality, then they become a local pastor. Local pastors are not ordained but are licensed to preach and conduct divine worship and perform the duties of a pastor. Local pastors may also serve in extension ministries settings. They are not elected into membership of the annual conference. When appointed, the local pastor performs the usual duties of a pastor, including preaching and teaching; leading in worship and liturgy; receiving new members; performing the sacraments of baptism and The Lord's Supper; and performing the services of marriage, burial, and confirmation. The local pastor’s authority is only within the appointment setting and does not extend beyond it. The local pastor is not ordained and serves under the authority of a license for pastoral ministry after completing the steps outlined in ¶ 315 of The Book of Discipline (2012) and meeting any annual conference requirements. I was Licensed a Full-Time Local Pastor July 1st2013.
    Ordination as an Elder in Full Connection includes a 4 yr. seminary degree from a United Methodist or approved seminary, a minimum 3 yr. residence in ministry not to exceed 8 yrs. During the R.I.M. process, the Commissioned Elder attends monthly meetings and two annual retreats with their peers (which I completed last yr.). (I was commissioned as a Provisional Elder in 2014) once these steps are completed one can go before the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM) for Elder in Full Connection. To be granted an interview for Provisional Elder and Full Elder each step requires the completion of psychological testing and paperwork: maximum 40 pages on leadership, 40 pgs. theology, nearly 30 pgs. for proclamation to include a video of a sermon with exegetical notes, 30 pgs. personal growth, a project, a Bible study, and other basic application materials. For Full Elder this process is duplicated with almost identical assignments but now the Board looks for growth and integration in ministry. Many times persons are given growth assignments and resubmit again the following year. The idea is the Board of Ordained Ministry wants to help you as much as possible to best serve our Churches. It is a long but valuable process.
    When Bishop Carter laid his hands on me with my selected mentors Rev. Bob Laidlaw, and Rev. Jay Therrell he invoked the Holy Spirit praying, “Almighty God, pour upon Brian Harrell Sanderson the Holy Spirit, for the office and work of an elder in Christ’s holy church. Amen. Brian Harrell Sanderson, take authority as an elder to preach the Word of God, to administer the sacraments and to order the life of the church; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”  
     ¶ 340Responsibilities and Duties of Elders and Licensed Pastors- 1. The responsibilities of elders are derived from the authority given in ordination. Elders have a fourfold ministry of Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service and thus serve in the local church and in extension ministries in witness and service of Christ's love and justice. Elders are authorized to preach and teach the Word, to provide pastoral care and counsel, to administer the sacraments, and to order the life of the church for service in mission and ministry as pastors, superintendents, and bishops.
2. Licensed pastors share with the elders the responsibilities and duties of a pastor for this fourfold ministry, within the context of their appointment.
    We also commission and ordain deacons. Those who respond to God’s call to lead in service and to equip others for this ministry through teaching, proclamation, and worship and who assist elders in the administration of the sacraments are ordained a deacon. Ordained to Word, Service, Compassion, and Justice Deacons are persons called by God, authorized by the church, and ordained by a bishop to a lifetime ministry of Word, Service, Compassion, and Justice, to both the community and the congregation in a ministry that connects the two. Deacons exemplify Christian discipleship, create opportunities for others to enter into discipleship, and connect the needs and hurts of the people with the church. See ¶329 in our Book of Discipline for more on the Deacon. 
    God has called me, I have responded by being faithful to the process. Perhaps you sense that God is calling you into full-time Christian ministry as a Local Pastor, Elder or Deacon—talk to your Pastor. 

In His Service,
Pastor Brian  

  • The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church (Nashville: United Methodist Publishing House, 2000), par.s 329, 340, Pp.s 246-270. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

    I was recently asked to be the keynote speaker for a group of Christian servants. So in the process of prayer and searching the Scriptures I found this short paper I wrote in seminary and thought I would share it with you, as encouragement and a challenge. 
    Servant leadership is an act of love where one denies themselves of comfort, and surrenders the illusion of control by becoming present to others while taking on the nature of a servant.  As opposed to the common leader-first hierarchical model prevalent in our world, “The servant leader is servant-first.  It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first …servants first make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.”[1]  Michael Slaughter defines servant leadership as, “Bringing refreshment, restoration, redemption, and empowerment to other people for the purpose of God.”[2]At its basic level servant leadership says: “When the toilet overflows we can all grab a mop,” (Smith).
    Servant leadership is a spiritual matter, and the spiritually led Christian leader is called to a markedly different style of leadership. This is a foreign model in a sin-saturated power hungry world where extrinsic rewards are the most sought after. Janet Hagberg asserts that “people who aspire to be leaders need to be more concerned with internal or inner power than they are with external or outer power.”[3]David Chronic describes this human condition as, “Apart from Christ, we all are “slaves to sin” and tend to serve our own interests (John 8:34; Rom. 6). So, it is not simply a question of becoming a servant. We are already serving something. The question is, “What do we serve?” Paul exhorts us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition” and to “not look to our own interests” (Phil. 2:3-4). We are called to have the same mentality as Jesus. It is a move from our self-centered way of serving to God’s way of serving.”[4]Serving God’s way reveals our tendency to serve our own needs and to waiver in our service of others.  Maybe we fear alienation, or the anxiousness of the world. We must humbly arrive at a place in our leadership where we ask God to relieve our guilt and shame, and to give us the freedom to serve others from the motivation of love.  Often, the temptation is to take pride in our work and to exaggerate our own achievements, but we acknowledge that these are the work of God’s grace in and through us.  A great way to test the motivation behind your service and to determine whether or not you are sincerely fulfilling the role of a servant leader Rick Warren offers, “The true measure of your servant hood is what you do when you’re treated like a servant.”[5]Ouch.     
    The opening account of Genesis reveals that God seeks unity and wholeness within His creation.  From the beginning of creation, God reveals the very nature of God’s self as servant. Other Biblical principles reveal that service is indiscriminate (Luke 22:24-40), and authority is to be wielded compassionately for the sake of the community as a demonstration of love.  Jesus serves with His everyday experiences, not just washing the disciple’s feet. Servant leaders pass the credit around, (John 13). Biblical texts also reveal leaders as humble servants who remember that people always take precedence over rules (Luke 14:7-14). In community, like mindedness is a must allowing everyone to share in the ministry of compassion (Phil.2:1-4). In sharing this vision as to the community, Dave Odom says, “A vision has to be translated into a set of activities that become habits,”[6]and illustrates this with the Biblical example of Paul’s exhortation to the Christians in Rome, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God (Romans12:2).  Knowing God’s vision it’s our task to translate it into the culture where we live.  “The Christian leader views the world through the lens of who God is, where God is, what God is doing, and what God invites and calls us to.”[7]
   The paradox is when considering “leader,” we think up, power in order to help the people down below.  Servant, you think down, Jesus on His knees washing the feet of His disciples. The servant role is important for groups.  Servant leaders focus more on those in the group than on the ones at the top. “Servants aren’t on a power trip; you’re always a servant and sometimes a servant leader.”[8]  Once we’ve confessed our love to Jesus, “Jesus sends us out to be shepherds, and Jesus promises a life in which we increasingly have to stretch out our hand and be led to places where we would rather not go. He asks us to move from concern for relevance to a life of prayer, from worries about popularity to communal and mutual ministry, and from a leadership built on power to a leadership in which we critically discern where God is leading us and our people,”[9]this is downward thinking, a life of downward mobility- the vision of maturity. The life that succumbs to relevance seeks to be the center of attention and is characterized by Stage 3.[10]

[1]Greenleaf, R. (1970). Servant-Leadership. Retrieved October 2011, from www.12manage.com.

[2]Class notes 9/23

[3]Hagberg, J. O. (2003). Real Power. p.xx.Salem: Sheffield Publishing Company.

[4]Chronic, D. (n.d.). The Servant Nature of God. Retrieved September 2011, from Qideas.

[5]Warren, R. Class Notes taken on September, 6th  from a lecture by Daryl Smith
[6]Odom, D. (2011). Habits are Keys to Transformative Leadership. Faith and Leadership , 3.

[7]Warner, K. L. (2011). Grace to Lead.p. 32. Nashville: Good News Publishers.

[8]Smith, D. (2011, September 13th). Class Notes. Orlando, Fl.

[9]Nouwen, H. J. (1989). In the Name of Jesus.pp. 92-93. Crossroad Publishing Company.

[10]Hagberg, J. (n.d.). Spiritual Life Inventory SLI.Retrieved September 2011, from janethagberg.com: www.janethagberg.com