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

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

[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

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Resurrection Peace

Greetings In the Resurrected Lord, 

I hope that you and your family had a wonderful Easter Sunday and are off to a good start as we continue celebrating the season of Easter for six more weeks.

I am preaching this Sunday using the lectionary text John 20:19-31. Most see this as the doubting Thomas story (and it is here) but there's more to this story. Here, we find the Church being born as Jesus breathes on the disciples calling on them to receive the Holy Spirit. It is here where we find the secret to peace, peace within, Jesus stood in the midst of his disciples and said, “Peace be with you!”   


I confess to you that I have known some Christians who have anything but peace. Jesus wants his followers to have peace. Peace has to be our greatest need, wouldn't you agree? Peace comes when we fall into the arms of our Heavenly Father. Jesus says to each of us this day: “Peace be with you!” Will you lean in?

How do we find peace of mind? Duke University did on this very subject years ago. They listed eight keys to emotional and mental stability. I find them helpful and maybe you will too:         

The first key is, “Get rid of suspicion and resentment.” Nursing a grudge is a major factor in unhappiness.

The second is, “Don’t live in the past.” An unwholesome preoccupation with old mistakes and failures leads to depression.

The third key is, “Don’t waste time and energy fighting conditions you cannot change.” Cooperate with life, instead of trying to run away from it.

The fourth is, “Force yourself to stay involved with the living world.” Resist the temptation to withdraw and become reclusive during periods of emotional stress.

The fifth is, “Refuse to indulge in self-pity when life hands you a raw deal.” Accept the fact that nobody gets through life without some sorrow and misfortune.

The sixth is, “Cultivate the old-fashioned virtues love, humor, compassion and loyalty.”

Number seven is, “Do not expect too much of yourself.” When there is too wide a gap between self-expectation and your ability to meet the goals you have set, feelings of inadequacy are inevitable.

Number eight is “Find something bigger than yourself to believe in.” Self-centered egotistical people score lowest on any test for measuring happiness. (1) 

Peace within would seem to be natural for followers of Jesus. “Find something bigger than yourself to believe in.” 

His Peace,

Pastor Brian Duke Study on Peace of Mind Monday, May 14, 2012

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Rejoice! It’s the Season of Lent: Spring Training for Christians
Read Joel 2:1-11

    “Lent, the period of 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays), begins on Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Saturday, the evening before Easter.
During Lent, we enter into a season of preparation, self-reflection, and repentance when we seek to literally “turn around” and realign our lives and focus toward God. It is a time to give up things as well as take on new life-giving practices, helping us rid ourselves of distractions and our own selfish desires. By doing so, we seek to live and love as more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.” (Book of Worship). 
   So based on the above definition it may sound strange to be called to “rejoice.” Especially considering all that’s going on in the world around us. Lent is a somber season emphasizing the death and suffering of our Lord. In the above Scripture reading, Joel calls for the people to repent. Considering the whole book of Joel, it is apparent that this prophet is not chiding or criticizing, nor is he condemning or even judging the people. Rather, the prophet's concern is to comfort the distress in the hearts of the people as they face the desolation of their land. A plague of locusts has devastated the land.
    Now our concern isn’t a plague of locust but we face a similar desolation (a state of complete emptiness or destruction; anguished misery or loneliness) as we see evil rear its ugly head over and over again. To combat this issue we run to the Capital, we run to our politicians, we turn on the news and we listen to the experts argue over what the appropriate responses should be. On and on we go…
    Evil is God’s enemy and God has a plan—Hear me, God is love and has a plan to destroy evil, (Read the parable of the Wheat and the Tares Matt. 13). I feel it’s important to bear witness to the ultimate victory of God, but also to what God is doing now in the midst of history, in pain and suffering to engage evil. For we have hope that in our distress God hears, God heals and God cares. David Hart affirms, “God hears the cries of the suffering. Yes, God comes with healing in God’s wings. God comes in fact, as a warrior. The suffering and pain…is the enemy of God. From our perspective in the middle of history, we do not know everything about where this evil came from, but we know that it is God’s mortal enemy, and God comes to do combat, comes in the power of the cross, comes in the power of love.”[1] God’s power is at work in the world, even in what doesn’t look like power to us. God comes in God’s way, made known to us in Christ, a warrior in loving weakness. God comes as love to destroy the work and power of evil. I offer this as a word of healing, for God’s love enters every area of our life—past, present, and future, to bring healing.
   The call is to “repent.” During these all too familiar seasons of life, how often do you hear and head the call to “repent?” Repent: to turn - to return to God. Like a drillmaster's shout, "About face!" Repentance is a command given to turn and return to God. It’s a call to turn our entire life toward God. However, within the command itself, there is a reminder that the one, who gives the command, is a God who has never turned away from us. Therefore, repentance is not a "put-down,” it’s an "uplift." We’re to repent not primarily because we have done something bad or wrong; but, because our God has done something very good and will do something even better in the future.
    Now is the time to turn to God. Let us return with prayer and fasting not just to regret our faults or to rehearse our failures but to renew our faith that God is at work creating a blessed future out of the mess that we have made of God’s world and of our lives.
Now is not the time to practice shallow fasting - giving up things we can easily do without. Now is a time to stand with those who are hurting, and with the prophet, Joel in the wastelands, left by the locusts, and to see ripe grain filling the fields. Now is a time to stand before the cross and to see it as the coronation throne of Christ our king.
Now is the time to turn to the Holy Scriptures to study and commune with God in prayer. Now is the time to lift up the cross—high enough to begin to see the rays of Easter morning.

May God richly bless you as you observe a Holy Lent,
Pastor Brian Sanderson

[1] Long, Thomas, G. ‘What Shall We Say: Evil, Suffering, and The Crisis of Faith’ (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2011) P. 147.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

I was reading 1 Corinthians chapter 3 recently to prepare a brief message for my Church's food ministry on Thursday when vv.s 9-16 sparked a special memory.        
I come from a hard-working family. My dad and grandfather built houses together until my grandfather became the county building inspector. Later, my dad emerged as a self-employed painter.  So as you can imagine growing up I had plenty of opportunities to practice building and painting. This practice affirmed my desire to go to college.
Fast forward years later to my point. My wife and I purchased our first home, which as many of you are familiar a starter home is just that--one you can afford which means it is probably older and needs a lot of work and this one met all of the above criteria. So with our parent's help, we begin the renovation process. As a paise to God, I should also mention my wife's father is a very gifted self-employed contractor. So with a grand vision and a great deal of help we renovated our first home.  
As is the case when a house begins to show age as well as wear and tear it is time for a remodel job to take place. The process of remodeling transforms the house or building in order to update it, make it more modern and livable, and save the cost of buying or building a new one. Remodeling takes what already exists and reconfigures it into something different, something updated and upgraded with new life.
Our House needed the floors sanded and refinished, painting--both interior and exterior, new closet doors, the entire bathroom remodeled (yes we only had one bathroom to share), new railing for the stairs, new tile floors for the bathroom and the kitchen, new insulation beneath the house, new appliances, new light fixtures, and not to leave out the exterior: new landscaping: new plants, even a new driveway.
This experience taught me to value the process of transformation. I gained a greater appreciation for the renovation experience.
The Question? Do we need remodeling as people? I think so. Good news God is in the remodeling Business
We are all born needing a remodeling job. All of us are born sinful and full of fleshly desires. As we grow, our sinful nature exerts its influence on our lives. It begins to train us to serve its lust for all sorts of things. It strives to encourage behaviors that are inappropriate, rude and selfish. No matter how good we think we are, deep within the core of our being is the sinful flesh with which we were born. 
The Answer, Yes, of course, assuming one doesn't want to learn this truth the hard way.
During the renovation process, I repeatedly thought of God's work in my life. For example, as I began to paint the exterior I first had to pressure wash the house, then replace rotten wood, SCRAPE and SCRAPE away the old paint before I could apply the pretty new color my wife and I had picked out.
In the same way, God takes special care to build us into the people we are intended to be. First, it begins with Christ as our firm foundation V.11 and then our cooperation to maintain a habitable dwelling place for God's Spirit, v.16. 
May we embrace God's remodeling project in our lives, allow God to take what already exists and reconfigure us into something different, something updated and upgraded with new life. And as a result, we have something beautiful to live in both inside and out and for the world to see.