A matter of life and death

In his blog, Home Words Bound, Benton Heisler names the sins of the world and looks for leaders who will act against them in the power of Christ.


Director of Connectional Ministries, West Michigan


Rev. Benton Heisler

Life/Death.  They fill the headlines far too frequently in vastly graphic detail.  A few more written words, a few more public visits by political figures, angry rhetoric and destructive demonstrations by persons decrying a current reality will not bring more life and less death.  We will not legislate, prosecute or demonstrate our way out of this cycle of violence and retaliation.  Action by you and me, inspired by the Spirit of God is what has the power to bring real change.

At the core of our struggle is sin; the sin of racism, the sin of greed, the sin of pride, the sin of rebellion, the sin of self-centered selfishness, the sin of sexual immorality, the sin of violence and destruction, the sin of individualism, the list could go on.  Nobody writes of sin much anymore.  Well there, I just did.

I recall the story told in a time before live TV.  The reporters gathered outside the church as the president of the United States exited morning worship.  With pens ready to sketch the “breaking news” on memo pads, the “gotcha questions” flew toward the president:  “What did the pastor preach about?”

The president calmly replied, “Sin.

“What did he say about it?”

Again with the same, calm, steady, dignified voice the president elaborated further, “He was against it.”

Our nation, this world, is in need of the transformational power of God in Christ to heal the sin sick soul.  I need to look back but I think I recall mentioning that in another article I wrote, even so the context seems like it bears being repeated.  So what is the action we might take?

The writer of Proverbs reminds us, “To train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it (22:6).”

Who are the children upon which you and I have influence to teach the stories of Jesus, to tell of the power of God, to involve in the communities of faith?  Our influence and the teaching of others helps sustain our own efforts as we struggle against the sins of racism, greed, pride, rebellion, self-centered selfishness, sexual immorality, violence, destruction, and individualism.

“I pray …  that we will elect episcopal leaders not to make a statement of one kind or another, but we will elect leaders who have, and can make a difference for the sake of Christ in the world.”

This week, all across the nation, The United Methodist Church will be electing and assigning episcopal leaders for the various annual conferences.  Here in the North Central Jurisdiction, we will gather in Peoria, IL and elect four new bishops and then assign a total of nine.  These leaders have their work cut out for them!  The day of great respect, immediate response and widespread cohesive reaction to our episcopal leaders’ direction has diminished.  For many persons there is a sense of distrust, systemic challenge and a resistance to change.  These leaders better know something of the challenge of sin and death, and the capacity of the cross of Christ to overcome sin and death’s power. 

As persons elect these new bishops, I will be praying that a variety of factors in three categories go into each decision.

  1. Does this person feel genuinely called by God to this position in this moment in time?  Without such a calling their passion, vision and energy will wander as they attempt to lead in their own strength, rather than being empower and equipped by the One who has called them.
  2. What are the particular gifts these persons possess for such a leadership time as this?  I will be listening for some of the following:  their spiritual depth and capacity to communicate these insights, a bright intellect that is able to see multiple options to opportunities we face, a passion and energy that is contagious to those around them, a sense of humor that keeps them and us from taking ourselves too seriously, an emotional intelligence that reflects a sensitivity to others and the consequences of their leadership decisions, a servant heart and leadership style focused on action, not on pretense and position, and a capacity to address conflict with healthy approaches.
  3. What has been the fruit of their ministry to date? I will want to know of their effectiveness in leading a large congregation and/or organization.  Are they fruitful in their equipping, encouraging, deploying and supervising of staff with whom they serve?  How effective have they been in initiating change and designing a process and the follow through to see the change to completion?  What steps do they intentionally take toward collaboration with persons of diverse opinions, beliefs, cultural contexts, race, gender, and socio-economic status?  What is there experience of engaging youth, young adults and those who have been disassociated with the Church?

I pray that we will elect episcopal leaders not to make a statement of one kind or another, but we will elect leaders who have, and can make a difference for the sake of Christ in the world.  It is truly a matter of life and death. 

Now it is back to a few precious moments with my one year old grandson.  We need to listen to and sing together some Bible verses on a CD that was a favorite of his mother’s almost 30 years ago. I think I read somewhere, “To train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it.”

Times have changes but the Truths remain the same.  “Do not be overcome by evil… but overcome evil with good; Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies; The fruit of the Spirit shows God’s love in you.  You gotta have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, for this is the fruit of the Spirit.  You gotta have goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, for this is the fruit of the Spirit.”



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