Loving Your Neighbors

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
 
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31).Character development is essential to the task of a disciple. As followers of Jesus Christ, our goal is to become like Jesus. Outwardly, we strive to act and speak like Jesus. Inwardly, we invite the Holy Spirit to transform our spirit into the likeness of Jesus Christ. As the Holy Spirit works, we develop the qualities of compassion, kindness, and humility.
 
Together as the family of Wesley Chapel, we excel in displaying a Christ-like presence when we show radical hospitality to all people regardless of outward appearance. We are not to judge the color of one’s skin, ink, or hair. We are all on this journey of faith together. Our church is beginning to become diverse. Maria is originally from El Salvador. She and her husband James bring their two daughters to worship. Maria serves in the children’s department. Jalissa and Sage have two children at Wesley Chapel. Jalissa represents our church at the state level as a voting member to the Indiana Annual Conference. Sage serves in AV. Ernesto and Jessica bring their four daughters. Ernesto is planning to join the Mission Team to go to the Dominican Republic.

 

On January 19, Maria, Jalissa, and Ernesto will join me in sharing their stories. I will ask them how we can increase our hospitality and make all people feel welcome and loved at Wesley Chapel. May we continue to love God and love people as Christ does.
 
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” –Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963.
 
Grace & Peace,
Pastor Tony

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At Our Core

A focus group accepted the challenge of narrowing the core values after receiving input from over 100 people at Wesley Chapel. It was easy to reduce the list of 35 to 12 but it was really hard to go to four. We quickly started out of the gate with the first two: godly and biblical. After much debate we began to take a second look at godly and realized that the Pharisees would have also considered themselves godly and biblical. We asked the question, “What did Jesus have that the Pharisees did not?” Compassion, kindness, gentleness, and patience were some of the answers that were also on the list of possible core values. Then someone said, “Christ-like” and we knew that this core value was all of the other values that we had been wrestling with.

 

We soon decided on Christ-like, Biblical, Loving, and Community.

We introduced them to the congregation in January of 2018. Core values keep us grounded on what is important and describe the type of church we hope to be. I share them with you again this month as a reminder.

 
Christ-like
Jesus invites us to follow him. When we agree to follow Jesus our goal is to be like Jesus in every way. As a
community of believers in Jesus, our goal is to be a Christ-like church.
 
Biblical
In order to be a Christ-like church, we must go to the source that records Jesus’ words and actions. The Bible is our foundation that points us to a right relationship with God through Jesus.
 
Loving
Jesus gave us two primary commands to follow: love God and love people. Jesus modeled unconditional sacrificial love by giving his life on the cross so that we may have eternal life. As a community of faith, we are to model Christ-like love.
 
Community
As a follower of Jesus, each of us is part of the community of faith. We worship, study, serve, and give within the community of faith. Community also describes the mission field beyond the community of faith where we are called to serve with a message of God’s love to all people.

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Everybody Welcome

Outside the church was a sign that had the church name, the times of service, the name of the pastor and the message “Everybody Welcome.” I thought what a wonderful gesture to be welcome everyone. As I continued driving down the road I began to wonder if it was true. Was everyone really welcome or did they only welcome people who looked like and thought like the people who went on a regular basis? Would they welcome a child molester? Would they welcome a transgender person? Would they welcome someone with tattoos? Would they welcome the refugee from El Salvador? Would they welcome the town drunk? Was everyone really welcome?

Then I began to think about Wesley Chapel. Is everyone really welcome at Wesley Chapel? Every Sunday I say, “grace and peace to you.” Are we really willing to extend grace to all people and accept them for who they are in whatever condition they are in?

At Wesley Chapel, our hospitality extends to all people in the areas of worship, study, and service. We believe that all people are called into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We extend grace to all people on their journey of faith whether they are mature believers, new believers, or have not yet accepted Jesus as Lord. All people are invited to worship. All people are encouraged to study God’s word in order to intentionally grow in their faith, and all people are invited to serve.
 
All people are invited to the Lord’s Table to receive Holy Communion. We do not exclude people based on nationality, race, ethnicity, human sexuality, financial status, or anything else. 
 
Recently, a panel of four people helped me explore how we could practice hospitality by looking beyond the surface of a person and look at the character of Christ. Maria was born in El Salvador but has lived in the U.S. for 23 years.  Recently she ordered a banana split and was told, “We don’t serve Mexican food here.”  At Wesley Chapel she has found love and acceptance and she has helped us see the character of Christ in her. Erica expressed her love for her father, husband, and son as loving men of godly character. However, because of the color of his skin, her husband is often stopped by police in Floyd County to ask why he is driving on these roads. The answer is because he lives in Floyds Knobs. Ernesto’s parents moved to the United States from Mexico. He graduated from Floyd Central. When people ask him where he is from, they are skeptical when he claims Indiana as his home. Jalissa is black and her husband is white.  They want a church where they can be loved and accepted along with their children.
 
When we look past the color of a person’s skin, their tattoos, or their hair dye and look for the character of Christ within, then we are beginning to see people as God sees them. God sees us as God’s children. 
 
What kind of church do we want to be? My prayer for Wesley Chapel is that we would be a Christ-like church. Jesus welcomed everyone. Let us welcome everyone also.
 
Grace & Peace,
Pastor Tony

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