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Conversion Tips from the Converted by Leia Williams

I live in a world where God is big and brazenly uncontainable. I grew up in a world where God was black and white. God lived in a nice, clean box with perfectly straight lines and sharp edges. That box was small and well defined. I had an impossible time believing the God in that box loved me or anyone else. The God who lived there was pretty angry and very fixated on Hell.

My family loves the God who rests in that nice, clean box and my embrace of a much bigger God that no box can contain is terrifying to them. My rejection of their theological understanding means that someone must constantly try to convert me. I, along with all my poor denominational friends, have a first class ticket to Hell. Again, this means I require converting…frequent, prolonged, intensive converting. The problem is all their efforts to convert me have failed. I am still a Methodist after nearly 10 years of explicit conversion tactics being employed.

How not to convert someone:

Step 1: Bombard them with written propaganda.

My family regularly sends me propaganda in the form of bulletins, personal letters, and even entire books. This propaganda clearly tells me that all of my life choices are wrong and I am obviously going to Hell. I am sure you will find this surprising, but I read very little of the biased materials they send. It mostly ends up in the trash.

If you don’t want to convert someone, but you do want to kill vast numbers of trees in order to print poorly designed, religious materials, I encourage this option.

 

Step 2: Make awkward social media comments.

I am not sure anything highlights God’s transformational prowess quite like a Facebook rant on someone else’s post. Certain family members think it is appropriate to correct my crazy, Methodist nonsense in front of all of my friends on social media, because public shaming has cornered the market on increasing professions of faith, apparently.

If you don’t want to convert someone, but you do want to be blocked, please shame others on social media for believing something you do not.

 

Step 3: When in doubt, be confrontational in person.

Nothing says lovin’ like a heated debate about religion at the dinner table, an intimate moment of confessing your loved one is bound for Hell complete with tears, or having a family member read one verse from scripture loudly very near your person in order to prove you wrong (because those verses are all stand alone, I am sure). Seriously, I have lived through all of these and more. 

If you don’t want to convert someone, but you do want to make someone feel incompetent, stupid, and unworthy, then this is truly the best option around.

For those of you who do want to convert someone, possibly help God in the disciple making process even, I have two tips for you:

 

(1) Build relationships where you model Christ’s love.

I am a sold out Christian, who happens to attend The United Methodist Church, because a handful of disciples decided to do something really radical. They made me feel loved, welcomed, and accepted. When I met them, I was royally hacked at God for a zillion+ reasons, but they were not in it to prove me wrong about God with words and confrontation. They simply showed me that God’s love was much bigger than I could fathom.

 

(2) Show people God’s grace.

Tell people about God’s grace. Be a living example of God’s grace. Share God’s grace with others as often as possible. When I was in need of being converted, I was also in need of grace more than anything else in the entire world. I have a strange feeling that I am not alone.

Amazingly enough, I still need grace, even now that I am a disciple! I need big, bountiful heaps of it and guess what? God’s got more than enough grace to go around, so share a little.

 


leiawilliams

My name is Leia, which should tell you that my dad’s favorite movie is Star Wars and I have some very unfortunate nicknames.  I studied International Relations in undergrad and couldn’t find a job to save my life, so I changed my plans and studied communications in graduate school. Now, I have served The United Methodist Church for nearly 7 years in fundraising, discipleship, and communications.

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Post Easter Celebration

Easter Sunday is a celebration, as it should be of Jesus’ victory over death.  Celebration of the Resurrection of Christ, a celebration of life!  Jesus died, and came back so that we may live!  Easter is a celebration of life that is carried out over 50 days, from the eve of Easter all the way to Pentecost.  All too often we find that most people only celebrate Easter on Easter day .  We find in the Church that the Sunday that directly follows Easter is the lowest attended Sunday of the year.  Unfortunately in many cases we do not carry the celebration, the fanfare, the excitement and joy into the rest of the season. We carry on as normal, as if a world and life changing miracle didn’t just happen. But what if, what if we keep the celebration going?  What if we keep the worship going?  What if we keep the excitement and joy of Easter going through out the 50 days leading into Pentecost?  How would your worship experience be different?  How would those who return the weeks following Easter be excited to keep coming back?

I encourage those of you who are leaders in your churches, Clergy and Lay, to think about the Sundays that follow Easter in a new way.  They are not business as usual, they are special, they are exciting, and they can be life changing!

ZB

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Oops. We missed. 

In my years of having a beard I have had a few oops I missed trim. I normally clean it up as best as I can and move on. Our intent when we started this site was to have some kind of content every week. We did great out of the gate, then we had an oops. Life grabbed both Zach and I by the beard and took over. We will have some kind of video soon. So check out our merchandise at http://www.zazzle.com/beardedtheologians 

Thanks for all the kind words and prayers after the loss of my mother. 
Peace 

MF

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Our Top Three Spiritual Practices

Last week we talked about trimming your beard.  There are many ways to trim your beard and your soul. Here are our top three practices.

Zach’s Three:

  1. Spoken Word Poetry and Liturgy and Meditation with Beads
  2. Conversations in Community, with all people
  3. Music

Below are a few of my favorite resources that I use for my Spiritual Practices. There are variety of books and audio productions that help me slow down, focus, let go of anxiety and stress and simply be closer to God.  I see having conversations with people as a Spiritual Discipline because it causes me to listen, understand, and be more in tune to where God is working not only in the people around me but my own life.  Not all of these conversations are had with Christians, many of them are with people of different faith’s and with people who claim no faith at all.  Yet if I am truly listening to where people are in life I can see God’s grace at work. Which in return helps me remain compassionate and hope to the world around me.

I also really love music, I love to listen to it and I love to play it.  Admittedly so I am not a very good musician, but I enjoy playing Bass Guitar, Ukulele, and every now and then I pick up the Acoustic Guitar.  My family can testify that I am not very good, but that’s not the point.  When I sit down to play, it means I am intentional about taking time out from being busy, and spending time being creative, relaxing, diligent, and ultimately coming closer to God.

See for me Spiritual Disciplines don’t have to look like waking up at 5 am praying and reading scripture over a dark black cup of coffee. I have found through the painful process of trying that, that simply does not work for me.  That is OK.  Find what works for you, let it speak to you, and do not let anyone tell you that it’s not a Spiritual Discipline.  If it brings you closer to God, that’s exactly what it is.

Keeping Pulse

To Bless the Space Between Us

Common Prayer: For Ordinary Radicals 

Praying with Beads

Some of my favorite Bands

Queen, Five Iron Frenzy, Mike Mains and the Branches, Ben Folds, The Roots, Eric Hutchinson, Need To Breathe, Next 2 the Tracks, Rivers & Robots, Leon Bridges, Rhett Walker Band, Tye Tribbett.  I also find joy in listening to comedians like Mike Birbiglia and John Mulaney ( The List could go on forever.)

 

Matt’s Three:

  1. siting meditation: I normally start my day in the office. Just closing my eyes and just focus on my breathing. I clear my head of all the stuff going on. And just focus on my breathing.  I sit for at least 15 min. Sometimes 30 min. I have found this to be very centering for me to start my day.
  2. Read, Reflect, Respond, A few years ago I started this practice click the link to see and example. I walk through the lectionary and on Friday I either look at the scripture reading I am preaching on to see if I missed something or if the spirit is leading me in a different place or I am reading a particular book in the Bible that I want to read.

  3. The Ignatian Examen: I have found this practice very helpful on Monday’s after a crazy Sunday. Let’s be honest most Sunday’s in Church work is crazy and taking time to decompress is a great way to handle it and to make sure you are doing well.I use the example of it in Tony Jones Book Soul Shaper. I also use this for our mission trip devotionals.

When I am looking for a new practice or to revisit one I look at the following books.

The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life

Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices

Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God

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Trim your beard…

This morning I was getting ready for work and I noticed and felt like I needed a trim. If you don’t maintain your beard it gets messy and hard to manage. The same thing could be said about your soul. If you don’t tend to it, it will get messy and life becomes hard to manage.

What in your life do you need to trim to grow closer and stronger in your walk with God?