Psychologist Neil Clark Warren used to say when he did therapy with married couples, his primary goal was simply to see a 10% improvement in their relationships. He found it made a tremendous difference because, even a 10% improvement, gave the couples hope.

Warren believed in hope.

He found that if people had hope, they had a tremendous reservoir of energy. Hope kept them moving when they would have otherwise given up. He wrote, “Hope is the single most indispensable, non-negotiable, irreplaceable resource required for big challenges and noble battles.”¹

A Vision for A Better Day

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, wrote,

“We boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.”

-Romans 5:1-5

Paul was talking about hope being a vision for better days that changes us in the present. For Paul, hope was not just an exercise in wishful thinking (“I hope it doesn’t rain.”). Hope was not just another word for disappointment. (“We had hoped that he would recover.”) Neither was hope the absence of hardship nor the denial of reality. For Paul, hope reached its greatest potential in the midst of chaos and uncertainty.

Because hope is a vision for better days that changes us in the present, we can face the future with hope.

Facing the Future with Hope

As the church, we are located at the intersection of people’s desperate need and God’s amazing offer. Because of what we have experienced in and through Jesus, we have a God-given hope which cannot be defeated and does not disappoint.

Because of Jesus Christ, you and I hold in our hands “the single most indispensable, non-negotiable, irreplaceable resource required for big challenges and noble battles.” With that in mind, your congregation is a beacon of hope. Can you imagine what you and the local church could do with a vision for better days that changes it in the present?

There is nothing that your community needs more than hope.

There is Hope

When someone wanders into your space, broken by the realities of life, having given up on trying to make it on their own, and looking for someone to save them, will you be there to whisper, “In the name of Jesus, there is hope.”

When someone who is lost in the depths of depression and drowning in a deep darkness, will you be there to let them know, “No matter how bad it feels now, there is hope in Jesus.” Or when someone is trapped in addiction and unable to escape on their own, will you come alongside him or her and whisper, “You are not alone. There is hope.”

When someone is a prisoner to bad choices and incarcerated behind the bars of our justice system, will you be around to send caring witnesses inside the walls of the prison to whisper, “In the name of Jesus, there is hope.”

When disaster strikes somewhere in our country or world, and you feel helpless to fix everything or to save everyone, will you be ready to gather people together to be hands, feet, and face of hope?

In the midst of the chaos and uncertainty of our church and our aimless wondering through structural changes, are you able to focus upon our mission and to face the future with hope?

At the Intersection of Desperate Need and God’s Amazing Offer

What do you think? Are you able to move your heart, mind, and money out to the intersection of people’s desperate need and God’s amazing offer? Faced with an uncertain future, a changing community, and shrinking resources, we can either choose fear and hunker down or we can face the future with a radical hope.

Because of Jesus, we have in our hearts and hold in our hands a hope that cannot be defeated and does not disappoint. We have a vision for better days that changes us in the present. You and I have a relationship with the author of hope. We hold “the single most indispensable, non-negotiable, irreplaceable resource required for big challenges and noble battles.” We have access to hope. In the midst of the chaos and confusion of the moment, what more do we need to face the future?



  1. You might know the name Neil Clark Warren as the founder of

As the youngest of three children, my seat in the family car was in a predictable place. My “spot” was the center of the back seat of the car. I ate my knees as we drove to a meal out or to visit family. To make matters worse, my brother and sister were always invading my personal space.

If you have siblings, you likely know what I’m talking about. Siblings have a way of crossing the line of our personal space, testing our patience, and also inviting us to laugh. Don’t get me wrong, I love my brother and sister. I credit them for my twisted sense of humor and ability not to take myself too seriously.

But, what I remember most about driving somewhere with my family is that I was never sitting in the “right” place…especially when we were merging on or off the highway. The car would make a horrible noise as we went around the entrance or exit ramp. My Dad would announce from the driver’s seat, “Sara, you’re not sitting in the right spot.”

It wasn’t until I was ten or eleven years old that my siblings FINALLY helped me realize that horrible noise had nothing to do with where I was sitting. That horrible noise was my Dad intentionally driving over rumble strips.

Coaching helps us become who God created us to be Transforming MissionThe Truth About Coaching

At a young age, thanks to my siblings, I learned that what I believed to be true, was actually false.

Whether it was the tooth fairy or Santa Claus, we’ve all believed in something that wasn’t actually true at some point in our lives.

One of the beliefs I encounter as a coach is that coaches tell people what to do. Another is that coaching is punitive. You’ve messed up in some way and you have to be coached. Another is that coaching is prescriptive.

Each of these false beliefs about coaching can stop people from engaging in coaching. May I set a different expectation for you?

Coaching is a customized means of growth and development. It is a privilege to participate in coaching.

As we head into 2019, the fast pace of change in our world and growing anxiety within our denomination is challenging Pastors and local church leaders more every day.

We’re here to walk with you.

The Capitol Area South District is offering CAS Pastors the opportunity to be a part of a coaching cohort between January – May, 2019.

Please review the information below and complete the interest form to get started.

Why Coaching?

When I first received a coach, I thought I was going to be told what to do. Then, when I started coaching, I thought I was going to tell people what to do. Thankfully, both turned out to be unrealistic expectations.

Instead, the coach I work with asks great questions and helps me become who God created me to be. I am grateful for the hundreds of hours of training I received to help me learn what it means to be a coach. The people I coach help me become a better coach, too.

Because I have a coach, I am a better leader, a better pastor, and a better coach to leaders as a result. One of the most intense times of growth and development for me is when I am being coached. I stay focused on the goals I am trying to reach. A coach helps me navigate turbulent waters with more grace than I can alone. I get outside perspectives that help me appreciate a different point of view. And, I always know there is someone cheering me on. I could go on an on. As with anything, coaching yields the results of your investment. Coaches are partners. They inspire you to maximize your potential.

Rumble Strips & Coaching

Rumble strips have taken on new meaning in my life. Those silly rumble strips now grab my attention and invite me to slow down. They keep me within the bounds of the path I am traveling. Interestingly enough, it’s often the same thing that happens in coaching.

I’m grateful that my initial thoughts about coaching were as wrong as my belief that where I sat in the back seat determines the noises the car would make. Coaching is a gift. It is a privilege. Coaching helps us become who God created us to be.

And you don’t need my siblings to tell you that.

About the 5 Month Coaching Cohorts

Deadline to express interest:

November 29, 2018

Expectations for Coaching Cohort Participants

  • Give prayerful consideration to what God wants to accomplish through you in 2019.
  • Participate in one orientation meeting.
  • Show up and fully participate in five, monthly online meetings for 60-75 minutes.
  • Faithfully pursue the actions you commit to during our online meetings.
  • Reach out to your cohort/coach when you encounter roadblocks and celebrations.

What is coaching?

  • Coaching is a customized means of growth and development.
  • It is a privilege. Coaching is a privilege.
  • Coaches partner with coachee(s) in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires coachee(s) to maximize their personal and professional potential.

Coaching is NOT:

  • Punitive
  • Therapy
  • Counseling
  • Whining or complaining session
  • Prescriptions for your ministry

Why might you want to participate in a Coaching Cohort?

  • Do you have a goal you want to achieve – personally or professionally?
  • You want to continue growing as a leader.
  • You are leading the church in a new direction.
  • The neighborhood is changing and you’re trying to help the congregation navigate the changes.
  • You’re encountering resistance to change.
  • There is a huge turnover in leadership in the local church.
  • You’re leading something new.
  • You want to start a new ministry (or need to end a long-term ministry).
  • You have goals that haven’t been achieved and you want to accomplish them.
  • You’re in a new position.
  • You’re anticipating retirement.
  • Your family is in a new season of life.
  • You need an outside perspective on a specific area of ministry.
  • You are a leader


  • CAS Pastors
    • Your District and Annual Conference Apportionments are covering the normal cost of $150/hour
    • Your time and effort
  • Other Pastors/Leaders

If you are willing to commit to the following, we’d love to talk with you about participating in a Coaching Cohort.

  • Coaching Cohorts will take place between January – May 2019
  • Participate in a cohort coaching group with 3-5 people + Coach
    • One, 2 hour, in person, orientation meeting
    • Five, 60-75 minute, monthly, online video meetings (via Zoom)
  • A desire to grow and lead change. This change may be within the local congregation, leading the congregation into the local community, a team within the church, or your own personal leadership.
  • Let us know you’re interested by completing the interest form below



Sara Thomas


Tim Bias

Deadline to express your interest:

Wednesday, November 29, 2018

Oswald Chambers in his book, My Utmost for His Highest, wrote, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater works; prayer is the greater work.” Over the past 4 months, we have focused upon the great work of prayer. As I stated in the beginning, it is my hope, my desire, to raise up a new generation of Methodists who will do for our day what John and Charles Wesley did for their day.

I am writing to invite you to continue this prayer journey with me. I want to provide you with a weekly prayer and with prayer resources between now and the conclusion of the Special Session of General Conference in February. If you are willing to take this journey with me, click here to receive the prayer for this week. Please enter your first name, email address, and click submit. You will immediately receive the prayer for this week via email. Then, every Sunday afternoon, you will receive a prayer for the week.

Prayer Resources

This invitation is in relationship to Bishop Palmer’s invitation to pray daily for the Special Session of General Conference, February 23-26, 2019. I want to use our Bishop’s invitation as another point of raising up a new generation of Methodists.

Below are several suggestions and resources for your use.

  • Pause and pray daily for our church’s mission and way forward. For four minutes every day, from 2:23 through 2:26 PM, stop and pray for the Special Session of General Conference. (Notice that 2:23 to 2:26 coincides with the dates of the Special Session). I will be providing at least one prayer a week to assist you. You will receive a weekly email with prayers and/or prayer resources.

  • Engage in a weekly Wesleyan 24-hour fast from Thursday after dinner to Friday mid-afternoon.  Those who have health situations making food fasts undesirable might consider fasting from social media, emails or another daily activity.
  • Consider using the weekly prayer calendar that is posted on the website. The calendar will be there through the end of February 2019. We will have the opportunity to pray for a unique group of names each week. The names will balance United States bishops and delegates with Central Conference bishops and delegates. It will also include General Secretaries, Commission on a Way Forward members, the Commission of the General Conference and the staff of the General Conference.

If you are ready and willing to take this prayer journey with me, just click this link, to receive the prayer for this week. Sara Thomas and I have provided a considerable amount of prayer and leader development resources for you and your church on Please let me know if you can’t find what you are looking for.

The Invitation

It is through prayer that you and I keep our focus upon God’s plan and purpose for our lives. It is easy to give into doing good things, even if it is for all the right reasons. It is easy to lose our focus upon God’s call upon our lives. It is easy to switch our allegiance from God to working for the “common good.” It is easy to lose our identity even in midst of spiritual activities and social action. It is easy to give into the “this must be right” feeling when the crowd agrees. It is difficult to speak up and act when it is against the crowd. The power to focus upon and live out God’s plan and purpose come through prayer.

There is a difference between a prayer life and a life of prayer. It is the life of prayer that keeps us focused upon God’s desire for the church and all of creation.

Let us become more who God has created us to be by praying together for one another and our church.

Then he (Jesus) led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hand, he blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them… (Luke 24:50-51)

Luke presents Jesus as a person of prayer.

Whether it is at his baptism, dealing with popularity, choosing leaders, or feeding 5000 people on the hillside, Jesus is praying. Throughout his gospel, Luke shows us that Jesus maintains his relationship with God through prayer. Now, at the end of his gospel, he has Jesus praying as he blesses his followers.

Luke also presents Jesus as being empowered and energized by the Holy Spirit. Jesus begins his public ministry with the words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me (or Christed me) to bring good news to the poor.”

Holy Spirit Power

This Holy Spirit power in Jesus is also the Holy Spirit power in the church. It is the power to move beyond the cowardice and hesitation to witness across the barriers that keep people separated from God’s love and one another. So, at the end of his gospel, Luke has Jesus preparing his followers to receive power to be his witnesses.

This connection between prayer and the Holy Spirit is unique in Luke. In John, Jesus is divine by nature. He does not need prayer. He comes from God and is going back to God.

He is aware of everything. There is no agony, no struggle, no Gethsemane.

Matthew has Jesus as the authoritative teacher of the Word of God. Jesus is the final authority in his teaching.  Mark presents Jesus like an exorcist, constantly in contact with forces of evil.

But Luke has Jesus as a person of prayer. He is filled with the Spirit of God. The Spirit in Jesus is the same Spirit available to the church. The qualities of Jesus are the qualities of church.

In the gospels, there are no photos of Jesus, but four portraits of Jesus. It is in Luke’s portrait that we begin to understand why we are in the presence of God.  We get an up close view of the Holy Spirit in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  We begin to see that Jesus is available to us as the church.

And, we begin to understand that Holy Spirit power comes through prayer.

The Blessing

So, here we are at the end, or is it the beginning? “Then he (Jesus) led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hand, he blessed them.”  Is this a prayer of benediction or is it a blessing to send the disciples into a new mission?  Whether end or beginning, it is a good word.  Jesus is calling down the blessing of God.  He has prepared them and is saying, “Farewell.”

The Benediction is the final word, the final blessing. But the blessing is also the assurance of God’s favor and protection. It is also the promise of God’s grace and peace.  Just as God instructed Moses to equip Aaron and his family to bless the Israelites, Jesus now blesses his followers.

Moses said, “Bless the people saying, ‘The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.’”

And Jesus blessed his followers saying, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses…”

With his blessing our witness begins!

“Simon, Simon, look! Satan has asserted the right to sift you all like wheat. However, I have prayed for you that your faith won’t fail. When you have returned, strengthen your brothers and sisters.” Peter responded, “Lord, I’m ready to go with you, both to prison and to death!” Jesus replied, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster won’t crow today before you have denied three times that you know me.” -Luke 22:31-34

This story takes place in the Upper Room on the day we call Maundy Thursday. The word “Maundy” means “mandate” or “commitment”. In Luke, this mandate was to keep the Lord’s Supper. In John, the mandate was to wash feet. The mandate is to remember to re-member.

Around the table, as part of his farewell, Jesus had a conversation with his disciples. The conversation covered the life they had together, what was about to happen, and the pressures they were going to face. As the disciples engaged in the discussion, they revealed their self-seeking quest for status, which brought about betrayal and denial.

Jesus offered an assurance of comfort, guidance, and strength as he instructed his disciples in ways to address the squabbles and temptations of their time.

Sift You Like Wheat

In this story, we get this strange reference to Satan. “Simon, Simon, look! Satan has asserted the right to sift you all like wheat…” Jesus predicts that they all will fall away. Peter objects. He says he will not fall away. Luke uses this story to place the problem of unfaithful disciples in a larger context. The community falls apart after the shattering experience of the crucifixion. Luke sees this as a test.

In the Hebrew, the word “sift” means to test. It is an image which comes from the prophet Amos, “…to sift like wheat.” In Jewish Literature, Satan is one of the angels in the council of heaven.

The word “Satan” means “adversary.” It refers to “one who is the devil’s advocate” or “one who raises an objection.” It is also used to refer to “one who calls for a test” or “brings about the opposition.” Luke uses this image as an assault by the ultimate power of evil on the emerging kingdom of God.

Job & Sifting Wheat

This image comes from The Book of Job. It is here that we get an example of this understanding of Satan. Job believed in God. He was a good and righteous man in his living.

God in the council of heaven was bragging on Job. “My servant Job is a good and righteous man.” The Adversary, Satan, raised his hand and said, “Of course he is good because you blessed him. Anyone who has what he has can afford to be good.”

God said, “He would be good for nothing, even if his life were a disaster.”

Satan replied, “I don’t think so.”

God said, “All right. You can sift him like wheat, but not to kill him.”

From this story, we see that Job went through terrible experiences. He lost all his possessions, his family, and all he held to be important. His friends questioned his faithfulness to God. But, according to the story, he stayed in there with his trust in God. In the end, even though he had been “sifted like wheat,” tested, and challenged, he remained faithful to God.

Jesus Is Praying For You

So, here in Luke, Satan has permission to sift the disciples like wheat. It is like the adversary is looking out over humanity and thinks, “If I am going to get hold of this bunch, now is the time. With the death of Jesus, they will be without a leader. I’ll get them all.”

Around the table, in a group conversation,

What does it mean to you to know that someone is praying for you?Jesus says, “Satan has permission to put you to that test. I have been praying for you so that after you turn, after you repent, I want you to be leaders and strengthen the others.” Now, of course, Simon Peter does not think he needs to repent nor does he need prayer.

Jesus says, “Really? Before the rooster crows in the morning you will have said three times that you do not know me.”

From Luke’s perspective, when Jesus is tempted in chapter 4, he resists three temptations. Luke says, “Satan departed from him until an opportune time.” From that moment in chapter 4, Satan does not appear again until this story. (Luke 22:31).

The opportunity comes in two ways. The first, “He entered into Judas.” The second, Satan has asserted the right to sift Simon Peter like wheat. Satan got Judas and he almost got Simon Peter.

The contest is over Simon Peter’s loyalty. One side is Satan with deceitfulness. On the other side is Jesus with the weapon of prayer. “I am praying for you.”

Simon Peter doesn’t think he needs Jesus’ prayer. “I’m ready! If it’s prison, Yes. If it is death, Yes.”

Jesus said, “Simon, you are not ready.”

What Happens?

Now, we know what happened. Simon Peter stumbled.

When asked at the trial “Do you know Jesus?” He answered “No.” “Aren’t you one of his followers?” He answered, “No.” “You sound like one of those Galileans.” And with an oath, he answered, “I never knew the man.”

Jesus said, “…I have prayed for you that your faith won’t fail. When you have returned, strengthen your brothers and sisters.”

Jesus prays for Peter, but Peter must do the turning. Here is the difference between Judas and Peter. Salvation is not only personal but for the whole Christian community. Jesus’ prayer was answered, Peter did “turn back” and did become the leading figure in regathering the disciples after Easter to continue Jesus’ mission.

Simon Peter repented. He came back. Simon Peter became a leader. He strengthened others. St. Peter is connected to just about everything Christian. Not because he did not fail, but because he turned, he repented. Jesus’ prayer was answered.

You Have to Wonder

There is nothing like knowing someone is praying for you. As you seek to follow Jesus, know there are others praying for you too.

I wonder if Judas had repented could he have expected the same thing? Judas became the judge and jury over his own life. He did not give himself or the community the opportunity to turn back to Jesus.

What does prayer have to do with it? As Jesus prayed for those who crucified him, so he prays for his followers.

Paul says the Holy Spirit prays for us. John says Jesus prays for us. There nothing greater in all the world than to know that every hour of every day someone is praying for you and for me.

It is true. No matter what your situation or circumstance. No matter what the test or challenge. The time has come to turn and strengthen others. Jesus is praying for you!