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Dear Lenten Pilgrims,

For the past few days, I have been with my clergy covenant group in Atlanta for one of our bi-annual retreats. It is a gathering I always cherish, connecting with my closest friends in ministry for a time of encouragement, learning, and play.

Yesterday, we were at the Candler School of Theology, the seminary of Emory University, where our covenant brother Dr. Brett Opalinski serves as the Assistant Dean of Methodist Studies. He invited us to meet with the first-year students in his Discipleship Seminar, to share with them about how our own spiritual practices shape our life and ministry, and how we lead others in deepening their discipleship.

Brett began our panel discussion reminding us that following Jesus involves both being and doing. It is both a conscious orientation toward the way of Jesus, and a faithful effort to practice that way. And as my friend Scott Smith said, many of us are good at being, but not at doing.

But both are necessary. Discipleship requires clarity about what Jesus wants us to become, as well as clarity about what Jesus is asking us to do. 


After John Wesley’s ill-fated missionary trip to Georgia, in which he not only failed to bring new people to Jesus but also feared for his life from a near-shipwreck, Wesley returned to England with a badly shaken faith.

He confessed to a German Moravian bishop named Peter Boehler how much he was struggling with his faith and his doubts. He was set to preach the next day and told Boehler that he was “clearly convinced of unbelief,” and was tempted to not preach. He wondered in his journal how he could “preach to others when he had not faith himself?”

He asked Boehler whether he should not preach, but Boehler said he should.

Wesley asked him, “But what can I preach?” Boehler replied, “Preach faith till you have it, and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.”

To put Boehler’s advice in broader terms of discipleship, practice the faith until you have faith. Then because you have it, you will practice faith. That nugget of insight reminded Wesley of the real importance of spiritual practices. We don’t do them in order to be saved. We do spiritual practices because we are saved. And then we do spiritual practices to be strengthened in our faith.

If you are in a place in your life where you feel like your faith is weak, or you are unsteadied by doubts or disbelief, then practice the faith until your faith is strong. And then then you can practice the faith because your faith is strong.


In this congregation, we talk about the Discipleship Pathway, which describes the seven spiritual practices that help us grow in our faith. There are three corporate practices that we do in community (Worship, Small Groups, Service) and four private practices that can be remembered with the acronym G.R.I.P.: (Give generously, Read Scripture, Invite Others, Pray.) You can learn more about these practices and find resources for how to develop them here.

You can also view last week’s sermon, where we explore these practices in the context of Jesus’ call to Peter to take up our cross and follow him.

During these days of Lent, and every day, may your life be enriched by attentiveness to the Holy Spirit and the daily diligence of spiritual practices. May you discover the reward of practicing the faith until you have it, and the joy of practicing the faith because you have it.

Grace and Peace,

The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist