Monday, August 29, 2016

Incarnation Breeds Sympathy; Discarnation Breeds Criticism

Linda walking in Munson Park

The Jesus story begins with incarnation, the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. The ternal Son gets into us so that we might enter into him.

When you get inside someone else's skin and live and die there you feel with them. Incarnation breeds sympathy.

Sym + pathos. "Feeling with." Hebrews 4:15 tells us that we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 

The biblical Greek word here is:
συμπαθέω,v  \{soom-path-eh'-o}
1) to be affected with the same feeling as another, to sympathise with  2) to feel for, have compassion on 

In Mark 6:34 Jesus saw a large crowd of people and had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. The Greek word here means "deeply moved."

Jesus felt with people in their struggles and disorientation. Which means: so should we who follow him. We are to...

... "clothe ourselves with compassion" (Colossians 3:12).

... "be kind and compassionate to one another" (Ephesians 4:32).

... "be compassionate and humble" (1 Peter 3:8).

Because "the Lord is full of compassion and mercy." (James 5:11).

Since we are "united with Christ" we share in his "tenderness and compassion." (Philippians 2:1)

Compassion and sympathy are beautiful fruits that grow in a Christ-abiding heart. The more we are like Christ the less we will criticize others. The more Christ is formed in us (Galatians 4:19) the less we will judge others for their struggles. Incarnation breeds sympathy; discarnation breeds criticism.

Thank God that he sympathizes with our weaknesses! Thank God for his followers who have matured to do the same.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

There Are No Critics In the Revolution

When I became a Jesus-follower through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ I was given a book by an unknown (to me) author named Bill Bright. His book was titled "Revolution Now." "What is this," I thought, "Marxism?" I just got saved from drug and alcohol abuse, which was beautiful. What I did not realize was that I had just enlisted in The Revolution.

I was in the Jesus Movement. Not the "Jesus Institution." It is essential to understand this distinction.

The "Jesus Institution" is a spectator sport minus the word "sport." It is audience minus participation. It moves slower than oozing molasses. Here's how this works.

Linda and I love to go to movies. After a movie we ask each other the question, "So what did you think? Thumbs up, or thumbs down? Or, maybe, thumbs sideways?" Sometimes we disagree. "The story line was weak." "The acting was poor." "I fell asleep." "That movie deserves an Oscar." And so on.

Obviously, we were not part of the story. When you are not part of the story you evaluate it. You become a movie critic. That's what audiences do; viz., they critique.

Church-as-institution, which can mean we're in "maintenance mode," births an audience that sits, observes, and evaluates. Criticism is the inevitable fruit of institutionalization. In the Institutional Church people critique the color of the sanctuary carpet. "Worship wars" feed on institutionalization-as-lack-of-Movement. People become an audience of onlookers. "Church" becomes entertainment. Onlookers look and criticize. This is not good.

Revolutionaries, on the other hand, revolt. This is good. This is the revolutionary nature of Real Jesus stuff. When persons are engaged in The Movement, energy is directed forward. When forward movement increases criticism decreases. We revolt against the false gods that are worshiped on the punishing honor-shame hierarchies of the world system.

Critics in the church are not engaged in The Revolution. Real "church," on the other hand, is a People Movement, a part of the Jesus Revolution, called out (ek-kaleo) to engage in the redemptive Cross-activity of Jesus. Viva la Revolucion! A bas l'institution !

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Gospel According to Me (Passive Nihilism)

In their essay "The Gospel According to 'Me'" Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster write about America's cult of self-worship. The more "nones" there are, the more we can expect to see a turn to "me." After all, if there is no God, then there's only "me." They write:

"Despite the frequent claim that we are living in a secular age defined by the death of God, many citizens in rich Western democracies have merely switched one notion of God for another — abandoning their singular, omnipotent (Christian or Judaic or whatever) deity reigning over all humankind and replacing it with a weak but all-pervasive idea of spirituality tied to a personal ethic of authenticity and a liturgy of inwardness. The latter does not make the exorbitant moral demands of traditional religions, which impose bad conscience, guilt, sin, sexual inhibition and the rest."

People are moving from the idea of God to the idea of self. (See Christian Smith's helpful work on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism - see 
here, and here.) 

Surely Critchley and Webster are correct when they observe:

"A postwar existentialist philosophy of personal liberation and “becoming who you are” fed into a 1960s counterculture that mutated into the most selfish conformism, disguising acquisitiveness under a patina of personal growth, mindfulness and compassion. Traditional forms of morality that required extensive social cooperation in relation to a hard reality defined by scarcity have largely collapsed and been replaced with this New Age therapeutic culture of well-being that does not require obedience or even faith — and certainly not feelings of guilt. Guilt must be shed; alienation, both of body and mind, must be eliminated, most notably through yoga practice after a long day of mind-numbing work."

The goal of human life is personal well-being, rather than a collective endeavor towards a greater good. "The stroke of genius in the ideology of authenticity is that it doesn’t really require a belief in anything, and certainly not a belief in anything that might transcend the serene and contented living of one’s authentic life and baseline well-being. In this, one can claim to be beyond dogma."

The American Dream is now one of "pure psychological transformation." Critchley and Webster call this "passive nihilism." This is an ethic of personal authenticity, "a
t the heart of which is a profound selfishness and callous disregard of others. As the ever-wise Buddha says, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”" 

An uncritical brainwashed "authenticity" leads to a "deep cynicism." We see this in the self-made "Eckhart Tolle's (not his real name) silly, money-making 
The Power of Now (yes, I did read it... in one setting in a bookstore...    :(  

Sadly, a lot of church culture is marketing itself this way. Critchley and Webster write:

"When the values of Judeo-Christian morality have been given a monetary and psychological incarnation — as in credit, debt, trust, faith and fidelity — can they exist as values? Is the prosperous self the only God in which we believe in a radically inauthentic world?"

Ironically the uncritical zombielike (flesh-without-spirit) humanity of today is becoming more and more inauthentic in its none-ish staggering towards the Oz of the false self.

Identity, Community, and Freedom

Praying at Redeemer
We are loved unconditionally by God. This means there is no "If...  then" in God's love. God cannot not-love. God never thinks "If John performs well, then I will love him," or "If John fails, then I will withhold my love from him." I am "beloved" by God.

True Christian community is rooted in belovedness. In true community belovedness has become embodied. Belovedness is a triple helix wrapping people in a garment of love. This is so crucial, so central, that without this there will be chaos and conflict and competition and control. Without love, the community will be nothing.

1. Know that you are one of God's beloved sons or daughters.

2. Cultivate community on this truth.

Henri Nouwen writes:

"When we are aware that we are the beloved, and when we have friends around us with whom we live in community, we can do anything. We’re not afraid anymore. We’re not afraid to knock on the door while somebody is dying. We’re not afraid to open a discussion with a person who underneath all the glitter is much in need of ministry. We’re free." (Nouwen,  A Spirituality of Living, pp. 38-39)

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Ontological Argument (Video)

I'll present this argument in my first Philosophy of Religion class this Thursday.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Impracticality of Seeking Truth in Material Objects


I'm in agreement with this quote from Elliot Milco ("Christian Identity in the Workplace"):

"Lately I have been revisiting Plato, and it strikes me that the basic problem of Christianity in the secular workplace is not the selective distribution of “identity” status or the uneven application of liberal principles. Our problem is that we live in a society as hostile to the aims of the philosophical life—a life in pursuit of moral integrity, the truth, and union with God—as was Athens in the time of Socrates. Our fellow citizens do not understand our preference for spiritual goods over material prosperity. They despise us because we disapprove of pleasures everyone else accepts. Chiefly, though, I think they are impatient with our impractical fixation on intangible truths."

This week I begin my sixteenth year of teaching philosophy at Monroe County Community College. I'll teach two Logic classes and one Philosophy of Religion class. If my students are hostile to philosophy I will change most of their minds about this. Some, even, will consider majoring or minoring in philosophy.

We live in a profoundly ignorant culture. This deep ignorance is fueled by social media as anyone can make belief-claims without understanding or justification. Ignorance breeds hostility. Some of my students, prior to my classes, will be hostile to spiritual truths. As class progresses some of them will deconvert from their prereflective physicalism to consider something like the Platonic worldview.

Do the followers of Jesus focus on intangible truths? Yes. But note this: "truth" itself does not exist as a tangible reality. That is, "truth" is not some sort of "thing" that can be empirically verified. Hence all who seek for truth in tangible realities are fundamentally misguided. Our fixation on intangible truths (the only kind) seems impractical.

That's some late night rambling. Time for bed...

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Fear of Solitude as a Cause of Texting

Downtown Monroe
M.I.T.'s Sherry Turkle, in her brilliant Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, argues for solitude as the foundation of authentic community. Turkle dedicates an entire chapter to this, and opens it with a quote from actor and comedian Louis C.K. He writes:

"You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away. The ability to just sit there. That’s just being a person...

Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty, forever empty. That knowledge that it’s all for nothing and you’re alone. It’s down there. And sometimes when things clear away and you’re not watching and you’re in your car and you start going, Ooh, here it comes that I’m alone, like it starts to visit on you just like this sadness. Life is tremendously sad. . . . 

That’s why we text and drive. Pretty much 100 percent of people driving are texting. And they’re killing and murdering each other with their cars. But people are willing to risk taking their life and ruining another because they don’t want to be alone for a second. . . " (Turkle, pp. 59-60)

Why so much texting? One cause is: the fear of solitude. The fear of insignificance. The fear of being forgotten. Insecurity of the self. Loss of identity. The need for authentic community, which will not be achieved via texting.

I write about solitary praying in my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Solitude Before God Rips Off the Disguise

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, Michigan
The person you see on Facebook is probably not who they really are. They have created a persona, an image of something they would like to be seen as. They are clever, witty, cool, beautiful, and happy. Or they are dark, mysterious, and deep. And they may be very smart. But again, all these are appearances, and they are in fact none of these. 

There are exceptions. These are people walking the long road of self-examination before God. This requires solitude with God. Thomas Merton knew that the solitary life does not tolerate illusion and self-deception. He wrote: "Solitude rips off all the masks and all the disguises. It does not tolerate lies." (A Year with Thomas Merton, August 8, Kindle Loc 4074)

In solitude - lengthy periods of it - we do not have people to blame or praise us, to give us false wisdom about who we are, what we have been made for, and what we are to do. It's just us and God. And God sees into the heart behind the face behind the persona. 

I am not all that I imagined myself to me. I am what God thinks of me. Discovering more and more about the truth of me is what sets me free the false labor of self-construction.


23inME! Conference in New York - Revised Dates

Thursday, August 18, 2016

God's Justice Is Restorative, Not Punitive

Lake Michigan, Empire, Michigan

I’m re-reading my highlights and notes from one of the best books on self-forgiveness there is – by clinical psychologist Everett Worthington (Virginia Commonwealth University). There are so many things Worthington says that I need to remember. Yes, I have struggled at times with self-forgiveness. You have as well, right?

Some find it hard to approach God while wallowing in the mire of self-condemnation. Worthington helps me by reminding me of an important distinction. He writes:

“Think about Jesus’s response to a woman caught in adultery: “Then neither do I condemn you.… Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8: 11). God is more interested in restorative justice than in punitive justice.“ (Worthington Jr, Moving Forward: Six Steps to Forgiving Yourself and Breaking Free from the Past, Kindle Locations 756-757)

God’s desire is always to rescue, release, and restore, not to add more locks to the prison cell we inhabit.

My new book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What a Pastor Is Supposed to Do – Looking After Souls In a Soul-trivializing Age

Empire, Michigan
At Redeemer we are now in the middle of preaching through the biblical letter of James. I’m taking it in small bites, while keeping the broader context always in view.

James is calling his messianic Jesus-following readers to understand the spiritual and moral break they are to make with the massive surrounding Roman culture. They are to have their desires disengaged from status, power, and wealth (at the expense of the poor), and desire the true wisdom that is from above.

James is simple to understand and very deep. This is a glorious combination, and a challenge and joy to preach it to our people.

Maintaining the qualitative distinction between the Real Jesus and American culture is the calling of every pastor and, indeed, every follower of Christ. This calling must be constantly placed before us.

Eugene Peterson writes:

“Pastors are in charge of keeping the distinction between the world's lies and the gospel's truth clear. Not only pastors, of course - every baptized Christian is part of this - but pastors are placed in a strategic, countercultural position. Our place in society is, in some ways, unique: no one else occupies this exact niche that looks so inoffensive fensive but is in fact so dangerous to the status quo. We are committed to keeping the proclamation alive and to looking after souls in a soul-denying, denying, soul-trivializing age.” (Peterson and Dawn, The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call, Kindle Locations 65-68)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Craig Keener's "Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost"

I received a copy of Craig Keener's Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost. I brought it with me as Linda and I are away relaxing for four days in Glen Arbor, Michigan. I've read thirty pages, and underlined about half of them.

Craig is a Pentecostal theologian, as I am. In the Foreward Amos Yong (Fuller Seminary) writes:

"In Craig Keener we finally have an exemplar that unveils how rigorous use of the intellect and prodigiousness in scholarly output are spiritual activities, compelled by life in the Spirit of Jesus, in anticipation of the coming reign of God. More pointedly, it may even be said that in a certain sense there is no life of the mind in his case without a spiritual life that sustains and impels intellectual pursuits." (xxi)

This book is, writes Yong, "the work of a master teacher."

Study Guide for My Book "Praying" Now Available - Free

My book - Available in paperback and as an e-book at and Barnes & Noble.

Thanks to all who have purchased and read my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

I have written a simple Study Guide to accompany the book. It can be used personally, or for small group discussions.

You can purchase my book here - and available as a Kindle book here.

To get the Study Guide send me an email and I'll send it to you in a file. You can print it out for personal or group use.

Again - thanks!

One Minute with Eugene Peterson

Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan

I never really thought I’d be a pastor because I had so many pastors I didn’t respect.... 
I’d never been around a pastor who was a man of God, to tell you the truth.

I can't get enough Eugene Peterson in my life. I'm currently reading The Unnecessary Pastor (with Marva Dawn) and Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness. Peterson thankfully removes the "mega" from church and calls me to my senses as a pastor. He exposes the insanity of the bloated "size matters" American church when he writes things like this:

"The pastoral vocation in America is embarrassingly banal. It is banal because it is pursued under the canons of job efficiency and career management. It is banal because it is reduced to the dimensions of a job description. It is banal because it is an idol — a call from God exchanged for an offer by the devil for work that can be measured and manipulated at the convenience of the worker. Holiness is not banal. Holiness is blazing." (Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness, p. 5)

Pastors must focus on holiness, and bring their people to the living waters of relational purity. Then, and only then, will "all things be added" unto them. This doesn't mean "Your church will be huge." It does mean "Your church shall have influence disproportionate to its size." It's about influence, not size.

In an interview Peterson said: "One of the things that distresses me most is how much ambition there is. I'm alarmed that we measure things by what the world counts as important." ("The Relationally Grounded Pastor")

Peterson is a prophet with an upside-down voice. In another interview he is asked what he would tell a younger Christian who is longing for a deeper and more authentic discipleship. His counsel was:

"Go to the nearest smallest church and commit yourself to being there for 6 months. If it doesn’t work out, find somewhere else. But don’t look for programs, don’t look for entertainment, and don’t look for a great preacher." ("Faithful to the End: An Interview with Eugene Peterson") How refreshing, how true. This is why, among other reasons, Bono (U2) carries Run With the Horses with him.

Do you like truth, spoken in love? "Pastors commonly give lip service to the vocabulary of a holy vocation, but in our working lives we more commonly pursue careers. Our actual work takes shape under the pressure of the marketplace, not the truth of theology or the wisdom of spirituality." (Under the Unpredictable Plant, p. 5)

A few years ago I talked on the phone with Eugene Peterson. I was inviting him to speak at a pastor's retreat in Michigan. I googled him and found his phone number. I called. "Is this Eugene Peterson?"


I introduced myself and asked if he would consider being with us for two days. He said,

"I'm sorry. I can't do it. I'm out of gas."

I thanked him for his time. I also thanked him for his voice that has been used by God to influence so many, including me. And that was it. One minute with Eugene Peterson. The sound of his voice, addressing me. One minute with Eugene Peterson is better than a thousand minutes elsewhere.

Give me one authentic voice calling in the darkness of the hyped market-driven numbers-evaluated smoke-and-mirrors religion of the American church. Peterson (and just a few others) are that, for me.

My partially Peterson-inspired book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Friday, August 12, 2016

I Don't Believe in Fairies Either (On the Conceptual Confusion of Unlearned Atheists)

David Bentley Hart, in The Experience of God (Yale University Press), writes something related to my post "It's False That an Atheist Just Believes in One Fewer God than a Theist Does." Hart states (pay attention here):

"At a trivial level, one sees the confusion in some of the more shopworn witticisms of popular atheism: “I believe neither in God nor in the fairies at the bottom of my garden,” for instance, or “All people are atheists in regard to Zeus, Wotan, and most other gods; I simply disbelieve in one god more.” Once, in an age long since vanished in the mists of legend, those might even have been amusing remarks, eliciting sincere rather than merely liturgical laughter; but, even so, all they have ever demonstrated is a deplorable ignorance of elementary conceptual categories." (Hart, The Experience of God, p. 33)

When you do a philosophy degree you meet and interact and dialogue with both atheists and theists. In all my years of studying I never heard one of my atheist professors compare their God-disbelief with fairy-disbelief, or disbelief in Zeus. The proliferation of these silly quotes are the result of not-so-brights invading the intellectual atheist camp. It's embarrassing! (Remember atheist Michael Ruse's embarrassment at Richard Dawkins's God Delusion?) In the real discussion about God's existence or non-existence these quotes mean nothing.

Let me help the unscholarly atheist out of their conceptual confusion by quoting Hart once again.

"Beliefs regarding fairies are beliefs about a certain kind of object that may or may not exist within the world, and such beliefs have much the same sort of intentional shape and rational content as beliefs regarding one’s neighbors over the hill or whether there are such things as black swans. Beliefs regarding God concern the source and ground and end of all reality, the unity and existence of every particular thing and of the totality of all things, the ground of the possibility of anything at all." (Ib.)

If you understand that then you've been set free from all those cute quotes about fairies and Zeus and Osiris and "my invisible friend" and "we atheists just believe in one less god than you" and so on and on and...  

Physical Laws Lack Agent Causation

Monroe, in cooler days than today

John Lennox is Prof. of Mathematics, and Prof. of Philosophy of Religion, at Oxford University. His book God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design Is It Anyway? is a beautifully executed and informative piece on the nature of scientific laws, with attention to their explanatory power and their inability to cause anything.

Lennox shows the fundamental "category mistake" (from Gilbert Ryle's The Concept of Mind) scientistic folk make when, e.g., they claim that the laws of physics give us an answer as to why our universe exists. Physical laws have no creative power; i.e., physical laws are not agents. Physical laws explain. To understand this distinction is to be free of the famous "God of the gaps" criticism sometimes leveled at Christian theists.

Lennox nicely shows how "offering people the choice between God and science is therefore illogical." (Kindle Location 400)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Minimalist Music of Arvo Pärt

I listen - a lot - to the minimalist music of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. 

I love this video clip from NPR, which shows the solitary Pärt composing on his upright piano.

See also "The Silence And Awe Of Arvo Pärt." 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

23inME! Conference - October 27-28-29

23inME Abiding Conference for Pastors and LeadersI am excited about the third annual upcoming .  The purpose of this conference is to be transformed so that we can transform others through Abiding.  What is Abiding?  It is:
- Hearing God clearly,
- Experiencing and sharing God's love,
- and Helping others that we serve to do the same.
Who are you?

You are a pastor, minister, teacher, evangelist, minister of music, dancer, administrator or faith leader and you have asked yourself one or more of the following questions: 
  • I help so many but who will help me?
  • I am burned out; when will I be able to rest?
  • Will I ever achieve what I believe God wants me to do?
  • Am I living out God's purpose for me right now?
  • I have great vision but how do I achieve it?
  • Am I really helping those under my care and influence?
  • How do I manage my family and ministry too, especially when my family doesn't always "get me"?
  • I teach love and togetherness but why is it that I don't always feel loved and together?
  • Why am I disillusioned with the church and leadership?
  • How do I trust when I have been hurt by those I am called to serve? 
If you are nodding your head to any of the above questions than now is your time and your breakthrough!
Presence-Driven Ministry
Dr. John Piippo
Dr. John Piippo, renowned scholar and author ofPraying:40 Years of Conversations with God,will guide us through the abiding process and his model for Presence Driven Ministry.
Transforming our Trauma into Triumph   
This year we will begin to focus on the impact of trauma especially among African-American clergy, and the members and communities they serve. Over the past several years we have witnessed the atrocities that have plagued our nation that have resulted in the senseless killings of people of color as well as police officers. Additionally we have seen that the church is not even exempt from hate crimes.

African-American clergy have for years experienced many of these type of atrocities in their ministry and among their congregants. Our goal is to present a healing forum to present tools for clergy and leaders to deal with the trauma both personal and vicarious.

During the retreat we will have an opportunity to share our stories and dialogue about ways to turn our
 Trauma into Triumph using the Abiding and Peer Learning Process. 
Immersion Experience
The 23inME immersion experience developed by Rev. Carol Steptoe and friends is a powerful experiential process that takes participants through a journey of the 23rd Psalm. The belief is that the 23rdPsalm is a guide for Christian discipleship and healing. Participants will be able to lay down in green pastures, sit at a table prepared for them, walk through a simulation of the valley of the shadow of death, experience running over cups and much more. During this process participants will be encouraged to pray and journal through this journey what they hear from God. Be prepared for a life changing experience. 
Pastoral Excellence Network/Peer Learning
and Coaching Groups
This year we are proud to be the recipients of a grant from the Pastoral Excellence Network. This grant will allow us to subsidize the retreat and develop a comprehensive follow-up process that will include peer learning and coaching groups with leadership and mental health experts as facilitators. The goal of the grant will be to encourage ongoing peer learning groups as we believe this is a vital component in addressing the issues of managing change, trauma and promoting effective leadership development and personal and church growth. In addition to the peer learning groups will be hosting various learning opportunities throughout the year that will enhance the learning process.
Documentary: Transforming Our Trauma into Triumph
During the retreat we will begin the raw footage of a documentary called, "Transforming our Trauma into Triumph". This documentary will focus on the issues faced especially by African-American clergy and leaders and will bring light to the historical and present-day trauma that has plagued our clergy, churches, and communities. The purpose of the documentary is to bring awareness, hear stories of our fellow clergy and leaders, and begin the dialogue to develop tools for healing. If you know of anyone with a compelling story to tell, please contact Rev. Carol Dougherty-Steptoe.
What you will receive:
  • Receive from other dynamic leaders in the faith;
  • Get direction, tools and resources for your ministry;
  • Let go of hectic schedules follow God's peaceful agenda
  • Experience the 23rd Psalm immersion process that will blow your mind!
  • Meet dynamic peers
  • Be challenged by leadership experts and identify your own model of leadership
  • Use Psalm 23 for leadership, discipleship and healing
  • Participate in a peer learning/coaching follow-up process led by nationally recognized leadership and mental health experts. (Participation in this program is on a first serve first come basis. Slots are limited.)
  • Enjoy a heavenly jam session led by master artists
  • Be revived, reignited and renewed!
Keynote Speaker
- God Almighty!
Throughout the preparation of these retreats over the last few years what has been clear is that the keynote speaker is God Almighty. In addition to all of the wonderful things that you will experience from this retreat, the most important is to be able to be still and know that God is God. This is an opportunity for clergy, ministers, and leaders to have a much-needed rest, to center-down and to listen to the still voice that feeds our soul. Today more than ever as a community and fellow Jesus followers we need to hear from the Lord. It is our hope every year that this conference/retreat is an opportunity for  to go by the still waters and allow the Lord to speak to our hearts.
Here's what last year's retreat participants said: 
My work as a pastor over the last eight years has been a quite a journey. So when I heard about the 23inME Pastors and Leaders Conference in October 2015, I was determined to go. And praise God, the retreat was a life saver! The peace and joy of the Lord washed over me and I left renewed, refreshed, and empowered to teach my congregation what I learned at the conference.  
I was so blessed by the 23inME retreat. 
 ~ Dr. Mark Chapman, Hollis Presbyterian Church of NY
Rev Carol Steptoe's experiential process of healing and teaching is life changing. Her 23inME retreat allowed me the opportunity to be me and reflect on my ministry,
life and next steps. 
 ~ Rev. Jackie Jones, Founder of Jackie Jones Ministries
As a new Pastor the challenges of growing a ministry can be overwhelming. Rev. Carol has challenged my thinking, encouraged me to grow and has provided me with a network of support that has truly been amazing. 
The 23inME retreat was simply inspiring. 
Praise God for Healing Dialogues Ministries. 
 ~ Pastor Mark Williams, Living Word Ministries, Nyack New York.
The Rev. Carol Steptoe has been an outstanding achieving spiritual daughter of mine for the past 30 years. She is extremely insightful and able to take spiritual teachings and apply them into practical aspects of our daily lives where the Word of God becomes relevant and easy to comprehend. She is a dynamic preacher, teacher and leader. Rev. Steptoe has a unique approach to discern human, psychological and spiritual needs. Her 23inME Clergy Care Program is compelling and God inspired. Through God's anointing and direction, Rev. Steptoe is an agent of healing, inspiration and most of all salvation for those she meets along the varied roads of life.
 ~ Dr. Edward Davis, Senior Pastor, Presbyterian Church of St. Albans.