Church Visit Paper (Holiness Tradition)

Topics: Virtue Ethics

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Chloe Johnson

Professor Randall

MIN 108 – Christian Life, Faith and Ministry


Church Visit: Holiness Tradition

“Holiness means the ability to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. It means being “response-able,” able to respond appropriately to the demands of life” (Foster). I had no idea that there were different traditions when it came to the Christian faith. Reading some of Foster’s Streams of Living Water, I have come to understand these traditions and am now thinking about them more and want to apply them to myself and my faith.

One specific tradition that I liked reading about and was assigned to read about was the Holiness tradition. Once I read about the holiness tradition, I became somewhat familiar with it, even though I did not know what it was at first. Foster describes this tradition as one that is focused on the heart and the development of having holy habits. He goes on later in the chapter to talk about the is’ and is nots of holiness.

The holiness tradition encourages us to live a virtuous life. “Virtue is good habits we can rely upon to make our life work. Conversely, vice is bad habits we can rely upon to make our life not work, to make it dysfunctional, as we say. So, a holy life simply is a life that works” (Foster). Foster goes on in the chapter to talk about how it is is easy for us to center virtue in action itself.

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If someone does something or refrains from doing that thing, we think that a person must be virtuous. The holiness tradition also helps us in many different ways, that I did not even realize. It helps us with personal transformation, character formation and learning to grow in grace. When it comes to transformation, Dawn Morton explains that “Transformation is

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not merely for the individual experience of salvation or the holiness journey. Transformation should be experienced from individual, to group, to the whole society” (Morton, 430). I like how Foster explains that “We are – each and every one of us – a tangled mass of motives: hope and fear, faith and doubt, simplicity and duplicity, honesty and falsity, openness and guile.” God knows us better than we could ever know ourselves and of course, no one is perfect, but we can still strive to live a virtuous life and follow God. According to Wesley Tracy, author of the article Spiritual Direction in the Wesleyan Holiness Movement, “The goal of spirituality in the Wesleyan mode is to bring the converted believer into the experience of sanctifying grace whereby inner sin is cleansed, the image of God is restored, and the heart is filled with divine love that the believer can love God with all the heart, mind, should and strength and the neighbor as one’s self” (Tracy, 324).

The church I got to visit for the holiness tradition is in Mission Viejo and their church is called Shepherd of the Hills. My home church does not have a specific denomination, but the Shepard of the Hills Church has a denomination of being a Methodist church. According to the official website of the Methodist church, “The United Methodist Church is a 12.6-million-strong global church that opens hearts, opens minds and open doors through active engagement with our world. John Wesley and the early Methodists placed primary emphasis on Christian living, on putting faith and love into action.” (United Methodist Communications). The Methodists are normally concerned with personal and social holiness and they tend to have a method on how they run the church. John Wesley was the leader of Methodism when it first became a movement. The Methodist church began as a reformation of the Church of England. “Wesley and the early Methodists were particularly concerned about inviting people to experience God’s

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grace and to grow in their knowledge and love of God through disciplined Christian living. They placed primary emphasis on Christian living, on putting faith and love into action. This emphasis on what Wesley referred to as “practical divinity” has continued to be a hallmark of United

Methodism today.” (United Methodist Communications). Shepheard of the Hills Church has a few different kinds of worship services that one can attend on Sundays, one being the traditional worship service, another being the relaxed worship service and finally the modern worship service. I went to the traditional worship service which meets at nine in the morning on Sundays. I chose this service because I feel it was the newest to me and I wanted to attend a service that I thought would be a good learning experience for me and it would be good research for the holiness tradition. I always find it interesting when going to a different church than my own and seeing and hearing what they do that is different from my own church. This church sang hymns and did prayer readings (very similar to the Thursday night Evening Prayers style chapel that is offered here at the university). I appreciated the way they worshiped, and I liked how they read passages and prayers after some of the hymns they sang. Pastor Karl Stuckenburg spoke the passage at the service I went to. The passage that was spoken at this church was actually very similar to the types of passages that are normally spoken at my church. At my church, there is no specific denomination, but our church does things in their own way. My church does very modern worship music (contemporary and popular worship music) and has a big band. We also have small groups for all ages (that meet during different days of the week), like many other churches do. Crossline Church’s motto is “Love God. Love People. Have a Blast!” The Shepheard of the Hills Church has a different motto which is “Connecting people with Jesus and each other so they become deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ.”

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Some of the strengths of the holiness tradition include how holiness is sustained attention to the heart, the source of all action. There are some people that pour their hearts at church and others that do not try to, but still have good hearts. “Righteousness, holiness, the life of virtue is centrally and primarily a matter of “heart work.” This is why Jesus gave such sustained attention to the rightness of the heart out of which flow the issues of life” (Foster). Holiness is also world-affirming. The holy spirit is always with us. Holiness is prevalent in our lives every day, even if we don’t know it is or don’t realize it’s there. We must live virtuous lives, but they do not have to be lived out perfectly. Holiness is a bodily spirituality. The body is the glory of the soul. “It utilizes appropriate Spiritual Disciplines for training the body and mind in right living” (Foster). As Jesus tells us, holiness is a striving to enter in. We all have a way to Jesus, and we all have different ways of praising him. On the other hand, holiness is not a set of rules and regulations. Holiness is progress in purity and sanctity. We are set apart for divine purposes. Holy habits deepen into fixed patterns of life. Holiness is loving unity with God.  We are always growing in grace and faithfulness and it makes us more holy every day. If we live holy life’s we will become more united with God.

Yes, the holiness tradition does have its strengths, but it also has some weaknesses. Holiness is not a set of rules and regulations. We can all live a life of holiness, but we are not forced to follow a specific set of rules in order to live a holy life. “Elaborate lists of do’s and don’ts miss the point of a life hidden with God in Christ” (Foster). Holiness is not otherworldliness. Living a life of holiness is not living a life like in a broken and evil world. Holiness is not consuming asceticism. We are not punished for the sake of being punished. Holiness is not “work-righteousness.” “We cannot muster up our willpower to do good

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deeds and thereby become righteous.” God has his own plan for each and every one of us, and only he knows what that plan is. Holiness is not perfectionism. No one is perfect, and no one will ever be perfect. “Our mistakes and failures teach us the right way to live – and the right way is the good way. And after stumbling it is no small thing for us to start at the beginning once again. We are learning that by starting again and again and again something firm and lasting is being

built in us” (Foster). Holiness is not absorption into God. We do not lose our personal identify and we do not become less whole or human. A question some may ask is how can we deal with the problems in the Holiness tradition? Foster tells us that we can deal with these problems “By replacing legalism with love. By replacing Pelagianism with grace. By replacing perfectionism with growth. If we do this with true and honest hearts, we will be kept on the right path” (Foster).

Throughout the chapter on the Holiness Tradition, Foster lists three different individuals as being the best examples of the Holiness tradition. The first individual he mentions is a woman named Phoebe Worrall Palmer (1807-1874). She was a teacher, theologian, and humanitarian. “A powerful preacher of “the holiness way”, she has been called “the most influential female theologian the Church has yet produced.”” Phoebe was well known around the world for her teachings. Foster also mentions that people all around the world copied her format and her style was taught in countries such as India, New Zealand, and England. Phoebe’s father was a convert of John Wesley. She lived in a time where woman were not as appreciated for what they did, but she made a difference in the church and caused many to follow after her ways. The second individual that Foster talks about in the chapter on the Holiness tradition is a biblical figure, James. James was the blood brother of Jesus and the author of the Epistle that bears his name. At

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first, James did not really follow Jesus and his teachings, and he disapproved of Jesus’ activities. James was never a part of the crowds that were curious about what Jesus was accomplishing. Later on, in his life, James finally started to follow his blood brother and he became a pillar of the church and people started to welcome him. James became “James the Just” and the leader of the Jerusalem church. The third individual in the Holiness tradition chapter is Dietrich Donhoeffer. His story is told in a timeline of events. He has been many things such as a student, debater, teacher, activist, leader, professor, author, double agent, prisoner, theologian, martyr. He took Jesus seriously, he took Jesus’ call to discipleship seriously, he took spiritual discipline

seriously, he took free, responsible, obedient action seriously, he took the purity of the church seriously, he took the world seriously. 

After learning about this tradition of holiness, I have come to learn a little bit more about myself and my own faith journey. I liked visiting a church that was different than my own. I particularly enjoyed it because I like to learn from other Christians (even if they are from a different denomination than I am from). Hearing other people’s stories makes me feel a little bit better about myself and makes me feel good. It also helps me come to the understanding that no one is perfect, but we can still count on God to help us in times of need and even in good times. God is always there for us, even when we feel like sometimes, he is not always there. Going into new environments can be scary and may make certain people not want to jump right in and that is totally understandable, I normally feel that way when I’m entering into a new environment. I normally do not go to other churches besides my own, unless if I’m with someone in my family or a close friend who attends a different church than I do. I’ve come to grow well in my own church community, and I am now close friends with a lot of members of my church. I find that

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being around other Christians is important because it helps not only you, but it also helps the other people because you learn from each other and you help each other grow. According to Dawn Morton, “Community is valued in the Wesleyan Holiness tradition, as it is in community that we serve Christ. We learn, grow, and serve together so that we might impact our world” (Morton, 430). As Foster puts it, “…we invite others to travel the journey with us. Such persons become both companions and mentors. They provide us with discernment, counsel, and encouragement. Often we are too close to our own training plan to see what we are overachieving and setting in and we need encouragement to venture out into the depths” (Foster). Sometimes we cannot get through everything alone, we need guidance from others and we also need guidance from God. We may be living in a dysfunctional world, but with the holiness tradition on our side, we can live a good life and live our lives out fully.

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Church Visit Paper (Holiness Tradition). (2019, Nov 27). Retrieved from

Church Visit Paper (Holiness Tradition)
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