To God be the glory. Rev Dr Steve Emery-Wright is retiring from the British Methodist ministry after 41 years of fruitful service. The image I have about Rev Dr Steve Emery-Wright as a research student at Cliff College remains one of an enthusiastic, loving, discipline, mountaineer, mentor, spirit-filled lecturer, a Methodist minister, husband and a father who is always ready to solve students’ problem. For Steve, being church or being a Christian leader is to think, lead, and teach biblically. Times do not change Bible, Bible changes and transforms times and people into true image of God. In an ambitious obsessive culture of vanity shaped by pride, ego and greed, thinking biblically nurtures personal and corporate renewal.
The one sum that can never be calculated so easily is measuring the contribution that a Christian teacher has made to a college. Steve, as a Post-graduate programme leader at Cliff College still occupies a position of great trust and love among his students most of them now charged with the responsibilities to lead other young minds into the mysteries of life in Jesus Christ in different parts of the world. Steve, your smile, teachings and friendly greetings has given many students and your church members the courage to continue on their educational and discipleship journey. Dear Steve, you helped me find my voice, sharpened my thinking and writing skills, opened academic doors, gave me needed correction and challenges at the right time.
Steve is known for his works with local and national youth programmes. In one of his books, Now that Was Worship: Hearing the Voices of Young People, Steve provides practical suggestions on how to appreciate young people’s relationship with contemporary worship. For Steve, Christian worship is about the transformation and renewal of individuals and communities, especially for the youths as they embrace Christ and direct their lives, thinking, and culture toward God. In another book, Thinking Biblically about Sex, a study that looks at both culture and biblical theology, Steve suggests ‘the range of ways in which churches and youth ministries can provide a context for healthy engagement in the issues for young people.’ Steve is a leading voice for biblical thinking in order to reorient the youth to serve the purpose of personal transformation.
In an age and culture when and where Christianity is increasingly changing, challenging, and declining, Steve’s voice is needed. Charles Taylor in his book ‘A Secular Age,’ traced the phenomenon of secularisation since the Reformation and the beginning of modernity. Taylor examines some aspects of modernity which we call secular in relation to ‘a series of new departures, in which earlier form of religious life have been dissolved or destabilized and new ones have been created.’ According to Taylor, ‘today’s secular world is characterised not by absence of religion – although in some societies religious belief and practice have markedly declined – but rather by the continuing multiplication of new options, religious, spiritual, and anti-religious, which individuals and groups seize on in order to make sense of their lives and give shape to their spiritual aspirations.’ The question is, are those spiritual aspirations in relation to the spiritual practices shaped by thinking biblically?
There is something supremely biblical about thinking right thoughts. Apostle Paul’s message to the believers in Philippi resonates with Steve’s idea about biblical thinking today. Apostle Paul wrote, “Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). Whatever occupies a person’s thinking will eventually work its way out in words or actions (Matt 5:28; 15:19; Mk 7:21; Lk 6:45). Paul follows the challenge to “think on these things” by telling believers to “do” these things. The qualities and character traits listed in this verse will lead to healthy thought patterns that will be shown in a life of moral purity and spiritual fitness. Steve’s idea of thinking biblically is about the Bible as the place Christians, especially the youth look to shape our sex worldview. Thinking biblically points to ‘a process of developing a worldview that is shaped by Scripture that then interprets the world around us.’
Bad thinking leads to the death of all things good, just as Romans 8:6 tells us, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Bad thinking have destructive consequences just as culture shapes by emotions and feelings control our thinking towards disobedience to God’s command. Thinking biblically brings into captivity every though to the obedience of Jesus Christ. Thinking biblically sets our mind, feelings and emotions towards God and His purpose for us (Rom 12:1-2). Mind not set on the Scripture promotes thinking that ‘run to negative places—like complaining, anger, bitterness, envy, and lust.’ Our thinking shapes us and Provers 23:7 says it perfectly, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Except God’s shapes us, the devil will have no option (Gen 3).
Married to Lorraine, Steve has pastored churches, worked with young people and youth ministries, and lectured in the USA, New Zealand, Singapore and the UK. Steven worked as a Lecturer at Hyupsung Methodist University, Hwaseong-si, South Korea. Lorraine worked as an English Coordinator with Shin-Kwang Methodist Church, Hwaseong-si, South Korea. Steve and Lorraine served as mission partners with the Methodist Church of South Korea until October 2018. Steve, you have turned a corner in your life. Please, remember, retirement is not the end of a line. I pray for you and your family, that retirement would be a happy time, a creative time like every other stage of life. Dear Steve, as a teacher and preacher of the Word, you affects eternity and you can never tell or imagine where your influence stops.
Let me end this tribute with a blessing from Jesus’ word: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29).