Conference is a time to which I always look forward. In the tradition of John Wesley we try to take to heart the notion of “holy conferencing.” What is that? Well, it is take seriously that we have been “set apart” (holy) to do the work of God. Even mundane tasks such as debating amendments, voting, discussing budgets, etc. can be holy times – times where we intentionally consider that the work we do here is not for ourselves but for the kingdom of God.
Of course, I also like Conference because right around the corner is a Krispy Kreme My marathon training may take a back seat for the next few days!
Our first day began with Bishop Al Gwinn giving a state of the church address. The title of his address was “Your God is Too Small.” By this he meant that the “biggest challenge for the Church today is to let God be God.” The bishop challenged us to live into the mission statement for the Annual Conference which is, “healthy churches and effective leaders in every place making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” There is much to celebrate in our churches where we see transformation taking place and passionate disciples for Jesus Christ coming together with a clear sense of purpose for their local church. There are also many challenges. In what ways will we let God be God of our lives, our relationships, our churches, our careers, our finances, our dreams, or any other area of our life?
I learned something fascinating. North Carolina is the 4th fastest growing state in the Union (behind only Utah, Arizona and Texas). We are the 10th largest state in the Union. A recent Gallup poll showed that an astonishing 70% of the people in our society (nation wide) attend church less than 6 times a year! For us in North Carolina, one of the fastest growing states, it means that more and more of our neighbors are unchurched. We live in a culture that is changing and our churches need to wake up to the reality around us or we will slowly die.
One of the efforts the United Methodist Church is putting forward to reach out to a world that is more and more “unchurched” is a new campaign called Rethink Church. I invite you to check out what this is about by going to the website by clicking HERE. Onc of the more compelling lines of this message for me is, “What if church wasn’t a place we go but something we do? What if church wasn’t a noun but a verb?” For me, this challenges us to be a church that does not just meet Sunday. Rather, we are the church all week long and come together on Sunday to share in our joys and concerns, be encouraged and nourished through our prayers, praise, offerings, hearing the Word and breaking bread together for the transformation of the world in Jesus Christ. How might we invite others to be part of this?
As we consider how to be church in a changing world, a world that is more and more “unchurched,” what will be your role? It is not a question of whether or not we are called into ministry. The question for all of us is, “Which ministry is God calling me to?”
Stay tuned for more reflections from Conference.
Grace and peace to you.