annual conference thoughts

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“I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfill God’s creational intentions.”

Several weeks ago, Tom and I adventured to Sacramento for our first annual conference as part of the California-Nevada conference of the United Methodist Church.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect and was only there as a spectator, but it was quite an education for me. At many times, it had me praying about whether or not this was the denomination for us, especially as Tom is being asked to take on more tasks by our District Superintendent. I’ve been struggling to put my feelings into words that make sense, and I’m not sure I’m quite there yet but I need to share…

I’ve never sat in parliamentary style meetings before, much less for three days. I was at times, moved to tears and at others truly boggled by what our denomination chose to spend it’s time on.

“Get on fire for God and men will come and see you burn.” 

Our conference is in it’s fourteenth straight year of decline, and lost another 1,000 members this past year. During the three days of meetings, it was voted on to close three churches, including one that’s within 25 miles of ours. And I have to say that with each and every vote, I became physically sick to my stomach. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

I was disappointed – thoroughly – by worship. The worship leader, by all accounts incredibly talented, didn’t actually know how to lead worship.  What could have been an opportunity for hundreds of pastors to worship their God often felt more like a concert. It was just one of many ways in which I felt the denomination was out of touch.

“with all prayer (Eph. 6:18)” All sorts of prayer- public, private, mental, vocal. Do not be diligent in one kind of prayer and negligent in others… let us use all.”

I was a little surprise by the lack of prayer time. We did pray before all votes and I think there was a prayer request table, but I foudn this to be an opportunity for the leadership of the UMC to minister to it’s pastors and lay leaders that was missed.

It was an over-whelmingly gray-haired conference, from pastors to lay leaders. Tom was one of a handful of pastor’s under the age of 40, in a system that makes it nearly impossible for young pastor’s to reach the highest level of ordination due to hoops that made sense years ago…but not so much now. There is so much to be said for the wisdom that comes with age, but for a church to continue and grow youth must be reached.

I truly love the teachings of John Wesley (my favorite book on the subject), and I believe that the foundations of the Methodist church could reach so many unchurched people.

But we’re missing the target.

“Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils.  But if God be for you, who can be against you?  Are all of them together stronger than God?  O be not weary of well doing!”

The United Methodist Church, for many years, has been a church based social justice, but I believe that the non-stop push for social change without the life-changing power of the resurrected Christ is fruitless. We’ve become a church that is great at meeting personal needs while forgetting about the eternal ones.

Without the Gospel, we are nothing.

We must reclaim the biblical and spiritual basis John Wesley set forth over two hundred years ago if we are going to survive for another 200 and continue the changing work he began.

I believe, first and foremost, that the most important task of any church is to reach the community around it and attract new believers. It’s about Jesus, and if we’re not attracting new believers to Him, we have to seriously question what exactly our purpose is.

all italics are quotes of John Wesley

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