GROWING IN GRACE
President John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life … those who only look to the past or the present will miss the future.”
I’m not entirely sure if President Kennedy was reflecting on his Catholic upbringing or not, but that is a very theologically astute observation. Change is the law of life with God. Transformation happens as a result of change. And God’s love calls us to continually change and grow. As good Methodists, we call this “moving on to perfection.”
In that spirit of change I want to use my column to tell you, the faithful readers and church members across South Georgia, about an amazing new thing God is doing in Savannah. This past weekend, three United Methodist congregations voted to change and merge together in order to give birth to a new church next June.
And this new church won’t be just any old church. Aldersgate, Cokesbury, and Speedwell United Methodist Churches will, over the next 10 months, transition into a new church plant made up of people from all walks of life – black, white, brown, young, old, and everybody in between. In other words, this will be a congregation that truly seeks to be a snapshot of the kingdom of God here in Savannah.
In the coming months you’ll hear and read more about this change process because we know it will be a very exciting new thing in the life of this annual conference. And Lord knows we’ve got a lot of work to do between now and June. So for today, let me share these initial thoughts:
- This is a glimpse of resurrection. Too often we say we want our churches to experience resurrection. But the trouble is, we don’t always know what we’re asking for when we say that. Resurrection doesn’t come easy. It requires a death and a period of waiting before new life emerges. And resurrection is not a return to “the glory days” of old – it’s new life. This venture is more than just a merger of three churches; it’s a bold move in discipleship to live out the process of dying and being raised into new life. I couldn’t be more proud to pastor one of the courageous churches involved.
- This is a glimpse of connectionalism. Believe it or not, connectionalism is about more than just paying apportionments and participating in an itinerant system of ministry. It’s about actually connecting and being in ministry together. Too often we see other churches as competition instead of as partners in ministry for the sake of God’s kingdom. These gutsy congregations are living into our slogan for this annual conference year by electing to say (and live), “We’re Better Together.”
- This is a glimpse of possibilities for the future of South Georgia. You don’t need me to tell you we are living in a new day as the church. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to get people into our churches to engage in ministry. Our buildings and structures are becoming more and more of a burden as resources become harder to come by. Churches are constantly stressing about money and whether or not there’s a future for their local church. All of this is why I believe we can do this sort of life-giving and life-altering thing in more places in our annual conference besides Savannah. This is the next frontier in church revitalization. God’s kingdom is on the move and it’s up to us to listen and follow where God might be leading us next – even if it’s into a new season of ministry together where we consider giving up things like buildings and names. After all, Jesus did tell us, “Those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.”
I hope you’ll be in prayer for these three churches over the next 10 months. I hope you’ll be in prayer for these amazing saints of God who are wading out into the risky waters of change for the sake of God’s kingdom here in Savannah. It won’t be easy, not in the least. But these saints are teaching me, as a pastor, that life with God was never meant to be easy.
The Rev. Ben Gosden is the senior pastor at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Savannah. He can be reached at email@example.com.