OUR CONNECTION MATTERS
I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. (Jeremiah 29:11, The Message)
Faith, mighty faith, the promise sees, and looks to God alone; laughs at impossibilities, and cries, “It shall be done.” - Charles Wesley
The time we are in as a church can seem very stressful. There is a called General Conference quickly approaching at which we, as a church, will try to discern a path through what, to some, feels like a wilderness. Our goal is a future where all can focus on the work of making disciples. We are uncertain what that future will look like. It is easy to become discouraged as we worry over what might or might not happen to our great denomination.
In Matthew 19, we find the story of the rich young ruler who wanted to know what he had to do to get to heaven. As Jesus watched him walk away in disappointment over Jesus’ answer to that question, the following conversation took place:
As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.” The disciples were staggered. “Then who has any chance at all?” Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.” (Matthew 19:23-25, The Message)
The message of that last verse is very similar to a verse we often quote, Jeremiah 29:11. In both, God states very clearly that he’s in control, he has a plan, and we can trust him to take care of things.
Over the last few days, I have witnessed many signs of God’s presence. Connectional Ministries is hosting a Leadership Tour, teaching classes for church leaders. We’ve completed two of the four stops on the tour. On each of the last two Sunday afternoons, leaders who are concerned about the future of the church have gathered to learn more about what it means to be a leader in our church. Their enthusiasm and love for the church is clearly expressed. I find hope for the future in their willingness to serve.
We have many folks already registered for the upcoming Lay Servant training sessions. These are church leaders who want to know more about the church and how to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others. We have people asking when the next Certified Lay Ministry class will begin. They are excited about being with others as, together, they learn more about leading congregations in The United Methodist Church.
We have 85 churches that have experienced an increase in worship attendance at a time when most churches are living with decline. More people have turned in paperwork to the Board of Ordained Ministry this year than in the past several years, as they ask to continue the process toward ordination.
Any one of these signs individually might not be very convincing, but all these together tell me that God is not done with us yet. We have laity who want to grow in leadership to be better equipped to lead into the future that God has planned for us. We have people answering God’s call to ministry. We have churches reaching out to their communities and finding folks to respond to their invitations to come and know Jesus. These are amazing signs of hope and of the future that God has in store for us.
I love these words from Charles Wesley: faith sees the promise and laughs at impossibilities, not because of anything you or I might be able to do, but because of all that God is able to do.
Let’s remember those words as we live through the coming weeks and months. God himself has said: “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”
Dr. Nita Crump serves as Director of Connectional Ministries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.