At the Table: Conversations with the Bishop, Hospitality & Virtual Tools Trainings

High five and five fruitful practices

3/15/2021

OUR CONNECTION MATTERS
ALLISON LINDSEY

“No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5

I have spring fever! As I write this outside in the breezy 70-degree warmth of the sun, I am beginning to see buds on my fig trees open up, displaying small green leaves, and I anticipate the fruit we will enjoy in the months ahead. 

The image of the vineyard Jesus shares in John 15 is rooted in the foundation and the connection of bearing kingdom fruit. First, we remain in Christ (the vine) and Christ works in us and through us to bear fruit and be a witness in this world. There is another word I tune into in this scripture: branches. It is plural and certainly applies to each of us individually as Christians, but what if we visualize our local churches being branches and other conferences throughout our connection making up these branches. The vine connects us all and enables and empowers us to bear fruit both individually and collectively! 

Highlighting and sharing the fruit our churches are bearing inspires me. In this edition of the Advocate, Kara Witherow brings us an update from our partnership with the North Katanga Annual Conference and how their churches are also bearing much fruit. The funds South Georgia allocated are being used for mission and ministry. How exciting it is to see the impact and the fruit this generosity is bearing! 

As I think about kingdom fruit, this brought to mind Bishop Robert Schnase’s book, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. Reflecting on my two trips to the Congo and witnessing the fruit of this ministry, I want to take a moment to share a few thoughts around the five practices from this book:

  • Radical Hospitality: Those from South Georgia who were part of the 2019 team* to the Congo will enthusiastically share the radical hospitality found in all the places we visited in the North Katanga Conference. Crowds gathered in each location, and the very best was prepared for us everywhere we went. It truly is a humbling experience to feel so welcomed and embraced. (Team members: Nita Crump, Allison Lindsey, Paula Lewis, Christi Bandy, Joseph Carter, Lee Pettis.) 
  • Passionate Worship: While in the Congo I saw firsthand how the music and the choirs of the different churches are an incredible part of every worship experience. Singing and dancing, passionate preaching, and responding to God’s word highlights the energy. And the places of worship are packed with children peering in all the windows and doorways to be part of what is happening within. The money you provided for church development is creating and improving spaces for worship and ministry. 
  • Intentional Faith Development: In Kara’s article, you will read about the training that has been developed to pour into and empower women. Our partnership made this possible. The North Katanga Conference is also very intentional with their church plant model, which I feel models John Wesley’s movement in social holiness. When they begin to establish a church, they build a water well to meet the greatest need in the areas. As people travel for miles to collect clean drinking water, they see the cross and flame and begin to ask who the Methodists are who are meeting these needs. Then the Living Water is shared with the people. I invited you to watch this short clip from an interview with Bishop Mande Muyombo, the resident Bishop in North Katanga, as he shared how they pave the way for the Holy Spirit to do the work. Watch here
  • Risk-Taking Mission and Service: The creativity for innovative ministry in the North Katanga Conference is inspiring. A few examples of this that South Georgia is partnering to make possible is the development of fish ponds at the Kamisamba Farm for training and sustainable food sources and the Kamina Children’s Home. The Children’s Home repurposed their school building for a business center the youth there manage. These youth came there as children but as young adults are learning about entrepreneurship and transitioning to living on their own. We are helping to make this happen!
  • Extravagant Generosity: The commitment and service of the leaders and members of the churches in North Katanga is indeed extravagant. They give of their time and talent in sharing the good news of the gospel, they practice social holiness, and they even make their own bricks to build their churches. I am thankful also for the extravagant generosity of our Conference in the funds given through this partnership. It is truly having an impact as we are Alive Together in Christ!
High five to these missions and ministries in the Congo for the many ways they – just like each of us – have pivoted and continued to bear fruit during a time of pandemic to be the church living out these five practices.

You, South Georgia, are a vital part of this vineyard in the North Katanga Annual Conference. We are all branches connected to the vine, and together we are bearing fruit and building the kingdom both here in South Georgia and in North Katanga. We are living out being Alive Together At The Table. What a great big table! 

The five practices in Bishop Schnase’s book provide a framework to evaluate where we see fruit in our own lives, our ministry setting, our local church, and beyond. Where do you see kingdom fruit? 

One day when we are finally together again, I’m giving you a great big high five! 

Allison Lindsey is the director of Connectional Ministries. She has a passion for the local church and its people. Contact her at allison@sgaumc.com.

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