In the Heart of the Connection

9/18/2017

FOCUS ON THE VISION
MATT WOODBERY, JR.


“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5, NRSV

This column is being written in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Although the damage was not catastrophic for most of us, it has left many homes damaged, businesses hurt, and lives disrupted. Recovery will take months and years for many, more than likely. As usual, the most vulnerable of our communities suffer the most. Thanks be to God for the dozens of volunteers from United Methodist churches across our Conference who have committed time, money, food, and dry goods providing immediate needs and lasting hope to those most affected by the storm!

It has been a blessing to observe and learn the depth and breadth of love in action in the people called Methodist across the South Georgia Connection. Our Connectional Ministries staff are collecting many “Alive, Together, In Christ” sightings and have been reporting those in our social media outlets and this issue of the Advocate. God has indeed moved in mighty ways through the hands and feet of those called to serve our communities!

One of the observations I have gained during the preparation for this storm is watching many churches discovering, or maybe re-discovering, methods of reaching out to the communities around them in new and often profound and timely ways. You may have heard the term “missional;” that is, seeking active ministries in and around the communities where the church is located and offering Christ through active and relevant ministries that meet real human needs, both practical and spiritual, temporal and eternal.

Instead of looking at the mission field as being only overseas (and that is still a vital and urgent ministry of The United Methodist Church), the church is considered to be oriented toward being missional when it discerns and organizes for opportunities to apply the same sense of mission to serve those in their neighborhoods, towns, and counties.

I have noticed that many congregations have made this discovery under the urgency of an impending mega-storm. Many congregations asked, “How can we help those people evacuating from Florida and the Georgia coast? What would my family need if we had to leave everything?” Many churches were thinking creatively as they assessed the assets and resources available and applying them to the congregation’s vision for being an agent for hope and transformation in their communities for the time of need. Some realized they had much and offered much. Others realized they had little, but offered what they could in thoughtful and loving ways. Such innovation is exciting and inspirational!

But under the old maxim of “don’t let a perfectly good disaster go to waste,” let me encourage all those heroic churches who heard the call to rise to the occasion to not lose the spark of inspiration and innovation to be a missional church—why wait for a disaster to hit to open your doors to strangers in need? There are needs in all our communities that are perpetual and urgent. Partnering with fellow churches and religious organizations, governmental agencies, and other non-profit groups to meet those constant needs can help to reinforce the discovered—or re-discovered—since of mission and ministry in your churches.

May we all be on the lookout for how God continues to move in mighty ways through our service in response to God’s love for us. In so doing, we become alive, together in Christ. That’s how disciples are made and the world transformed!

From the heart of the Connection,
Matt

Rev. Dr. Jerry Maddox (Matt) Woodbery, Jr. serves as Director of Connectional Ministries. Email him at matt@sgaumc.com.