Archive - August, 2012

Evangelism and Social Holiness

In my travels and reading I constantly come across the deep Methodist Conviction that Social and Personal Holiness go together.  In fact, Professor Ted Campbell (Perkins School of Theology) notes in his excellent summary Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials this conviction with the comment that the “Methodist ethos” combined “strict personal morality and progressive social morality” (see p. 96). Doctrinally this was and is(!) held together by yoking “justification” with “sanctification.”  While distinct tasks, evangelism (sharing the good news of Christ — witness, calling for conversion and repentance) and social holiness cannot be separated.  This much most modern United Methodist can heartily agree upon.

The struggle as I see it comes in the application.  We still tend to think of an either/or rather than a both/and.  Dr. Reggie McNeal (Missional Renaissance) spoke to us on how we yoke the two in our learning Summit a couple of years ago.  Recently, I received a letter from one of our pastors that spoke of how they are attempting to do so.  It’s worth sharing and commending.  I do so with Pastor Leah Hidde-Gregory’s permission.

I wanted to add that the outreach of our church is done out of social holiness.  Very few people come into our food pantry without being offered a time of prayer.  We have Bibles available to give away in both English and Spanish.   Several people have come to our church after having developed relationships with our members who volunteer at the community center.  If we are going to be in ministry out of a love for Jesus Christ, then we need to tell others about our motivation.   If I were to eat at a great new restaurant, I would tell my friends.   If I watched a great new television show, I would tell someone.   It only stands to reason, that when we encounter the Risen Christ and experience transformational events on our faith journey, we cannot help but sing God’s glory   (Rev. Leah Hidde-Gregory, Pastor Frost-Italy Charge, email 02-23-12).

Last Sunday worshipping at Genesis, Rev. Ginger Watson shared a similar story of how neighbors invited people to an open house and graciously shared a witness about their church and ministry (which is not United Methodist).  Both remind me of the critical need to explicitly connect (or should I say reconnect evangelism and social holiness).

Wrestling with Theology

Thirty years the pastor of a local church, I lived out of the conviction that the pastor should be the resident theologian of his/her appointed community of faith (local faith).  Being elected bishop has not in any way changed that conviction.  To the contrary it has strengthened it.

I found in my own life that it was so easy to get lost in reading books on the church and its life that I could drift away from cardinal theological insights and the deep, spiritually rich doctrines of the church.  With the best of intentions, it was (and is!) easy to exist on a diet lacking the nourishment of the faith’s great teachings.  It is a bit like someone who constantly partakes of starches and ends up battling scurvy due to lack of vitamin C.

Over the years a part of my personal prescription has been to make sure that I spend some time reading deep theological works.  Often I try to include at least one in my summer reading list.  This summer I have read Alister McGrath’s Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth.  Alongside of that stimulating work (McGrath is a longtime Oxford University Professor now at the University of London), I’ve read Ross Douthat’s Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.  (Ben Disney put me on to this challenging book.  Douthat is an op-ed columnist for the New York Times.)  The two works have stimulated my thinking about what it is we must lift high and the critical relationship between doctrine and the health of the larger Christian movement.  Both are worth the reading.

Now I am folding in the dough of doctrine, heresy and culture a further work.  Professor Ted Campbell of Perkins School of Theology wrote a basic primer on Methodist Doctrine (entitled Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials a little over a decade ago.  It is been such a popular seller that now it has been reprinted in a revised edition.  As I read through Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials, I am reminded again of those core convictions that led me to Methodism in the first place.  It makes a third stimulating conversation partner in the dialog.

One of our major strategies for the transformation of the United Methodist Church in the Central Texas Conference is the recovery of a truly Wesleyan Theology and Spirituality.  Dr. Campbell will be leading our Cabinet retreat on September 11th as we dig deeper.  Whatever the future holds, we must live out of core convictions that lift high the gospel.  Paul put right, “But you need to remain well established and rooted in faith and not shift away from the hope given in the good news that you heard. This message has been preached throughout all creation under heaven. And I, Paul, became a servant of this good news” (Colossians 1:23).

The Challenge of Focus

The invitation came (I think from God) while standing at an entrance to the famous Pike Place Market in Seattle. I was taking a picture of a coffee shop across the street with a long line outside its door waiting to be served. A young man (early to mid-30s) approached me with a friendly smile and said, “Hey, how come everyone is trying to get into that Starbucks and why are you and others taking a picture of it?”

“Because” I replied, “that’s the original Starbucks.  But, there is no way I am waiting through that long a line.”

We both laughed and then he said, “I really like your shirt.” I had forgotten that I was wearing a shirt with the Kairos Prison Ministry logo on it. Somewhat surprised, I replied, “It’s a great ministry.” Enthusiastically he responded that he agreed and had been involved in Kairos himself. A conversation ensued in which we shared where we were from and where we were headed. I asked him if he knew any churches my wife and I might visit the next day for worship. He recommended Mars Hill Downtown site.

For those of you who don’t know, Mars Hill Church (named for the site of Paul’s sermon in Athens found in Acts 17) is a multi-site (14) independent Bible church. The theology is more Calvinist and hard-core evangelical than I embrace, but the ministry is vibrant and courageous in the way it engages the city.  Somehow, I heard God inviting me to attend in the stranger’s recommendation.

The next morning, Sunday morning, Jolynn and I checked out of our hotel and stopped to worship at Mars Hill Downtown Seattle. It was full of young couples. There was great ethnic and economic diversity. The welcome was gracious and the worship vibrant, but what caught our attention was a special announcement that came about a third of the way through the service in which one of the pastors shared the story of a great church in the heart of Seattle.

In 1908, that church dedicated a marvelous huge sanctuary at the heart of the city. At one time, the church in the story was one of the largest on the West Coast. But gradually, as the Mars Hill pastor put it, they got busy with other things and drifted away from offering Christ. According to the speaker, amid many good things, they lost a focus on Christ and slowly the congregation dwindled to a few and then relocated.

The great sanctuary was turned into a Music Hall for the city and renamed Daniels Recital Hall. Now, with the support of city officials, it is being reclaimed for its original purpose – to proclaim Christ and share the gospel of God’s love, grace and salvation. The pastor called it a “replanting.”

“We believe that we are called to serve our city, love our neighbors, and be as active as possible so people see good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven,” says Mark Driscoll, preaching pastor at Mars Hill Church, making a reference to Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:16 from the famous Sermon on the Mount. “We are looking forward to having a building that allows the Downtown Seattle church body so much room to grow. We hope to fill it with people who love Jesus and love Seattle.”

The words “they lost focus and drifted away from offering Christ as their mission” (my paraphrase of what was said) haunted me. Somehow, I think God was speaking to me. They are words that can apply to many churches from a variety of denominational backgrounds. I’ve seen it happen in our area. Without meaning to, we can turn inward and lose sight of our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  I don’t know if this was the case of that original church in Seattle. The name of the original church?  First United Methodist Church of Seattle.

Carefully, oh so carefully and with due honor, I did a “Google search” and found a great website sharing the current ministry of First UMC Seattle. They relocated and it appears to be engaged in a wonderful ministry. God clearly had new plans for them. I celebrate the current mission and ministry of both First UMC, Seattle and Mars Hill Downtown, Seattle.

For me, there was word of warning and admonition that day. Don’t lose focus. Don’t drift away from the primary mission of sharing Christ. Whatever else we do, this needs to stay at the center of what we are about. Paul’s words must inhabit our interior being and drive our outreaching ministry. “Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in His death so that everyone could also be included in His life – a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.” (II Corinthians 5:14-15, The Message)

The Importance of the Both/And

Recent reports on the state of the United Methodist Church in the United States shared data of continued decline.  However, the news wasn’t all bad. There are signs of the Holy Spirit’s presence and work throughout the church.  Significantly, the work of new church development is a central part of that effort.

An August 17th article in The United Methodist Reporter chronicled the story of two conferences where there is growth and vitality.  “Leaders in both New Jersey and Kentucky have embraced an adage from church-planting circles that it’s easier to make babies than to raise the dead. ‘You don’t grow an annual conference by trying to revitalize existing churches,’ Bishop Davis said. ‘I think some can be revitalized. But I don’t think we’ll ever revitalize enough churches to reverse the attendance and membership trends that we’ve seen over the last several decades.’  In Kentucky, the conference has started 15 new churches over the past four years. Bishop Davis said the conference allocates $1 million of its $9 million annual budget for planting churches.  In New Jersey, where less than 60 percent of the state’s population is white, much of that conference’s growth has come from reaching out to new or recent immigrant communities as well as Anglo communities, said Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar” (The United Methodist Reporter, August 17, 2012).

I am convicted that vital faithfulness/fruitfulness is a both/and proposition.  New church development is critical.  The Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, and especially the United Methodist branch of the church universal, will not show a net growth without new church development.  (Furthermore, Kentucky is financially supporting new church development about 3X as much as Central Texas!).  Acts 13 reports on this central initiative of evangelism, witness and faith sharing.

At the same time, what the article calls revitalization is also critical.  I vastly prefer the term transformation to revitalization or renewal.  In faithfulness, we are not trying to “re” anything.  We are not trying to go back to some idealized past.  Rather transformation leads us on the God’s great mission, the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world (Matthew 28:16-20), into a new future.  This is why we have such an emphasis on the Healthy Church Initiative and the Small Church Initiative in the Central Texas Conference.  Both/and – new churches and the transformation of existing congregations – is the way into God’s new future!

School for Congregational Development

After a couple of wonderful week of vacation (seeing family members and hiking in Olympic National Park), I came back to CTC refreshed and ready to go! I am truly thankful to God and to you, the greater Central Texas Conference family, in being reappointed for another 4 years.

I was in the office and back at work for about 5 days (including a wonderful Sunday worship experience at First UMC, Hurst) before it was time to go again! As I write this blog, I am in St. Louis teaching at the School for Congregational Development on Emerging Trends in New Church Development. (I fly home tomorrow.)

It is exciting to see the creative wonderful outreach in both new and existing congregations as they reach out and offer Christ through the Holy Spirit in love, justice and mercy. It is “Praise God!” time to embrace our newest new faith community — a French language worship at Richland Hills UMC!  As a part of my own presentation, I shared the core reasons for why we start new churches:

1. To faithfully respond to Christ’s command to “go and make disciples.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

2. So that the next generation will be Christian!

3. New churches reach new groups of people—new immigrants, those turned off from conventional church, those seeking a different style and form of worship, etc.

4. Seekers and explorers are often more attracted to starting on the ground floor as pioneers.

5. Men are more likely to be attracted to a new church start.

6. Reach people with the gospel in a new location.

7. Spread a faithful Wesleyan theological perspective of the Christian faith that combines evangelism (converting people to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ) and social holiness (the ministries of love, justice and mercy).

8. Existing churches are motivated to transformation/renewal efforts by the establishment of new churches in their community.

9. Denominations as a whole are “renewed as the percentage of new churches in their total numbers of churches increase.” (see Rekindling the Mainline by Steve Compton)

A friend of mine recently reflected on the incredible performance of American Olympian Gabby Douglas in winning two gold medals, one for the gymnastics team competition and one for the individual all-around. She had put her faith on display when she said, “I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to Him and the blessings fall down on me.” Yet the explosion in the world of social media focused on her hair.

Something like that often takes place in our society. Amid all the rancor and clamor, the church of Jesus Christ is doing some great things in faithfulness to the Lord. We are privileged with the blessing of sharing the Good News!

Guest blog: Schnase’s Jurisdictional Address, Part 4

At the recently concluded South Central Jurisdiction Conference, Bishop Robert Schnase gave the Episcopal Address on behalf of the College of Bishops. At the five Jurisdictional Conferences I have attended (since 1996), I have had the privilege of hearing many outstanding Episcopal addresses.  This address was at the very top of an excellent class!  Parts are reprinted in a series of five blog postings with Bishop Schnase’s permission while I am on vacation. – Bishop Mike Lowry

Episcopal Address

South Central Jurisdictional Conference

July 19, 2012

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Robert Schnase, Bishop ©

Part IV – What’s Next (Our Hope)

We are hopeful about how the conversation has fundamentally changed from even a few years ago, and that we are talking more about mission of the church and focused more on the vitality of congregations.…

We need to continue to learn, to experiment, to innovate. Change in the United Methodist Church is going to happen one person at a time, one congregation at a time, one conference at a time. Change in the church is will happen horizontally as we learn from another, not vertically or from the top.

And so, we bring the conversation back to our local congregations and Annual Conferences.

How do we increase the number of vital congregations that make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?
How do we reform clergy systems to focus on fruitfulness in service to Christ?
How do we streamline systems in congregations and conferences, and eliminate systems that are no longer conducive to our mission?
How do we explore new ways to reach next generations with the gift and demand of God’s grace?

We’re clear that there are no short term fixes and no magic formulas. Conference restructuring and changes in the Book of Discipline will not reverse the trends by themselves. But in the long term, it matters how we address issues of clergy recruitment, training, deployment, and accountability. It matters how we realign our resources to start new congregations, develop ways to interrupt decline, and help congregations focus on their mission fields. It matters that our leaders focus on the right questions and deal with issues relevant to our mission around the globe. It matters that we connect our money to our mission. It matters that we leave a legacy to the next generation, not of complex & impenetrable rules and ineffective systems, but of a church that is clear about its mission and confident about its future, and which is responsive and engaged with the world for the purposes of Christ.

Friends, I along with my colleague Bishops, are committed to focusing on vital congregations. As long as we have breath and serve this role you have entrusted to us, we are going to do all we can to focus on the ministry of Christ through fruitful congregations. The basic focus of the Call to Action is true, and we will do all we can to explore new ways forward and to leave behind the ways that do not serve the present age.

I speak on behalf of all my colleagues when I say that it is a joy and privilege to serve as a Bishop in the South Central Jurisdiction, and I give God thanks for every one of you and for all you do for the purposes of the Christ and for the United Methodist Church.

 (The full text of Bishop Schnase address may be found at gntv.info/live/scj2)

Guest Blog: Schnase’s Jurisdictional Address, Part 3b

At the recently concluded South Central Jurisdiction Conference, Bishop Robert Schnase gave the Episcopal Address on behalf of the College of Bishops. At the five Jurisdictional Conferences I have attended (since 1996), I have had the privilege of hearing many outstanding Episcopal addresses.  This address was at the very top of an excellent class!  Parts are reprinted in a series of five blog postings with Bishop Schnase’s permission while I am on vacation. – Bishop Mike Lowry

Episcopal Address

South Central Jurisdictional Conference

July 19, 2012

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Robert Schnase, Bishop ©

Part IIIb – What Are We Working On? (continued)

We’re learning many things through this era of exploration and experimentation:

First, we’re learning the importance of a Culture of Learning. While they go by different names, nearly every conference has initiated some level of high quality self-directed, peer learning for clergy, such as Pastoral Leadership Development Groups, Incubator, Abide, Center for Pastoral Effectiveness, Living, Leading, Developing, Clusters, or Clergy Leadership Initiative. District Superintendents and Bishops from across the Jurisdiction participate in peer learning groups sponsored by Texas Methodist Foundation as well as trainings offered through Duke Divinity School and the Board of Discipleship.

Some conferences have initiated Lay Leadership Development groups or other forms of laity-teaching-laity, or laity and pastors learning together.

Through these and other programs, conferences have taken up the mantle of practical education focused on leadership rather than merely complaining that this is not being taught elsewhere.

A culture of learning is not the only key to a future with hope, but it’s an essential element. It’s impossible to imagine how our churches and leaders can possibly adapt to the changing mission field around us without an active culture of learning at every level of leadership.

Second, we’ve learned the importance of focusing on Clergy Excellence and Accountability.  Every conference is re-examining to some degree the methods of supervision and evaluation at every level, and moving toward a greater emphasis on fruitfulness and outcomes and impacts.  We’re moving from credentialing systems that operate with the default of “if you have completed all the requirements and have done nothing egregious, then you will be approved” to a default of “you will likely not be approved unless you demonstrate extraordinary fruitfulness in ministry.”

As a College of Bishops, we’ve realized that for accountability to strengthen clergy to greater fruitfulness for the mission of Christ, we also must open ourselves to evaluation, to invite it and to welcome it. We brought all this up, and over the last several years nearly every active Bishop has initiated, with his or her Conference Episcopacy Committee, some plan for evaluation and feedback. Some of these have been extensive and exhaustive. And we’ve invited the Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee to explore forms of evaluation and feedback. As you know, this is new territory, and as I look at some of the conflict and hurt and confusion of the last few months in our Jurisdiction, I personally feel that we’re experiencing the pain of changing systems and changing expectations. On the one hand, everyone in this room agrees on the need for accountability at all levels of church leadership. On the other hand, the language and construct of accountability is so new to church life that we don’t have all the systems or processes yet that feel trustworthy to everyone, that are consistent, clear, reliable, and widely-agreed upon. These are necessary conversations that our experience has not prepared us for, and that the Book of Discipline never anticipated. To navigate this new terrain with faithfulness and fairness requires extraordinary care, patience, and love so that what we do and how we do it is for the good of the church and in the Spirit of Christ.

Third, we’ve learned the importance of Starting New Congregations and Transforming Existing Congregations. Our conferences are starting new congregations at a faster pace and with greater success rates during the last eight years than we have since decades ago.

According to the most recent report from Path 1, the South Central Jurisdiction is starting more than all other jurisdictions.5

New congregations reach younger people. They reach more diverse populations. They are better at reaching the unchurched. Starting new congregations are critical to any strategy for our mission in the future.

And we’re exploring many new models for starting new congregations. Fifteen years ago, we had two or three models for doing so. Now there are a dozen or more approaches to starting new congregations. For example, we’re encouraging large congregations to help start new congregations using second-site models, starting churches across conference lines and across jurisdictional boundaries. We’re restarting churches in facilities where other churches have closed, using legacy churches and heritage churches that are located in areas we need to reach.   We’re starting churches utilizing remote video and with cooperative arrangements between existing congregations.

And our conferences are experimenting with new congregational intervention systems for transforming existing congregations that have reached a plateau, or grown older than the community they serve, or faced decline but who still have the people resources to turn things around. Many conferences have seen positive results through the Healthy Church Initiative, Holy Conversations, I/Thou, or models based on Paul Borden’s work on how judicatories strengthen congregations.

Fourth, we’re learning the importance of Outward-Focused Ministry. As soon as an organization begins to exist more for the benefit of the insiders than for the outsiders, it begins to die. Across our jurisdictions, we’re seeing more and more global partnerships forming, congregation to congregation and conference to conference, directly and with little superstructure. In this new “flat world” (as Thomas Friedman would call it), relationships of service and mission form directly, often with minimal support or involvement from conference or general agencies, and this new form of global partnership is redefining the nature of connectionism for the 21st century.

Our Jurisdiction provides hundreds of Volunteers in Mission teams each year for service within our area and for work around the world. We continue to help each other rebuild after hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and fires. And local outreach thrives as churches engage their communities with faithfulness and service. Funding for UMCOR from our conferences continues to grow, and most of our conferences have launched campaigns for Imagine No Malaria to eliminate this killer disease in sub-Sahara Africa.

Fifth, we’ve learned the importance of developing a Common Language to help lead our conferences and congregations and to direct our attention toward our most essential work. Nearly every conference has worked to identify critical expectations, practices, or values that provide a common language that unifies and emboldens churches, such as Fruitfulness, Excellence, Radical Hospitality, Extravagant Generosity, Spirit-driven, or a host of others. These words provide a powerful means of connecting people in a large complex organization to our common mission in Christ.

Sixth, we’re learning the importance of Collaborative Partnerships. Most of our conferences are working more closely with their conference foundations to focus energies and resources toward congregational vitality and leadership development. Our seminaries, St. Paul School of Theology and Perkins School of Theology, as well as many of our United Methodist colleges and universities are working with conferences and congregations through cooperative programs to support the practice of ministry. And our own Lydia Patterson Institute continues to play a pivotal role for leadership development for the future.

 (The full text of Bishop Schnase address may be found at gntv.info/live/scj2)

Guest Blog: Schnase’s Jurisdictional Address, Part 3a

At the recently concluded South Central Jurisdiction Conference, Bishop Robert Schnase gave the Episcopal Address on behalf of the College of Bishops. At the five Jurisdictional Conferences I have attended (since 1996), I have had the privilege of hearing many outstanding Episcopal addresses.  This address was at the very top of an excellent class!  Parts are reprinted in a series of five blog postings with Bishop Schnase’s permission while I am on vacation. – Bishop Mike Lowry

Episcopal Address

South Central Jurisdictional Conference

July 19, 2012

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Robert Schnase, Bishop ©

Part IIIa – What Are We Working On?

It’s been an extraordinary quadrennium for the South Central Jurisdiction.

We’ve seen a remarkable and growing convergence around several critical areas as all of our conferences have begun to experiment and explore common leverage points for change, reversing decline, and moving toward more vital congregations and more fruitful ministry.4 For instance, nearly all of our conferences in recent years have initiated focused work on Leadership Development, Congregational Transformation, New Church Starts, Changing Conference Staff Roles, Extended Cabinet Development, the Role of Laity as Active Learning Partners, the Use of Common Language, the Search for a Decision-Making Center. (Those who know Gil Rendle will recognize this language to describe the efforts by many of our conferences to develop effective leadership teams in conferences amidst the diffuse leadership structures most conferences have inherited.)  All of this means we are having a fundamentally different conversation about leadership and mission than we were having 10 years ago. And nearly all our conferences have experimented with Reduced Districts, Realignment of Structures, Reduction of Costs, Use of Metrics, Recasting Leadership Roles such as those of superintendents and lay leaders. And we’ve identified more clearly some of the challenges that make this difficult: Restrictive Polity that is not conducive to our mission and limits local contextual response; the unfruitful notion that Meetings are Ministry; the Need for Financial Re-Set; and Difficulty in Reaching Next Generations. But the most fundamental shift we’ve seen across the jurisdiction is a renewed Focus on Congregations as most critical arena for our work.

What also makes this time different from ten years ago is a greater sense of urgency about our task and a developing culture of experimentation in our conferences. We’re learning a great deal together. Our conferences have discovered that there are certain essential tasks which annual conferences must do with excellence or the church will continue to decline. Conferences must focus on congregational development (starting new congregations and reversing decline in existing congregations) and pastoral excellence (recruiting, preparing, deploying, and evaluating clergy), or else they fail in their mission of leading congregations to lead people to active faith in Jesus Christ, and so we’ve seen the majority of our conferences reorganize around those tasks.

We’re learning many things through this era of exploration and experimentation

 (The full text of Bishop Schnase address may be found at gntv.info/live/scj2)

 

Guest Blog: Schnase’s Jurisdictional Episcopal Address, Part 2

At the recently concluded South Central Jurisdiction Conference, Bishop Robert Schnase gave the Episcopal Address on behalf of the College of Bishops. At the five Jurisdictional Conferences I have attended (since 1996), I have had the privilege of hearing many outstanding Episcopal addresses.  This address was at the very top of an excellent class!  Parts are reprinted in a series of five blog postings with Bishop Schnase’s permission while I am on vacation. – Bishop Mike Lowry

Episcopal Address

South Central Jurisdictional Conference

July 19, 2012

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Robert Schnase, Bishop ©

Part II – What We Do

The United Methodist Church makes disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The most significant arena in which this takes place is congregations. We fulfill the mission of Christ through faith communities that change lives, so that God can use those changed lives to change the world. In fact, it’s really at the margins of the congregations, where those who belong to the community of Christ interact with those who do not belong to the community of Christ where we fulfill our mission, through service and justice ministries and through invitational ministries. It’s where the 1.7 million United Methodists of our Jurisdiction engage our 49 million neighbors that we fulfill our mission.

Annual Conferences exist to lead congregations to lead people to active faith in Jesus Christ. Congregations do not exist to support conferences; rather, annual conferences exist to start and strengthen congregations and to develop the leadership streams to make them fruitful. John Wesley did not established congregations so that one day he would have a conference; he established the practice of conferencing in order to strengthen and deepen the ministries of faith communities. Annual Conferences are one or two steps removed from the front lines of our mission; and yet their work provides the leadership resources and the connections to multiply the work of Christ. …

The risk when we gather for Jurisdictional Conference, so far removed from the front lines of our mission, is that we lose sight of our task. How do we make decisions, about leadership and assignment, about aligning and strengthening conferences, that foster an increase in the number of vital congregations that reach people for the purposes of Christ? That’s our work together this week: to talk one another into greater boldness for Christ, to remember that it’s not about us and our preferences, but about the mission God has entrusted us in Christ.

(The full text of Bishop Schnase address may be found at gntv.info/live/scj2)