For my final RIOM (Residency In Ordained Ministry) meeting, I was asked to write my vision for the United Methodist Church. I’m not sure if this is vision, but when I sat down to compose my thoughts about the church, the following is what proceeded:
The mission statement at Denver UMC is “providing exciting opportunities to experience Christian love, spiritual growth, and outreach to everyone.” So what does this mean? This means that when someone walks into Denver UMC, he or she will not feel as though he or she is stepping back in time. When Paul used contemporary Roman poetry to reach the people to whom he was speaking, he was trying to connect the people around him to Christ using almost any means available.
The lives of the Americans we serve are so ridiculously complicated and calendars are completely packed, leaving little time for disciplines or reflection. So we say: “you want to do something, great!” “You don’t want to do something, great!” No rigidity or complexities that church is well known for. Also, we are not experts. We don’t have a hold on worship (for which there is not just a single Biblical mandate), discipleship, or even outreach (for which there is not just a single Biblical mandate). Instead, we are flawed humans who often get it wrong and make mistakes, but God’s Grace and Mercy is infinitely bigger than any mistake we make. As we get closer to where Christ calls us (some use the language of Perfection), we see how further we have to go. Do you hear that? If I look back, then I have the opportunity to say, “Hey, look at how much better I’m doing,” but if I keep my eyes on the Cross and on the needs of the world, then I tend to say, “I’ve got a lot of work to do both within myself and within this world.” Of course the work is that of the Holy Spirit. I just have to be the vessel.
Read, read, read…and then read…and then do. There’s a reason why pupil or disciple is the root for discipline. What do we have in common and how do we know how to act or speak if not for Scripture? Let the Word break you to the point of action. At the same time, we are often so educated above obedience to the Word that it ends up being meaningless even though we can tell you the historical and cultural context as well speak it in three different languages. Education does not grow the church. Passion grows the church. Sacrifice grows the church. Love and Unity grow the church. Knowing that the Grace of God has completely consumed you grows the church. Maybe we should start with something as simple as this: what does Scripture say? What does it say? Do you know? If not, then you should probably at least start with the words of Christ, just as Christ is the root word for Christian (a name we so easily put on).
With all of this, I love structure, I love administration, I love numbers. The vision is the dream, the ideals, the black & white of God’s Word. The local church is the reality on earth on how this all mixes together through imperfect people. Those who are most faithful and successful in their callings are those who can best merge the two; an intangible vision and a tangible method to see that vision come to fruition…for which the root word is fruit, which is what we are supposed to produce and for what we will be judged as the called.
The Methodist Church is an institution. Institutions come and go, but people remain and life is about people. Life is about people.