I’m feeling reflective this morning as I consider that my first year as pastor of First United Methodist Church, Monroe is coming to a close in June. I’ve always been told the first year is the “honeymoon” period for a new appointment…that everyone plays nice the first year. I suppose I’ve been blessed, but I can’t remember a time in any of my appointments when everyone didn’t “play nice.” I never felt like the honeymoon ever ended. I’m not saying everything went perfectly in every appointment, but overall, I’ve never had a bad appointment, and never encountered any issue or problem that caused me to think we needed to move. Actually, if there were problems in a congregation, they were caused by some bone-headed move on my part (I’m not the perfect pastor, remember), and not something else. Sure, there have been times of disagreement, but we’ve always worked through the issues in a manner that, I trust, grew the Kingdom (of course, I might have had my head in the sand and didn’t know it–but ignorance is bliss, as they say). I’m saying all that to say, I hope the honeymoon doesn’t end at First United Methodist Church, Monroe.
I might also be saying there is no such thing as a honeymoon period. After two years as a District Superintendent, I think it’s reasonable to say an appointment starts well and stays well, or it starts poorly and stays that way. It can happen for numerous reasons there’s no need unpacking in this venue. Suffice it to say, sometimes, the Cabinet makes a poor choice for leadership in a church. Sometimes, a church is so dysfunctional that Jesus himself couldn’t pastor the church. Other times, a pastor goes to a new appointment with the wrong attitude. But, enough about that…
I have, on numerous occasions, thanked Bishop Harvey for my appointment to First United Methodist Church, Monroe. I’ve served as a pastor, and I’ve served administratively, and I can happily say (with Bill Hybels) that the local church is the hope of the world. The local church is the place disciples are made. Districts and Annual Conferences can help the process, or they can hinder the process, but they simply aren’t equipped to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” And, I couldn’t be appointed to a healthier congregation. We are strong in terms of discipleship opportunities. We are strong in number of lay persons engaged in ministry. We have an incredibly strong staff. We are strong financially. We are blessed, and I am blessed. I try to thank the Bishop every time I see her.
I am blessed that the leadership has been very responsive in this first year to my desire to update our technology. The leadership has been very gracious (and patient) as I have shared a vision for the long-term benefits of web-casting and integrated video technology. This was not an inexpensive endeavor, but I think we are taking steps that will sustain our disciple-making capability well into the 21st Century. I’m not sure if I mark that down as an accomplishment for the first year, but I know it aids us in outreach and communication, both of which are incredibly important to the life and health of any congregation.
I do have one regret as I reflect on this first year. I regret that I haven’t had the opportunity to get to know more members of the congregation. I know a lot of names. I know a lot of faces. And, I’m learning more everyday. One of the things I’ve valued through the years of ministry has been the one on one relationships I’ve been able to develop with members of congregations I’ve served. This first year at FUMC, Monroe has been such a whirlwind that I look back and wish I would have had more lunch meetings with members. I wish I could have visited in more homes. I wish I had more time to get to know everyone better. But, then I’m reminded this is a large congregation, and we’ve got plenty of time. That excites me.
As the first year draws to a close, I pray the honeymoon doesn’t draw to a close. My prayer is the honeymoon lasts as long as we’re together. I’m just counting my blessings and giving thanks for the chance to serve such a great God, and a great congregation.
Until next time, keep looking up…