It’s early. I’m up. I’m in a dark hotel room trying not to disturb my sleeping beauty. I’ve been praying for a while. I have nothing else to do. It must be time to write. What will I write? I’ll just put down all these random thoughts I’ve been praying over early this morning.
As I write, I’m at Annual Conference. The Conference has been, well, different. Not different in a bad sort of way, just different in a different sort of way. For 24 years, I’ve made this annual trek to Shreveport (mostly), and for 24 years one was able to fairly predict what was going to take place at Annual Conference. That’s not the case this year. This is no complaint. It’s just…different. Different is good. Different pushes us to the edge of our comfort zone. Yes, there’s my confession. I’m a bit uncomfortable, but in a good sort of way. We need different. What wise sage said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Probably Mark Twain. Nah! Probably not, but he could have said it. What we’ve gotten is a forty-year decline in membership and attendance. Something needs to be different. I’m okay if we start with Annual Conference being different. Will changing Annual Conference change the direction of our denomination? Probably not. But, it won’t hurt. So, I’ll live with the different, and I’ll be uncomfortable, but that’s okay. I’m betting (no, I’m not a betting man) there a lot of other people uncomfortable, too.
I’ve also been praying about elections. Not secular elections, but elections for General and Jurisdictional Conference delegates. For those non-Methodists who might read this, General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference take place every four years, and every four years each Annual Conference must elect delegates who will represent it at the law-making gathering (General Conference) and the bishop-electing gathering (Jurisdictional Conference). We will (today, hopefully) elect four clergy delegates and four lay delegates to General Conference, and four each to Jurisdictional Conference, as well as two alternates. So, that’s twenty people who will help lead our church and whom God will use to chart a course toward faithfulness in fulfilling our mission–to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We need prayerful servants who desperately desire to hear the heart of God. We face incredibly challenging times. I’m praying the power of the Holy Spirit (this is Pentecost Season) will fill our hearts and give us discernment as we elect those who will serve us.
I’m also thinking about transitions. I watched with pride (I know, not a Christian virtue) as Chris Winterman stepped on the platform to receive his license to preach. The License to Preach is the first step along the path to ordination in the UM church, and I was blessed (that’s probably a better word than proud) to know that I’ve had a small part to play in Chris’s journey. Chris is our Minister to Students at FUMC, Monroe, and now he’ll be appointed as a full-blown associate pastor. Oh, he’ll still be leading our student ministries, but he’s simply taken another step on the journey of following God’s call.
I’m also thinking about Jonathon Bevil following God’s call to Arkansas to assume leadership of the Wesley Foundation at Arkansas Tech University. I’m blessed to have shared a portion of Jonathon’s journey over the past three years, too. He was a young man who appeared at the District Office three years in search of an appointment in the UMC. From day one, Jonathon articulated a call to ministry on the college campus. I’m blessed that I’ve been able to watch that call develop. I hope I had some small part in helping him along the way. It’s been incredible to watch that call unfold. It’s amazing how God opens doors, and how His timing is always right. I hate to see Jonathon go, but who can argue with God?
Reflecting on God’s call in Chris’s and Jonathon’s lives has prompted me to do a little soul-searching concerning God’s call on my life. I trust I’m being faithful to His call. I know this…I’m almost embarrassed to be this blessed! I’m at a great place in life and in ministry. I thank God for His blessings! I praise Him for His mercy and grace! There’s only one thought that comes to mind–“Don’t blow it!” In speaking the phrase, I might do just that. In the words of the old African-American spiritual, “We’ve come this far by faith…He’s never failed me yet!” I’ll keep singing that song for now, and as I sing, I’ll keep trusting that His timing will always be right.
I warned you these thoughts were rather random. I’m not sure how safe it is giving anyone a glimpse into such a scattered brain. Anyway, it’s time to get ready. I’ve got Annual Conference to attend.
Until next time, keep looking up…