Considering Controversies

This message might be justifiably called a rant. Just so you know.

As Annual Conferences are getting underway, headlines are being made on various blogs. The gossip chains regarding who is getting appointed where have been in full swing for months. It is a voting year as the United Methodists elect delegates for Jurisdictional and General Conference.

But please tell me, what is the real controversy we are facing as a denomination and as a church? Is it regarding James Holsinger's nomination and the further heating up on the church's stated beliefs in the Book of Discipline regarding homosexuality? Is it the continuing "politification" of the church into camps defined by our voter registration cards? Is it regarding the authority of the appointed elder (be they a lead pastor or bishop)? Is it in regards to the authority of Scripture and then how it is understood (or in some instances appear to be trumped) by tradition, reason or experience)?

Or is it this, a simple question asked of both probationary and full-connection elders:

Describe the nature and mission of the Church. What are its primary tasks today?

My response (not in total) was this:

“The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ” (Book of Discipline, 87). This has not changed since Jesus spoke the words to His first disciples,

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. (MT. 28:19 & 20, NKJV)

The same tasks Jesus gave us 2000 years ago remain true for us today. Any gathering of Christians should remain on track to fulfill the call of Jesus Christ. Thomas Oden reminds us this is not a work Christians are doing on our own but it is “God working in us and through us” to redeem the world from sin and build the Kingdom of God.

When we don't agree on the mission of the church, how can we come to agreement on anything else? In considering the other controversies, this is the one which truly matters: what mission are we on and how do we achieve it?

As an elder in the North Georgia Conference, I serve in one of the fastest growing states. I serve in the fastest growing conference in the U.S. I serve in the Atlanta-Marietta District which leads the conference in professions of faith in Jesus Christ. I serve in one of the 10 churches responsible over 55% of that growth. I've also been appointed to start a church in a county which has been as high as 4th in population growth in the U.S. in recent years. I've been called and appointed to make disciples of Jesus Christ. I've been sent to connect people to God.

When the daughter of your neighbor doesn't know what a pastor is because they've never been to a church, then the controversy is asking the question of ourselves, "what have we been doing that this little one has not heard the Gospel?"


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