I suspect like all of us. You make a statement or post something on Facebook and somebody makes an observation: “Hey, you don’t have all the facts here! You’re clearly mistaken (or maybe they don’t say it so nice).” Your response? Yep, you’re right. "I stand corrected." Thankfully there is Snopes.com and FactChecker websites to help keep us and our politicians inline. These days correcting can truly be a full-time job! But correcting isn't to be OUR full-time job. Being connected is far more important.
Read John 15:1-8. The example of the vine which Jesus teaches is hard to misunderstand. The image of connectedness is unmistakable and not surprisingly, churches, like our next door neighbor, have taken the image as the underlying image for their church. As Christians, as followers of Jesus Christ, if we are not connected in relationship with Jesus Christ, if we are not in prayer, in worship and in ministry, we are not a branch. We are a stick. Sticks make great firewood.
But the United Methodist Church takes the analogy of Jesus a little bit farther. We are not just connected people but we are a connected CHURCH. Yes, we are part of the Body of Christ, but at our founding and in the foundering years prior to our becoming a denomination, Methodist Christians saw that their gatherings best served God’s Kingdom by being connected. Under the organization of a General Conference that meets every four years, there are Annual Conferences led by Bishops and supported by ordained clergy called District Superintendents who help local churches, led by other clergy, to live out the mission of the Church - “To Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.”
In our beginnings, under the leadership of John and Charles Wesley, Methodist Christians would give a penny to support the missions of the church. What became called apportionment giving is really “missional giving.” Each church in the connection is asked to give a portion of their budget to support both “the making of disciples” and “the transformation of the world.” This includes retirement homes, children's homes, colleges, camping ministry and evangelism. But that isn’t all.
Did you know? The UMC is the ONLY protestant denomination to have permanent offices in Russia? I spent a week with Bishop Eduard Khegay of Russia at the 5 Day Academy and his team will lead the first 5 Day Academy this summer in Eurasia.
Did you know? Following Hurricane Katrina, FEMA, for the first time ever asked a non-profit to take over recovery in Alabama. It was the United Methodist Council on Relief (UMCOR).
Did you know? 20 years ago a United Methodist Church began in South Korea through apportioned giving. As of 2009, KumNon Methodist Church was the largest UMC - 112,000. ("Why do we pay apportionments again?" Bob McKibben)
Did you know? Rinehardt University is a UMC funded college. The Walden’s have a daughter attending and soon Connor will be there this fall. Your portion supports this mission.
We have taken some important steps as a church in recent years and we have benefited from our standing connected to Jesus Christ and with other United Methodist Churches. As we dream for the future, we will have support of from our Connectional Ministries Office who will help us dream. Our giving to our mission is a central part of our mission.
I also think of it a bit more personal too. Did you ever think that when a pastor is appointed to your church, another church has given a portion of their membership? Starkville UMC in Mississippi, Jarvis Memorial UMC in Greenville, NC and Gainesville UMC in Georgia, all invested in me and prepared me for ministry. I go where sent because I'm part of the connection, part of the vine. Our model is that of God who sent Jesus Christ to us, God gave of his very self so we might become part of the vine. How we give is part of the connection and so is how we live. We are our brother's and sister's keeper but also the supporter of the Gospel lived and shared throughout the world. This is our portion and one of the ways being a United Methodist Christian is a unique journey. So how will you you live and give this week?
Graphics (If you'd like to use the graphics prepared for this series w/o a reference to our church, feel free!)