“Welcome!” Or, “Welcome Back!” These words are heard a lot this time of year as churches and schools enter a new season. Summer is over and fall is beginning. Some experience new places, relationships, and opportunities. Others return to familiar places, but with fresh opportunities in front of them.
Whether it’s a new school year with new classes, a new church season with a new sermon series or small groups forming, a new football season, or simply returning to “normal” after a summer change of pace, there’s something fresh about the fall. “Welcome” to something new. “Welcome back” to the familiar with a new perspective.
I like the way Paul relates his continuing work in ministry, not resting upon the past: “Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own . . . this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 3:12-14.
As I think about our conference, our leaders, and our churches, I’m reminded of this message. To “press on,” building upon the past and moving forward into the opportunities of the present and future as God leads. I hope that you’re also reminded to “press on” in your activities this fall.
Now let me reflect a bit on the past couple of months since my last column. First, we had a very good Annual Conference back in June – thanks to all who were there and took away ideas to strengthen their congregations’ discipleship process. The summer since then has been full of activities and some changes for many congregations and pastors. Now it’s September – time to get back to the familiar or push forward into the new, building upon the past and “straining forward to what lies ahead” as Paul puts it.
During the coming months I’ll be writing about several things in this column. In 2016 as we approach General Conference, I’ll write about that (both before and after). I’d also like to revisit a series I did a few years ago on “Ten Words for a Fruitful Lay Ministry.” Perhaps with some updates, but all in an effort to help and encourage local laity leaders. After all, YOU – laity in the local church – are the key leaders, the primary vehicles, through which we will accomplish our God-given mission in making disciples of Jesus Christ.
I’m still amazed at all the ways laity are out there, making a difference in the lives of people and in their communities. The stories I read in this magazine, along with the people I hear about and talk with throughout our conference, make me proud and excited to be a Methodist in Missouri. I look forward to a fresh year of connecting with you, learning from you, and perhaps encouraging you somehow.
Of course, wrapped around everything is PRAYER, seeking God’s wisdom and discernment, that our efforts will be in accordance with His plan and purpose.
I look forward to sharing with you in the coming weeks. For more information on laity leadership, go to www.moumethodist.org/laityleadership.