June 01, 2016

Whether fresh, vital and relevant ministry is the product of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit working within a congregation, or whether it emerges from churches working together, or whether it develops from conference and district resources applied to local ministry, it’s always a joy to watch churches in our district find new ways to grow more committed disciples of Jesus and to engage the people of their mission field with the good news of Jesus. 
    
Four events, two past and two yet to come will hopefully offer a glimpse into some of the movement of the Holy Spirit in the churches of the Southwest District. 
    
Christ’s Community UMC in Joplin celebrated its 25th anniversary in the fall of 2015. Founding pastor, Chris Sloan led a service that spread an arc from the early stages, which began with him and his wife, Rhonda, to it’s present worship attendance of over 700. Highlights over the 25 years included identifying 7 pastors that have come out of this ministry, recognizing 735 baptisms, and naming many local ministries that have made Christ’s Community a force for hope in Joplin and beyond, especially in disaster recovery efforts. 
    
The Breakthrough Prayer Inspirational and Learning event with Sue Nilson Kibbey was attended by 240 people, most of which were laity. The event has set off a new flurry of prayer activity in many district churches focused on how they can become the church God needs them to be to reach their communities for Christ. Stories of how prayer is changing our churches in significant ways continue to surface and are shared through our district social media. The event has helped light a spark of spiritual renewal in churches of all sizes across our district. 
    
A new church, The Light at Joplin, will be launched in October of 2016. Pastor Andrew Moyer and his wife, Christina, arrived in Joplin in mid February from Ashland, NE, to begin the work of making connections, building a launch team and establishing a new United Methodist Church in Joplin. The ministry is blessed to utilize the site and funding left for this purpose by the members of the former St. James UMC, whose vision and generosity have paved the way for the Light of Joplin. The facility has been remodeled and the core group is meeting and preparing for launch. Small groups are meeting regularly and the first community outreach event, a comedy night with over 100 in attendance, was a big success. 
    
The Carl Junction Site of Saint Paul’s UMC in Joplin will launch on September 18. In the summer of 2014, the Carl Junction UMC was destroyed by a fire. Conversation began between church leaders of CJUMC and Saint Paul’s UMC of Joplin to bring resources together and rebuild the ministry of Carl Junction. Pastor Ben Brainbridge has been working with a launch team of 35 people since January to prepare for the launch, which will happen from an off-site student ministries building until the reconstruction of the CJ campus is complete (already begun). Saint Paul’s has been consulting with Rev. Brad Kalajainen of Cornerstone UMC in Grand Rapids, MI and church consultant Doug Anderson for a year to develop the plan. 
    
As I reflect on these stories of fruitful ministry and renewal, I know that these kinds of stories are happening all across the conference from rural to metro and in large and small churches. I believe these stories are in greater abundance in Missouri these days, and I am grateful for the leadership of our Bishop Schnase, whose vision and work created an environment for missional, fruitful ministry in our conference.