It’s been a few weeks now since we met in Springfield for Annual Conference. Once again, it was an inspiring time of conferencing, connecting, and committing. Thanks to all who worked hard to make it possible. I hope and pray that you returned home renewed and energized by God’s Spirit, anxious to help your congregation be part of the “New Thing” that God is doing in the coming year.
Congratulations to all who were elected delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences – and THANKS for your commitment to serve. Delegation meetings are scheduled beginning in August, to work together in prayerful preparation. Please keep all of us in your prayers – and other delegates from across the denomination too.
OK, so – how’s your summer going now? Many, many of you have been involved in hands-on mission projects, including Joplin and Mozambique – reaching out to help others and grow spiritually in service. Summer camps and Vacation Bible Schools help youth connect with God and the faith. Some congregations have welcomed new pastor / leaders, so both clergy and laity are dealing with change and opportunity. And, of course, vacation from routine, whether in work, church, or school, is a normal part of summer – to refresh, recreate, and prepare for the coming year that really begins in August / September. Hopefully that “vacation” still includes attending worship somewhere!
One thing I’m trying to do is visit other congregations. Included in June were two of our most fruitful, growing congregations in Missouri. In each one I attended two services with different worship styles, both inspiring. Recently while in Washington, DC at an industry trade show, I visited a local United Methodist Church. The building was old and stately, well-kept. And the one 11:00 service was nice, even inspiring. But what a contrast when compared with the two growing congregations in Missouri that I visited earlier! Other than worship style and attendance, the main thing I noticed was a lack of visible outreach to invite people in. “Radical Hospitality” to potential visitors was sorely missing. I thought of all the people who walked by the church building to enter the convention center, or maybe on their way to work or Sunday brunch, who might respond to genuine invitations to connect with God who loves them.
How often do we all – our congregations, and even each of us personally – fail to consider inviting those around us, who live there or just pass by. Not just to put up a sign and unlock the door. Even in the summertime, away from home on vacation or business, God calls us to be radically hospitable in offering the Good News of Jesus Christ. Even to take the church out of the building to the lake, park, wherever people are. After all, that’s where Jesus did his best ministry. Let’s start by being sure to get to church ourselves during the summer. Then let’s support and encourage our pastors and each other in reaching out to ALL those around us.
How’s the rest of your summer going to be?
Thanks again for your leadership!