“Pray without ceasing.” (I Thess. 5:17)
This familiar scripture admonition is appropriate anytime – especially now as we approach the next important gathering of United Methodist leaders called “General Conference”. That 10 day event in Tampa, Florida is coming up very quickly. And of the nearly 1,000 delegates there, 14 (7 lay and 7 clergy) will be from our Missouri Conference. Plus, there will be many alternate delegates and several thousand “observers”.
Many of you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. After all, it’s hard to see exactly how whatever happens at General Conference affects your work in your local congregation and community. Actually, this time, that’s the point – the local church. THIS General Conference, more than recent ones, could be pivotal to the future of the church and all our congregations. All of our “connection”. IF it can embrace the call to redirect attention, energy, and resources toward a sustained focus upon helping local congregations become more healthy and vital, more purposeful and effective. More fruitful. With all the various proposals, differing perspectives, and heartfelt anxiety about change, is it possible?
Only with God’s help and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
As I’ve spent hours reading the material sent to delegates and pouring over the legislative proposals, I find myself getting anxious. Hundreds of delegates and bishops are working hard and spending long hours discussing and preparing, including our own Bishop Schnase and our Missouri delegation led by Rev. Cody Collier. I want to make a difference and be part of significant change, but I’m concerned about exactly how it will all work out. Then I remember – it’s not really up to me, or our delegation, or my legislative committee, or even the bishops. And, really, it’s not up to whatever majority carries the day regarding legislation.
If we are to be the church of Jesus Christ, a renewed Methodist movement in our time, it’s up to God – and a spiritual empowerment that fills each person with passion for Christ and for all of God’s people. Everywhere – from General Conference delegates in Tampa, through Annual Conferences and every local congregation’s leaders. Every clergy and lay leader. YOU!
The Call to Action report identifies key “drivers” of vital congregations, one of which is “a high percentage of spiritually-engaged laity” in leadership. Spiritually engaged laity. One of the first ways for laity, particularly lay leaders, to be spiritually engaged is through prayer – listening for God’s spiritual voice, discerning directions and actions. Prayer for your own work, for your pastor and congregation, for your community, for our conference and bishop. And, yes, prayer for the General Conference.
Many are sensing a great need for prayer around this General Conference, and we know that God will answer. Will you be part of it? We believe in the power of prayer and the power of your prayers. There are many great resources to help you, and two I’d suggest for the next few weeks are:
Upper Room’s 50 Days of Prayer, daily scripture and meditations through the last day of General Conference (May 4). It’s on the web at http://50daysofprayer.upperroom. org.
Bishop Schnase’s excellent blogs for the 30 days leading up to General Conference, found at www.ministrymatter.com/30days or at www.fivepractices.org.
Laity of the Missouri Conference, let’s get more spiritually- engaged and “pray without ceasing” for God’s Holy Spirit to empower a movement of renewal and purpose throughout our church. Each one of us can be part of that. Let’s pray that God will fill Tampa and General Conference with wisdom and discernment, helping God to use the United Methodist movement to truly transform the world through congregations of new and renewed disciples of Jesus Christ. That’s a vision worth praying for!
Thanks again for your leadership and prayers!
Brian Hammons, Lay Leader MO Conference of the UMC