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It's Catching a New Breath

As appointment season began in earnest a month ago, it became more and more apparent that many of our clergy and lay leadership are exhausted and stressed. It also became apparent that our churches are unsure of their future, their finances, their attendance and their direction. Tension is the air we breathe, and everyone is feeling it.

It’s like a rubber band pulled so tight it’s about to snap and hit somebody, maybe everybody. The COVID-19 pandemic, the crisis of democracy in our country, the financial crisis, inflation, supply shortages, racial tensions, myriad other social issues and, even as I write this, the war in eastern Europe, has placed extraordinary demands on anyone who is trying to lead an organization, company, church or any group of people. The impacts of any one of these challenges is draining on our collective spirit. All occurring simultaneously and intertwined with each other, only amplifies the impact. 

I’ve been thinking and meditating on how to rebuild our mission, ministry and spirit. I think there are five tenets we need to pay attention to.

1. Reaffirm our connection to 
Christ  and to each other. 
The scripture says, “fix your attention.” Say that three times. “Fix your attention, fix your attention, fix your attention,” because it’s hard to do in times of crisis. Don’t miss the chance to recreate something new.
2. Reframe the future.
I love the parable of The Sower. Read Matthew 13, the whole chapter. Begin to rethink new ministries. In crisis, we are often given the opportunity to do something new. 

3. Rethink our ministry model. 
The way of the past is gone. Something new emerges. 2 Corinthians 4:6 says, “out of darkness a light shall shine forth.” Find that light and cast the light on a new future.

4. Rebuild our resilience.
Ephesians 6:10 reminds us to build ourselves up. “Build up your strength in union with the Lord by means of his grace.” We each need to do whatever it takes to replenish the soul, reenergize our spirits and get a new vision for the future, so we can cast off the burdens of criticism and anger.

5. Reaccelerate toward new opportunities.
It’s no doubt that our churches are not where they were three years ago. O.K.! Now what? Look around. Ask, “What new ministries can we be doing?” Maybe God has fit us for what we need to be in this time and place. In Philippians 3:14 we read, “Reach toward the good, which is life through Jesus Christ.”

Remember, when it’s darkest a light will shine, a new day will appear. Behind every Good Friday there is an Easter Sunday. “We serve a risen Savior,” the song says. Sometimes we forget that Christ had to die first before he could come back. Friends don’t give up! We are a comeback people. We serve a comeback Lord. We can become a comeback church.

Yes, this new season will require new thinking, new skill sets, new directions and new roads we have never traveled. Remember Jesus is always ahead of our steps. As Wesley would say, “best is God is with us.” Breathe deep the spirit of God’s grace. He’s got this whether we know it or not!

In Christ,

Bishop Bob Farr, Missouri Conference 
of The United Methodist Church