March 31, 2014
By Brian Hammons
During this season of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter, I’m pondering this question: “What would it be like if my entire congregation were filled with Spiritually Engaged laity?” I invite you to ponder that question, too.
Maybe your congregation is unique – already filled with laity who experience the transforming grace of Jesus Christ every day, actively share it with those around, and produce fruit in growth of new disciples.
But if you’re like most of us, your congregation has some growing to do in the area of spiritual engagement. And that has to start with those of us in leadership.
In Missouri we’ve made tremendous strides over the last few years. Many congregations have a sense of purpose and hope in our work. Pastors and laity alike are leading in new ways, becoming more outwardly focused, making a greater impact upon people and their communities.
Hopefully, we’ll continue toward a whole new level of fruitfulness in more vital congregations, with more people who actively follow Jesus Christ. That will require a lot of spirit-inspired leadership by our pastors. It also will require a great deal of Spiritually Engaged Laity. OK, so just what is Spiritual Engagement, anyway? Here are 3 questions:
- Is it loving God with all our hearts through acts of piety like passionate worship, fervent prayer, focused study of scripture, and extravagant generosity?
- Is it intentionally growing in faith with other followers through sharing in classes, praying together, and holding each other accountable?
- Is it loving others through acts of mercy like risk-taking mission and service with the poor in our communities, working to eliminate killer diseases, witnessing in deeds as well as words, and (again) extravagant generosity?
Yes! Yes! And Yes!
I believe that Spiritual Engagement is all these things – engaging our hearts, minds, and actions with God’s Holy Spirit so that we cultivate and reflect a close relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s the center of our faith. That empowers true transformation of lives, congregations, our communities, and the world – our mission.
What does Spiritual Engagement mean to you as a leader? Are you a Spiritually Engaged leader yourself? Many, many of you are, I know. And I’m thankful for your continuing example and encouragement.
Now, once again, dream with me: what would it be like if your church council and leadership teams were all Spiritually Engaged in connecting with God and spreading the transforming message of Jesus Christ? What would it be like if your entire congregation was filled with Spiritually Engaged laity? What would our Missouri Conference be like if several hundred of our congregations, in big cities and small towns, were filled with Spiritually Engaged laity? Would God’s Spirit be even more vibrant and active, making an even greater difference through those congregations? How could we get there?
Yes, maybe it’s a dream; but so was the idea of “transforming a continent and spreading scriptural holiness throughout the land” – the vision of the early American Methodists. It starts with leaders. Local leaders. And laity, it really is up to us – not just our pastors – to become more Spiritually Engaged.
That’s a pretty bold vision: Spiritually Engaged laity leaders – partnering with pastors in leading congregations to fruitfulness in our mission: making disciples of Jesus Christ!
Right now, I’m excited to see the “new thing” that God is doing in Missouri through the United Methodist Church, as you respond to God’s spiritual call. After all, it’s God’s “power at work within us” that is “able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20).