The installation of a district superintendent is a time of celebration in a district. Ozarks District Superintendent Jon Thompson knows scripture well enough to know sometimes the tone of the conversation changes after the party is over.
Thompson led his sermon during his installation service at Wesley UMC in Springfield on October 27 with a passage from Joshua that bears a resemblance to several others passages in the Bible. The people of God receive divine support. They rejoice. They forget about it. They complain. They go back to doing their own thing.
In the scripture Joshua recognized the same pattern in his people that Moses had seen when he led them out of Egypt, and he didn’t like where it was going. He told them ultimately, they would have to choose who they served, but speaking for his own house, they would serve the Lord.
Thompson recognized that the tendency of a collective religious community to lose sight of God and do things on their own is just a present today as it was when the scripture was written thousands of years ago – and it’s present in everyone.
“I’m just as guilty as the next guy in wanting to do things my way instead of God’s way,” Thompson said.
Not only is the tendency the same through the millennia – it often has the same driver: uncertainty.
“One thing I’ve learned in 30-plus years as a pastor is that church folks want to know where they are going,” Thompson said.
Thompson asked those gathered to carefully consider what they pursuing, knowing that when they are following God’s call, he is there and will not leave or forsake them.
“As your district superintendent I am hopeful that we can revitalize churches, using what we have learned from the past to prepare for an uncertain future,” Thompson said. “One thing we know about the uncertain future: it’s coming. It will be here. We can’t lose sight of where God is sending us: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Thompson recalled that at times in his ministry he wasn’t following God’s call, even though he was preaching every Sunday. He let himself be burdened by wondering if he was strong enough for his role… if he was up to the task. But at times of uncertainty, the call remains certain.
“Are you with me, as we move into an uncertain future in this district, in this conference, in this denomination?” Thompson asked. “I don’t care what General Conference decides, whatever it decides God will call each and every one of us to tell someone Jesus loves them.”
Bishop Farr expressed a certainty in Thompson’s ability to lead the Ozarks District.
“I’ve known Jon 20 years, and have enjoyed presence, passion, and commitment to Christ, and appreciate his willingness to serve his call wherever it leads him,” Bishop Farr said.