Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Major Moves in Ministry

All of the gospels depict Jesus and his disciples as people on the move. They never stay anywhere long. Jesus teaches or performs some wonder, then immediately moves on. A dead god is a god who locates, settles in, never surprises. A living God is a God on the move.

We are privileged to minister in a time when ordained leadership is changing and adapting to be more congruent with the mission of Jesus Christ. After decades of floundering, thrashing about trying this and that latest scheme to renew the church, we are at last focusing and moving in a definite direction.

Recently I was asked to identify some of the most significant moves that we clergy are making in our leadership. I believe in these moves we are not only becoming more effective leaders, but also we are being more faithful to our Leader, Jesus Christ and his peculiar style of leading his church.

Today, the most effective, faithful pastors are making these moves:

Move from caregivers to passionate, transformative leaders
Moving from mere maintenance of the congregations that we have been handed from the hard work of previous generations of pastors, we are daring to let God use us to rebirth, new birth, and to transform our people to more actively participate in Christ’s mission. Any church that cares more about itself and its inner life than it cares for the world is a church in decline. Pastors are ordained for more significant ministry than merely care of the congregation.

Move from contented church of monopoly, to church in competitive, missional environment
We mainline Protestants have lost our monopoly on American religious life. We find ourselves in a mission environment in which our churches must compete with the lures of the world for our people’s faith. It’s a time when the church has the opportunity to recover the oddness and the joy of the peculiarity of ministry in the name of Jesus Christ rather than ministry as service to the infatuations of the world.

Move from nonchalance about results to attentiveness to results
One of the most dramatic developments among the churches of North Alabama is the creation of and the almost 100% participation of our churches in the North Alabama Conference Dashboard. We are determined to notice the numbers and to interpret the numbers as valid indicators of what God is doing among us. God intends for us to bear fruit and promises to give us what we need to bear fruit.

Move from preservation and sustaining to adaptation and supple, flexibility
Church observer Bill Easum told our Conference (the year before I got here) that the “seniority system is killing you.” United Methodism has no seniority system in our Discipline. We have put far too much stress on experience, wisdom, and continuity when we need more stress upon talent, adaptation, flexibility, and innovation. Our Conference mission statement states that our goal is to have, “Every church challenged and equipped….by taking risks and changing lives.” I am so inspired by the outbreak of innovative ministries among our congregations.

Move from the pastor as head of an organization to the pastor as spiritual leader and congregational catalyst
Pastors are becoming more than efficient managers. Pastors are preachers, those who tell the story which is the gospel, laying that upon the congregation on a regular basis and then pastors get out of the way, leaving Jesus to deal with his people. Pastors are there not to do ministry, no really even to lead ministry, but rather to “equip the saints for the work of ministry.”

Will Willimon

Our focus at this year’s Annual Conference is LEADERSHIP. Adam Hamilton will be teaching us all day Saturday, June 5. All pastors are urged to be present with their key lay leadership. See you at Annual Conference!


B'ham Billy said...

With possibly the exception of #4 all of these categories seem to be mission focused. In my opinion only, most of the UMC's that I hang out at do missions pretty good right now. So in my opinion again, doing something better that we already do pretty good is ok. but not as innovative or productive as we can be. There are other areas, and some of these areas are working well for other church's, that we could incorporate into our thinking. I don't think that we are losing members and not picking up new because of a lack of mission mindedness.

Unknown said...

Bishop, there may not be anything in the Discipline about seniority but when ever was the underlying systems story spelled out in an organization. You know full well that most appointments in the UMC are tied more to how long a pastor has served and how little he or she has rocked the boat or gotten in trouble than on how innovative they are. Otherwise we would have more and more younger pastors leading some of our largest churches without having to plant and grow one. Planting a church is about the only way a 30 year old pastor can lead a very large church in our system.
I will grant you that some Bishops have begun bucking the unwritten rules about seniority. I hear you are one of them.
Bill Easum

Pastor DtP said...


I am a forty-five year old pastor, and I remember in younger days wanting bigger churches and being able to be more innovative.

But I also realize that it is not always the niche for young guys. Primarily because such ships take forever to turn, and patience isn't always a virtue among the young.

I think I've found a niche that is far more...interesting than in maintaining a mega church, it small to middlin churches that need care, and never have lived to their potential. The work requires incredible innovation, not just in outreach, or in creative preaching but in guiding people out of spiritual malaise and depression, towards looking to Christ and rejoicing in what He has done.

Seeing healing done - seeing reconciliation occur, seeing the aha's moments when people are freed of sin, guilt, shame, the fear of death, and released from bondage to Satan - through word and Table... occurs in every small to enormous church.

Pastors see it close at hand, and realize its power, when they know the people involved. That changes the pastor, even perhaps more than the people.

ray said...

Sometimes we appear to be trying to hard to be denominations or to quote the Bishop "main stream".Its always about what "WE" need to do or what "THEY" are doing wrong.However the truth of the matter is change is personal.Maybe the question is what are YOU going to do about YOU or I about ME.Its easy to opine on what a group needs to do but takes a lot of guts to talk about what I need to do.WE need to change this, change that, how about some I's.Stop trying so hard and look at the man in the mirror only Jesus can change the man and thats one at a time.