The Work of Christ and Pursuing a Denominational Strategy

This week finds me engaged with the work of Christ as it relates to our denominational strategy for the mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”  That is a mouthful, and I’ve played with differing titles for this blog article.  This is about a both/and +.  Let me unpack what I mean. Monday I flew to Nashville for a meeting with Dr. Timothy Bias, the new General Secretary for the Board of Discipleship, Dr. Karen Greenwaldt, the recently retired General Secretary for the Board of Discipleship, Rev. Candace Lewis, Director of Path 1 (the United Methodist focus on new church development housed at the General Board of Discipleship (GBOD), Bishop Mark Webb (Upper New York Conference) and myself.  New church development in the United States operates under a special ministry area called Path 1.  Housed in GBOD, Path 1 relates to our greater work of helping congregations and conferences make disciples of Christ through new churches (“new places for new people”).  Our bold goal is to return to the day in America where we are starting one new church each day of the week!  (In the 2012-2016 quadrennium our goal is 1,000 new churches.)  Every bit of evidence we have in the Christian movement from the Book of Acts onward buttresses the conviction that starting new churches is a key way to make new disciples for Christ and spread the gospel of His love. We had a great meeting.  Our new General Secretary (Dr. Bias) is committed to the importance of new church development.  He is eager to partner with the Council of Bishops and the Path 1 initiative in this great work of Christ!  The work that many have “so well begun” will continue with vigor and deep commitment. Correspondingly so too will the great new initiative of transforming (renewing, revitalizing, engaging and equipping, etc.) existing churches to make disciples of Christ.  Both the Council of Bishops and the GBOD are already deeply engaged in the work of Christ to transform existing congregations through evangelism and church growth.  The GBOD has a great ministry called Route 122 (named for Romans 12:2 – “be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature”).  A part of this work includes support for the Healthy Church Initiative (HCI), which we are heavily invested in here in the Central Texas Conference. Another part of this great work of Christ in the transformation of existing congregations is a project call Congregational Vitality, which comes jointly from the Connectional Table of the United Methodist Church (the UMC’s top missional coordinating body which works on behalf of the Council of Bishops) and the Council of Bishops.  This week the Central Texas Conference through the hospitality of William C. Martin UMC will be hosting the 3rd meeting of the 11 Conference pilot group working on how Conferences across the nations can help build/transform vital congregations that make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  Bishop John Schol of New Jersey heads this effort as a work of Christ.  We (CTC) are pleased to be a part of this pilot project for building vital congregations! New churches and the transformation of existing congregations into vital congregations makes the both/and of our denominational strategy.  It is never one or the other.  It is always a both/and! The plus comes for me from this afternoon’s activities.  After I finish writing this blog, I will leave for Glen Lake Camp to meet with those clergy who are in the “residency” program.  This group is made up of clergy who have been commissioned and licensed for ministry but are not yet ordained elder.  Every year I meet with those to be considered for ordination as elders in the United Methodist Church.  It is a blessed time of dialog and learning for me.  It is the crucial plus of leadership development that we must be about if vital congregations are to have pastors for the future. It is a busy week but a good week for the work of Christ!