Posted in Broadway, calling, Community, Contagious, Elections, Faith, General Conference, Methodism, Ministry, new, pride, United Methodist Church

But Mostly Me…

Y’all know I’m a lover of Broadway and with all of the Tony’s it received Sunday night – I’m not the only one who thinks The Book of Mormon is one of the funniest and heart-felt musicals to hit Broadway in a while.

The story follows Elder Price and Elder Cunningham as they are sent to Uganda, Africa.  Elder Price really had his heart set on Orlando, but they’re sent to Uganda.  All sorts of hilarity as well as the tension of real issues of faith, theodicy and how to deal with the crud of life ensues.

One of the songs at the beginning of the musical that highlights Elder Price’s being the shining star of all things and his belief that he’s going to rock anything he does is called “You and Me (But Mostly Me).”  I think it says a ton about how we see ourselves in ministry sometimes.  Rev. Bob Howell during his leadership seminar during Annual Conference talked about the Lone Ranger who have heard about a ton in the old model of ministry.  In the midst of an election year, there’s always a bit of the sense of self-promotion or arrogance or those type words that get thrown around.  Thoughts like – but I’m smarter than the person or have put more years of service in or have a harder appointment or would study harder or would be more balanced or am wiser than so and so.  There’s a sense of competition or a if this person gets this, what does that say about me kind of thing that takes place sometimes.  I don’t entirely know how we combat that, but I feel like a lot of it is setting a tone that we are all in this together and that it’s for the good of the church.

Who wouldn’t want to be the one to do this big thing???  That’s sort of what the song is saying.  But you know – how much more powerful and contagious is an entire movement???  I don’t see the GC and JC folks we elected as having these shiny halos or spotlights on them like movie stars, but as servants of the church that stepped up and who are making decisions in the church with all of us.  The thing about the present and future of our church whether you’re a death tsunami-er or a let’s die to live person or a let’s just get the Spirit of God moving and continue growing into what it means to be Church-er, we all want the same thing.  Or at least I hope we are.  I don’t care if one person or a body of people or what I’d like – a movement of people – begin this renewal, reformation, outpouring of the Spirit, commitment to prayer, spiritual practices and the scripture – putting it all into action.  We just need to do it.  To live it.  To breathe it.  To commit to it.  To prayerfully and intentionally go forward.

We are all in this together.  Whether fresh out of seminary, whether just commissioned or ordained, whether second career, whether retired, whether right in the middle of our pastoral ministry, whether young or old or not wanting to be classified as either, whether man or woman, no matter where we are on our journey or what we may look like.

How do we feel when the person beside us is lifted up?  What are our motivations?  What role or part can we play in our particular time and place?  What does renewal in The United Methodist Church look like?  Not just what’s a vital congregation or Call to Action, but what does renewal and revival look like where you are?  What are the gifts and graces given to each of us?  How can those be used?  Instead of just hearing and absorbing what we hear and learn and are inspired by, what are our next steps?

For some of us, we hear these inspiring things at conferences or on podcasts or in articles and we’re so tired and worn out and blah from the day to day or the uphill battles, that it’s hard to go forward.  See, the thing about being lone rangers and thinking it’s all about us, is that we forget that we’re all in this together.  Not just a cliche or a good thing to throw out there in theory or during a presentation, but seriously.  Is there someone that you can be for real with and can bust open the good, the bad, and the ugly, and you know it will be okay?  Who do we depend on to be our church?

This is not just a “but mostly me” but something that if we are to survive, if we are to be a stronger, healthier, more grounded body – we’ve got to be supporters, advocates, confidants, friends to each other.

This isn’t just the church or ministry folk, but all of us.  It’s not about this congregation or that.  It’s not just about shuffling our membership to churches as we like the pastor or not or the youth program or not or that they talk too much about money or focus too much on social justice.  It’s about what’s essential and what the mission of the Church is.  How do WE make disciples?  How are WE in ministry WITH the community?  How are WE growing and learning and changing and praying and leading and growing?

It’s a heck of a lot more exciting and a lot less pressure when it’s not just all about me, but about all of us.  Let’s celebrate that.

How and why do we make it all about us???  What are some assumptions and world views that might change if it’s not so me-centric?  What does the Bible say about all this me stuff???  How is evangelism a whole new ball game when it’s just about you, but it’s about the world?

Posted in calling, Elections, General Conference, Spirit, United Methodist Church, Young Clergy

Elections are Coming, My Friends…

Sitting in the chiropractor’s chair, well “laying” and “table” are more like it – I was talking to him about just getting back from Student Forum Sunday night and then leaving again for Annual Conference next Tuesday.  He asked if I frequently travel like this and I said not really, just on school breaks and throughout the summer, but I guess that is a lot more than just not really.  So number one – as pastors I don’t think we realize how busy we are and how strange we look to the outside world.  And number two – have you ever tried to explain Annual Conference to someone?  Much less, that this is a big election year.

So for those that are United Methodist and haven’t been to Annual Conference on an election year and to bore the rest of you to tears, every 4 years each Annual Conference (Central Conference) elects delegates to General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference.  Every four years those delegates then go and represent their lovely people and vote on various and sundry things like budgets, foci, resolutions and bishops.  Sounds fun, right?  As someone I talked to recently wisely said, if you don’t like going to your district meetings or sitting in the sessions for Annual Conference, you won’t like General Conference.

Each conference only gets so many delegates that they can send.  Half of these are clergy and half of these are laity.  So what are some important things to think about when electing delegates and deciding who to vote for?  It’s such a wide range and I guess it depends on what your motivations are for your votes.  This will be my first time to vote since I wasn’t ordained until 2007.  I am super pumped which probably makes me a way over excited nerd.  I’m looking for people that have a good handle on both the intimate issues that affect congregations (and within congregations I’m not just talking about local churches but extension ministries, etc.) as well as the broader strokes of what’s happening in our general church and agencies.  I want people that know what’s at stake and the underlying issues and not just what sounds good.  Does that make sense?  So I’d like these folks to be pretty educated.  And very awesomely there is now a course that people can take called “Exploring General Conference.”  I’m not throwing around the “experience” word here to indicate that I want us to elect only people that have been before.  Not even.  But I am saying that we need folks that are actively engaged in the conversation of our denomination and who are actively leading and shaping and learning and discovering.

I also think that it’s very important to represent all of the diversity of our conferences.  I have several young clergy friends that are tweeting from various annual conferences right now and hearing how their elections are going has been both fascinating and eye-opening.  One of them the lovely (@MegEdmondson) tweeted: #txac clergy:  the YOUNGEST clergy elected has GRANDCHILDREN.”*  That’s kind of a big deal.  So yes, we need to pay attention to all of the diversity that we encompass – race, gender, age, type of ministry, etc.  I know I’m probably leaving things out of that list but it wasn’t meant to be all encompassing but merely to point out that we need a multitude of voices at the table.  If we believe in the “future” of our church as its “young people” then as both laity and clergy, we need to take that into consideration when we’re voting.  Not saying that people that are out of the young adult bracket can’t be strong and amazing advocates for youth and young adults, but there is a different perspective and issues at stake.

I’m one of those weird people that like the full tapestry that is our United Methodist Church.  As crazy as it may be with a gaggle of voices at the table, that’s what can make it awesome in the midst.  Like a family, we sometimes can shout over each other and stick our fingers in our ears, but if we’re committed to this crazy family of ours, we’ll take the time to sit beside each other and share a cookie or two and actually have some dialogue.  (Yes, the cookies offered during the breaks are essential I think to General Conference!)  So yes, part of my voting decision is going to be based on how people stand on some of the missional, theological, societal, and practical issues facing our denomination.  We’re talking a lot about the Call to Action and indicators and metrics and all that jazz, but we’ve also got to talk from a place of Hope and Spirit and Renewal and Revival.  Can’t we live in a world of both/and and not continue in the either/or?  Can’t we work our butts off and be faithful in our calling while also following the leading of the Spirit that is sometimes (actually I would say rarely) not all about numbers or statistics?  Maybe it’s a chicken and egg idea, but somehow I think that if we are following the moving of the Spirit and we are being intentional in continuing to up the ante and be in ministry doing as Wesley says, “all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can,” then the fruit or the numbers or the metrics will come.  And maybe they or a great conference or a wonderful sharing of ideas or a Spirit-filled conversation or retreat of renewal will give us the motivation and inspiration we need to keep stepping forward in faith.

So here’s what I say – before we go to Annual Conference – may we pray for the delegation that we are electing – both lay and clergy.  May we all pray for discernment as we cast our votes.  May those that aren’t voting be in prayer for a delegation that will fully encompass all that is the United Methodist Church and all of the beautiful work in progress that is.

We need to not just be in prayer for the delegates that we will elect, but for the delegates being elected across the connection.  None of us hold the speaking stick alone or keep the megaphone in hand.  This wave needs to continue over the next few weeks as we are in prayer for all of our leaders elected and the conferences that are electing them.

You’ve now read what’s important to me in voting and how intentionally I think we need to take these elections.  What do you think?  What helps make your choices about who to elect?  What are the critical issues you see in the UMC right now?  What would your ideal delegation look like?

* They have now elected a young clergyperson!  Yay!  Also to note that Josh Hale (@expatminister) said that they wisely started a pre-balloting prayer from the words of Acts 2:42 – “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers.”  I hope that this year’s Annual Conference isn’t all about elections, but it’s also about our learning, sharing, fellowship, sharing in the body of Christ together, and being church with one another.  Looking forward to it!