Conference Reflections

I've been to the meeting of the Louisiana Annual Conference a handful of times now. This year was without a doubt the most spiritual atmosphere, it seemed to me. Perhaps this was just because they ordained me (in a high holy service in the grand First Methodist Church of Shreveport) and so I probably spent alot more time in prayer before and during the conference - it is funny how that can change your perception of things.

But there were other changes as well. This year we had a service of anointing with oil for healing and wholeness and Bishop Bickerton of Western Pennsylvania was our preacher. I had the priviledge of anointing dozens of people (including said bishop) and praying with them, for the power and healing of the Holy Spirit to flood their lives in the powerful name of Jesus. It was a powerful time of prayer such as you rarely see (these days) among the Methodists. People wept. And even (gasp!) spoke in tongues. The Spirit was active and present in our midst and so there was abundant life and electric power.

Perhaps it was because there was a such a deeper sense of the Spirit that one particular report really got me thinking and leads me to offer some (hopefully constructive) criticism of the way that we do things.

A (rather long) report was presented on United Methodist disaster relief celebrating all that the Church has done to reach out to those in our state who have been hammered by one disaster after another. We heard of the many families helped, the homes built, the sick who were brought aid, the weary brought rest. All wonderful things that show the church to be obedient to God and compassionate toward neighbor. All wonderful things done, as the speaker again and again and again stated, "In the name of the United Methodist People."

About the 5th time we heard this refrain I looked at my friend and fellow pastor Stephen sitting next to me and said, "When my friends in evangelical denominations do this sort of thing, they do it in the Name of Jesus Christ."

After further reflection, it sometimes feels as though, when we gather for the corporate business of the Annual Conference, we take our "spiritual shepherds" hats (or robes) off, and put our "secular board of directors of large institution" hats on. And this, it seems to me, bleeds over into the ministries that we do as a conference, to the decline and diminution of our fruitfulness.

The marketing gurus that we consult (at some financial cost) no doubt tell us that we need to get our name brand out there - and so we do all of our marketing to lift up the name of United Methodism, that more people might be inclined to attend our churches. But the Kingdom that we represent works on a different logic than that of the secular marketeers.

"When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself" says Jesus (John 12:32).

It is the name of Jesus, and not of The United Methodist people, that brings true wholeness to broken people, that can make the dumb to sing, the lame to dance, and the blind to behold there God.

It is the name of Jesus, and not of The United Methodist people, that is above every name on heaven or on earth or under the earth. It is the name of Jesus, and not of The United Methodist people, that we must confess with our lips and it is the risen Jesus upon whom we must trust in our hearts if we are finally to be saved from sin, death, and outer darkness.

It is the name of Jesus, and not of The United Methodist people, that will stand in glory for ever, unto the ages of ages.

And it is the name of Jesus, and not of The United Methodist people, that - when it is lifted high - will draw all people to Christ...and to his body, the Church, by logical extension. If we, The United Methodist people, will do exactly the same deeds of service we are already doing but do them quite explicitly under the power of his name (and not our own) I believe his promise, that all these other things - including building up our own "name recognition" will be added unto us along the way.
Anyways, it was a wonderful and spiritually refreshing Annual Conference this year. May it be so always.

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Anonymous Stephen said...


7:59 PM, June 20, 2010  

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