“God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places… And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church.”
(Ephesians 1:20 & 22, NRSV)
One thing for sure, this past April has been anything but boring. We entered it with an amazing celebration of Resurrection Sunday on the 1st, and closed it with the Spirit-filled Vital Church Consultation Weekend and receipt of our Vital Church Ministry Plan. Chances are, as you read this, we will be in the midst of holding our three Town Halls whereby we will be in Holy Conversation, asking questions and understanding the details, around that Ministry Plan, all in discernment and preparation for our Church Conference vote of that plan on May 20. If you’re like me, you probably feel like the train we are riding on just picked up a good dose of speed. But I am reminded that our “train conductor” is really our Triune God, whose guiding and sustaining Spirit is both among and within us every step of the way. I personally find that little tidbit incredibly assuring and life-giving.
Still, who can help but feel a little nervous, and perhaps a little overwhelmed? After all, this Ministry Plan has a lot of detail, requires deep introspection into things that have been a part of Marble for quite some time, and most every one of us will find ourselves challenged in some way or another. For sure, we will look somewhat different 2 years from now when we complete all the details of the plan.
But perhaps, that is the overarching point. That is exactly what this Ministry Plan is intended to do. For us to be in a better place 2 years from now—not to mention 5 and 10—there are areas of our church that need to look different. (I say “our” church, but it is really our particular segment of “Christ’s Church”). Christ, who is “the head over all things for the church,” desires for all of us to know the joy that comes from being in full connection and mission with him. This Ministry Plan comprehends our God given gifts and passions, our history and local community, and the best wisdom and practices of thriving church congregations. This Ministry Plan is a tailor-made step-by-step action plan, combined with on-going coaching and personal support, aimed at guiding us to the place in Christ’s Church that Christ desires for us to be. This I also find assuring and life-giving. For sure, there is substantial effort and dedication involved, but if faithfully pursued, I believe the rewards to be beyond our current imagination.
But all this said, our most immediate task is to give ourselves a little bit of time to process and digest the Ministry Plan. We need to work through the steps of: sorting through our initial reactions, getting our questions answered for clarity and implications, seeing the linkages between the Plan action steps and our stated goals and dreams, and understanding how this plan brings us closer to Christian discipleship in our time and place. It is for this reason that I deeply encourage you to attend and participate in one of the 3 scheduled Town Hall sessions (4/29 at noon, 5/6 at noon, 5/6 at 6pm). Their purpose is to provide that thoughtful and respectful forum for each of us to engage in the conversation and get our questions answered, all aimed at enabling us to make an informed decision on May 20th around moving forward with the plan. In support of the Town Halls, I also encourage you to ask questions of me and/or our Vital Church Team so that any concerns may be captured and addressed.
I have come to appreciate how much love and dedication has gone into listening to us, working with us, and genuinely wanting us to thrive as a United Methodist Church here in Milan, that the Conference Vital Church Consultation has put into creating the Ministry Plan that is before us. For that love and dedication, I am grateful. As well, I can readily see how much love and dedication for this church resides within its congregation. To have a credible plan that is centered in all that love and dedication is nothing short of inspiring. Still, we have one more vital discernment step to complete before we can move forward … I look forward to continuing the conversation at our upcoming Town Halls.
May God’s grace and peace be with all of you who love our Lord Jesus Christ forever (Eph 6:24).