But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” – Mark 5:36 (NRSV)
During one of our “Morning Manna” worship services led by Bishop Palmer at the 2009 Annual Conference, he mentioned a phrase that piqued my interest immediately. He emphasized that offering radical hospitality to all God’s children (the theme for the 2009 IGRC) is a matter of resolving to “go from fear to faith.” This, I believe, is just what St. Joseph United Methodist Church needs to do.
For those of you who may not have read or heard yet, St. Joseph United Methodist Church (SJUMC) has a new mission and ministries focus group. The purpose of the focus group is to bring a new focus and effectiveness to the mission and ministries of our church. As you know, the unique mission of SJUMC is to “invite all people to grow in faith through Jesus Christ.” The ministries model (vision) that supports our mission is “Gather; Glorify; Grow; Go.” With this model, we practice the ministries of God’s grace by gathering people through evangelism and hospitality; glorifying God through worship and various medias; growing people in their faith through development and discipleship; and going out into the world to share the good news through missions. The general mission of SJUMC, as for all churches, remains the same, however: to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
In bringing a sharper focus to and more effectively living out our mission and vision, several areas will need to be addressed. We’ve already begun work on our first need to simplify our administrative process in order to carry out the important mission and ministries more effectively and efficiently. Second, is our need to become an essen-tial church (an important place) for the growing numbers of unchurched and de-churched (church dropouts) in our community. Third, is to adopt these five key practices: radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service, and extravagant generosity.
Are you beginning to see why Bishop Palmer’s statement struck a chord with me? It’s never easy making major changes in a church, let alone bringing a new focus to our mission and ministries. In fact, it can be a rather frightening experience. Therefore, I understand completely if some of us are hesitant to claim and proclaim SJUMC’s new focus efforts. Nevertheless, it is critical that all of us begin to embrace them, be passionate about them and faithfully fulfill them.
Our mission and ministries as a church are too important, and our time and opportunities are too fleeting to re-main fearful of the changes we likely will face. We can no longer afford to be afraid to move forward into an un-certain future; because if we do, the future we face is even more frightening: SJUMC will cease to exist! This ought to make all our other fears seem less terrifying and all our radical goals more achievable. After all, as a living church, and with God’s help, we can face and conquer any fear. Conversely, once our church dies, all hope is gone and we’re left with only our fears – what a shame! I don’t want this to happen to SJUMC, and I know you don’t either.
What we need to do, then, is to resolve to go from fear to faith. That is, give to God all our fears, hesitations, doubts and concerns, and receive from God all the hope, assurance, guidance and faith we need to move forward into a new and exciting future. As we do, we certainly don’t go alone. Many persons whom God calls, go from fear to faith.
The Israelites became fearful shortly after being freed from slavery in Egypt when they faced a seemingly im-passable Red Sea. Then, they passed through on dry land by faith, after Moses divided the sea with God’s mighty hand. Peter became fearful of the storm that threatened to sink the disciples’ boat on the Sea of Galilee. Then, he stepped out of the boat and walked on the stormy waves by faith when Jesus called to him. Finally, Jesus himself was fearful of his crucifixion as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Then, by faith he declared to God, “Yet not what I want but what you want.”
Like the early Israelites, Simon Peter, and Jesus Christ, will we resolve to go from fear to faith? Will we step out in faith into an uncertain future with the assurance that God is watching over us? Will we abandon our fears – that is give them over to God – so we can embrace fully and faithfully God’s call to us as a church? Will we claim God’s assurance that when we respond in faith, God will provide the means necessary to accomplish His kingdom work?
I pray that you and I will resolve to go from fear to faith, to focus our mission and ministries on faithfully making disciples of Jesus Christ, and intentionally inviting all people to grow in faith through Jesus Christ.
Just a thought!
Gather. Glorify. Grow. Go.