« ON LINE EASTER with GCC / WAKE UP! | Main | Will Butler Win? »

April 05, 2010

Comments

Elias Andersen (pseudonym for privacy)

I gotta tell you, Mark, as a 30-something elder those questions have created one more question for me - Why am I staying in the United Methodist Church? That's not the first time I've been forced to think through that question recently, but it's the first time a fellow Methodist has sparked the question :-)

Chad Barden

Here is the reason I would give...as a lay person with really no knowledge of what I am talking about:

It is not about you as a pastor, it is about Jesus....it is about leading a flock of people into deep, lasting relationship with him. It is about the transformation of hearts into Christ's likeness. We are a fickle people, and in order to perfect that transformation, we require constant and consistent reminders of the reasons for our faith. The Methodist Church was founded upon the principles of repetitive action, worship, and reading. You will be leading your congregation along a tried and true path that has been proven to result in a lasting relationship with Christ.

Continuing to be true to that method relies on a sustainable process that exceeds your mortal capacity. What happens to your flock if you get hit by a bus and there is no leadership for them beyond you? Just read Judges to remind yourself of what happens to a leaderless people. They become fodder for the enemy.

Further, what happens if a new leader comes in a begins teaching new doctrine...perhaps even doctrine that is not founded in scripture...maybe "GASP" the new leader doesn't believe in man's pre-ordained path to God that is solidified by baptism! ;)

In all seriousness, the UMC provides a sustainable flow of trained, screened and qualified church leaders. It provides a time honored and argued doctrine that is a firm foundation upon which to build a Church. These will ensure that the flock of people you will grow to care for, will be able to continue to progress their relationship with Jesus beyond your life and beyond your life's influence.

Mikeybob

As a United Methodist pastor who used to be Catholic, I only know what brought me down this path. In the United Methodist church I found my relationship with God deepening and growing. In the church I sensed my call to ministry. Why am I, and why do I stay, a United Methodist pastor - because God called me to this place.

I could not give a person not engaged with the United Methodist church a reason to be ordained in the church. Unless they have engaged in the life of the church and gain some understanding of the Wesleyan perspective of the Christian walk, 45 minutes of my time won't suffice.

I hate to go off topic, but I will anyway. The issue I face is helping those in the United Methodist Church (young or not) to discover a relationship with Jesus Christ that moves them to follow him more closely. I can't convince anyone to choose the UMC as a place to serve as a pastor, I can only help facilitate a relationship with God that allows them to hear the call and to hear it in the context of the UMC. The task is not effective recruiting - it is spiritual growth from within.

Maybe one of the next questions will be about why United Methodism is a good way to connect with and have a deep relationship with God in Jesus Christ - that is where the issue of clergy development begins in my humble opinion.

Thanks for letting me answer the question (or in this case, answer the question I decide to answer!)

BT Gilligan

Hi, I saw this on my Twitter feed and read it. I am currently in process to become United Methodist. The question for me is always why? All the stats say we are dying that generational gap is huge, and that there are two types of people within the system. Those who are so old they can't function and those who were raised to not have to function. Why would I join that?

We are in the process of change. Most mainline denominations are refusing to change and refusing to look at their systems. UMC is examining everything and figuring out what fits and what doesn't fit, even the system of guaranteed appointments is up for grabs right now.

The other reason is that this denomination is about people, because the pastor is understood to be called out at anytime nothing resides on the pastor. The pastor can cast a vision but if anything is actually going to get done it must come from the people because the pastor may not be there to finish it. Which is really true for every denomination because at any point the pastor could be called somewhere else.

Lastly, for me, it is the action principle. We were founded on social justice of the gospel. We are good theologians and good theology but it still comes down to helping people and serving others in the name of Jesus because Jesus saved us.

UM Pastor's Wife

Chad, you must be a lucky layperson to have experienced such consistency in the pastors assigned to your church! There is such theological diversity within the UMC that even a new "trained, screened, and qualified" leader could teach a very different doctrine than his or her predecessor.

I'm not advocating a split between conservative and liberal UMs, but the itineracy system and many of the complications Mark mentioned do increase the likelihood that a pastor will be a poor theological "fit" with the congregation to which he or she is assigned, which makes for a less effective ministry all around.

Curtis Brown

For me it's about the potential. The world-wide networked connection of the UMC is an amazing resource for changing the world. The huge web of relationships with people and schools and para-church agencies and missions that make up the UMC family is too valuable a resource to let go fallow. The friendships we make with United Methodists throughout the world, especially our folks on the ground in Africa, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe are a source of profound inspiration and great pride. I know that our denomination is shrinking in the US, but I am determined to be in the right place and the right time to leverage our current institutional crisis into a opportunity to re-invest the United Methodist Church into an even more world-changing movement of Christ's love.

John Beavers

As a life long Methodist, former ministerial candidate, and pastor's spouse, I would answer thusly: First, I can't give someone a reason to be ordained in the UMC, because being ordained anywhere is a calling from God. The question is not "Why go here?", the question is "Where has God called me to go?". We don't need people with simple "gifts and graces" for ministry, we need people who are called to this denomination. There is a biblical idea of remaining how you were called, which Paul probably meant more for salvation than calling to ministry, however, the two were less distinguishable in biblical times. Therefore, "growing where you are planted" is an idea that holds biblical merit in this conversation. In this senario, I would probably discuss with this leader where they might actually be called to serve, and let them follow God's call for ministry wherever that takes them.

John

D Wofford

Ministry to for Christ is such a blessing and, yet, very challenging. We are called to serve in connection. It is that connection where Christ is allowed to flourish fully. I can't think of any theatre for Christian ministry that holds value in both connection AND contextualization than the United Methodist Church. The ordination process is rigorous but fair. Assuming that you are a right fit for the UMC and vice verse, you will almost immediately be given a chance to serve in the ways that you feel called. However, be prepared to be challenged, be prepared to grow; be prepared to be loved.

Certainly there are other avenues to serve in God's calling upon your life. Just know that if you're committed to serving Christ, the United Methodist Church is a part of God's Church where your calling may be discerned and lived out radically and communally for Jesus!

Ray Baker

There are really a number of questions to be asked. Are you called to serve God as a layperson or as an ordained clergy? Are you called to participate as an independent pastor, a pastor in a call system, or a pastor in an itinerant system. A pastor in an itinerant system understands their relationship to the whole church/denomination and makes a commitment to God and a commitment to the whole.

I made a commitment to God and the denomination because I am unable to fully understand my call to ministry apart from the larger community of believers. It also gives me the opportunity to utilize my gifts for ministry within the larger context of the denomination.

God will be with me where ever I serve. I will meet God's people where ever I serve. I will be a servant of God where ever I serve. God is the center of my ministry and service. The question is not: Where do I want to serve. The question is: How will God use me in this setting for ministry?

The United Methodist Church has given me more opportunities for ministry than I had ever dreamed of having on my own. I have been given numerous opportunities for leadership and service that I had not anticipated. By humbling myself to the itinerant process I have been blessed beyond my expectation.

Harold Gardner

My first thought would be to remember that the ark was built by amateurs, the Titanic by professionals...

My serious thought would be to remember that as Methodists we are called to recognize our need for discipline. The Methodist community of faith provides guidance and correction that every "high-capacity influencer" needs. I think we sometimes forget because we so easily focus on the problems, losing sight of the strength of our structure.

The other thought is to consider impact. Although we Methodists are too resistant to change, the challenge of changing the direction of a denomination rather than simply a campus is an opportunity that only God can provide.

My final thought is about the congregation that you plan to impact. What happens if you are suddenly unable to serve? Within the church, we have a plan to care for congregations in extraordinary circumstances.

Randy Willis

Great series and valid first question.

Background/Full Disclosure: My wife and I (a clergy couple) came into the UMC in 1998 (I was 30 at the time). We came to the UMC because of the role of women in ministry and Wesleyan theology. We had M.Divs. from our previous denomination's seminary (ATS-accredited but not on University Senate list, which we discovered in 2003). After completing DMins in 2008, we're on track for ordination in 2011 -- 13 years after becoming United Methodists.

While I didn't come up with 8-10 things, here are 6 things I'd say to a future high-capacity influencer ...

1. COMMITMENT matters. In order to be effective in ministry in the UMC, you've gotta be committed to both Wesleyan theology and the itineracy (otherwise, the rest may not matter; this deals with a person's "fit" with the UMC). It won't be easy. If you're not committed, it'll be impossible.

2. There's great POTENTIAL for (and signs of a return to) a missional focus in the UMC. But still, it won't be easy.

3. To reach our potential, we need CHANGE AGENTS to help lead stagnant/declining congregations toward revitalized mission. Leading change won't be easy.

4. The UMC provides a built-in NETWORK of churches, leaders, and people all around the world and while you could form your own networks or tap into existing ones, you may never find one with this much potential for global impact for the kingdom of God. Still, it won't be easy.

5. Yes, the ordination PROCESS is challenging, but you can either view it as a series of unnecessary hoops to jump through or you can view it as an opportunity to grow and/or test your mettle. It definitely won't be easy.

6. The CHALLENGE is great! We need strong leaders who will help us reach our potential! It won't be easy, but with God's help, we will do it!

Smithson

I am not a pastor – although I come from a line of pastors from a denomination not dissimilar to the UMC. Mark, your comments on lame excuses could apply to many main-line denominations today. The fact as you mentioned is that most of these denominations have seen massive movements away from their churches. Mark, your church within the UMC is an exception from this and therefore gives you the right to not only pose these questions but to write the book to answer these questions.
Many comments have talked about ‘calling’ and certainly this is important. But maybe more important in answering the question on ‘why UMC? ‘ relates to giftedness. I know you Mark from many years ago and your giftedness is well suited to work within a large denomination and become a shining light within a vast array of dimming and burned out light bulbs(maybe that’s worded too strongly, but you get the point). Your infectious personality, encouragement and optimism are what’s required for the task as you persevere and seek excellence for God’s glory. Obviously, God is honoring the effective uses of these gifts (and gifts of your staff) with a ministry that reaches around the world, and has become an example of what can be accomplished through the UMC.
As a businessman I have seen one’s giftedness flourish in one business setting and flounder in another. Some businessmen get regenerated at the thought of being able to turn a failing business around while others – just as talented – become so overwhelmed and ineffective at making tough decisions incumbent with a successful turnaround. One is gifted in facing change, and pushing the status-quo while the other is gifted in utilizing current systems and cultures to excel even further.
My question to the perspective pastor – ‘What is your giftedness?’ To phrase it differently(or certainly longer), ‘What makes you want to get out of bed two hours earlier than your alarm clock is set for so you can get working on the ideas that have kept you up all night?’ It’s that fire in you that points you in the direction of being a pastor planting an independent church, or a pastor in a large successful church, or a pastor in a denomination that is shrinking and needs help for survival.
The ‘call’ to serve God can be accomplished either way.

Matt Judkins

I think there is really only one reason to be an ordained clergy-person in the United Methodist Church. In my life, I am a pastor because God has called me to use the gifts I have been given in that role. I am a United Methodist pastor, because I heard and ultimately responded to that call in the United Methodist Church. Until I somehow feel released from the call to share the gospel in and through the UMC or sense God's clear leading in some other direction, I will carry out that calling as a United Methodist elder.

So, I guess I'd tell this hypothetical person, "If God is calling you to be a minister, then you had better listen and do it. If God is calling you to carry out that ministry in the UMC, then your job is to be faithful and obedient to God's calling." God calls, we respond. If God is calling you to the UMC, then listen and respond. No other reason, no matter how pragmatic, seems sufficient.

Jim

My son was a UMC pastor. He has long since surrendered his credentials and pastors a Nondenom congregation. He also kept a heresy file while he was at Duke. Be a pastor because God calls you--not because the Ad Council chair thinks "you" would be a good one. People skills aren't the requirement. A genuine call by the Master and a belief in His Death, Burial, and Resurrection are essential. The blood sacrifice is why we are reconciled. A feel-good social gospel will not save anyone's soul--only the Good News of the shed blood. When the UMC comes back to that, God will honor the call on many lives.

Kathy Guy

You have already heard many justifications, although lame, in response to your question. They have been understandably inssufficient for you. Since my hope is that you will be ordained in the UMC, and since I'm a counselor, I know that if I continue to try and push you in that direction, you will likely resist. In response to your question, I'd encourage you to consider this question: What are your concerns or fears about NOT being ordained in the United Methodist Church? What do you believe you will miss? What are your fears about going outside the UMC?

You have a clear message of God's call on your life. If you can hear from God on that message, then I doubt your hearing is impaired on the answer to this question. You may hear silence because God is silent regarding this question. Because you have received a clear call for your life, go! Obey and go -- UMC or not. God's gonna get this done with or without you, but he's invited YOU! Because of who you are, and who God's created you to be, and because of your faithfulness to God, he's gonna do great things through you regardless of the direction you choose.

Larry

I am an ordained UM pastor in the same district as GCC - love the ministry you offer to Granger and even world-wide. I recently started to have this conversation with a college freshman who is a member in the congregation I serve. We had lunch when she was home for spring break, and she began to tell me that she was open to a call to ministry. I steered clear of describing the process in the UMC - it was beside the point for now. Instead, I focused on the practicals of how to help get her hands-on experience in pastoral work. That is likely where I would begin in this hypothetical Starbucks conversation - really encourage the person to respond to God's call, and ask him or her how I can help provide opportunities for experiencing what it is like to serve God as a pastor. I'd tell the person that his or her question about what is good in the UMC is premature - its the wrong starting point. If the person responds eagerly to opportunities - preaching or teaching, going with me to the hospitals or nursing homes, getting a glimpse of the kinds of administrative tasks that have to be done - then I would start to lay out the advantages and disadvantages of going into UM ministry (and I happen to think there is a long list of disadvantages).

For your 45-minute scenario here, the most likely outcome for me would be that I would wish him well outside the UMC. I would honestly have to tell him that if he entered the UMC he would be frustrated unless he was really, really patient. I can really see no reason for someone like that to wait in the wings another 5 years or more. In fact, if I was really convinced of his gifts for ministry, and I had a place to use those gifts in the life of my congregation, I might look for a way to bring him in as a volunteer leader or staff position. That would at least get him exposed to the UMC, warts and all, give him a chance to demonstrate those gifts and grow in his sense of call. If he wanted to continue in the UMC of his own accord after that, it would be up to him.

David

I am posting my comment without having read any other posts.

If I am going to a UMC when I become compelled by God spirit to live in His story, I'm not going to weigh out every denomination to see where he'll use me. I believe that I only need to be right where I am.

Every Christ follower stepping into Gods plan, pushing their own will aside, and deepening their walk in Gods spirit, trusting Gods direction, he will lead me where he wants me.

If I am under the influence of spirit filled men it is my hope that they are leading in God's will.

When my three friends and I gave our lives to Jesus. While together we were unaffiliated with any church. Our family church backgrounds were diverse. Non of us really knew the meaning of denomination ism. Over months of study in the scriptures we came to believe that we should find a church of worship to go to. We said to each other;"lets study all the denominations to find out which ones teach the same as we believe".

So we studied all christian and non christian beliefs because we didn't want to be deceived by any. You see early in our studies we found in the bible (Revelations I believe)where one translation said let no man teach you but let the spirit of God teach you through the reading of His word. We stood firmly on this without outside influence. We prayed and discussed everything we learned. What we learned about christian denominations is that we all follow Christ.

Qualifications for UMC leadership;
Has a deep compassion for the ignorant and unsaved.
Seeks Gods own face with the love of Jesus.
Has a strong rooted study of scripture.
Has proven and tested well in social venues with heart wrenching demands.
Is a communicator. Able with enough life experience to give discerning examples of connecting to people using God word.

Dave Eversdyke

I’m not sure your innovator is quite ready to consider the question. What I mean is, a prior question keeps popping into my mind: Why is he considering the UMC in the first place?
The conferences he has apparently attended are not the typical conferences a UM pastor would likely attend. The input that has already influenced him is outside the UM box. (Not a negative at all)! So, why even consider the UMC?
1) because, despite what others may say, to be a UM you can say and do many things, but bottom line, you believe Jesus is Savior and Lord, and you preach him and teach him.
2) because he is called to the UMC. After much prayer and discernment, is he really called to this denomination?
3) because there is freedom in the UMC. As a UM, I have always said no one can tell me what to preach and teach. The pulpit belongs to the pastor (for good or bad)!
4) because he can be part of something God will use in the future to bring revival to the continent (Billy Graham said that years ago)!
I agree with what someone else has put far better than I can. The challenge will be great. The path will be difficult. The stones will hobble. God’s grace will be sufficient.

Pastor R

As a 20+ year UM pastor I'm afraid I don't have much to go on. I'm here because of my call - and often consider it my cross to bear. The UM hierarchy has many good people in it, but as a system seems mostly toxic, and generative of distrust. I don't trust the cabinet to do the right thing and hope that since they have so much power over me, that they just leave me alone.

If strong leaders is called to this mission field, they might have a powerful and fruitful ministry. Or the system might chew them up and spit them out. I've seen both.

If this person were my child, I might feel affirmed by their going the UM route, but if I were thinking only of their own future and potential, I'd likely tell them to consider other options (assuming they're lacking a clear calling to the UMC).

Buck Cueni-Smith

In the context of your question, of a great Christian leader wanting to inquire about the United Methodist Church, I would hire this person. Find this person a place on staff to explore ministry in a United Methodist setting.

After saying that, I am not saying that anyone should forgo ordination. I believe that the call to ministry is both inward and an outward. I believe that the United Methodist Church has one of the best processes for exploring the outward call to ministry. Please understand that this is a process and people slip through or take advantage of a process, but I believe that this process allows one accountability, growth and potential to a great fit in ministry.

The outward call has to be answered by the church. The church has to ordain those whose receive an inward call. The churches job is to make sure that the inward call is a true calling from God, not just a feeling from some bad mexican food from the night before. The United Methodist process of ordination, though not for everyone, confirms the inward call.

As for ministry in the United Methodist Church, I believe that potential and leadership is recognized in the conference I serve. Our conference is starting new churches and implementing church health. You are not the only one asking these question and I think that we are in exciting times for the United Methodist Church, that I want to be a part. We are on a new frontier, where other denominations are licking the wounds and holding on to their guns for survival. The United Methodist Church, through leaders like you, are trying to move forward, but we are an institution and charge is twice as hard.

Ben McGehee

Mark, this is a great topic. I'm looking forward to reading all the answers.

As for me, I think I would play up the connectional system. At its best (and we all know it doesn't always work at it best, but) at its best, the connectional system could give this high-powered leader a chance to lead not just one church, but also influence churches all over the region or US. We have many examples of good churches that are using what they've learned to not just transform thier area - but churches all over.

I think i would also talk about the opportunity to plant a church in the Methodist system, especially since that's something he specifically mentioned. Some conferences are doing a better job at this than others, but since it's one of the 4 Areas of Focus, all of them are at least doing something. As someone who is interested in church planting myself, I've found that some of the most incredible things in our church are occuring at the new church plants.

PS - I'm a 32-year old ordained elder...

Todd Craig

I think one of the greatest mistakes of the UMC is to ask "What would Welsey do?" instead of asking "Why did Wesley do what he did?". I think Wesley would abandon many of his approaches (or at least tweak them) given all the changes in technology, communication, etc. Wesley's genius was in not feeling constrained to the institution. He did whatever it took to be successful. That spirit is dead in the UM institution. We need to quit being so focused on "what" and start asking "why" when talking about Wesley.

I am a 34 year old deacon who works with college students. I have a very difficult time encouraging our college students who are working through a call to go the UM route. I am honest with them about positives and negatives. About the support they will get (minimal) and the hurdles and barriers that will be presented to them (many).

Our systems are dated. They worked great 200 years ago, but we aren't riding horses anymore, we aren't a rural society, we have 50 member churches and 10,00 member churches, extended families no longer live in the same house or on the same farm, things have changed. Why haven't our systems?

I don't suggest that there aren't positives in the UMC (connection, focus on discipleship, Welseyan theology, accountability). I would suggest our systems no longer make the best use of them.

John Battern

The UMC understands that Christianity is both personal and social. There are few denominations where a person can preach on the need for salvation through a relationship with Jesus Christ one week and on social justice the next. And few denominations which have in place the programs that encourage personal spiritual growth (like Walk to Emmaus) and also have programs that reach out into the world (like Nothing But Nets). I know pastors in conservative denominations who would be ridden out of town on the rail if they spoke strongly against the oppression of the poor and the sins of America. I also know liberal pastors who have no real idea how to begin talking about the need for saving grace.

I've served UMC's for 20+ years and I can't imagine being in a place where I could not passionately preach "there is no other name by which one may be saved, but Jesus Christ." Or where I could not preach with equal passion that "what one does to the least of Jesus' brothers and sisters is done unto Jesus."

It is this balance which the UMC offers that makes it worth the effort and worth enduring the weaknesses to be a United Methodist pastor.

Sean

I serve in a United Methodist Church as a family ministries director. The local church here specifally did not have an associate pastor so they could have some say and control in the position. I am working towards my seminary degree through Liberty University and at this point have not interest in being ordained by the church and being sent where they say. It is very hard to answer as to why you would follow this path, I am serving and preaching and doing things with students and our local team is my leader and shepherd, not a local bishop or superindendent. One thing I have noticed here is that the harvest is ripe for someone to come in and teach the Gospel and preach the Word. That is simply enough all that the UMC needs and should require.

Fred Webster

What a great opportunity you outlined. As I read all the responses the idea of "calling" is tops on most lists. As it is with mine. If the inquirer is approaching this decision as a logical cost/benefit scenerio, he is missing the point. If a person is feeling called into the ordained ministry of Jesus Christ then that should be the driving force; not the other "factors" we oftentimes add to the mix. As to the question of "where" to follow that call to ordination and why would someone choose the UMC, I think the answer is just as simple. Can you be obedient to your call in any other place?

I choose the UMC (and continune within the UMC) because I
believe that this is the path that would best prepare me for ministry, that would most fully use me in ministry and that would hold me to accountability for my ministry; in the name of Jesus.

The comments to this entry are closed.