First, let me say that I am very pleased to announce that I have been re-appointed to Sand Springs UMC for a fourth year beginning this week. Linda and I are happy to be continuing the journey of faith that lies ahead of us here. We have been blessed by our time here and know that God has plans that we have yet to imagine for all of us.
The theme of this year’s Annual Conference was “All Things New”. As we worked through the challenging business of the conference last week, I couldn’t help but think about the challenges we are facing right here in Sand Springs. The past few weeks have been difficult for many as we begin to realize that God is asking us to do a number of things in new ways. Our church is being challenged to discover new ways of doing mission and ministry in light of the realities we face in terms of scarce resources and changing realities. We will not live in to scarcity, however; we will march forward into abundance. Our church leadership is working hard to make difficult decisions that will change the way in which our church operates on a daily basis. The goal of these changes is to align ourselves more closely with who we are and who God wants us to become. The result will be a leaner church focused on the mission to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Making disciples is what we are called by Christ to do. The Annual Conference initiative, “New People, New Places”, is being developed around this calling and seeks to aid the local church to reach new people in new places with the message of Jesus Christ. This initiative, coupled with the District re-alignment process, offers us new ways to partner with the conference to make all things new in Jesus’ name.
Over the past several months our church has celebrated a glorious 100 year history of ministry in Sand Springs. We have honored the work of two congregations who joined together to become SSUMC in 2000. Now we embark on our next 100 years and almost nothing is the same as it was back in 1914. Truly, much has changed since 2000. I believe that God is asking us to be creative, to step outside of our comfort zone, and really make all things new as we go forward together in ministry.
Some of you may remember that I asked this question a few months ago: What would it look like; what would we do differently if we were starting a brand new church in Sand Springs in 2014? I asked us to imagine how things might be different if we were just starting out now, with no history and limited resources. Imagine what it might be like to go out into the community inviting new people to come join us in a brand new church. Imagine the excitement of new people coming into a new place to learn about and worship God. Imagine celebrating as new believers came forward to be baptized because you brought them in to meet Jesus for the first time. Just imagine what the people of God could do in a community that is desperately in need of and searching for a God who loves and forgives and heals the broken-hearted. What if we could do that? What if we could make all things new?
On behalf of the lay leadership of our church, I am asking you to pray for the difficult tasks that face them in the coming weeks and months. Pray that God will be present at every meeting and that he will guide every decision. Then I ask you to imagine what God might be able to do if we would only get out of the way and let God be in charge of everything. That really is the key to our future as a church: allowing God to be in charge of everything. We must give him complete control of our time, our talents, our finances, our gifts, and our witness. We must be willing to go where God leads us and do what God asks of us, even when it is inconvenient or we don’t understand. It is the toughest assignment of our lives – to submit to God’s authority.
The world is changing; church is changing; we must be willing to change too. The things we did 10, 20, or 30 years ago to bring people to God simply do not work anymore. We need to learn what people need and then show them how God will fill them up. We cannot do this by doing the same old thing. It is time for a new thing and God is bringing it.
In His Name,