Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Lately I've felt a bit bombarded by this question. It's been almost a year since the UMC launched the "ReThink Church" campaign, and one of the major components of that was a bunch of questions starting with "what if..." What if church wasn't just a building? What if church was thousands of doors? Many of my friends and colleagues have used this as a discussion starter, and many churches have acted on this in a variety of ways.
This past Sunday, I had the privilege of hearing Donald Miller speak at a nearby church (my reflections on that experience as a whole require an entirely different post...maybe I'll get to it someday. Let's say I learned a lot about why I like the tradition that I'm a part of). A few weeks ago Don issued a challenge on his blog titled "The Single Most Powerful Question You Can Ask". Guess what it was: "What if...?" This was also the focus of what he talked about on Sunday. So, needless to say, over the past year, I've been asking this question a lot, and thinking about honest answers.
Today I woke up with a thought in my head. It was a what if question...
What if the United Methodist Church actually embodied it's connectionalism? To me, this is what it would look like (and yes, this is based on my most recent experiences with the connection...)
Perhaps conferences would actually trust each other! With Jon and I preparing to walk the stage in a few weeks with our M.Div degrees, we have any number of friends preparing to move about the country to pursue first appointments. What I found especially intriguing were the people on both ends of this spectrum: those going to serve conferences in dire need of pastors, and those being turned away from their conference because it is saturated with candidates and pastors. Don't you just wish that we could all realize we're in the same business (making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world)? I have a friend who transferred conferences because of marriage, school, etc, and lost a year in the process because of this move. Why? Because of course, the conferences can't trust each other. One conference doesn't trust that the candidacy process of the other is good enough. And of course, this fact is further illustrated since EVERY STINKING CONFERENCE has their own idea of what candidates should go through for ordination.
Perhaps the Church Universal would be better served. Going further on this issue of conferences in need vs. saturated conferences, I think it would be great if those in need could freely utilize those candidates/provisional members who are in need of a place to go because their conference is asking them to go away for a few years and come back when there's room for them. Wouldn't it be great if some kind of list could be published and the word spread for places in need of preachers? And then good quality, seminary-trained persons called to the ministry could begin their careers in places where they know they could be fully utilized. Hey, maybe they could even explore what it's like to serve in a ministry setting or geographical locale to which they feel called! Imagine that...
I've also got some thoughts related to money...but I think I'll save that for another day.
What are your thoughts? What does the answer of this question look like to you?