I write these words in the context of also preparing for the funeral service for my father, Jake Coyner, who died on April 24th about a month after he reached the age of 90. One of my strong memories of Dad is how much he loved his church and how much he wanted the lights in the church steeple to shine and to witness to the community. Dad was an active trustee of First United Methodist in Anderson, Ind., and as a part of the rebuilding of that church after the old building burned, it was decided to have a tall, lighted steeple. Dad always wanted those lights to shine, and he would drive down to the church in the evenings just to check and make sure the lights were on.
Many experts say the day has passed when simply having the church lights on and the doors unlocked will draw people into our churches. I am sure that is true, but we must not neglect those signs of hospitality when people do come. And yet, in order for people to come and to know Christ and to be a part of a congregation, we must take our light to them.
Jesus told his disciples (and us), “You are the light of the world… Let your light so shine before people that they will see and glorify God” (Matthew 5:14-16). Letting our light shine today is not a passive act of just keeping the doors unlocked and the lights on. Today, we must carry that light with us into our homes, our schools, our businesses, our daily lives, and around the world.
This year at the 2014 Session of the Indiana Annual Conference, we will all have two special opportunities to let our light shine:
- We will launch the public phase of raising our goal of $1.6 million for Africa University in Zimbabwe, and a special “offering” will be received at Conference where each congregation will be invited to dance their way forward to give money, a pledge or a commitment card to be a part of this campaign to educate Christian leaders on the continent of Africa. Some individuals and some churches have already made “advance” gifts and pledges, and we will announce that we have made good progress already toward our goal. Then everyone will be invited to come forward and bring a commitment card saying “I’m in” and “we will help” to fulfill this campaign. I am very excited to think about this effort to let the light of our witness shine through Africa University.
- We will launch “100 New Points of Light” in Indiana in the coming year – 100 new worship services to reach new people with the light of Christ. At Conference, there will be a time for those churches who want to get involved to come forward, receive their light and then receive training and consulting in how to launch a new worship service. I expect many of those new worship services will be “off-site” in a location outside the church building, while others will be at “off-times” to reach new people beyond our typical worship services. I am very excited to see how many individuals and congregations step forward to help us launch 100 New Points of Light during the next year.
Of course there are other ways to let our light shine, including the simple acts of kindness and love that we offer to everyone we meet. The main point is the one that my Dad wanted to emphasize: We are called to let our light shine, to show the world the Light of Christ, which gives the hope, joy, peace, love, salvation and healing that our world so desperately needs.
No matter how you respond at Conference this year, please let your light shine!
From Bishop Michael J. Coyner,
Indiana Area of
The United Methodist Church
“Leadership for vibrant congregations making faithful disciples of Jesus Christ”