INDIANAPOLIS – More than 350 Hoosier United Methodist pastors and other clergy from across the state met at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis for an annual Our Life Together two-day retreat, following a theme of Called and Calling. The event is sponsored by the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry and funded by the conference tithe.
Beginning with a Monday morning worship service, Derek Weber of Aldersgate UMC in Fort Wayne and Jenifer Steulpe Gibbs of First UMC in Bloomington, preached about God’s call to ordained ministry. They based their reflections upon Jeremiah 1:1-12. During their co-sermon, they began with the question of whether God’s call is our choosing or as Jeremiah said, “You (God) chose me before I was born.” Jeremiah claims God seduced him to his prophetic voice. “Do we have free will in our call?” they asked.
Jeremiah told God he didn’t know how to speak and was too young.
Weber and Gibbs pointed out that we hear our call with our human fears. Those fears especially come at the beginning of ministry. We fear that we cannot fulfill God’s call; it’s too great. We fear what we proclaim will cause controversy. Call is irritating. Having received God’s call, we ask if we can bear it? There are no five easy steps.
Other questions that come with ministry, Weber and Gibbs asked their audience of more than 300 pastors and other clergy:
Are you willing to pluck up and pull down when it’s necessary?
Are you willing to face the mess of ministry?
Are you willing to deal with the anger in people’s lives when many times they don’t even know why they are angry?
Continuing, they said, “Fears come at the beginning of ministry. Fear of the church. Fear we can’t fulfill our role. Fear that what we say will cause controversy. Remember, the Lord says, ‘Do not be afraid.’ God journeys with us in our call.”
They said ministry is not five easy steps. At times, “we are called to pluck up and pull down.” Sometimes ministry is dealing with mess. “Take it to the Lord and look deeper.” Sometimes people will be angry and not even know why they are angry.”
Remember, “No other preacher can see what you see in your community. God’s call is the heartbeat of your ministry, the lifeblood of your call,” they said.
Concluding they admonished conference pastors, “Do not be afraid. God is calling you now for the Kingdom of God.”