INDIANAPOLIS – More than 400 United Methodist pastors and other clergy from across Indiana spent Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 24-25, listening to two celebrated author/faith leaders and worshiping together.
The Rev. Mary van Wijk, was chairperson of the retreat’s planning team. The theme of the retreat was “Engaging the World” and was based on John 17:20-23.
Bishop Mike Coyner preached during the opening Communion service about pastors holding the keys to unlocking the doors of God’s Kingdom in their communities. (His sermon and other resources from the retreat are available online at www.inumc.org/olt.)
Jim Wallis, president and founder of Sojourners, both the magazine and movement based in Washington, D.C., told the 40-year story of his faith-based organization, which has championed issues of the poor. Begun by Wallis and six others during the early 1970s in Deerfield, Ill., Sojourners moved to Washington in the mid-1970s and has remained a strong voice for the poor and vulnerable citizens of the United States in Congress.
He challenged clergy at the retreat to become involved in immigration reform, the criminal justice system, opposing the trafficking of women and children, hunger, public education, civil rights and civil equity. He warned against the prosperity gospel and the politicizing of the church in America.
He questioned why churches seem to be threatened by today’s youth. He said, “They are a real opportunity (for growth). They want to make a difference in the world.”
He said whatever we do, we need to be preparing the people in here (the church) to go into the world. “We need to bring the church to the people.”
On the subject of homosexuality he said how we treat GBLTs (Gays, Lesbians, Bisexual and Transgender) in the church is being watched by people outside the church. He said we need to work for equal protection under the law – civil rights, civil equity.
“Our vocation is unexpected hope,” he said.
Wallis said as Wesleyans, United Methodists should understand Wesley’s words, “the world is our parish.
“If we don’t do this, we are abstractionists or fundamentalists… The church is not an escape or hiding place. We need to get out of our comfort zone and take risks. A church that doesn’t get out becomes sick… We need to take responsibility for our neighbor.” Wallis said these are the words Pope Francis is saying, too.
“If we can embody and exemplify that leadership, there is no limit how things can change.”
He said when it comes to Congress in relationship to society, “social movements outside will be the only thing that can change Congress; it’s the story that converts. The world is hungry for us to do Gospel.”
Wallis said he gets his direction from remembering Romans 12:1-2 and the wisdom of Paul telling us to not let the world “squeeze us into its mold.”
He ended his more than two hours of speaking by reviewing his “Ten Personal Decisions for the Common Good” presented as the Epilogue to his most recent book On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good available at www.ongodsside.com and online as an e-book. See the YouTube video “On God’s Side.”
For more information, visit www.sojo.net.
The Rev. Mike Slaughter, noted author and lead pastor of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio, spoke about the church needing to be in mission about everything it does – being the Body of Christ during his hour-long presentation about growing a missional church.
“We are radical disciples of Jesus Christ,” he said of his Tipp City church. “We are Kingdom influence.”
He explained how the church needs to shift from being pastor-centered to a church where the pastor nurtures teams of the congregation called into the world, whether it’s in the local community or across the ocean, like Ginghamsburg’s outreach to the people of Sudan. He said, pastors need to be visionary in what they do, not managers of programs.
Part of being a visionary pastor is identifying the people who need to be called into the world. “You can’t convince the unconvinceable so work with the convinced.”
Slaughter said there are three characteristics of a mission church and leadership.
Picture a plan and a practice. A picture is an expectation. We have to see future possibilities. He said, “Vision comes from a leader.” Vision includes: clarity, urgency, importance and size.
A vision needs to be nurtured with time and space. Slaughter shared that he spends from one-to-two hours a day sitting in his blue chair in prayer, Scripture reading and devotion each day. Currently, he is “future-tasking” to the year 2050.
“Folks, we are on a mission from heaven – hello. There is no retirement in God’s Kingdom,” he said. Churches need to relocate where the people live. “Only 16 percent of Americans live where 70 percent of our United Methodist churches are located.”
We need to cast our vision as leaders. This comes through images, words and sound bites. As a church, we have a mission statement already; we don’t need to waste time coming up with one for our churches, he said. We must clearly define our plans. As an example, the Ginghamsburg Church has a weekly attendance of 5,000 but only 1,300 members. “We aren’t a consumer-driven church.” Commitment comes with a price. He advised leaders always to cast a bigger vision. (See Isaiah 58.)
Many of Slaughters recent thoughts can be read in his most current book, Dare to Dream: Creating God-Sized Mission Statement for Your Life from Cokesbury.com.
Ten Point Coalition
During the closing worship service, an offering was received for the Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition, a faith-based movement of predominately African-American pastors living in the inner city of Indianapolis. They walk the streets of the city, especially on the weekends, to keep peace. The Rev. Charles Harrison, senior pastor of Barnes United Methodist Church, is president of the coalition. Retreat participants gave a total of $1,611 to this ministry.
“Our vocation is unexpected hope.”
– Jim Wallis
Music was provided to Our Life Together by the Open Door Worship Band of First United Methodist Church in Bloomington, Ind.
“Vision comes from a leader.”
– Mike Slaughter
Jim Wallis signs his book One God’s Side for many retreat participants.