Dr. Joseph Daniels has been a minister for several years, but it’s not hard to detect his passion for teaching God’s Word. His keynote sermon, the evening of Thursday, June 8, was part Sunday-morning gospel, a part interactive course on how to engage, revitalize, and transform your congregation. His message was crafted for anyone, whether in the church or outside, lay or clergy, an experienced church member or novice, to feel inspired to promote change in their church and community.
Dr. Daniels, who played college basketball at Notre Dame University in South Bend, took Annual Conference attendees back a generation by kicking off his segment with the song, “What’s going on?” by the late and legendary Marvin Gaye. Bishop and First Lady Trimble joined in a dance, as Gaye crooned about his concerns for our society, questioning how we ever got to that point in time.
“Did you hear Marvin preaching? Some may think of this as a worldly song, but the world is saying to the Church, what the Church is saying to the world — I need you to talk to me, to tell me what’s going on.”
Dr. Daniels continues, “People are struggling to see the relevance of the Church. The world is saying, ‘if your Christianity is real, then let’s see it.’ And the Church is saying ‘if your Christianity is real, then let’s live it — because together we are more.”
Daniels sought inspiration from Acts 3:1-10 (NIV) and used his dynamic stage presence to relay to us the importance of being active in our church, seeking change within ourselves through God’s guidance, and the important relevance in terms of spreading and actualizing the Word of God.
He states that relevance is the space between ‘what you think is important’ and 'what interests the world.’
In his teaching, he stressed that the Church must be enthusiastic, authentic, and loving. And when we practice these, along with our personal strive to better ourselves in every category and focus on living out and sharing our own stories, we become better disciples of Christ.
Lastly, the Dr. Daniels, throughout the keynote, emphasized the importance of focusing less on the aesthetics and legalities of running a church and making our discipleship ministries a priority. He calls United Methodists to set programs in place that push us to enthusiastically engage with our communities, reach out to the least, last and lost, and partner with those who may share different ideals than us. Because, as he states, “Do you believe in ritual or relationship?”