The Measure of Success - 525,600 minutes
Earlier this month, the leaders of our Annual Conference gathered for our 43rd session of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. These were days rich with activity and inspiration! For the second year, we were graciously hosted by the Salem Conference Center.
Our worship was inspirational, and varied, modeling for us how we can use both traditional and contemporary music and liturgy to stir souls for Jesus Christ.
We were graced by the presence of Bishop John Innis, resident bishop of Liberia who reminds us of our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world and whose prayers encouraged us.
We were blessed by the words of Mike Slaughter, who encouraged us to lead our congregations to take our ministries out of the church, and into the world.
Work on legislative actions was completed in ways that were grace-filled and respectful in spite of differences.
We ate well.
We laughed together.
We witnessed the commissioning, licensing, ordination, retirement and appointment of clergy leaders
A strong, committed team of persons was elected to serve on our delegation to General and Jurisdictional Conferences that will take place in 2012.
We celebrated accomplishments and bestowed awards
Perhaps the one thing many did not do was sleep long enough.
I received many comments indicating that it was a great Annual Conference Session. However, what makes this Annual Conference great is really not any of the things I mention above. We will only be able to assess the quality of this AC session if we begin to see positive changes in the health and vitality of our congregations as a result of our gathering. The leadership of this AC presented its report to you summing up the accomplishments of the past year accompanied by the song "525,600 Minutes," from the Broadway show Rent. 525,600 minutes from now, what difference will it make that we gathered here this week?
Will we remember and live by these words of Mike Slaughter? "We are facing challenging times. This is not a time to fear or to insulate ourselves from the human pain and suffering around us. If the world is ever going to take the good news of the gospel seriously then we must take a serious look at our paradigms (models) for ministry, repent, and realign our priorities and resources with the message and mission of Jesus." (Change the World )
The real value of this Annual Conference Session will be determined by whether or not we have really learned anything from our time together and whether we have done anything to change the way we do church when we return to our homes. A year from now, will we still be talking about the changes that we would like to make? Alternatively, will we have moved significantly toward our vision of a conference of healthy vital congregations? I fear that too many congregations will be hindered in their efforts to change because of a refusal to try new things and new methods.
A year from now I hope that we will be seeing some of the fruits of our changes. Signs to look for:
- A larger cadre of strong and confident, competent leaders among our laity and our clergy.
- New kinds of ministries reaching out to those who are not yet disciples of Jesus Christ.
- Consistently more and more persons in worship will indicate that passionate worship is being offered.
- A proliferation of gatherings for new disciples and new expressions of the Christian faith.
- People excited about doing acts of kindness and love in the world outside the walls of the church in the name of Jesus: for example, hunger ministries in our neighborhoods, or support for our anti-malaria campaign in Liberia.
- Persons in our congregations who are willing to share about their own experiences of faith.
- Congregational giving that reflects generous response to real experiences of God's love through tithing and support of our shared ministry askings.
In the year before us, I expect that we will see more and more of such fruits of our efforts. I pray that history will judge this Annual Conference Session truly "great" because we have put into practice all that we have just learned and experienced and that a year from now we will proclaim that we have been faithful to our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!