…he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith (Matthew 13:58).
Huntingtown United Methodist Church needs both. I have served churches that were planted in the late 1800s, so I understand the power and value of memory. Memory shows a church how they thrived and grew in the past. Many ministries continue because of the powerful memories associated with them.
But if memory is the default position of HUMC, we will lean heavily upon the familiar and predictable, rather than take bold new steps. This is sad and ironic, as church memories tell stories of how past leaders once pushed past the limitations of their memories, and imagined new ways to be faithful to Christ in a changing world.
Jesus confronted a religious system steeped in powerful memories. He honored tradition, but he demonstrated the power of imagination by rethinking traditional beliefs and practices.
- Worship was not just about observing Sabbath rules, but offering one’s self completely to God all week.
- Freedom from sin was not just a matter of following rules, but making sure one’s heart was right with God and neighbors.
- Traditions can honor God, but not if they keep us from demonstrating love, mercy and compassion.
- Loving neighbors is not just about those near to us and similar to us. Our neighbors are also those who are different, and can make us comfortable.
While writing my annual pastor’s report to Church Conference I examined my work as a pastor, and wondered what could happen if we pushed past the limitations of our memories and used our imaginations. What is a person or group at HUMC…
- sees the needs of one of our missional partners, develops a passion for that ministry and forms a team that creates a bolder vision for that missional partnership?
- sees a homeless person, is overwhelmed with compassion and senses a call to start an outreach ministry to the poor at HUMC?
- looks at our church building and envisions improvements that create a welcoming environment, enhances our ministries and communicates our mission?
- looks at the empty house next door and envisions a food pantry or a youth center to increase our outreach?
- drives by a neighborhood with homes in disrepair, and forms mission teams that make a local impact?
These are a few examples of ways I can imagine HUMC fulfilling Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples of all nations,” and answer our call to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.” (Matthew 28:19-20; Micah 6:8).
What keeps us from doing these things? In my Church Conference report I delved into many reasons why we struggle to walk by faith and not by sight.
Our first step towards new ministry and vitality begins with inviting the Holy Spirit to inhabit our hearts and minds, and give us God-sized imaginations.
(to be continued)