18 for 20

They prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s deepest thoughts and desires. Show us clearly which one you have chosen from among these two to take the place of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.” When they cast lots, the lot fell on Matthias. He was added to the eleven apostles.

Acts 1:24-26 (CEB)

to see the resolution discussed in this post, visit 18for20.wordpress.com

This past weekend, we celebrated the defining and central moment in the Christian faith: God’s redemptive work in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the next few weeks, we’ll share stories of the resurrected Lord during worship at churches all over the conference (and the church universal, too).

And then, a few weeks from now, we’ll remember the ascension, when Jesus returned to heaven. Do you know what comes next in our story?

The answer is a vote.

Well, prayer and then a vote, to be more accurate. Faced with the overwhelming responsibility of taking the message of the Gospel to the world, the followers of Jesus prayerfully considered two men to fill the role of twelfth apostle, and then cast votes.

I think that United Methodist Christians should approach our election of delegates to general and jurisdictional conference with the same reverence and awe as the first Christians.

Several months ago, I started meeting and praying and thinking with a group of pastors from around the Texas Conference. We’re from all over the map geographically, theologically, politically,  and in terms of age and appointments. But we’re all people who want to be deeply intentional and prayerful with the election of our next delegation. With the coming 2019 special session of general conference, it is imperative that we approach the election of the people involved in decision making about the future of our church with prayerful humility and thoughtful discernment.

As we came together, we realized a few things:

  • We should start praying, talking, and thinking about how we elect delegates now.
  • We are in a historic, crazy time in the history of the UMC, and so we should be really intentional.
  • There will likely be a lot of weighty things at the 2020 General Conference, so giving that delegation time to grow together and learn would be a really good thing.

In light of these things, we decided that electing our 2020 delegation in 2018 would be a really good thing. This will allow the 2020 delegation to attend 2019 as observers, to be fully versed in the outcomes there and better prepared to “hit the ground running” in 2020. I am excited about this possibility, excited about the future of our church, and excited most of all about the conversations people are having about our beloved denomination. It’s good to have holy conferencing and conversations!

I’m supporting this resolution, and so are a lot of people who are much smarter than I am. I invite you to do so, too!

–N

Advertisements

Benediction

Finally, brothers and sisters, good-bye. Put things in order, respond to my encouragement, be in harmony with each other, and live in peace—and the God of love and peace will be with you. Say hello to each other with a holy kiss. All of God’s people say hello to you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

2 Corinthians 13:11-13 (CEB)

Nobody is better at saying goodbye than Paul. He ends so many of his letters with words that inspire, instruct, convey love, and are also clear in their finality.

And that makes sense, since the Tentmaker from Tarsus spent his whole ministry on the move, listening for where God was calling him to go next. Sometimes it was another community, sometimes it was somewhere familiar.

Sometimes it was back into a jail cell.

Thankfully, it is much easier to be a United Methodist Elder than to be Paul of Tarsus. But still, I’ve found myself in a position where I am saying goodbye to a community I love.

The bishop and cabinet of the Texas Conference have appointed me to be the senior pastor of St. Stephen’s UMC in the Garden Oaks/Oak Forest neighborhood of Houston starting July 1. Sarah and I are unbelievably excited to learn what God is doing in the people of St. Stephens and the surrounding community. We can’t wait to join into the life of the St. Stephens community.

But saying goodbye is hard. St. Peter’s has been so, so good to me these past four years.

Thank you for showing me so clearly what a church full of people who love each other looks like.

Thank you for celebrating with me when I met, fell in love with, and married Sarah.

Thank you for teaching me what it means to be a pastor.

Thank you for standing with me at my ordination.

Thanks for encouraging and shaping me as a preacher, teacher, and leader.

Thank you for letting me make mistakes.

Thank you for letting me take risks with you that succeeded.

Thank you for giving me mentors, role models, and friends that will truly last a lifetime. I will carry a lot of who you are with me, because it’s part of who I am, too.

In the next couple months, I’ll say more personal goodbyes. But it really is hard to top Paul. So may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.