What is ‘spiritual revival’?

By Martha S. Taylor Special Contributor Where two or more are gathered, you will no doubt hear something about the Bishop’s Mission Plan. Bishop Mueller and others involved in developing the plan have been traveling the state to talk with groups of laity and clergy about what it will mean for United Methodists of Arkansas to move ahead on the trajectory God has charted. Consisting of ten “Next Steps” shared with laity and clergy in September 2013, the plan outlines the key actions needed for individuals, local congregations, districts and the Annual Conference to live out a shared mission and vision. Most everyone agrees it’s not easy work, especially when the first step is to “Experience Spiritual Revival,” something that can only be achieved by allowing the Holy Spirit to work without restriction. “The future is not dependent upon how smart we are, how we utilize technology, or how strategic we can be in our thinking and our planning—all of which is important,” said Bishop Gary Mueller. “Our future depends on the power of the Holy Spirit reviving us. And more than anything else, we as Christians and our churches here in Arkansas really need to experience spiritual revival.” The Rev. Jeanne Williams, pastor at Walnut Ridge United Methodist Church, has just begun to discuss the bishop’s plan with her congregation. Her appointment began in June 2013, so she is still getting to know her congregation and mission field. Even so, she is encouraged by the positive reception the church’s more than 90 worshippers have had to the new work. Williams said she is working closely with the Center for Clergy and Laity Excellence in Leadership and with a process around vitality transformation. Even so, she believes spiritual revival is Holy Spirit work—and that being open to it begins with prayer. “We challenged the congregation to pray: to pray for each other, pray for the community, pray for the Arkansas Conference and pray for the United Methodist Church in general,” she said. Williams acknowledged that spiritual revival involves vulnerability, which can be difficult in today’s society. “For [spiritual revival] to happen you have to invite the Holy Spirit into the moment, into the situation,” Williams said. “You have to open yourself up and be willing to be vulnerable.  That’s so hard in our culture today, to be truly vulnerable, to peel back all those layers.” Even though the work has just begun and will be challenging, Williams hopes that spiritual revival can and will happen in the Walnut Ridge community, and she credits Bishop Mueller for leading the way. “I think our bishop is someone who is following God’s plan and God’s will for our Conference and for the United Methodist Church as a whole,” she said. “I think that it’s evident by the mission plan that he set forth and by the energy and excitement that you hear when you talk to laity, not just clergy, who suddenly  have that note of excitement  and energy in their voice.” Williams added, “I think we are in a very good place and on a really good path, and that gives me hope.” What will spiritual revival look like for a district?  The Rev. Bud Reeves, superintendent and mission strategist for the Northwest District, is sure it won’t be about the status quo. “Revival in the church in Arkansas is not going to come through programs or structures or organizations,” Reeves said. “Renewal is the work of the Holy Spirit. Unless we make ourselves available to the Holy Spirit, nothing else is going to make much difference.” Reeves is among those who are have high hopes for what local churches might look like when they experience spiritual revival. “We will see some churches growing numerically, [and] all will be growing spiritually that experience revival,” Reeves said. “There will be enthusiasm and excitement about the ministry. That’s what we want to see.” It’s about a new relationship with God, says Mueller. “Revival is not about having a certain emotional experience or running away from the world,” Bishop Mueller says. “It’s about deeper discipleship in following Jesus, and a passion for sharing the love of Jesus with the world that needs it so much.” Telling—and becoming—the story In a Jan. 15 email to the Conference, Bishop Mueller announced a new way he would be sharing the Bishop’s Mission Plan. In addition to regular stories that will appear in this publication, a series of 10 videos will be released at regular intervals throughout the spring and summer. Each video will highlight one of the “Next Steps” outlined in the plan and will be followed by an online discussion where laity and clergy from around the state and the bishop will help unpack each of the 10 mission plan points. To view the introductory video by Bishop Mueller, visit www.arumc.org/missionplan. The full schedule for the videos and online discussions is: Video: Experience Spiritual Revival – Feb. 3 Online discussion – Feb. 6 at 10 a.m. Video: Tell the Imagine Ministry Story – Feb. 24 Online discussion – Feb. 28 at 9 a.m. Video: Broaden Disciple-Making through District Mission Plans – March 3 Online discussion – March 7 at 3 p.m. Video: Make Mission-Field Appointments – March 17 Online discussion – March 19 at 3 p.m. Video: Look Like the Neighborhood – March 31 Online discussion – April 4 at 9 a.m. Video: Grow by “1” – April 14 Online discussion – April 15 at 11 a.m. Video: Unleash Lay Leadership – May 1 Online discussion – May 13 at 2 p.m. Video: Grow Passionate and Excellent Clergy – May 19 Online discussion – May 28 at 11 a.m. Video: Create Vital African-American Congregations – June 2 Online discussion – June 3 at 1 p.m. Video: Reach the “Nones” – June 16 Online discussion – June 17 at 9 a.m. Reminders about the videos, along with login instructions for the online discussions, will be sent electronically before each event. The videos, as well as recordings of the online discussions, will be available at www.arumc.org/missionplan.