Let Jesus Shape You

From the devotional archives – March 22, 2018

You’ll do a lot, experience a lot and be handed a lot of surprises today. Most likely, one or two of them will set the tone for how you feel. But what if you didn’t let what happened determine how you feel – what if you let God do it? You can. Simply let Jesus shape you from the inside-out by holding tight to the forgiveness, joy, peace, hope and compassion he offers you as free gifts. Life will still happen, but you’ll respond differently because Jesus has changed you.

The Center for Reaching New People seeks to bring a diverse group of believers into the UMC

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Although Arkansas has about 3 million people living in the state, only about 30 – 40 percent of those people are actually attending a church on Sundays.

The Center for Reaching New People, a new vision and a new focus for the Arkansas Conference, wants to change that statistic and get more people involved in their local churches and ministries.

Jeff Jackson, Director of New Faith Communities, has a couple of ideas for how to get more people into churches.

“What we’re wanting to do is, one, establish some new churches. There are many places in Arkansas that need a new church presence,” Jackson said. “But we’re also looking to help other churches establish new ministries outside the church where they are reaching new people in a new way. Not just the people that are currently in church.”

One of the ways that Jackson, along with Rev. Rashim Merriwether – Developer of Ethnic Faith Communities – are looking to reach those people is by thinking outside of the box when it comes to reaching out to people who may not be your typical “church people.”

“People are looking for churches that meet their needs physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I have a sign that hangs in my office that says ‘If you always do what you always did, you’re always gonna get what you already got.’ A lot of us have in our minds what church is like, and for a lot of other people out there, that’s not what church is like for them,” he explained.

He also expressed the need to “keep the main thing, the main thing,” which is keeping Christ at the center of everything that the Center for Reaching New People, and the Conference, do in Arkansas.

“We are guilty in the church of focusing on our own needs, instead of focusing on the needs of others. We’re not reaching the least, the last, and the lost that Jesus calls us to reach.”

But the Center isn’t looking to reach just one group of people in the church; they want to reach everyone.

“Millennials are leaving the church at a very high rate these days. And that’s because we are doing church the way we have always done church. Even with younger children, they have their own children’s ministries and children’s church, and they learn about Christ and have fun doing it! But when they come back to the main church services, it isn’t church for them. We have got to do a better job of reaching all of those age groups by making church familiar to them again,” Jackson said.

Merriwether will also be working within the Center for Reaching New People to help create a more ethnically diverse congregation.

Merriwether grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and through his time attending and serving at King Solomon Community Temple United Methodist Church, his local church led by Rev. Dr. Benjamin J. Ward, he learned a lot about what it takes to bring in people from all different skin colors, ethnicities and nationalities into the church.

The church was part of the original “uniting,” which happened 50 years ago this year, when the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church came together in 1968.
It sat on a line in Milwaukee where Jewish, Hispanic, African, West Indies, white Catholic, and African-American communities surrounded it. The church brought together all of these different cultures under one church roof, where they could worship together as one body in Christ. This cultural church melting pot is one of the major things that influenced Merriwether’s trajectory for his position as the Developer of Ethnic Faith Communities.

But Merriwether wants to make it clear that he is not trying to create African-American churches, or Korean churches, or Hispanic churches; his goal is to bring the message of Christ to all people, regardless of their ethnicity, which will then lead them to become a part of their local United Methodist Churches, further growing the beautiful diversity of believers within these churches.

“We are seeking to listen to people’s needs and attend to those needs first, whether that be a physical need or a spiritual need for the message of Christ. If I’m looking to bring in people of color only, then I risk leaving out the people who are in need. If I seek out people in need, then I can identify how those conversations [about race] happen within,” Merriwether explained. “Never forget the big picture, in order to help out with a smaller one.”

One of the weaknesses that Merriwether sees the United Methodist Church struggling with right now is bridging the gaps in the disparity between people in the church that have existed for years.

“We’ve lost the ability to tell the whole story to people. The story of where we were before Christ transformed our lives and then where we are now. We tend to just tell people about where we are now, and that doesn’t adequately explain how amazing the transformation in our lives was” Merriwether said. “When we connect with people who have similar struggles, we learn to bridge those gaps between us. And we start to listen to what they actually need from us, rather than just telling them how we’re going to help them.”

Right now, The Center for Reaching New People is working on a few projects for the future. Jackson is working with the Rev. Dane Womack on a Fresh Expressions Workshop for Young Pastors. This would be a program where pastors would come in and talk about how they have had great success with events such as Burritos and Bible Study, and how these programs can help local churches reach new people.

Merriwether is focused on researching where there is a lack of healthy, growing faith communities in Arkansas, and how the Center can begin to reach out to those communities to listen and help where they are needed.

For more information on the work that the Center for Reaching New People is participating in, contact Jeff Jackson at jeff.jackson@arumc.org or Rashim Merriwether at rashim.merriwether@arumc.org.

God Has Given You A Mission

From the devotional archives – June 29, 2017

Your life is defined by your responsibilities, health, wealth, location, experiences, likes and dislikes. But there is one thing in particular that defines your life with absolute clarity: the one-of-a-kind mission God has given you that is based on your personality, life-experiences and spiritual gifts. So if you want your life to have a purpose – discover your mission. If you want your life to be filled with joy, passion and hope – discover your mission. And if you want to be closer to God than you’ve been in a long time – discover your mission.

Commission on the General Conference determines petition process

Nashville, Tenn.: The Commission on the General Conference has outlined a process for determining if petitions submitted to the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference are in harmony with the Council of Bishops’ amended call to the session, which states that the purpose of the special session “shall be limited to receiving and acting upon a report from the Commission on a Way Forward based upon the recommendations of the Council of Bishops.”

The Judicial Council ruled that petitions may be filed by an organization or lay/clergy member as long as the business proposed to be transacted is in harmony with the purpose stated in the call. According to Decision 1360, “It is the obligation of the General Conference to determine, in the first instance, through its committees, officers and presiders, acting in accordance with The Discipline and the rules and procedures of the General Conference, whether any such petition is ‘in harmony.’”

The Commission on a Way Forward has submitted 48 petitions. Seventy-nine additional petitions were submitted, of which 18 have been found to be invalid due to errors in formatting or failure to meet other requirements. The 61 remaining petitions are still being reviewed to determine validity in formatting. These determinations will all be reviewed by the Committee on Reference, in accordance with the Plan of Organization and Rules of Order of the General Conference.

In designing a process for consideration by the Commission on the General Conference to carry out the Judicial Council’s ruling, the executive committee of the Commission on the General Conference worked with a design team for the 2019 Special Session, which met in Charlotte, N.C. August 18-19 to discuss plans for the event. The design team includes the executive committee of the Commission on the General Conference, representatives of the Council of Bishops and the Commission on a Way Forward, and a representative of the 2019 Special Session hospitality team. The design team is providing recommendations, but only the Commission itself is authorized to make decisions.

The executive committee prepared a recommended process for determining whether petitions are in harmony with the call to the special session. This process was presented to the full membership of the Commission on the General Conference for approval and received an affirmative vote. The process is as follows:

The Secretary of the General Conference and the Petitions Secretary will review petitions that were submitted to make sure the format adheres to the instructions for petition submission, as well as the Plan of Organizations and Rules of Order and requirements in the Book of Discipline.

All valid petitions will be printed in the Advance edition of the Daily Christian Advocate; however, the petitions submitted by organizations and individuals other than the Commission on a Way Forward will still have to be reviewed by the Committee on Reference to determine if they are in harmony with the call to the special session. If the petition is not found to be in harmony, it will be withdrawn. The actions of the Committee on Reference will be reported in the first daily edition of the Daily Christian Advocate.

During the design team meeting, the group also discussed the idea of offering a covenant for delegates, inspired by the accountability covenant that members of the Commission on a Way Forward adopted to guide them in their work together.

Also on the agenda was discussion of ideas to help provide a tone and an environment that will help delegates to do their best work and ways to integrate prayer and worship into the process. The day preceding the start of General Conference, February 23, has been designated as a day of preparation and prayer as a culmination of the Praying Our Way Forward initiative.


Media contact:
Diane Degnan ddegnan@umcom.org
615.742.5406 (o) 615.483.1765 (c)

UMCOM partners with Burlap Media to offer Facebook grants for small churches

UMCOM has formed a new partnership with Burlap Media — a church-assisting organization that exists to help churches reach Millennials and Generation Z — to offer United Methodist churches a new way to reach their congregations.

This new program will offer Facebook grants to churches that wish to reach their members, and non-members, through social media posting.

If chosen to receive a grant, churches will receive benefits such as six Facebook posts weekly (Monday – Saturday) to keep the pages active and engaging, optimized post times using Facebook best practices, and a one-year term per church subscription.

Eligible United Methodist churches can receive a grant by meeting the following requirements:

  • Must be a United Methodist congregation.
  • Must have a staff person or volunteer who will use this year learning how to manage social media.
  • Church provides monthly analytics and performance reports to UMCOM.
  • Must attend Burlap orientation webinar or watch replay prior to enrollment.

The closing deadline to receive a grant is Sept. 10, and availability is limited.

To apply for a Facebook grant, fill out the application online by following the link below.