Choosing Where to Start

Your life is impacted by the political drama unfolding in Washington, the world economy, and realities like climate change, artificial intelligence and the billions who live in poverty so oppressive they barely survive. Yet it often seems as if you can do little to shape these things that shape you.

At the same time, you spend the vast majority of your time anchored in the ordinary day-to-day life of marriage, children, the state of your health, what’s going on at work and your church. These may seem far smaller in consequence, but they often have a far more significant impact on the quality of your life.

Both dimensions of your life impact you. Both make a claim on you. And both are so important that you often feel caught in a dilemma. If you focus primarily on the big issues over which you have relatively little control, you may find yourself in the position of not really living your life. But if you are focused solely on your own life, you may have checked out on critical issues that provide the context in which you live your daily life. And so the question becomes how you relate these two aspects of life to each other.

This is the reality the United Methodist Church is experiencing right now. There are major forces swirling around human sexuality that are difficult, complicated, complex and beyond your control to impact – even when you’re a bishop! But you do not live out your faith as a member of a denomination; you do so in your local congregation. And the work of that congregation continues. Indeed, it is more important than ever. People still need Jesus. Children still are hungry in the community surrounding your church. Families still are broken. People still feel unloved. And the church still is called to make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped and sent to transform lives, communities and the world.

So what do you do when you live in two realities simultaneously? You make a choice about where to start. You can either choose to see the future of the church primarily through the lens of what is decided concerning matters of human sexuality. Or you can choose to see the church’s decision about matters of human sexuality first through the lens of your congregation that is committed to following Jesus, leading with compassion, learning to see the world the way Jesus sees it and doing what Jesus tells you to do even when that takes you out of your comfort zone.

Both perspectives matter. Both are important. And both must be tended to. But as for me, I’m going to start with seeing the ministry in our congregations. I’m going to invest in them through the Arkansas Annual Conference. And I’m going to be enriched by the miracles Jesus is bringing about through them. Then, I will ponder the weighty matters which face us – probably with far more clarity, compassion and perspective than I’ve had in a long time.

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