We are in a tender time. Our beloved church is as polarized as our nation. Almost everyone is experiencing tremendous pain. Those who should be united in Christ are deeply divided. Hope seems to be at a premium. And in all honesty, I do not know whether we will be able to hold together.
Yet God is with us. And this reality changes everything. It means there is hope in the midst of our mess. It allows us to see new possibilities to which we otherwise might be blinded. And perhaps most importantly, it allows us to pivot from focusing on all the problems, discord and uncertainty we cannot control to embracing what God is calling us to do here in Arkansas – double down boldly on our mission.
Matthew 25, which is Jesus’ final teaching before his passion unfolds, directs the church to double down in three essential ways. First, we are to double down on our faith commitment. Second, we are to double down on being fruitful. Third, we are to double down on acting with compassion.
This may seem risky in the midst of all the uncertainty. But, frankly, we don’t have the luxury of waiting until we “settle” matters involving human sexuality before we get involved in ministry. The Gospel is too compelling, the needs are too great, and too many people need to experience Jesus’ saving love right now.
So here’s how we are doubling down in a multitude of bold and exciting ways in the Arkansas Conference. We are starting a new multicultural and multilingual work in Southwest Little Rock; beginning a new faith community in one of the fastest growing areas in the country in Northwest Arkansas; bringing on board an outstanding leader, Kay Kotan, to serve as Director for the Center for Vitality and New People; introducing a state of the art online Learning Management System that every Methodist in Arkansas can use called CouRSe – Congregational Resource System; recommitting to 200,000 Reasons to end childhood hunger in Arkansas; and developing a culture of call led by Michelle Moore to ensure we have outstanding leaders for the Methodist movement in Arkansas for decades to come.
Of course, we have difficult choices to make in the coming months about the future of our denomination. And we will. Not just at the 2020 General Conference, but also by the Arkansas Annual Conferences, our local congregations and you.
But in the meantime, we are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped and sent to transform lives, communities and the world. In the meantime, we are called to keep affirming that we have a future with hope because “God is with us.” In the meantime, we must seek to live as the Body of Christ that treats each other with respect and love, especially in the midst of significant disagreement. In the meantime, we will double down on growing in faith, being fruitful and acting compassionately. In the meantime, we will bring Christ to people and bring people to Christ.
I still have hope that the people called Methodists in Arkansas can work together to find our way forward.
And I think deep down inside, you do, too. But hope is not the final word. Acting on that hope is. Therefore, the question we must all answer is this: Are we willing to move from hope to working together?