Church Developers Urged to Spend Quality Time with Jesus
by Elliott Wright
Nashville, Tennessee, July 29, 2010--"How much quality time do you spend with Jesus each day?" This was the first of six questions asked of each of the 600 people at the opening of the denomination's 2010 School of Congregational Development.
"Can others see Jesus reflected in you?" was the second.
Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster of Western North Carolina, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, was the first plenary speaker at the annual school, which is strongly attended by professional and still-learning church developers.
The Council of Bishops' president stepped into the keynote role for Bishop Richard Wills of the Nashville Area, who was unable to be present because of a family emergency.
Goodpaster's address reflected two clear facts: 1) United Methodism in the United States has been on the numerical decline for 40 years and 2) it is currently trying to reverse the trend by starting new congregations and revitalizing existing ones.
The speaker, himself a frequent participant in the School of Congregation Development, noted the enormous number of books, other resources, and learning opportunities focused on church growth. He wondered whether, despite all the information, there was a lack of will to do anything about the situation, or no heart to respond.
Rather than trying out "the latest fads" of the church growth industry, the bishop proposed that United Methodists reconnect with a heritage rooted in a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. Methodism had a powerful, spiritually and socially transforming influence in late 18th century England and also in the United States across the 19th century.
To measure that relationship with Jesus, Goodpaster offered four characteristics of Francis Asbury, the first great American Methodist evangelist, whose work took place in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The four, he noted, are identified by Professor John Wigger of the University of Missouri in a new biography, American Saint: Francis Asbury and the Methodists. Asbury in his days was the best known person in the United States. "More people saw him than ever did George Washington or Thomas Jefferson," said Goodpaster.
The four characteristics are:
Goodpaster used the opening verses of the Acts of the Apostles as the Biblical basis for his comments. The verses include Jesus' charge to his band of followers to become witnesses in nearby areas and "to the ends of the earth."
Effective congregational development, said the bishop, begins and ends with witness to Jesus Christ.
The School of Congregational Development is historically sponsored by the United Methodist General Boards of Discipleship and Global Ministries. This year a third sponsor was PATH 1, a denominational initiative fostering new church starts.
Date posted: Jul 30, 2010