The Business of the Church is Mission:
Comments and Reflections on the Mission Initiatives Summit
by Dr. William K. Quick*
For a denomination some believe has been operating under a 'cultural captivity' for half a century, the Mission Initiatives Summit at Plano, Texas, April 17-18, became a wake-up reminder of John Wesley's call to "look upon the world as my parish." For two days at St. Andrews United Methodist Church, some 200 persons from the United States were touched by a sample of new Christians bearing witness from United Methodist churches that had been born or re-established in nations where the church had no presence prior to 1992.
Global Methodism opened wider its mission windows in 1992 to view the opportunity to share the 'good news of the Gospel,' and the General Board of Global Ministries launched new initiatives through its program arm, Evangelism and Church Growth, which would spread to 13 nations, including Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Cambodia, Cameroon, Honduras, Mongolia, Nepal, Vietnam, Senegal, and Thailand.
The Mission Summit participants heard uplifting testimonies from young pastors and lay leaders and were challenged with testimonies of lives transformed. In an opening address, Rev. Sam Dixon, now head of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and formerly with the growth unit, challenged those present to "put love into action." He said that "every church is called to be a missionary church and needs a mission window to the world."
The Rev. Gita Mednis, district superintendent in Latvia, where the church was reborn after 50 years of Soviet occupation, told how "God builds connections and partnerships." Fourteen new congregations have been founded in Latvia—both Latvian and Russian. Camp Wesley, a 24-acre camp on the Baltic Sea, has been established. Hope Center, homes for often-abandoned pregnant girls from dysfunctional families, was founded to take in, love, and care for young, single mothers and their babies. "Yet our pastors are living at a poverty level," Mednis added, and "we sometimes find it hard to ask for the help we need."
In Lithuania, where the Rev. John Campbell is district superintendent, the church is raising up indigenous pastors to serve where Global Ministries' missionaries have re-established the church. "Three Lithuanian pastors have been ordained, two are commissioned, one finished Duke Divinity School and will be commissioned, and two others are currently studying at Asbury Seminary and the Baltic Theological Seminary," Campbell reported.
This Mission Initiatives Summit was a bold reminder that "the business of the church is mission," loudly stating that local churches that 'look upon their parish as their world,' instead of 'the world as our parish,' are dying congregations. God is calling the church to go where God already is present and where people are waiting to hear the good news.
* William K Quick is Global Ministries Partner Church Coordinator for Latvia and Lithuania and teaches at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C.
Pastor Shares Heart for Mission, offsite link to UM Reporter
Date posted: Apr 21, 2008