Churches large and small urged to make missions a priority (Jan. 27, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Churches large and small urged to make missions a priority

Jan. 27, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0013}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz

ST. PETERSBURG - Florida Conference members were challenged to step outside their comfort zones and minister to their community and the world at the Jan. 14 Conference Table meeting.

The Conference Table was created in 2002 as a venue for clergy and laity to discuss the connectional life and current context of the United Methodist Church in Florida. The goal for the next two years is for nine task groups to focus on identified areas of concern and present their research at future Conference Table meetings.

The meeting was held at First United Methodist Church here and focused on global mission.

The global mission task force reminded participants of their responsibility to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and referenced paragraph 123 of the "United Methodist Book of Discipline." It states: "The church seeks to fulfill its global mission through the Spirit-given servant ministries of all Christians, both lay and clergy. Faithfulness and effectiveness demand that all ministries in the Church be shaped by the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ."

Dr. Paul Chilcote, professor of historical theology and Wesleyan Studies at the Orlando campus of Asbury Theological Seminary, said United Methodists must remember that Methodism began as a renewal movement and urged attendees to reclaim the inherited legacy of John and Charles Wesley.

"The church doesn't have a program of mission, but the church is the mission," said Chilcote, who, with his wife, spent several years working in Africa. "We have exchanged mission for maintenance. Our energies should not be turned in on ourselves. If we do that, the church dies and fails to understand its purpose for being the light of the world."

Task force members presented a model that enables churches to delve into global mission or enhance their mission ministries. It's a mission wheel divided into four equal parts, and it suggests church members must open their minds to Biblical/theological foundation, their hearts for spiritual formation, their church doors by being hospitable and developing partnerships with other churches and individuals, and their hands so their creative energy may lead to action in missions.

Acknowledging that some churches are focused on other areas of ministry the Rev. Dr. Larry Rankin, director of the Florida Conference Council on Ministries' Missions Ministry, said churches can't fail in making missions a priority.

For churches that don't know where to start their mission ministry Rankin suggested considering six conference-wide initiatives-the Council of Bishops' Initiative on Children and Poverty, disaster response, outreach ministries, the Cuba Florida Covenant, the Haiti Florida Covenant, which is following the Cuba Florida Covenant model, and United Methodist Volunteers in Mission.

Edgar G. Nesman, who has been a lay missionary in Cuba and Costa Rico, said the model is an excellent blueprint for churches. He said the conference is moving in the right direction to increase and improve its mission ministries.

Blue Whitaker, a member of the mission ministry committee, said he enjoyed the thoughts and suggestions that came from the meeting.

"We have been talking about missions for 10 years, but never do anything," Whitaker said. "I think it comes down to you have to have a heart for missions. I think if you have anything at all, you should give something back."

As churches give to communities both  locally and globally they will receive spiritual enrichment in aiding others, according to Cedric Lewis, a member of the Jacksonville District staff. "It's not about us to them," he said.


This article relates to Missions.
*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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