Who does not need Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, a coach, mentor, guide, friend, or consultant?
In the spring of 2001, as a new member of the Council of Bishops, I asked the rhetorical question, “Where is the vision located in the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church?” as a part of my sermon.
I know that many of you are praying for the cabinet and me. I know that many of you are praying for our Conference to be all that it can be for the glory of God. I know that many of you are praying for a Christlike world. I believe God hears us and answers the prayers of those who seek to do God’s holy will.
As we close the book on another year of ministry through our apportionment giving, it is important to say thank you for your faithfulness. So many of you have been extremely intentional about making the connection between good stewardship and our commitment to support ministries near and far in order to grow a Christlike world. The United Methodist Church remains strong because of your loyalty to the connection. It is easy to forget who we are and what we are about. Thanks for remembering.
The hope of every Christian should be growing a Christlike world. There is an obvious contrast between a Christlike world and a world filled with layers of hurt and disconnects of all sorts. “Growing a Christlike World” is not just a vision slogan pulled out the sky. Rather, it is the promise land of every believer revealed in the disciple’s prayer for the kingdom of God to come on earth as it is in heaven.
Over the years I have spoken to thousands of young people and mature adults in conference settings. Sometimes I asked those gathered what one word they would use to describe the kingdom of God in heaven. I found it amazing that with few exceptions the same words appeared. What was not surprising is that when I asked for a show of hands the word love outnumbered all the other words every time. I believe that love is such a popular theme in the world and in our lives because God is love. As children of God we are not at home until we are experiencing love in the deepest part of our being.
What is your favorite sporting event in the Olympics? Regardless of a particular Olympic event I find it exciting to watch the competition between some of the greatest athletes in the world. Many of these athletes have been in training since they were very young. They have spent hundreds of hours conditioning themselves for this one great moment in their lives when they will offer their best to the world as they represent their country.
I would like for the members of the South Georgia annual conference to know what I wrote as my report in summary of our work in the South Georgia Area during the last four years.
Some years ago I observed a man who, mature in age but young as a new believer in Jesus Christ, was in deep grief not only because he had lost his wife through physical death but because she died before he had. Many sought to console him but his response was a litany of questions from, “Why did she have to die before me?” and “Is she alright?” to “Where is she?” and “How am I supposed to live without her?”
We are blessed to live in a society with so many new devices and mechanisms in place to aid us in communicating with each other faster, more economically and more easily. Unfortunately, the ability to communicate globally as well as locally does not mean the world has become kinder and more loving. In fact, there are too many places where the walls have grown taller and differences isolate rather than unite the human family.
Last Sunday I was involved in a worship service that included the Apostles’ Creed. Over the years I observed that many congregations do not include some components of a worship service that have been traditionally associated with The United Methodist church.
I was traveling from a meeting as District Superintendent of the Murfreesboro District when I called home to share with Rose that I was going to test the call to the office of bishop.
Have you ever been lost? While traveling this summer during my renewal leave I was following the directions of the little voice inside my GPS. When the voice said, “you have reached your destination” I was sitting beside a corn field with a dead end sign staring me in the face. When I asked a man and woman working in the field for directions they said that I was on the wrong mountain, and then gave me excellent directions. Once I started out again with the right directions, headed in the right direction, my frustration with being in the wrong place diminished.
One of the common well wishes exchanged during December and January of each year includes the phrase “Happy New Year.” It is a wonderful expression of goodwill. It conveys to the recipient an implied hope that the future will be good. A happy New Year is a terrific hope but how do you have one? What would be among your list of ways to have a happy New Year? Would your list include good health, a job, family wellbeing, more money, good friends, or a dream vacation?
Center your mind on God. The values that flow out of joyful obedience to God will enable you to say, “It is well.”
As we continue to focus on growing a Christlike world it is important that we affirm those reaching identified goals, treat everyone special and encourage disciples to become confident leaders. Highlighting the five stars, the small membership church and emphasizing the coaching role of a disciple will hopefully remind us that being Christlike requires us to be intentional.
The purpose of the Bishop's Hour is for me to come out and be with the people, to draw close to them and to teach and to care for them.
Every morning I pray for you. A part of my prayer includes these words, “… and God bless the South Georgia Annual Conference and my role as a bishop here. Help us to have better health, clearer goals and make more disciples that the world may be more Christlike.”
When we started the appointment process for this year, I joined the appointive cabinet in checking off every pastor under appointment in South Georgia. There are more than 600 pastors who have appointments. Then I thought about all the congregations in the South Georgia conference. There are well over 100,000 clergy and laity who identify themselves as United Methodist in our area alone. Wow! What an awesome witness you are to the glory of God. There are so many of you who are dedicated disciples of Jesus Christ and who share the love of Christ every day of your life. What a difference you are making in this world today. Below are some of the pictures I see as I allow my mind to take a panoramic view of our conference.
As many of you know, the District Superintendents and I are now immersed in a season of prayer around the placement of clergy for the upcoming conference year. Each District Superintendent made a concerted effort to meet with each clergy person and each local church Pastor Parish Relations Committee in recent months.