Last week the clergy and lay professionals under appointment gathered at the Holy Spirit Retreat Center in Anchorage for our annual retreat. Dr. Elaine Heath was our resource leader who stirred our thinking about how we do church and how we might do church in the future. She asked some good questions. Are we too married to the attractional model of church where we build it and they will come? Research suggests that this only works 40% of the time. What would church be like if everything we did was measured in terms of its missional value? What if we became a kenotic church where emptying ourselves for the sake of others was our guiding light? We are so attached to our buildings and budgets that our focus has been narrowed and the poor become objects of our mission rather than people with whom we are in relationship.
This retreat and the winter meetings have stirred a number of us. I know of three pastors who have already talked with their congregations. Jon Disburg shelved his sermon series and confessed to his congregations Sunday about his need to fall in love with Jesus again. Carlo Rapanut in his sermon confessed that he has become too preoccupied with the wonderful ministries happening inside the church to the neglect of people outside the church. Charles Martindell shared a vision with his Sunday School class of a New Day community being possible in Homer.
We are not talking about doing away with our buildings and the amazing ministries that are happening. But we are talking about a shift in priorities where the needs of the world determine our mission. We are talking about deconstructing some of our conference structures to make us more mission agile. Bishop Hagiya is organizing a task group to examine ways we can streamline our many rules. Look for a report at this annual conference.
Something new is bubbling. Dr. Heath believes that Alaska can be a missional model that can lead the entire United Methodist Church into a new day of being the Church of Jesus Christ. I invite our pastors and laity to share how you plan to carry this vision to your church and community with a comment post. Let's keep this conversation going.