united methodist church

Bishop Jones Said… (3 of 4)

Another quote from Bishop Scott Jones at the Kansas East Residency Retreat:

“I am a Methodist preacher and I will go where the church sends me.”

I was struck by the plain missional approach in this statement. Being in ministry is not primarily about my goals, desires or needs. These are an important part of my life, but as a Methodist preacher, it is not my primary guidance as to where to go and how to be in ministry.

God is at work in the process of making appointments and I am committed to be able to say the same thing as Bishop Jones.

I am a Methodist pastor and I will go where the church sends me.

5 replies on “Bishop Jones Said… (3 of 4)”

Ah, now this is what is killing Methodism Dead. The Itenerate system, developed in the middle ages to serve an under/un educated rural populace, is fundamentally at odds with our current cultural realities.

Innovators, risk takers, and out of the box thinkers have systematically fled the confines of this antiquated system for the greener pastures of non-denominational/congregational structures. In general what is left behind are those folks who prefer job security and continuity, with the resulting leadership deficit we encounter everywhere we turn in the Denomination.

I believe with all my heart that we will not see significant renewal and reform, until and unless we dismantle not just the structure, but the very spirit of the current system. To paraphrase a former president, “The Iteneracy is not the solution to the problem, The Iteneracy IS the problem”

Take just one anecdotal example, Life Church in Oklahoma City is now worshiping over 25,000 in 9 locations (I think this is accurate). Craig Groschel was a United Methodist Probationary member who was called by God to start a new congregation in OKC. When he approached his Bishop, he was told NO, and so with fear and trembling he left the Denomination, started a new church, and God has poured out continued blessings on it ever since. How many would have not seen the Kingdom had he followed the misguided ideals of the Denominational “Career Ladder”.

I have seen this pattern repeated so often that it has come to be formulaic, we are loosing most of our innovators. No organization can be long for this world that systematically drives away its best and brightest. This is in fact what our current pastoral appointment system is doing. God help us see that what we have so long valued, is actually a sacred cow that needs to be sacrificed on the alter once and for all.

Ya, I have a slight opinion on this one!!

On the other hand, Adam Hamilton convinced his Bishop to let him start a church in KC and look what happened. I would argue, Carlos, that your example is more of bad leadership than a bad system. How many hundreds of small rural churches would lose pastors without itineracy? On the other end of the spectrum, how many large churches would be so focused around the pastor that they collapse when the pastor leaves? Or that the pastor puts him/her self above the church? Perhaps for a competant pastor not worried about job security the risk-taking, out of the box approach is to put yourself in the hands of others, and hopefully the Holy Spirit, instead of making our own way.

Tangetially related, I’m convinced that nondenomination megachurches are the exception, not the norm. I wonder how many have failed for every one that succeeded. Following nondenominational practices may not actually result in any more success that we have right now.

Having said all that, I agree that itineracy is a sacred cow. I’m just not yet convinced it’s one of the cows that needs to be slaughtered.

I grew up in a tiny rural Church and I convinced that in this scenario you would see a resurgence among rural churches who are burdened by the financial strain of employing an elder in full connection, instead they would end up with contextual lay ministers who have often shown more success in reaching people in their context than our seminary educated clergy. Also, men and women called by God to lead where the population is centered, would shift the demographics of the denomination from being centered in rural America (A good strategy in 1800, not so much in 2009), towards a concentration in the Urban/Suburban environment. As I type this I realize another indictment of the Iteneracy is the fact that it has caused us to linger far to long in locations that are a poor strategic match to reaching the most people for Christ.

Perhaps your right about the bad leadership Issue, but I could literally write hundreds of parallel examples of this same situation. I agree that in the right hands the Iteneracy “Could Possibly Work”, however it has utterly failed us in the last 40 or so years. Our clergy leadership is mostly a collection of maintainers, and the very structure itself is discouraging to the types of dynamic individuals we seek to lead strong mission driven organizations.

As for Adam, He is an unusual case – perhaps an exception that proves the rule. Adam Chose Methodism having not grown up within the system, He was unusually committed to the core values of the Denomination. I think this is also true of Andrew – who definitely doesn’t fit anything I’ve said above about the majority of our Clergy leadership. So yes there are exceptions, but the “rule” has been that the best and brightest are discouraged and finally discontinue. That’s what is terribly unfortunate.

Oh one other thing, I think the Iteneracy tends to admit and retain folks who would not be able to be employed in congregational/non-denominational churches. These are far to often the ones that are foisted on the small rural churches for decades. I lived this reality growing up, while my baptist friends had pastor after pastor who was dynamic, personally charismatic, and very strategic.

Some of the issues discussed above have driven me to much discernment of my own calling to church planting within or without the UM system. Also, as a young clergy, I’m in much agreement with Joseph Yoo that the lack of credibility given to us who might still be “wet behind the ears” yet still passionate about ministry is disheartening. I get more respect from pastors in my area who are outside the denomination than I do from my colleagues within my own district.

But really, I wanted to point out, Andrew, a language difference between yourself and Bishop Jones. He used the word “preacher”, while you used, “pastor”. I was just curious if you noticed that, and used a different word deliberately or not? I noticed in a comment on another of your posts saying to call someone “preacher” is archaic. I don’t think so. I don’t mind being called preacher because that’s my calling, and I recognize that my preaching gifts outweigh my pastoral gifts. Doesn’t mean I don’t do the pastoral tasks, but they aren’t my primary calling. On the other hand, maybe it’s a cultural thing too.

I also think the nomenclature also reflects our heritage in a good way, of raising up lay pastors that supplement the work of those ordained to Word, Order, Sacrament, and Service. See Acts 6.

By the way, thanks for posting these! Such thought provoking in such short posts! I appreciate your ability to get to the heart of the matter.

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