By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us.”— Ephesians 3:20-21
I am truly excited to be a part of a team that has God-sized dreams and who trusts the work we do together. It is a recognition that the church was not built for our pleasure but for God’s purpose.
In a reflection of the previous quadrennium, it is evident that we have worked intentionally to foster organizational health at every level of the annual conference from the extended cabinet to the district to the local church. Annual district visits were initiated with the goal of creating a climate of trust, challenge and support. In the first year, the extended cabinet, staff and key leaders visited every district for listening sessions.
In the second year, this conference team held “road shows” and traveled to every district to engage local church lay leaders as well as lay servants around Patrick Lencioni’s book, “Five Dysfunctions of a Team.”
Year three district meetings were referred to as “barbeque bashes.” During this time, local church leadership teams (laity and clergy) were invited to consider “The Leadership Contract,” by Vince Molinaro.
This year we are engaged in a time of district visits in which local church teams have been invited to participate in a Para. 213 (The Book of Discipline) process that we have named Forward Focus. Truly, this is a process of invitation for congregations to assess their current situation in light of potential ministry opportunities. It concludes with an identification of next steps going forward and the possible resourcing of ministry.
This level of engagement and investment at the local church level has proven to be both exciting and overwhelming as more than a third of our congregations are embarking on the Forward Focus process. As local congregations complete their Forward Focus work, their outcomes will shape the resources that the annual conference can offer to help churches move toward greater vitality.
As the Ephesians passage reminds us, God does not push us around but is always at work within us. My prayer is that as we work together to make a difference at the local level, God will continue to surprise us with opportunities to share the love of Christ in ways that are beyond our wildest dreams. I am excited about how God is at work in South Carolina.