A more excellent way

By Bishop Jonathan Holston

And what does The Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God. “ Micah 6:8

Ron Walters, the vice president of church relations for Salem Media of Georgia Inc. shared this story about Baseball Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle, saying:

Few ballplayers have ever played the game as Mickey Mantle did. He launched home runs like missiles. As a switch hitter, he was dangerous from either side of the plate. Because of his enormous power, cautious infielders would take a few steps backward as he stepped to the plate. And, as if playing tricks, Mantle would often lay down a bunt. He ran with the speed of a cheetah “ graceful yet powerfully. His throwing arm held runners in check. He was as complete a player as ever was. But getting Mickey to the big leagues took more than raw talent. It also took the advice of someone whose feet were firmly planted on the ground.

During his first spring training, this young 19-year old farm kid from Oklahoma hit nine home runs in his first 11 games. Baseball came so easy. The media dubbed him a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. This young man with this enormous talent began to swagger. Mantle s enormous talent had been matched only by a newfound attitude and he had never played a real Major League game.

Then a postcard arrived from home: Mickey, now that you ve made the headlines, why not settle down and make the team. Strut less and focus more. Love, Dad.

There s a big difference between looking good in spring training and performing well over the long haul; that s true in any sport. Swagger won t get it done. Never has, never will. Performance is what counts.

My dad said it this way: Proper preparation prevents poor performance.

This is true of ministry, as well. We properly prepare ourselves when we humbly or fervently serve the Lord and fight the good fight of faith. This is nothing new to the people of God.

While the 2013 session of the South Carolina Annual Conference held in Florence is now history, it was evidence to me of our willingness to serve, to give and to live in a more excellent way.

In the weeks ahead, you will hear the celebrations and reports shared from the delegates nominated, elected to serve and who represented the 1,050 churches across this Annual Conference.

When planning for Annual Conference 2013, we wanted to dream God-sized visions. An anonymous writer speaks to the risk entailed in God-sized thinking, namely:

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.

To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.

To reach out for another is to risk involvement.

To expose your feelings is to risk exposing your true self.

To place your ideas, your dreams, before the crowd is to risk the loss.

To love is to risk not being loved in return.

To live is to risk dying.

To hope is to risk despair.

To try is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard is to risk nothing.

Those who risk nothing do nothing, and are nothing.

They may avoid suffering and sorrow;

But they simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.

Chained by their own fears,

They have forfeited freedom.

Only a person who risks is free.

Ultimately, to risk our feelings, love, ideas and dreams allows us to learn, feel, transform, grow and live. Therefore, special thanks are extended to those who organized and planned our 2013 Annual Conference; to the delegates who were attentive and participated in our time of Holy Conferencing; to those who worked diligently to make our time enjoyable and productive; to the 1,500 volunteers (laity and clergy, youth and adults) who packaged 287,000 meals; to the congregations contributing 7,000 pounds of nonperishables for local food banks, as well as the many disciples across the Palmetto State who helped raise $143,000 to address the issue of hunger in Haiti and in communities across South Carolina.

Friends, I am so excited that South Carolina United Methodism is answering the clarion call to find opportunities to practice the faith and witness in excellent ways. Truly, this is a day of doing ministry in a more excellent way.

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