Several years ago a conversation was taking place all over the United Methodist Church, especially in this country, about the need for revival and renewal in a church that was declining and in crisis. In Arkansas that conversation took place in our district then spread throughout the Conference.
The following is how our Conference described what became "Imagine Ministry":
"When the Arkansas Annual Conference began the Imagine Ministry journey, you were reacting to a projected future characterized by financial unsustainability, decreasing membership and more and more churches focused primarily on survival instead of faithfulness. Thankfully, Phase One was short-lived as Imagine Ministry quickly moved into its next two phases."
Then in 2012 we adopted structural changes and reduced Districts from nine to five. We also changed our focus as a "church" and as a Conference. We adopted the following vision, mission, and core measures:
Vision: Congregations and surrounding communities transformed by the Holy Spirit to demonstrate love of God and neighbor, holy living, and justice.
Mission: To make disciples of Jesus Christ equipped to transform the world with excellence and passion.
Core Measures used to evaluate the deep change necessary to make disciples of Jesus Christ and transform the local church:
Core Measure 1:We will be enriched by our wesleyan heritage of scriptural holiness so that we are connected by our mission of making disciples instead of being connected by our apportionments, appointments, and benefits
This means going back to our roots of small groups, "watching over one another with love". We would ask each other, "How is it with your soul?" and "Are you keeping the ordinances of God? (fasting, acts of mercy, prayer, study of the scriptures). Our main focus will not be "upkeep" of the institution but going out and being apart of people's lives, transforming our communities and neighborhoods. It's not all about getting the best appointment or paying all your apportionments to get the best appointment; it is about getting to know our mission field and serving.
Core Measure 2: We will establish the mission field as the primary focus of our attention and resources instead of directing the majority of our attention and resources to mere maintenance of congregation and clergy.
This is one of the hard ones. We have been very inward over the past one hundred and fifty years. While the neighborhoods changed all around us, a lot or most of our churches didn't change with it. The pastor's focus was to keep people "happy" and not "rock the boat", not lead but maintain. The focus was to keep people happy and take care of the clergy. Now we are shifting the focus back to the gospel. We are creating communities based in Jesus' fulfillment of the law, "to love your neighbor as yourself."
Core Measure 3: We will equip laity and clergy to transform individuals, communities and the world instead of trying to satisfy the personal preferences of current members and ensure congregational preservation.
In Core 3 the church is shifting from communities driven by likes or dislikes to being focused on being sent out and being involved in people's lives outside the doors of the church building, making a difference with the people all around us. I commend this community of faith! We are growing in this core measurement. We are doing it through Sunday Supper, Tri- Cycle Farms, Potter's House, Food Pantry, and the soon to be New Monastic Community.
Core Measure 4: We will address the unique context of each mission field instead of depending on standardized programs and structures.
A good example of Core 4 is partnering with the Korean Mission. The UofA is at our door step. Most of the Korean Mission is made up of young Korean students. It made perfect sense that Trinity would be a strong partner because our proximity with the campus and this vibrant ministry.
Also, this core measurement is saying the mission field of Nashville or Prescott will be different from ours. Not every mission field is to be handled with a "cookie cutter" approach.
Bishop Mueller directs us to this last component: Our Trajectory for the coming years:
Creating vital congregations that make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped to transform lives, communities and the world.
Let's have fun and see you in worship Sunday!