I like most leaders have always said I have special interests. The main interest is leading people to know Jesus Christ. The great commission in Matthew 28 is “19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” I have spent the last 40 years of my life learning about and helping others learn about Jesus.
In my work on the fringes of Conference leadership I have always said that I believe we need renewal in two areas, renewal in our churches and in our families, and that will only come when we point people to the teaching of Jesus. As I have studied John Wesley over the years I see a man of many interest but his ministry was grounded in the scripture of the Bible. Using the traditions of the church, his experience with faith and works he used reason to bring a message of hope and reconciliation to the world. That hope was always Jesus!
Today in one of the denominations that came from the roots of Wesley, The United Methodist Church, I see a church often led by those with a special interest that they are willing to point to at all costs even when it points away from Jesus. Think about how we elect leadership! Do we look at those that have a relationship with Jesus Christ and that shows in their daily life and leadership? Do we look at those that have taught us what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and how to grow in our faith? Or do we elect based on their willingness to support our special interest, whatever it is? How many of our General and Jurisdictional candidates will be elected because they represent some segment of the church, rather than how they reflect Jesus to the church and the world. Will those elected leaders than go on to rewrite our Book of Discipline to make it possible to invite people into discipleship in the life and resurrection of Jesus or will they need to represent their special interest? Will those same representatives go on to elect new Bishops because of their leading in making disciples of Jesus or will they elect based on the color of their skin, gender, nationality, or their support for some special interest group?
Over the last 20 to 30 years I have watched us continuously to elect delegates and leaders so that we look like we are a diverse denomination and claim it is so that voices can be heard. Is that really the reason? Shouldn’t the voice that we focus on be the voice of Jesus heard through the Holy Spirit? Shouldn’t we be electing leaders that will lead us toward Jesus?
Let me be clear, I still like everyone have special interests, I have spent my life studying renewal of the church and the family. I understand what it is to be passionate about something and I hope you are too. I hope our first passion is our relationship with Jesus and how everything else in our life will come to reflect him to the world. The cost of that will be great! Jesus told those that were wanting to follow him and be his disciple that they would be set apart. In the Sermon on the Mount he said “11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
John Wesley knew what it was to live out this verse and he left this world with the final words “Best of all, God is with us.” I am praying for you my friends, that you may be drawn deeper into the love of God through Jesus Christ and that wherever our paths take us in the end each of us will know that “Best of all, God is with us!” Be blessed my friends.