No One to Imitate – We Have to Trust Each Other

Make no mistake about it – I miss officiating basketball. I miss being on the court, I miss having the best seat in the house to watch a game, I miss watching the strategy and ingenuity of coaches in smaller schools getting the most out of the players from their very shallow talent pool. Kentucky remains “open division” – and the smallest high schools often have to play the largest ones. I still keep up with the latest in basketball, and a friend directed me to this article today. 

What does John Calipari have to say that’s relevant to United Methodist ministry? Plenty in this season. D.S.’s are no longer managers, but extensions of the episcopal office and (as of January 1) the chief missional strategist for the district they are appointed to. So to adapt Calipari’s article, we are a denomination that, in many ways, has to adapt to a new way of doing ministry – what we have been doing isn’t working. As such, we don’t have anyone to imitate or mimic anymore, no upperclassmen to show us the ropes – we have to become the very best version of ourselves, and then - in true Methodist form - become a covenant community in which we just don’t tolerate each other, but we NEED each other.

My role is to help us get there – and I do so knowing that I am going to be struggling in some areas, but also see the writing on the wall: the facts about our wonderful denomination do not lie, and we need to be proactive and adaptive NOW to be effective at doing Kingdom work. So with apologies to Coach Cal, here’s how I see my role:

1.     Instead of beginning with pastors to build around, we have to start by quickly evaluating what each pastor and church needs, their skill set and how you have to deal with them as individuals. Every one of these pastors and churches needs me in different ways.
2.     I will have to convince them how hard they have to work consistently. That means task to task, day to day, week to week – not when they feel like it.
3.    I must get through to the pastors and churches that my job as superintendent and missional strategist is to care about each one of them and love them. Their job is to care about each other and love each other.

It’s more than just challenging churches and pastors – it’s about our spiritual health and evangelical effectiveness. If we are to be the ones who make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, we have to start adapting and conditioning ourselves to do so. I’m convinced that there is nothing wrong with doing so in a Methodist ethos. But how that looks in the 21st century has to be different than what we did in the 20th… because it didn’t work.

Results won’t happen overnight – it’s going to take time. But it will never start until we are willing to submit to it. Isn’t the Kingdom worth it?