Last night the Contemporary Worship Design Team at First United Methodist Church chose a name for our new contemporary worship experience which will begin September 5th at 8:30 a.m. The worship time will be called “Transformation.” The name Transformation was chosen because it reminds us of the transforming power of Jesus Christ to bring us His redemptive love and grace, to give us the grace to grow as Christians and to transform our lives into the kind of people God wants us to be.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2
When we begin Transformation it will be a new worship gathering, in a new location in the church, at a new time, with a new order or worship and a new and fresh opportunity for us to worship together.
I am very excited with the work that the Transformation Worship Design Team is doing and will be doing in the coming weeks as we prayerfully work to make this a gathering that will glorify God, help our church to worship the living Christ, and allow us to invite new friends into our church fellowship!
Let’s Be Transformed!
Tomorrow will mark one month since my family and I drove up from Johnston, Iowa to spend the night here in Cedar Falls before our moving truck showed up on June 25th to move us into the First United Methodist Church parsonage.
It has been an exciting month. I’ve had opportunities to preach, share my testimony, and share at the Lord’s table both in Sunday worship and in Wednesday night Ignition. I’ve had a lot of fun getting acquainted with the wonderful church staff and church members of First Church. And I have been pleased to see that First Cedar Falls is a church on the move, looking to grow and change for the future.
It has also been a good month meeting some of my new United Methodist colleagues both here in the Northeast District and from the Iowa Annual Conference center.
My family and I are starting to feel settled into our knew home. We are seeing less boxes around the house. We are starting to find our way around the community. And we are beginning to adjust to our new a new place of ministry and service.
Sometimes change can be scary. But I believe it is best to view change as an adventure. And oh what an adventure it always is serving Christ in ministry!
The mission statement of the United Methodist Church is “to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation the Word.” Indeed this is the mission of the entire body of Christ.
The scriptures tells us to go and make disciples of all nations. But many times Christians don’t ask the most important question, “why?” Why make disciples of Jesus Christ? Is it so that I can make sure that I get to heaven? Or even to make sure that as many of us go to heaven as possible? Is it to make our churches or denominations bigger? (I assume if we do make disciples then these two things will be likely positive effects.)
Why does God want us to be disciples of Jesus Christ? So that we can transform the world!! It is God’s intention that the world be redeemed, changed and transformed. You can see an easy connection here between personal piety and social holiness. We don’t become disciples for our own personal gain, even our own personal spiritual gain. We become disciples to change this world. To stand against principalities and powers of this present darkness.
Remember the passage Jesus read out of Isaiah to describe his ministry?
“‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ (Luke 4:18-19)
Jesus proclamation is clear that God didn’t create us and redeem us just for our own personal good. We have been made disciples of Christ by water and spirit to make a difference in the lives of all those around us. A “for me” gospel isn’t Jesus’ gospel.
Connectionalism. What is connectionalism? Well simply put it means that it is the United Methodist Church and not the United Methodist Churches. United Methodists are part of one cohesive faith family. Each local church is part of an Annual Conference of Churches which is part of the national body of United Methodists. Each church contributes to the life of the church in mission and ministry and also through the system of apportionments where each church gives its fair share to the work of the denomination. Everyone contributes to the life of the church so that the sum of the parts is indeed greater than the whole!
Another important part of the connectional system is the itinerancy. United Methodist Clergy are part of an appointment system. The Bishop of the Annual Conference with the aid of her/his cabinet assign pastors to their places of services. This allows the placing people where they are best gifted to serve in places where their gifts are most needed. Yes, this means that women and men who agree to serve in the United Methodist Church agree to accept appointment without reserve and go where the Bishop sends them in ministry. But with that appointment comes the guidance and support of the denomination through the office of the Bishop and District Superintendents.
Because of this connected family of faith church and pastors are not alone without aid support from denominational leaders that have both the responsibility and the authority from the church to lead the church and give it direction.
Rather than sink or swim on their own, United Methodist local churches work together through districts and conferences to support each other and the entire United Methodist family.
I’m sure I could write several more posts about the many reasons I’ve chosen to seek to transfer my credentials to the United Methodist Church. This is just a beginning. But it is a good start. So I’ll move on to some additional topics of interest.
I have had a long appreciation for the United Methodist understanding of the sacraments. (If you want a full theological understanding of the sacraments read “By Water and the Spirit” and “This Holy Mystery” which explains the theology of the two sacraments recognized by United Methodists, Baptism and Holy Communion. )
In a United Methodist understanding Holy Communion and Baptism are “means of grace” meaning that we experience God’s grace as we participate in the sacraments. Some evangelical Christians tend to think of Holy Communion and Baptism as “just symbols” and Communion as “just a memorial.” I’ve come to believe over the years that this is a very one dimensional view of what God does for us in the sacraments.
Over the many years I have officiated at the Lord’s Table I have had powerful experiences of God’s love and grace in sharing and partaking of bread and cup. “This Holy Mystery” tells us that Christ is truly present in Communion. It is more than mere remembrance!
I have always appreciated the United Methodist understanding of the openness of the table. When I first partook of communion with my family in an Emmaus Gathering all the children present, no matter what age, were welcome at the table. In fact the table is open to anyone who is seeking to have an experience of God’s love. John Wesley believed that Holy Communion could be a “converting element” leading to the conversion of a sinner who comes to the table through the power of God’s prevenient and justifying grace.
My own personal preference is to take communion via intinction (dipping bread in a common cup) rather than with small cups and wafers because it reminds me of the oneness of Christ and the oneness of the body of Christ partaking of one loaf and one cup. The Sacraments are a very important part of Christian and United Methodist worship. And I appreciate the emphasis on God’s grace that weaves its way into so many facets of United Methodist theology, worship, and experience.
As I have grown in the faith God’s loving grace calling me to be more like Jesus each day has become a very important part of my spiritual journey. Meeting Christ at the table and experiencing His presence there gives me strength, hope, joy, and a sense of communion with my Savior and His church!