The General Conference has been going on the past week and continues on this week down in Tampa, FL. This is the worldwide conference that speaks for the whole United Methodist Church. Every four years they meet, discuss, debate, pray, worship, and fellowship (not in that particular order) and their decisions become part of the United Methodist Discipline, which is much like the Constitution is to our country here in the U.S. It’s a big deal. You can follow their discussions and decisions, and even watch some of it live at www.umc.org
There is a lot of controversy this year about quite a few different things. Social issues, particularly sexuality are being discussed as they have been in past years as well. They are also trying to restructure the leadership of the church on a national and global level, possibly removing or relocating some of the ministries we have. There has also been a movement to establish a bishop to be the spokesperson for the entire denomination instead of just over a particular geographic annual conference. There has also been a movement to remove guaranteed appointment to ordained elders. On top of all of that, they have to set budgets and review a lot of other legislation as well. They all need our prayers down there. If you are curious about more of the specific issues, I encourage you to check out the www.umc.org website, as I am not an expert on any of it.
I would like to make a short report on something I heard tonight though. One of the ministries that I have helped raise money for personally and that our denomination as a whole sponsors – along with many other organizations is Malaria Prevention Nets (I believe it was called “Nothing but Nets”). Since this ministry was founded we have cut the death rate in half from Malaria – most of them children. That in itself is awesome. The nets are not expensive to make and our connectional organization keeps the money going to the people who need it and not getting caught up in administrative tasks. Something new I learned though tonight, was that, because of our work in preventing Malaria in Africa, there are villages that are requesting United Methodist church plants within their villages. There were 15 villages mentioned in Sierra Leone that were asking us to start churches in their communities – and these are Muslim communities. One more incident of God showing the way He goes ahead of us in winning hearts to Christ and paving that way with compassion and love. Here is the website for Nothing But Nets – http://www.nothingbutnets.net/partners/umc.html
Lastly, I just want to say again that reaching out to our communities need not be something that we think of in terms of new ways to spend money. The best outreaches I have been involved with have been far less expensive than the memorial projects, building maintenance issues, and special services we, as churches in our country have done. I don’t think this is a competition and I am not specifically advocating that we spend more money on outreach. I do think we all need to remember though, that some of the most important investments in outreach are not money. They are things like time, attention, eye contact, making a phone call, listening, stopping to help, and rearranging our schedule. Here is the website for Caine’s Arcade – the video I showed this morning at Jonesville. Check this out and see how 1 man changed a child’s life forever with $2 and a little caring attention. http://cainesarcade.com/