By Dr. Shane Stanford, Senior Pastor
(Second Report from the World Methodist Council Meeting written 9/5/16)
Yesterday, I attended my first sub-committee meeting as a new delegate of the World Methodist Council. During this first day, we organized the new council for the 2016-2021 season. Part of that organization is the development of our ‘standing committees’ of the Council whose jobs it is to focus on the most important issues facing God’s people around the world.
All of the standing committees are important, but when people think of the most well known they consider areas such as theological education, social and international issues, general education issues and evangelism. Each of these committees is very important to the work of the church, especially as we consider how 82 million Wesleyans from 134 nations can come together to make a difference in the sharing of the Good News and the hope of God’s creation.
The standing committee on which I chose to serve was, by far, the smallest attended of all the committees. My committee is the Family Health and Well Being Committee. Several folks at my table were surprised that I chose what some considered to be one of the lesser known committees on which to serve. But, for those who know me, the Family Issues Committee is like a second home for me.
Arriving in the committee room and beginning the meeting, I realized that the 15 or so of us on the committee were all here because of one or more driving issues in our lives. The gentleman in front of me had escaped an abusive home while growing up in Ghana. The woman in front of me from the British Isles discussed issues she worked with as a social worker in her small town in Wales. And, across the room, on the front row, clothed in some of the most regal vestments I have seen, was the Archbishop of the Methodist Church of Nigeria—a father of seven and a man who has spent most of his life trying to make families safer in a country with a wide array of dangers lurking throughout.
The Family Issues Standing Committee is not large or even that vocal, but it does have the advantage of what I call the ‘pulse’ of the community. Every community represented in that room, from Lagos, Nigeria, to Seoul, South Korea, to Memphis, TN, loves their families and wants only the best for them. And, I believe there is an extra ounce of grace and power for a group when the members enter into God’s Work with someone they love or care for on their minds. As we began to talk about family issues, each of us had an actual family—maybe our own or the ones we were trying to rescue—at the forefront of our thoughts and hearts.
As we spent our first day and a half discussing what would be our focus over the next five years of our service together on the committee, we concluded on three primary issues:
- Health and Well Being: This encompassed issues from mental health (yes, I did get in a plug for No Whispers) to the health of the food we put on our tables.
- Poverty and Inequality: This area raised the temperature in the room whether you are talking about West Africa or West Tennessee due to such mixed standards as to what it means ‘to have’ and ‘to have not.’
- Evangelism and Teaching: This focus reminded us that our most fertile evangelism field is children 5 to 13. And, we confirmed that 80 to 90 percent of those children come into a relationship with Jesus through a friend or a relative, definitely making it a ‘family issue.’
The World Methodist Council will assimilate the issues from the different standing committees and decide which get what priority resources and focus.
Just as I have said about our No Whispers Initiative, we have a responsibility to speak up and stand up in the places where our life witness flourishes—our home, work and play places—and share the good news of a God who loves us and wants to be in relationship with us. But, even more than that, this same good news calls us to angle our lives into the lives of those around us—those we know and those we have just met to make sure that everyone has a chance to experience the hope and grace of God’s love.
I am proud to belong to a worldwide Church that takes seriously the connexion (as they spell it at the World Methodist Council), knowing that we can make a difference in critical issues near and far. But, I am also proud to belong to a Church who claims that such work begins right here where you live, ‘as you go’ (Matthew 28) into the world.
And, the first place we usually go in a day—begins with our families and friends. Let’s not pass them by ON THE WAY TO THE IMPORTANT WORK OF THE DAY. No, they ARE the most important effort you will make EACH AND EVERY DAY for the Presence of the Gospel.
Angle-In, my Brothers and Sisters…
Be Salt and Light… You Matter!