Center Lines - March 2009

 What demands my attention?   What needs to be done first?   What must I do now, so I can do what I want later?   To where should I first direct my resources (whether scant or ample)?   How do I live today, so my tomorrow will be fulfilling?   What is of primary importance?   What is of lesser importance?   Priorities, priorities, priorities!   We all have them in our lives, whether or not we want them.

It’s no easier in the Church.   We have mission foci.   We have pathways.   We have critical issues.   We have rules, and here I mean Wesley’s three- not Mt. Sinai’s 10!   Sometimes we have so many “directions” that it’s hard to see, much less follow, “the path.”   We could use a simplified (very simplified) synopsis.

Well, our friend and colleague Mike Bealla- the Central Pennsylvania Annual Conference Director of Connectional Ministries- has done just that!   In the March issue of that conference’s newspaper Link, Mike walked through a variety of priorities and emphases.   He explained them, he coordinated them and he illustrated how their different facets work together to lift up the work of our United Methodist Church and how they offer guidance to local congregations that are looking for ways to focus visions and excitement in their particular communities.

Mike’s piece, printed below, focuses on Central Pennsylvania.   The addition of a single note at the end, indicated with an asterisk, adapts the information perfectly to us in Wyoming.   I hope you find the article as helpful as I did.

Seven pathways, four mission foci, three rules, two critical issues; Mike did not mention Five Faithful Practices, but that topic is for another day!

In Christ.




 By Rev. Mike Bealla, Director of Connectional Ministries

Central Pennsylvania Annual Conference

March 2009


A colleague sighed, “I’m so confused. It seems like every time we turn around there is a new theme coming at us and we’ve just got around to looking at the last one.” I understand the feeling. In our desire to provide the best, newest and most effective resources for ministry, it can feel a bit overwhelming. Let me try to clear up a few things.

Every four years our General Church looks forward to the next quadrennium, a four year segment of time. At General Conference themes, goals, initiatives and missional priorities (need I go on?) are birthed and passed on to annual conferences and local churches to consider in their own ministries. In addition, each annual conference tends to catch a vision of its own priorities. At every level of the church, the themes, goals, etc., are the gifts of visionary leaders listening for God’s leading in a constantly changing world. Their passion for mission and ministry has encouraged us, challenged us, and moved us forward as a church.

We can be thankful that after many years of trying to define the mission of our local churches, our “Book of Discipline” clearly defines the mission of our United Methodist Church. No matter our size or our location, we have all been called and commissioned by God to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. No confusion here! One main mission shared by all of us. One mission connects us at every level of the church.

Amazingly, through the work of the Holy Spirit, the General Conference, our general boards, agencies, and our Council of Bishops decided to align themselves behind the one mission. Their work is addressed below. This is a major step forward for the future of our church and its effectiveness. (See my column on alignment if you haven’t already.)

This focus on the mission and an understanding of the challenges of our current world-context, birthed the following four areas of focus for the 2009 -2012 quadrennium. They are the General Church’s “vision.” A vision is a mental picture of what it will look like as we live out our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world during this quadrennium.

The Four Focus Areas are:

  1. Developing principled Christian leaders for the church and the world.
  2. Creating new places for new people and revitalizing existing congregations.
  3. Combating the diseases of poverty by improving health globally.
  4. Engaging in ministry with the poor.

In addition to these foci, our Council of Bishops reviewed the best practices that annual conferences and effective congregations can follow as they live into their own vision. Called the “Seven Pathways” they are:

  1. Teaching the Wesleyan model of reaching and forming disciples of Jesus Christ;
  2. Strengthening clergy and lay leadership;
  3. Developing new congregations;
  4. Transforming existing congregations;
  5. Ending racism as we authentically expand racial and ethnic ministries;
  6. Reaching and transforming the lives of new generations of children; and
  7. Eliminating poverty in community with the poor.

Confused? Don’t be. The MISSION of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is the main thing. The Four Focus Areas (VISION) help us focus our attention as we go about our mission. The Seven Pathways (Means for Ministry) remind us of how best to be fruitful in carrying out the mission. See how easy?

Am I done? Sorry. We have been given one more tool at the General Church level that has its roots in John Wesley’s teaching … “Three Simple Rules.” These rules are a guide for individuals to seek transformation in their own faith journeys as together we live into our mission. (Ed. The three rules are: Do no harm, Do good, Stay in love with God.”)  Now I’m almost done … except for our annual conference’s Mission and Vision and Theme. Go ahead and say it … “Oh my!”

For this one I have a chart above! It tries to explain how we as an annual conference live into the mission, vision and offer a theme to hold it together.

The MISSION is like a frame. It provides the boundaries for whatever we do in mission and ministry. The VISION is what it will look like as we live out the mission in the church.

At the Annual Conference level, our mission is to provide trained quality spiritual leaders both clergy and lay; and to resource local churches in their disciple-making mission. That frames what we do. The vision then is how we will live out that mission. In the graphic above, notice there are three main sources which flow out of our vision.

On the left you see the “GC” flow. These are resources, themes, and ideas that flow to us from the General Church. Examples are: The Four Focus Areas, the Seven Pathways, and the Rethink Church Initiative.

The center flow is our current Central Pennsylvania Annual Conference resourcing which includes such resources as the Small Church initiative, Matthew 28, writing our own Acts 29, Creative Worship Workshops, and the list can go on. In addition, our Annual Conference theme will be Going to Galilee for 2009 and 2010. (More on this very soon.) *

The right flow is emerging as we give birth to our new conference in 2010. We will provide new resourcing and tools for ministry to help shape and form the evolving vision God has set before us. We have picked up on the Rethink Church initiative and given it our own flavor by making it Rethink Church … Rethink Annual Conference. By now this should be self-explanatory.

Think of all of this as a giant tool box filled with tools and resources for you to get it done. As for the themes and focus areas, no one is expected to do them all. I like to think of these as a buffet table. It is loaded with food selections. If you are not sure what to eat, simply stick your fork in and go to town. No one is expected to eat everything. Your church might find its favorite food on the buffet, in which case, choose it! The only rule a buffet should have is that no one walks away hungry. There is something here for every church in every place and even for places unknown as of now.

I hope this helps clarify the many missions and visions and themes that come our way. When you see the marvelous gifts placed before us to enable our ministries you just have to say “Oh my!”

+ + + + + + + +

*Wyoming’s Annual Conference 2009 theme is “Through the Waters,” based on Isaiah 43.   Wyoming’s two Critical Issues for the current quadrennium are: (1) “Step out of the church doors and invite all people of the community to encounter God,” and (2)   “Encourage the discovery of, and resource the use of, God’s good gifts in service to all.”

By: Reverend Mark Marino On 3/25/2009