People of Practice and Discipline Rooted in Grace
2012 SCD Theme: Transformation
By Laura Allen and Melissa Hinnen
Transforming The United Methodist Church is not something that will happen at an event or through the General Conference.
It happens one changed life at a time.
That was the message Bishop Robert Schnase of the Missouri Area brought attendees in his keynote address at the School of Congregational Development (SCD). Schnase, who is the resident bishop of the Missouri Conference, used active language to describe the way forward for The United Methodist Church.
"We are a people of grace," he said. "A grace from God that pursues, that constantly seeks relationship with all people."
The bishop urged congregations to do the same. "Methodism began with 'go-to' instincts, we've become a 'come-to' church. I'm not asking you to change your theology, but to embrace it."
Schanse told the story of Mitch, a high school athlete whose dreams were interrupted when he had to move after his parents' divorce. His anger nearly consumed him until he fell in love and his fiancée asked him to talk with her United Methodist pastor. Over the course of ten years, Mitch became a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, slowly becoming more engaged in the church's ministries.
Today, Mitch leads the homeless ministry of his church and mentors youth who are struggling. "He became a totally different person than had been scripted," Schnase said. "Time and relationships with other people gave the Spirit room to work, and Mitch opened himself up to God's grace.
"If we want to make disciples, we need to repeat stories like Mitch's over and over," continued Schnase. He encouraged congregations to duplicate Mitch's story by engaging in practices that do not "just go through the motions…but reflect our utmost and highest efforts."
Radical, Passionate, Intentional, Risk-Taking, Extravagant
Continuing the discussion in a seminar later that afternoon, Bishop Schnase asked, "How do we become a doorway to our community of faith?" Framing his presentation around the five practices of fruitful congregations, he lifted up examples of radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service, and extravagant generosity.
Each practice requires a level of intentionality that permeates every aspect of the church, said the bishop. When it becomes the root of the church's identity, everything the church does will radiate that principle. For example, the mission of the trustees becomes more than making sure the roof doesn't fall in. "Imagine a trustee board whose sole function is to make sure the property in their care exudes welcome and vitality."
Congregational formation requires cooperating with the Holy Spirit to transform the world, one child of God at a time. "Somewhere out there is someone that God will use you to reach," said Schnase.
He noted that to be fruitful, congregations must be focused outward. "Our work is not to change ourselves in the church, but to make ourselves available to change systems and change lives."
The School of Congregational Development (SCD)
The General Board of Discipleship, Path 1, and the General Board of Global Ministries are co-sponsoring this year's three-day event in St. Louis, Missouri. Through intensive workshops, dynamic plenary sessions, and local teaching churches, United Methodists are learning how to create and develop disciple-making faith communities. The plenary sessions are available to watch live.
For the first time, SCD will provide a satellite experience at local churches located in each jurisdiction. Reggie McNeil's plenary session and a ministry track on using technology to reach and grow churches of any size will be webcast on Saturday, August 18. Get more information and register.
Laura Allen is the director of communications for the West Virginia Annual Conference. Melissa Hinnen is the public information officer for the General Board of Global Ministries. Both are attending and providing coverage of SCD this week.
School of Congregational Development 2012
Photos: Worship at School of Congregational Development 2012. Credit: Cassandra Zampini