By Bishop Mark J. Webb
Recently I was in an airport with some time to kill and found myself perusing books on a store shelf. There was one book that got my attention. The title is The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing, by Jeff Goins. While I didn’t purchase the book, (so I’m not making a recommendation) I “googled” and found this summary:
“Moments of breakthrough are not where life’s greatest transformation happens; the stuff that God uses to shape us often lies in the in-between. It is the bus stops and layovers and DMV lines and moments of unintentional pause that force us to become better people. That’s not to say there aren’t moments of epiphany. There are. It’s just that most of us find ourselves living somewhere in the in-between. Learning to live in this tension, to be content in these moments of waiting, may be our greatest struggle – and our greatest opportunity to grow.”
There is another book I strongly recommend that has a lot to say about living in “the in-between.” In the Bible we read the accounts of God’s people experiencing seasons of wandering, waiting, and wondering. Sometimes these in-between times led to confusion, fear, wallowing in self-pity, and murmuring against God, while other times they created a spirit of expectation and a season of preparation. No matter the response, every in-between time led to a new movement of God in the lives of those willing to surrender in faith and follow.
Many faithful United Methodist Christians and congregations reading this article have been through a time of spiritual discernment and have made the decision to disaffiliate from the UM Church. You have chosen or are prayerfully discerning your next faithful step. You are ready to move into God’s future, yet instead you are experiencing “the in-between.” The reasons for this are varied and some are very unfair. I know it is resulting in frustration, uncertainty, impatience, and discouragement. This is a difficult season, but I believe it is a season of forming and transforming us. There is hope for “the in-between!”
How might we position ourselves for what God will do now and, in the days, ahead? Let me offer just a few things for your consideration.
First, don’t forget your purpose. The communities we serve, the people who are our neighbors need the good news of Jesus Christ. We need to continue to find ways to move beyond our walls and serve the least, the last and the lost. The ministry God has called you to has not changed – if anything the opportunities and the possibilities grow greater every day. Keep looking for ways to be the Church going boldly into the world and offering Jesus! Meet people where they are with the hands and feet of Christ. Use this time to recommit being a church that keeps the main thing the main thing.
Second, tend to your spiritual life, individually and as a congregation. Worship passionately. Gather in small groups to study God’s word, encourage one another in the faith and hold one another accountable to following the way of Christ. Practice the spiritual disciplines individually and together – go deeper with God than you ever have before.
Third, be people of prayer. Pray unceasingly – pray in small groups, hold prayer services, conduct prayer vigils. Pray for God to shape you and reveal His plan for the future of your congregation. Pray for your community. Pray for God to give you His eyes and heart for those around you. Pray for opportunities to meet needs and share your faith in Christ with others. As you encounter barriers to the path forward you believe God has for you, are you boldly and expectantly praying for those barriers to be removed?
Fourth, prepare for the next movement of God in and through you. Talk together about what you do well as a church and ask God to show you how to increase it. Discover what is missing for you to be the church God desires you to be and ask God to equip you with the necessary gifts to accomplish it. Be honest about the things you need to let go of and stop doing so that you will be fully intent on doing only what is necessary for at least one more person to know the love of God through Jesus Christ and become a disciple.
I’m excited to be a part of the Global Methodist Church. Many around the world have already become a part of this movement. The Global Methodist Church offers a Wesleyan expression of following Jesus that is at the core of who we long to be and want to be. The Global Methodist Church is committed to the core tenets of the Christian faith, submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, guided by the primacy and authority of Scripture, and dependent upon the leading and power of the Holy Spirit. As a denomination, the Global Methodist Church is a connection of laity, clergy and congregations who understand the need for one another, to encourage and equip, as together we live more deeply into following Jesus Christ and carry out more effectively our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ who worship passionately, love extravagantly and witness boldly.
I’m praying that God will lead you to be a part of the Global Methodist Church and I will be blessed to walk alongside you. No matter your ultimate discernment, I encourage you to trust anew the faithfulness of your God and trust the path He will ultimately provide.
In some ways, I grieve this season in which we find ourselves, but I am trusting the God who works in “the in-between.” As the disaffiliation process continues to play out in the UM Church, let’s keep praying that all involved in conversations and decisions will be gracious and seek to help one another move into the next faithful season of ministry and mission. May we always be witnesses to the grace of God through Jesus Christ in all our actions and conversations.
Let’s encourage one another every day and remind one another that we serve a God who proclaims. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29.11).
I’m praying for you!
Bishop Mark J. Webb is an episcopal leader in the Global Methodist Church.
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