By Bishop Bob Hoshibata
Beginning July 1, 2014, our Director of Connectional Ministries, Rev. Dave McPherson, will be moving into a new area of responsibility for our Conference. With the departure of Rev. Tom Butcher, who was appointed to Lakeview United Methodist Church last July, the position of Conference Director of New Faith has been vacant.
As I have studied the ways in which ministry is best supported and nurtured by a Conference, I have found that there is a close relationship between the ministry of starting new faith communities and the ministry of bringing vitality to existing congregations. Put very simply, both vital faith and new faith are essential to the life and the future of our churches. When churches are healthy, they begin to engage in new ministries that may well lead to the development of a new faith community. When a new faith community is actively engaging in mission and ministry, the result is fruitfulness.
In order to encourage both the development of new faith communities and the vitality of existing congregations, the vacant New Faith Director position has been expanded. This position, the Conference Director of New Faith/Vital Faith, will meld the two important, inter-related efforts of our Conference. Beginning July 1, 2014, Dave McPherson will assume this new responsibility. Dave has demonstrated his love for the church and has offered excellent leadership through the ministry of the Director of Connectional Ministries, caring for the program of the local churches and ministry settings and finding ways of connecting them to each other, to the community, and to the resources of The United Methodist Church. This new position will allow him to exercise his love for helping churches become more vital as well as his wisdom, creativity and passion for launching new communities of faith.
Our Conference is rich in opportunities for ministry! On one hand, although we are a relatively small conference, many of these ministry settings are alive with exciting manifestations of God’s love in the world. Evidence of radical hospitality abounds. Churches that swing open their doors wide on Sundays and during the week to welcome all persons; generous expressions of outreach to those who are hungry, thirsty, without clothes or shelter; worship that inspires and deepens the faith of those who participate: these are just a few signs of vitality I see in our congregations.
Yet, there are many congregations who are “stuck” without a clear sense of where God has placed them and why. In these situations, there are many creative ideas that may help us become unstuck. It is critical that we have someone on the Conference level to assist our efforts to give churches that want to grow and thrive the expertise and support to empower them. In very difficult situations, this is a challenging task. I believe our congregations are longing to find the way forward to reach new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. That effort needs to begin with our Conference leadership, and it is my hope and expectation that under Dave’s excellent leadership and creativity, we will begin to grow in faith, in ministry, and in the number of vital congregations in the Desert Southwest.
In our Conference, I see many potential new faith communities. The many possibilities include starting new Bible study groups, mission teams, small group ministries, or a new worship service. These are just a sprinkling of ways we might start something new for Jesus Christ. From one end of the spectrum, where we bring a new person to become a part of our worshiping congregation, to the beginning of a new church, we are all called by God to help multiply the reach of the Gospel into the life of the community around us.
I ask you to hold Dave McPherson in prayer as he begins his time of transition to take effect July 1, 2014. And I invite you to work with energy and faith for the wonderful ministry given to us in Jesus’ words to us in Matthew’s Gospel to:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:19-20