Free Methodist Church
Guiding theological question: Is it possible to be a disciple of Jesus apart from receiving and responding to a personal and unique call that also helps the body of Christ fulfill its calling?
Guiding Scripture passage: John 4:4-42
Signs of change:
West Morris Church has begun to demonstrate an increased openness to new ideas and spiritual disciplines/activities. This is a positive move away from suspicion and distrust into actual engagement and interest. That is encouraging, particularly as we lead into Year Two activities.
On a broader scale, there have been major changes over the past several months in regards to discussions about our future. Some individuals have left the church that have held the church back from moving forward. The interruption of “business as usual” has created space and time for asking much-needed questions about what’s working, and what’s not. All of these things have opened up much-needed opportunities for continued dialogue about mission/vision/values/benchmarks.
Year 2 Activities
- Gain clarity on communal calling & identity: help West Morris Church work through exploring and identifying their unique mission / values / vision / benchmarks by working with Auxano Counsulting through their 9-month vision-framing process.
- Gain clarity on individual calling & identity: continue our Year One focus on developing a language / core understanding of calling by structuring a year-long focus on the theology of individual and communal calling. We will use scripture as a framework for developing individual and communal calling, including: providing Bibles and Bible notebooks to every congregant, using the Narrative Lectionary for all worship, reworking adult Sunday School classes to focus on discipleship and scripture engagement, and developing a “Living into Scriptural Calling” speaker series.
Year 1 Learnings
- Vocation & calling is about discipleship – As we have shared multiple times, the concepts of vocation and calling are not common in our church environment. It was seen as reserved solely for clergy, or even more disconcerting, something “too Catholic”. However, we have been able to discuss and demonstrate how vocation and calling are actually related to Christian discipleship.
- Discipleship is developed through engagement, not spectating – Our failure at creating disciples has become apparent throughout this pandemic. We have done a better job of creating consumers than disciples. This has forced us to think clearly about what we’re doing, what we’re intending, and whether we’re succeeding.
- Retreat and refreshment are needed by all – Convincing people to attend the retreat was challenging. People weren’t sure what to expect, and didn’t know if it was worth dedicating the time (even if all their expenses were covered!). But, getting them away from home and out of town, in a serene setting, and given opportunities to hear from God was appreciated and enjoyed.
Resources Developed by West Morris
- “You Are Called” congregation retreat.
- Lenten sermon series
Recommended Prayer & Study Resources
- APEST (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher from Eph 4) Free Online-Survey. This is a free online survey that anyone can take to identify their primary and secondary Ephesians 4 giftings. This is helpful in developing teams, and evaluating how best we can live
missionally in our worlds as disciples who make disciples. There is a book that can be read to help understand the results of the survey. The book is Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen and Steve Cockram,published by 3DM Publishing.
- Hinds, Kristy. Redeemed: The Power of a Single Story. Kristy’s book, in telling her own personal story, explores the hope of a single story and God’s redemptive hand in using our lives and circumstances in the world. Kristy demonstrates powerfully how our circumstances contribute to our calling within the world in an accessible story.)
- Lenten sermon series:
- What’s Your Calling? – March 10
- What’s Your [Unique] Calling? – March 17
- Who Am I? – March 24
- Vocation throughout Life – March 31
- Youth Sunday (vocation exemplified) – April 7
- Don’t Miss It (Palm Sunday) – April 14
Share one story that illustrates your congregation living out your mission.
The clock displayed 2:55 PM and our Communities of Calling discernment meeting was set to start in five minutes. Already lay people gathered in the library, eager to join in the discussion. I assumed the ringing doorbell simply signaled the arrival of another participant. But it was Ann.
Ann had become a familiar face at the church door over the past several months. She stopped by for counseling when her marriage fell on hard times. She came to ask hard questions of faith. She sought us out when her cabinets were bare and her gas tank empty. She joined us for our regular free community dinners.
But this day Ann didn’t carry herself quite the same; she walked a little taller and her smile was unmistakable. Immediately she shared her success. “I got a job at Dollar Tree!” I celebrated with her, knowing a steady paycheck would go a long way in helping stabilize her situation.
But she hadn’t come just to share her good news. “Do you have a green shirt? I need a green shirt to work there but can’t buy one until I get my first paycheck. But I can’t get a paycheck until I get a green shirt!” After a quick trip downstairs to our clothing ministry, Ann walked away with not one, but two, green shirts for her first week of work. We hugged, I prayed for her, and she left, vowing to return on Sunday morning if she wasn’t scheduled to work.
Our discernment meeting started a few minutes late, but Ann’s green shirt emerged as a guiding metaphor for our discussions. Eighteen months ago our congregation committed to remaining in this community, despite the many challenges of ministering in an urban, decaying neighborhood with an oversized, outdated building. With this recommitment, a new passion for engaging our neighborhood was slowly birthed. Through our Community Dinners, Little Free Pantry, Clothing Ministry, neighborhood activities, and outward focus, we’ve increasingly begun living into our mission of “Loving God – Serving Neighbors” by walking alongside those who are hurting, focusing on individuals’ assets, and making a difference one person at a time—a mission beautifully demonstrated by Ann’s green shirt.