Endurance and Encouragement
Endurance and Encouragement
We who are powerful need to be patient with the weakness of those who don’t have power, and not please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good in order to build them up. Christ didn’t please himself, but, as it is written, ‘The insults of those who insulted you fell on me.’ Whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction so that we could have hope through endurance and through the encouragement of the scriptures. May the God of endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude toward each other, similar to Christ Jesus’ attitude. That way you can glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ together with one voice. Romans 15:1-6 (CEB)
Like many of you, I spent the last several days with at least one eye on the live stream of General Conference in St. Louis. I joined the United Methodist Church when I was a college student, and since then my life has been full of daily opportunities to understand the art of Christian perfection. As a “convert” from the Presbyterians, I didn’t come pre-loaded with a very high view of humankind. Sometimes I still don’t expect “the very best” from human beings, and I am rarely surprised at anything – but always so pleased when I see Christians loving one another.
I share with you a sense of disappointment about St. Louis. Even those who had hoped for a traditionalist way forward find themselves disappointed in our behavior towards one another, feeling that in some ways we have failed not only each other but also Jesus Christ. Gratefully, I know from life experience that one event, while it might be a big event, is only a part of the whole journey. General Conference 2019 is just one slice of our mutual history. We are not there yet. We move on to perfection.
I found that when I awakened early Wednesday morning, my ministry continued once again, as I found myself in my usual meaningful conversations with both pastors and congregations. There is disappointment, but I also know there is also (and always) hope. We are better together, and we always will be. We don’t cut off our arm when it is broken, and we don’t leave our families after a tough argument. We keep going, and we move on together. We ask ourselves what might have gone wrong, and we desire in our hearts to correct it with more love.
As you prepare yourselves for shepherding your congregations through the events of this week, please know that you can offer both endurance and encouragement. Paul called our God a God of “endurance and encouragement” and he wanted the congregation to have the same attitude towards one another that Jesus Christ has towards them. Throughout that letter, he had written of God’s promises to never abandon us, God’s desire that we would live together in both unity and accountability, and that Christ had indeed died for all. This is not only true in the best of times, it is true in the worst of times. It is true when things go our way, and even when they do not.
Please offer the holy challenge of endurance and the holy gift of encouragement to your congregations and communities, and let them know that we are a part of a world-wide, grace-filled movement, of 12 million people over four continents, who find not only great purpose but also salvation in the cross of Jesus Christ. I look forward to seeing you at Main Street UMC in Kernersville on Saturday, March 16 at 10:00 am for a time of worship and conversation with our Bishop, as we gather with our neighbors in the Yadkin Valley District. There we will thank our delegates and be together around the table of Holy Communion. Our ministry continues, and I am with you on this journey.
Northern Piedmont District Superintendent