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Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Guilt Free A to Z

Prayer 11Key Bible Verse: I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.  – 1 Timothy 2:1

Bonus Reading: Daniel 9:1-19

Have you ever created a massive prayer list and then broken it down for each day of the week? If you have, you’ve probably discovered that this approach works well—at producing a whole lof of guilt!

The first day you miss your prayer time, you decide to double up the next day so that no name gets skipped. But this requires that tomorrow you pray for a boatload of people. Eventually, you’ll let dropped days stay dropped—and then feel guilty about all those people for whom you failed to pray.

Let me offer you a guilt-free approach. I keep an A to Z list of friends on one page, front and back, in a notebook I use to record my daily insights from Scripture. I stick a little Post-it note under the person’s name I last prayed for.

Some days I have the time to pray for five or six people. Other days I’m in a hurry and may get to only one or two names. And occasionally I miss interceding for others altogether. I just pick up where I left off and continue down my list. It may take a few weeks to cover everyone, but there’s a steady thoroughness to this approach that gives me a sense of deep satisfaction.

—James Nicodem in Prayer Coach

My Response: Without increasing guilt, how might I improve my own intercessory prayer times?

Thought to Apply: Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men!—Phillips Brooks (American clergyman & author)

Adapted from Prayer Coach (Crossway, 2008)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.

 

 

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Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – At a Loss for Words?

Prayer 11Key Bible Verse: Never stop praying.  – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Bonus Reading: Psalm 86:1-7

Some Christians may dismiss written prayers as leftovers of a formal church style they’d just as soon bury.

Yet when we feel down or dull, reading a prayer may get us going when otherwise we wouldn’t pray at all. When we read the prayer and truly pray it as we read, the written prayer becomes our own expression to God.

The largest source of written prayers is the book of Psalms. With 150 to choose from, we can always find one to start off our prayer (like today’s Bonus Reading).

We have psalms of praise, comfort, and encouragement. Most of all we find laments—over a third of the Psalms begin with complaints. (People are often surprised to discover that God actually lets us complain to him.)

Psalms of lament start with expressing sadness, frustration, or even anger to God. Then they generally progress toward finding hope and comfort in God. They’re a great example of dumping our problems on God and turning to the path of faith and optimism.

Reading written prayers can also stimulate our own prayers when we internalize the words and express them as if they were our own. This gets the flow of our thoughts going. Then we can set the written prayer aside and go on praying.

—Peter Lundell in Prayer Power

My Response: How might written prayers enliven my own times of prayer?

Adapted from Prayer Power (Revell, 2009)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.

 

 

Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Crank Your Engine

Prayer 11Who Said It … Peter Lundell

Peter Lundell is a former missionary to Japan and currently pastors Walnut Community Church in Walnut, California. Along with publishing articles in numerous magazines, he’s the author of Armed for Battle, When God Bursts In, and the recently published Prayer Power.

Peter’s hobbies include woodworking and surfing the Pacific with a specially designed “surf kayak.” He has a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Missiology from Fuller Theological Seminary. Peter and his wife, Kim, have one daughter.

What He Said … Crank Your Engine

When the automobile was first invented, no one had conceived of a starter. So while one person sat at the wheel, another person stood in front of the car and cranked a handle connected to the engine. Round and round they’d heave the crank until the engine started. This led to phrases like “crank the engine” and “crank it up.”

Sometimes prayer may feel like a dead engine, and it takes deliberate cranking to get the communication started.

Too many times I have experienced the truth of Jesus’ words: “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38). I may sit or stand or walk while I try to talk with God, but my mind is like a dead engine. These are times when I “start in the flesh and end in the Spirit.”

Starting in the flesh and ending in the Spirit means that we may not feel like praying, but we go ahead and pray anyway. As we do this, our prayer starts to flow naturally.

Adapted from Prayer Power (Revell, 2009)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.

 

 

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends

FriendsToday’s Bible study looks at only four brief verses from Proverbs. But like all of the adages found throughout this wisdom-filled book, these tersely crafted verses are jam-packed with powerful, practical, and timeless insights.

And in keeping with this week’s theme, the insights go straight to the heart and soul of what it means to be someone who seeks to bring out the best in his friends. So, dig into these four short verses and then put them to work in your friendships.

Interact with God’s Word:  Proverbs 27:5-6, 9, 17

  1. When have you been grateful for a friend’s “open rebuke” (v. 5)? Why was this rebuke helpful to you?
  2. How does a wound from a “sincere friend” (v. 6) differ from a wound from an insincere friend?
  3. Why are wounds from a “sincere friend” better than “kisses from an enemy”?
  4. When was a time “heartfelt counsel” (v. 9) kept you from making a mistake or gave you the courage to do what was right?
  5. Who is a friend you could “sharpen” (v. 17) through an encouraging word, a piece of timely advice, or a loving rebuke?
  6. Take time to memorize one or two of the verses from this week’s study.

Spend Time in Prayer:  Thank God for friends who offer you encouragement and who seek to bring out the best in you; ask God to guide you and give you wisdom as you seek to encourage and challenge your own friends to greater godliness.

Proverbs 27:5-6, 9, 17

5 An open rebuke
is better than hidden love!

6 Wounds from a sincere friend
are better than many kisses from an enemy.

9 The heartfelt counsel of a friend
is as sweet as perfume and incense.

17 As iron sharpens iron,
so a friend sharpens a friend.

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – We Need Each Other

FriendsKey Bible Verse: I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11

Bonus Reading: Romans 15:4-6

Mark (not his real name) took the courageous step of joining a church group that encourages men who want to grow out of destructive patterns. I had been urging him to take advantage of this group.

When he did so, I told him how my respect for him had risen. But as I looked with the eyes of God, I saw a shadow in his face, a touch of discouragement, even a hint of fear. He needed some encouragement.

“But you know,” I added, “when you read the classics, they stress how once a believer begins taking God more seriously, Satan is likely to unleash his most fierce temptations against that person.”

The relief that flooded Mark’s face was immediate. “Thank you for sharing that,” he said. “It helps me understand what’s been going on.”

Just hours before I talked to Mark, two of my friends had spoken to me, ministering God’s presence and wisdom. If they hadn’t lifted me up, I don’t know if I would have been available to encourage Mark. True transformation is a community effort. We need each other.

—Gary Thomas in The Beautiful Fight

My Response: Who is a friend I need to thank for being there to encourage me?

Adapted from The Beautiful Fight (Zondervan, 2007) .

Thought to Apply: A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.—Arnold Glasgow (writer, humorist)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – Get Real, Go Deep

FriendsKey Bible Verse: Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs.  – 1 Thessalonians 5:14, The message

Bonus Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:2-3

If you were to share with a trusted friend that you struggle with watching television shows you know you shouldn’t, your friend could react in a number of ways. The reaction you receive will most likely reveal the depth of your friend’s commitment to you.

Your friend could say to you, “Well, just turn off the TV and pray about it.” In this case, your friend probably can’t really relate to your problem, but he thinks telling you this will help. He might be truly concerned, however, even though he doesn’t really understand. Or he may simply practice doling out spiritual-sounding advice.

On the other hand, imagine the difference if that friend makes a committed effort to help you. Think how you’ll feel if your friend says, “Let’s talk about your problem some more. Why do you think you’re having this struggle? Let’s pray about this together.”

The two of you spend some time talking over the struggle you’re experiencing—and then you spend some more time beside each other in prayer. Your friend is committed to helping you—as long as it takes—until you get through this problem. Now that’s a committed friendship.

—David Wardell and Jeff Leever in Daily Disciples

My Response: How can I best demonstrate empathy toward a struggling friend?

Thought to Apply: We are born helpless. … We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves.—C. S. Lewis(British scholar, Christian writer)

Adapted from Daily Disciples (Promise, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – Was It Worth It?

FriendsKey Bible Verse: When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.   – Romans 1:12

Bonus Reading: Philemon 7

To encourage the guys in a Bible study I recently led, I telephoned each of them every week, asking how things were going and how I could pray for them. One of the men was reticent on the phone, often answering my general questions with one or two words. Our typical conversation lasted for only a minute or two.

Was he uncomfortable talking with me? I wondered after each call. Was I annoying him with my repeated phone calls? Did he not even like me? Perhaps I should just stop calling him.

Before making any decisions, though, I needed some expert advice. I talked to my wife.

“I wouldn’t give up,” she said. “Those calls probably mean more to him than you think.”

I took my wife’s advice and called that man again. As usual, he shared little and offered no prayer requests. As I began to wrap up another uncomfortable conversation, he said something that stunned me.

“Jon,” he said, “I just want you to know that I really appreciate your calls. It’s encouraging to hear a friendly voice every week.”

With tears forming in my eyes, I thanked him for his kind words. I hung up the phone and looked forward to calling him the following week.

—Jonathan Wakefield

My Response: How do I react when guys don’t seem to respond positively to my attempts to reach out and encourage them?

Thought to Apply:Q: How can you tell if a person needs encouragement? A: If they are breathing.”—Truett Cathy (founder of Chick-fil-A)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – A Team of Huggers

FriendsKey Bible Verse: Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. Hebrews 10:24

Bonus Reading: Acts 4:36, 11:22-24

Coach Peacock’s team had just won a state championship. They were celebrating in the locker room, and Coach was hugging his players right and left. As the congratulations continued, the coach noticed one player in particular sitting alone on a bench, watching him.

Coach Peacock knew that the young man’s parents were divorced and also that his dad was an alcoholic who never attended any of his son’s games. So he walked over to the player and asked if he was okay. The young man responded, “Yes, Coach, but I was just wondering … could I have another hug?”

The experience was a milestone in Coach’s life, leading him on a campaign to become a “team of huggers.” Starting with the coaching staff, Coach Peacock wouldn’t settle for a wimpy hug. It had to be a “bear hug.” Soon, the coaches began sharing hugs with their players.

Most of us would agree that hugs encourage us and remind us that someone cares about us. Of course, there are many ways to encourage others. Hebrews 10:24 says that we are to consider how to stimulate and encourage one another to good deeds. Let’s consider all the ways that we might encourage our fellow coaches, teachers, players, family members, and neighbors.

—Bill Burnett in Heart of a Coach

My Response: How do I feel about hugging my guy friends? Why do I feel this way?

Thought to Apply: There are high spots in all of our lives and most of them have come about through encouragement from someone else.—George M. Adams (writer)

Adapted from Heart of a Coach (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

Central Church – Summer 2016 Concert Schedule

Re-Creation - 2016Re-Creation – Sunday, May 22, 6 pm –

Re-Creation is a group of dynamic young people who present both religious and family-oriented music. The group typically consists of eight singers. The group’s remarkable blending of voices, tasteful apparel, and dynamic presentation contribute to a unique and memorable worship experience.

 

 

 

Glory Way Quartet – Saturday, June 25, 6 pm –GloryWay Quartet

The Glory Way Quartet sings good old gospel music that touches the hearts and souls of everyone who hears them. 

It’s laughter, fellowship, and a moving of God’s Holy Spirit in our midst while we usher in the glory of the Lord.

 

 

 

Grace DiversifiedGrace Diversified – Saturday, August 6, 6 pm –

Grace Diversified brings a variety of music ranging from Southern Gospel, Classical, Country/Western, and Irish Folk.

Their instrumentation includes Harps, Mandolins, Violins, Guitars, and the Keyboard.

 

 

Lyra – The Russian Vocal Ensemble of St. Petersburg Sunday, October 2, 1 pm LYRA

LYRA“ is a community of professional musicians. Most of its members are students or postgraduates of Saint-Petersburg Conservatoire, working in different choirs of Saint-Petersburg.

They seek to  explore and popularie Russian choir music through their performances by introducing the enormous musical heritage of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as traditions of Russian folk music to all people who are interested in Russia, its history and culture.

 

  • No tickets will be sold. Doors open 30 minutes before the concert for seating on a first-come basis. 

  • A free-will offering will be collected during the intermission, with proceeds benefiting the performing group.

It is our sincere desire that Central Church becomes a place where you connect with God and others.  The people in our congregation are like you—trying to find the time and energy to fit everything in each week and keep life in balance.

To do that, we’re convinced that we need wisdom and love beyond our own limited capacities.  That’s why we set aside time every week to worship God and learn from his Book, the Bible.  In our Bible study time and worship services both young and old learn principles for successful living that work not only on Sundays, but every other day of the week.

Central United Methodist Church in Beaver Falls, PA

Central United Methodist Church in Beaver Falls, PA

Central United Methodist Church

1229 Sixth Avenue, Beaver Falls, PA 15010

       You Are Welcome at Central Church!

                 Sunday School:  10:00 am                 Traditional Worship:  11:00 am

Come home to Central Church this Sunday!

 

 

 

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – Training Partners

FriendsKey Bible Verse: If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.  – Ecclesiastes 4:10

Bonus Reading: Proverbs 27:6, 9, 17

For a runner, there is nothing as wearing or as boring as a solo workout. The workout seems endless. For this reason, I always appreciated having training partners. When I ran with them, I was stretched, pulled, and extended beyond what I thought I could do. That’s the benefit of having quality training partners. They push and press us to better performances.

To me friendships are life’s training partners; they push and press us through everyday life. Henry Van Dyke once wrote that the mark of a friend is that he makes you wish to be at your best while you are with him. Good friends, like good personal training partners, pull us forward. They make us better. They stretch us.

Good friends challenge us when they see blind spots in our lives. Poor friends have the exact opposite effect—they drag us down. That’s why I believe friends are such a critical component to a successful life and are to be chosen wisely. It does matter who we hang out with.

Proverbs 13:20 reads: “He who walks with wise men will be wise. But the companion of fools will be destroyed” (NKJV). Let us be wise people in the company that we keep and the friends that we make.

—Jim Ryun in The Courage to Run

My Response: How am I encouraging and challenging my friends? How are my friends encouraging and challenging me?

Adapted from The Courage to Run (Regal, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

 

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – Push Each Other to the Top

FriendsWho Said It … Max Lucado

Max Lucado grew up in west Texas and pretty much partied his way through high school—giving little attention to God. But then he encountered Jesus through a required Bible course at Abilene Christian University.

Today, this best-selling Christian author has sold more than 65 million books—including Bible studies, commentaries, devotionals, and books for kids. Max regularly preaches his down-home, story-driven sermons from the pulpit of San Antonio’s Oak Hills Church.

What He Said … Push Each Other to the Top

Every Thursday during a Young Life summer camp, four hundred students make the fourteen-thousand-foot climb up Colorado’s Mount Chrysolite. Several Young Life leaders and I walk with them.

On a recent trip, somewhere around the number four thousand, Matthew decided to call it quits. I coaxed him, begged him, negotiated a plan with him: thirty steps of walking, sixty seconds of resting. Finally we stood within a thousand feet of the peek. But the last stretch of the trail rose up as straight as a fireman’s ladder.

We got serious. Two guys came up beside Matt, each taking an arm. I pushed from the rear. We all but dragged Matt past the timberline and to the awesome view at the top.

That’s when we heard the applause. Four hundred campers on the crest of Mount Chrysolite gave Matt a standing ovation. As I slumped down to rest, a thought steamrolled my way: There it is, Max, a perfect picture of my plan. Do all you can to push each other to the top. Was this a message from God? Well, it does sound like something he’d say.

Adapted from The Cure for the Common Life (Thomas Nelson, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

Converting to Wind Power – The Holy Spirit

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Jesus described the Spirit he was promising with an unusual word (Greek parakletos, “called alongside”).

This term, used for a legal representative who spoke in a person’s defense, is translated “Advocate” in the New Living Translation.

The current therapeutic connotations of “Counselor,” another translation, have rendered it misleading. And “Comforter” is accurate only in its older English meaning of someone who strengthens or encourages.

Interact with God’s Word:  John 14:15-26

  1. What is Jesus’ basic assignment to his disciples (vv. 15, 21, 23) in these paragraphs?
  2. What unspoken fear of the disciples (v. 18) is his disclosure about the Holy Spirit addressing?
  3. How is the sending of the Spirit equivalent to Jesus again being with them?
  4. Why are many (vv. 17, 19, 22) unaware of the Spirit’s activities? How have I experienced the Spirit recently?
  5. When (vv. 17, 20) did the Spirit’s presence shift from external to internal for Jesus’ disciples?
  6. On what is the Spirit’s teaching and reminding (v. 26) based?
  7. Are you confident (v. 21) that Jesus is revealing himself to you? Does this affirm that you know the Spirit?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for strength to obey his commands through the instruction, encouragement, power, and sustaining presence of the Spirit in your life.

John 14:15-26

15 “If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”

23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

Converting to Wind Power – A Life of Its Own

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. Romans 8:9

Bonus Reading: Romans 8:12-14

My hand moved like it had a life of its own, as if detached from my arm. It was flat, horizontal to the ground, and floating like a leaf on the water. If there was a ripple of air, it flowed with the ripple.

For an eight-year-old boy, that’s what it was like when I’d put my hand out the window of our car while traveling at 55 miles an hour. Somehow my hand didn’t belong to me. I just stuck it in the wind and the wind gave it life and power.

The wind had control of my hand, making it go up or down, forward or backward. That’s why it didn’t seem like it was mine, because I’d surrendered control to the wind.

How then do you convert your life to wind power, to God’s power? Like my hand, you let the wind of God’s Spirit blow over your life. You detach your life from your own control. You let go.

You place your life so that it floats on the wind of God’s power, and let him empower you. You place your life in the wind of God’s power, and let him control you. You place your life with the wind of God’s power, and let him lead you.

—Joe Williams in Ohio

My Response: Am I increasingly becoming an instrument in God’s hand (Rom. 6:13)?

Thought to Apply: The Spirit’s control will replace sin’s control. His power is greater than the power of all your sin. —Erwin Lutzer (Illinois pastor)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Converting to Wind Power – Sputter or Hum?

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: I … pray to the Father … that … he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.  – Ephesians 3:14-17

Bonus Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14

A couple of summers ago, my two boys and I bought a lawn mower. They earned spending money mowing lawns with it. The mower operates on a mixture of gasoline and oil. If it runs on gasoline alone, it’s just a matter of time before it burns up.

Living without the presence of God in our lives is like running the mower that way. We function as best we can but never achieve our potential and eventually break down. The coming of the Spirit of God into your life is like putting oil in the machine. If his Spirit is in us, we live life to the full, even beyond the grave.

Here’s how what Paul prayed for his friends [in today’s Key Bible Verse] happens. Jesus said a change must take place in your life every bit as dramatic and important as your own physical birth. Maybe this is what Tennyson had in mind when, frustrated with himself, he cried out [today’s Thought to Apply]. In a sense that’s what happens. Who we are doesn’t cease to be. But the presence of Christ comes into our lives and helps us become who we want to be.

—John Yates in Preaching Today

My Response: I’ll thank God that the Spirit in my life guarantees that “these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 5:4).

Thought to Apply: Oh, that a man might arise in me, that the man I am might cease to be!—Alfred Lord Tennyson

Adapted from Preaching Today (#87).

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

Green light for new hymnal project

United Methodist HymnalThe United Methodist Church is on track to get its first new hymnal since 1989, and this one will be Internet-cloud based and print-on-demand — the first high-tech hymnal for a mainline denomination.

General Conference 2016 approved on a consent calendar Tuesday, May 17, a petition authorizing the creation of a 15-member Hymnal Revision Committee.

That was the big green light needed for the United Methodist Publishing House and Discipleship Ministries to move forward with the new collection. The two agencies share responsibility for the hymnal.

“The time has come for us to continue the shaping of the church’s song in order that it might speak of God’s love and our faith in the years to come,” said the Rev. Jackson Henry, a Tennessee Conference delegate, staff member at Discipleship Ministries and longtime church music minister.

“We pray that the contents of the hymnal will give voice to a new generation of United Methodists as we grow in our discipleship and live as bearers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Brian Milford, current book editor and chief content officer and designated president/CEO of the Publishing House, said the agencies are ready to move forward.

“UMPH and Discipleship Ministries will collaborate in developing a detailed work plan and schedule,” he said. “A priority will be constituting the committee and arranging for its work.”

Because it will be cloud-based, the agencies expect the new hymnal will be expandable and will allow United Methodist churches to have available many more contemporary worship songs that have been vetted as consistent with Wesleyan theology.

The 2020 General Conference will need to approve the Hymnal Advisory Committee’s recommendations, with release of the new hymnal coming as early as 2021.

Some 6 million copies of the 1989 United Methodist Hymnal have been distributed, and it still sells some 25,000 copies a year.

General Conference 2008, meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, also approved creation of a Hymnal Revision Committee, but the economic recession caused the agencies to decide not to go forward.

Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

 

 

Converting to Wind Power – The Force Be with You?

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: “The world … doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”  – John 14:17

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:9-12; 12:11; Ephesians 4:30

Several years ago, I attended a bizarre weekend at a retreat center in the Colorado mountains. Two groups—leaders from the evangelical Christian community and leaders from the new age movement—had been invited to see if any bridges of understanding could be erected.

Both groups referred to “the spirit” to articulate their positions. But it soon became obvious that to the new age group the “spirit” was some kind of impersonal cosmic energy force. You could possess more or less of this force, and of course, it was always with you. Their explanations gave me the sensation of entering a theological “Twilight Zone” or of becoming an extra on the set of Star Wars.

But the Holy Spirit is not a force. He’s a person. As Jesus told his disciples [in today’s Key Bible Verse] he’s a he, not an it. Consistently throughout the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is referred to with masculine personal pronouns. The significance of the pronoun isn’t so much in its gender as in its being personal. It’s possible to become a modern gnostic, even as a Christian, when we think of the Spirit in terms of a force or entity rather than person.

—Bob Beltz in Becoming a Man of the Spirit

My Response: How do the Bonus Readings demonstrate the intellect, volition, and emotion of a person?

Thought to Apply: No human power can replace the power of the Spirit. —Lewi Pethrus (Swedish pastor)

Adapted from Becoming a Man of the Spirit (NavPress/navpress.com, 1999)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

Re-Creation Concert – THIS SUNDAY, May 22, 2016 at 6 pm

Re-Creation - 2016Join Re-Creation’s dynamic, vibrant church experience focusing on the potential of God’s power in our lives!

This program is designed as a worship service and features both traditional and contemporary
styles, sing-a-long hymns and children’s songs, dramatic works and original music. This year’s program,
“HIS FAMILY” is a live worship experience unlike any other! Dynamic vocal blend combined with a lively, yet sensitive state- of-the-art sound…Tasteful, appropriate presentation…Light staging / Fun elements…Congregational participation…Biblically referenced songs!

A true, genuine service complete with amazing vocal arrangements, respectful presentation and a presences message of encouragement, healing and LIFE!

This Sunday at 6 pm at Central Church!

Converting to Wind Power – Reality Check

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind … so you cannot understand the activity of God. Ecclesiastes 11:5

Bonus Reading: John 3:3-9

When trees are waving wildly in the wind, journalist G.K. Chesterton once observed, people have historically thought that it is the wind that moves the trees—that the invisible gives energy to the visible. More recently others have concluded that the motion of the trees creates the wind—that what they see and hear and touch is basic reality and generates whatever can’t be verified with the senses.

The word translated “spirit” in our English Bibles carries in Hebrew the primary meaning of “wind” and “breath.” Imagine how our perceptions would change if we substituted these words for “spirit” in our language. For our ancestors, spirit was not “spiritual”; it was sensory. Although invisible, it was not immaterial. It had visible effects. Air, after all, provides the molecules for the quiet breathing that is part of all life, the puffs of air used to make words, the gentle breezes that caress the skin, the brisk winds that fill the sails of ships, the wild hurricanes that tear roofs off barns and uproot trees.

It would clarify things enormously if we could withdraw “spirit” and “spiritual” from our language stock for a while.

—Eugene Peterson in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places

My Response: Can I honestly repeat Paul’s claim that “we live by believing and not by seeing” (2 Cor. 5:7)?

Thought to Apply: Those who have the gale of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep.—Brother Lawrence

Adapted from Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (Eerdmans, 2005).

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Converting to Wind Power – The Impossible Challenge

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: “I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.”  –  John 14:18

Bonus Reading: John 14:15-17

Life is difficult.” That’s the opening sentence of M. Scott Peck’s best-selling book, The Road Less Travelled. The opening words of Peck’s sequel,Further Along the Road Less Traveled are “Life is complex.” Let me take these observations one step further: “Life is impossible.” This statement is always true when we view life from the perspective of a man who desires to be the kind of man God wants him to be.

“You are to be perfect,” Jesus instructed.

“I can’t,” the honest man replies.

One night, Jesus met with 12 ordinary men in an upper room in Jerusalem to share the Passover meal. Jesus startled them by assuming the household slave role of washing their feet, and then telling them that they were to serve one another in the same way. He then told them that the guiding rule of their lives was to have a love for one another that equaled his love for them. These ordinary men should have been thinking, “This is impossible!”

This is the dilemma of the spiritual man living in a fallen world. You and I don’t have the ability to live the way God intended us to live. That is, not under our own power. We need help. We need a helper.

—Bob Beltz in Becoming a Man of the Spirit

My Response: How could Jesus say “It is best for you that I go away” (John 16:7)?

Adapted from Becoming a Man of the Spirit (NavPress/navpress.com, 1999)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Converting to Wind Power – Sweat, Drift, or…

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Who Said It … John Ortberg

John Ortberg is the senior pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California. He is passionate about “spiritual formation,” which is how people become more like Jesus. His teaching brings Scripture alive and invariably includes practical applications and warm humor.

The latest of several books John has written is Faith and Doubt. He and his wife, Nancy, have three teen and young adult children.

What He Said … Sweat, Drift, or …

Significant spiritual transformation is a long-term endeavor that involves both God and us. I liken it to crossing an ocean.

Some people try, day after day, to be good, to become spiritually mature. That’s like taking a rowboat across the ocean. It’s exhausting and usually unsuccessful. Others have given up trying and throw themselves entirely on “relying on God’s grace.” They’re like drifters on a raft. They do nothing but hang on and hope God gets them there. Neither trying nor drifting are very effective in bringing about spiritual transformation.

A better image is the sailboat, in which if it moves at all, it’s a gift of the wind. We can’t control the wind, but a good sailor discerns where the wind is blowing and adjusts the sails accordingly. Working with the Holy Spirit, which Jesus likened to the wind in John 3, means we have a part in discerning the winds, in knowing the direction we need to go, and in training our sails to catch the breezes that God provides. That’s true transformation.

Adapted from our sister publication Leadership Journal (Summer, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor

Love Your NeighborIn today’s study passage, Jesus clearly communicates that our love for others can’t be separated from our belief in him. While he isn’t saying that our works save us, he is stressing a principle repeated by his brother James: “faith is dead without good works” (James 2:26). If we are Christ’s true followers, then God’s love will compel us to do acts of kindness for “the least of these.”

Interact with God’s Word:  Matthew 25:31-46

  1. What’s your immediate reaction to today’s passage? Think about why you reacted that way.
  2. What do verses 32 and 33 say about Jesus’ role at judgment?
  3. What do you think Jesus wanted to communicate by saying he was “one of the least of these”?
  4. How does this passage help us better understand the value and importance of the two greatest commandments (Matt. 22:37-40)?
  5. If Jesus were to come today, would you end up on the sheep side or the goat side? Why do you feel this way?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Confess times you’ve failed to demonstrate your faith through good deeds; ask God to help you have your eyes wide open for opportunities to serve and demonstrate his love.

Matthew 25:31-46

The Final Judgment

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

 

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the needs of my neighbors; move my heart to reach out, serve, and share your love in everyday ways.

 

 

Pentecost – Come Down, O Love Divine (Down Ampney)

King's College, Cambridge, England

This Sunday, May 15, 2016, is Pentecost Sunday.

Come Down O Love Divine, by Ralph Vaughan Williams, is a hymn loved around the world that is often sung at Pentecost.

This particular version is performed by the world renowned choir of King’s College Cambridge and led by director of music Stephen Cleobury.

Verse 2 is particularly charming as the male only first half breaks into a full choir fortissimo harmony for the second half.

Click on either the photo or the hymn name to go to the YouTube video of the King’s College Choir in Cambridge, England singing this beautiful hymn.

Come Down O Love Divine

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Come down, O love divine, seek Thou this soul of mine,
And visit it with Thine own ardor glowing.
O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear,
And kindle it, Thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn, til earthly passions turn
To dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
And let Thy glorious light shine ever on my sight,
And clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

Let holy charity mine outward vesture be,
And lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part,
And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long,
Shall far outpass the power of human telling;
For none can guess its grace, till he become the place
Wherein the Holy Spirit makes His dwelling.

 

Biblical mothers: not a job for the faint of heart

Mother's Day 3It has been 100 years since U.S. President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May as a special day to honor mothers, especially those who had lost their sons to war.

Did you know Anna Marie Jarvis and fellow members of the Methodist Episcopal Church led the charge to make Mother’s Day an official observance?

The church still plays a prominent role in Mother’s Day.  So how do we keep the focus on worshipping God, while celebrating and honoring the gifts of mothers?

The answer seems obvious:  Just turn to the Bible.

For quick capsules on Eve, Sarah and Hagar, Rebekah, Mary (mother of Jesus), and Ruth, click on Just turn to the Bible.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement

EncouragementThe 23rd Psalm is quite possibly the best loved and most quoted psalm in the Bible. Penned by King David, this psalm provides comfort for the grieving, hope for the hopeless, and encouragement to persevere through dark and desperate times.

As you read, study, and mediate on these familiar words, look for fresh insights that will deepen your trust in your good and loving shepherd.

Key Study Passage: Psalm 23

  1. In verse 1, David claims, “I have all I need.” How is that possible? How do you think David defines “need”?
  2. Consider the image created in verse 2: “He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.” When was the last time you experienced the kind of peace and tranquility pictured in this verse?
  3. What is your role in having your strength renewed (v. 3)? (See Job 17:9; Ps. 138:3; Isa. 40:31; 2 Cor. 12:9-10.)
  4. List ways that a shepherd might “protect and comfort” his sheep (v. 4). When have you recently felt protected and comforted by God? What did God’s protection and comfort look like in this situation?
  5. Look for ways you experience God’s “goodness and unfailing love” (v. 6).

Spend Time in Prayer: Read Psalm 23 slowly, letting God use each verse to speak life-giving truth into your heart. Read the psalm a second time, turning each verse into a prayer of thanksgiving, confession, or supplication.

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Ultimate Life Coach

EncouragementKey Bible Verse: The Eternal One will never leave you; he will lead you in the way that you should go. When you feel dried up and worthless, God will nourish you and give you strength.  – Isaiah 58:11, The Voice

Dig Deeper: Isaiah 58:7-14

Believe in God’s ability to mentor you, to teach you, to groom you, and to be your life coach. You have heard of the coach-of-the-year award. Well, God is the coach of all generations, and he is offering to teach you to live life as he intends.

God’s inspiring Word contains compelling evidence of his desire to be your companion for life. He is there when you need to grow. When you call on him for a lift, he will hear. He is always with you.

Let these additional words of encouragement inspire you to turn to your heavenly Father:

  • “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deut. 31:8).
  • “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope'” (Jer. 29:11).
  • “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast” (1 Pet. 5:10, NIV).

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: What verses from this week’s readings have encouraged or helped me the most? I will try to commit at least one of those verses to memory.

Thought to Apply: Without the message of the Scriptures we would have nothing with which to encourage one another.—Gene Getz (pastor, writer)

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Best Guide Ever

EncouragementKey Bible Verse: The humble will see their God at work and be glad. Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged.   Psalm 69:32

Dig Deeper: Psalm 69

God encourages us. We may not be able to meet with a mentoring friend each time we need encouragement, but at any time we can chat with our heavenly Father. He listens to us and promises to meet us in our time of need. As David declared in Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (NIV, et al.).

Your Lord genuinely desires to hear from you and develop an intimate, hope-filled relationship with you. Talk to him through heartfelt prayer, and let his Spirit affirm you.

God is a holy mentor. Are you skeptical that God wants to play the role of mentor in your life? Consider what he intends when he says in Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Jesus promised his support, too, when he stated this in John 14:26: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” These Scriptures confirm the truth that God desires to guide us throughout our lives. Trust him; you could have no better guide.

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: In what areas of my life do I need God’s guidance right now?

Thought to Apply: I think God is nearer to suffering than to happiness, and to find God in this way gives peace and rest and a strong and courageous heart.—Dietrich Bonhoeffer (German theologian, pastor)

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Encourage Yourself

EncouragementKey Bible Verse: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8

Dig Deeper: Philippians 4:4-9

As beneficial as the support of positive companions is, we still need to encourage ourselves.

For my own self-encouragement, I have an expandable folder labeled “When I Need a Lift.” I keep my folder in a drawer next to the desk in my home study.

This folder contains numerous letters and cards from loved ones and friends that I have accumulated over the years. It serves as tangible evidence of lives I have touched or lives that have reached out to touch me. It is a reminder of joyous moments when I let the Lord work in me and through my life. Flipping through this folder brings joy to my heart when I need it most.

Perhaps the best part about this encouraging tool is that it takes no effort at all to start and maintain. Just grab a folder and start filling it with Scriptures highlighting God’s promises to you, notes from family members sharing their love for you, special cards from birthdays and other occasions, e-mails of special significance to your life, photos that remind you of your blessings and value, and whatever else tends to lift your spirit when you’re down and not thinking clearly.

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: What do I usually do when I’m down or having a bad day? How might I benefit from creating and maintaining a “When I Need a Lift” folder? What would help me get the most out of this “encouraging tool”?

Thought to Apply: Encouragement is oxygen to the soul.—George M. Adams (politician)

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Spiritual Nourishment

EncouragementKey Bible Verse: So encourage each other and give each other strength, just as you are doing now. 1 Thessalonians 5:11, NCV

Dig Deeper: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Companionship with those who trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior is a tool God often uses to nourish us with encouragement. Fellowship with believers is a divine resource that we should not miss.

The Lord also uses fellow Christians who have suffered a hardship or endured a painful experience to encourage others who are going through similar situations. Let them love on you and restore you.

And one of the ways God works all things for good (Rom. 8:28) is by comforting us in our times of trouble and so equipping us to comfort others: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4, NIV).

Whether you start with an encouraging friend, an uplifting mentor, or the companionship of other believers, make sure to regularly feed your mind, heart, and soul with encouragement. Take the necessary measures to guard against becoming mentally and spiritually malnourished.

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: When have I been comforted or encouraged by someone who has faced past difficulties or struggles? When has God used my own struggles to comfort and encourage someone else?

Thought to Apply: Often the most loving thing we can do when a friend is in pain is to share the pain—to be there even when we have nothing to offer except our presence and even when being there is painful for ourselves.—M. Scott Peck (psychiatrist, writer)

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

GC2016: How General Conference Works

Overview

General Conference, the top legislative body of The United Methodist Church, meets May 10-20, 2016, at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. The center is billed as the largest convention facility in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Some 864 delegates, elected from around the world, will gather to set policy and direction for the church, as well as handle other important business. Meeting every four years, General Conference is the only entity that speaks for the denomination. The United Methodist Book of Discipline, updated every four years, incorporates changes made by General Conference.

At its October 2013 meeting, the 25-member Commission on the General Conference voted to reduce the number of delegates for the 2016 General Conference from nearly 1,000 to approximately 850. The 2012 General Conference shifted the responsibility for determining the target number of delegates from the secretary of the General Conference to the commission, offering the rationale that it should not be the decision of only one person.

The theme of the 2016 General Conference is “Therefore Go.” The Commission on the General Conference selected the theme in 2013. United Methodist Communications developed the logo as an action-themed graphic that ties to the roots of The United Methodist Church in the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:19-20). That passage reads, “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.”

The Commission on the General Conference, led by Judi Kenaston, a laywoman and secretary of the West Virginia Annual Conference, planned the conference. A local committee from the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference, under the leadership of Bishop Grant Hagiya of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area, is conference host. William “Bill” Haden, Portland, and the Rev. Steve Sprecher, Lake Oswego, are co-chairs of the host committee. Some 4,000 people, many of them volunteers, will serve in a variety of roles, such as greeters, registration officials, marshals, pages, translators, guides, drivers, musicians, technicians, reporters and emergency responders.

Projected cost of the 2016 General Conference is $10,532,800, compared with $8,654,406 for the 2012 session. The changing global nature of The United Methodist Church, due in part to the rapidly growing membership in central conferences, resulted in increases to two of the four major General Conference financial drivers. One is the cost of language services, increasing from $380,000 in 2000 to an estimated $2.3 million in 2016; the other is travel expenses. In 2012, the average travel cost for each delegate from within the United States was approximately $493, while the average travel cost for delegates from central conferences was approximately $3,000 each. As representation from central conferences grows, so likewise does the total cost of travel for delegates.

Percentage breakdowns are approximate:

  • Delegate expenses, including travel and per diem, 32 percent;
  • Operations, including convention center and equipment, publishing and distribution of the Daily Christian Advocate (DCA) and Advance DCA, software, worship, music and other business expenses, 24 percent;
  • Language services, including translation and interpretation, 22 percent;
  • General Conference staff offices, including business manager, secretary and treasurer, 15 percent;
  • Commissions and committees, 5 percent; and
  • Sponsorship expenses, 2 percent.

Per-diem allocations for delegates are Tuesday, May 10, $92 for hotel, plus $39 for meals; Wednesday, May 11, through Saturday, May 14, $92 for hotel, $29 for meals (lunch is provided those days); and Sunday, May 15, through Friday, May 20, $92 for hotel, $39 for meals.

The Commission on the General Conference launched a sponsorship program for the 2012 conference intended to create an income stream that may permit repayment of any accumulated deficit. The program will continue in 2016.

The Site

The site of the international gathering has traditionally rotated among the church’s five regional U.S. jurisdictions. Since 1968, General Conference has convened in the following cities:

1968    Dallas, Texas (uniting conference)
1970    St. Louis, Missouri (special session)
1972    Atlanta, Georgia
1976    Portland, Oregon
1980    Indianapolis, Indiana
1984    Baltimore, Maryland
1988    St. Louis, Missouri
1992    Louisville, Kentucky
1996    Denver, Colorado
2000    Cleveland, Ohio
2004    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
2008    Fort Worth, Texas
2012    Tampa, Florida
2016    Portland, Oregon

The 2020 General Conference will be in Minneapolis in the North Central Jurisdiction. The Commission on the General Conference voted to hold the conference outside the United States for the first time in 2024, selecting Manila, Philippines, and again in 2028, selecting  Harare, Zimbabwe.

Mobile App and Online Coverage

The 2016 mobile app is available for both Android and iOS devices. The iOS app, available on the iTunes store, will work on all Apple devices running iOS 7.1 or above. The Android app, available on the Google Play store, works on all Android devices running Android 2.3.3 or above. The apps will help interested people keep up-to-date on the latest developments as General Conference nears. Additional features will be added, with the first update scheduled in January 2016. Some of these include maps, schedules and petition tracking. The final update is scheduled for April 2016.

Delegates and others can follow the proceedings on the General Conference website at http://gc2016.umc.org (or umc.org/gc2016). You can also follow General Conference on Facebook and Twitter using #UMCGC. Features will include news coverage in multiple languages, with daily summaries, feature stories and videos, such as interviews with delegates, volunteers and other key individuals. All plenary sessions, worship services, episcopal and laity addresses, and other special events will be live streamed. Users can track petitions and obtain general information about the legislative process. Plenary transcripts and consent calendars will post  each day.

A daily schedule of events will be posted, as well as practical information for delegates and visitors, such as information about Portland, the convention center and maps. Multimedia videos and photos from conference events will post. Delegates can go to the website to find committee assignments, seating changes and the delegate list. Journalists can access a glossary, background on General Conference and credentialing procedures.

In 2016, the Advance Daily Christian Advocate will also have a digital component and be available in the electronic publication (EPUB) format, which allows copious digital note taking for anyone with a tablet.

Main Tasks

As the top policymaking body of the global United Methodist Church, General Conference is the only entity that speaks for the 12.3 million-member denomination.

During the 11-day session, delegates will revise The Book of Discipline, which regulates the manner in which local churches, annual conferences and general agencies are organized. The Discipline includes policies regarding church membership, ordination, administration, property and judicial procedures. The assembly may modify most paragraphs by a simple majority vote, but amending the Constitution of The United Methodist Church requires a two-thirds affirmative vote, followed by a two-thirds affirmative vote of the aggregate number of members voting in annual conference sessions. Revoking or changing the Articles of Religion or Confession of Faith requires a two-thirds affirmative vote of the delegates, and three-fourths of the annual conference members must concur.

Delegates also revise the Book of Resolutions, a volume declaring the church’s stance on social justice issues. The statements in the book are considered instructive and persuasive but are not binding on members.

In addition, the assembly approves plans and budgets for churchwide programs for the next four years and elects members of the Judicial Council and University Senate.

Key People:

Delegates
Each U.S. annual conference elects equal numbers of lay and clergy delegates to General Conference, and every annual conference is guaranteed at least one lay and one clergy delegate.

The number of lay and clergy delegates for each annual conference to elect changes every four years (known as a quadrennium) based on the number of lay and clergy members. The Book of Discipline limits the total number of delegates to 1,000. Article I of Section II of the United Methodist Constitution mandates that the General Conference shall be composed of no fewer than 600 or more than 1,000 delegates, half clergy and half laity, to be elected by the annual conferences in an open and fair process. In 2016, 504 delegates (58.3 percent) will come from annual conferences in the United States.

Groups of churches in Africa, Asia and Europe are central conferences. In 2016, central conferences will have 350 delegates. This is eight delegates fewer than 2012, but a proportional increase since the previous General Conference had 988 delegates. Of the central conference delegates, 260 (30 percent) are from Africa, 40 from Europe and Eurasia, 50 from the Philippines and 10 from “concordat” churches with which United Methodism has formal relationships. These represent special covenant relationships with Methodist churches in Great Britain, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and the Caribbean and the Americas.

Bishops
All bishops, active and retired, attend General Conference but do not vote and may not speak in plenary sessions without permission from the assembly. Individual bishops preside over business sessions, customarily serving for one morning, afternoon or evening period. A General Conference Committee selects presiding bishops, and each presiding bishop selects a bishop colleague to serve as a parliamentarian.

Conference Officials
The secretary of the General Conference is the Rev. L. Fitzgerald “Gere” Reist II, a member of the Susquehanna Annual Conference. The treasurer is Moses Kumar, general secretary of the General Council on Finance and Administration. Sara Hotchkiss, a staff executive with the General Council on Finance and Administration, is business manager. She is chief administrative officer of the Commission on the General Conference.

Judicial Council
The United Methodist Judicial Council will meet to decide if questions related to constitutionality emerge during the conference. The Rev. William B. Lawrence, a member of the North Texas Annual Conference and dean of Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, leads the council, the denomination’s highest judicial body, or “court.” The General Conference elects its nine members. The Judicial Council determines the constitutionality of acts or proposed acts of the General, jurisdictional, central and annual conferences. It acts on these either on appeal of lower rulings or through requests for declaratory decisions. It also rules on whether acts of other official bodies of the denomination conform to the Book of Discipline. This follows procedures established in the Discipline.

Worship and Music Director
The Commission on the General Conference named the Rev. Laura Jaquith Bartlett of Eagle Creek, Oregon, worship and music director for the 2016 United Methodist General Conference. Bartlett is president-elect of The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts and program director at the Alton L. Collins Retreat Center, as well as worship coach for several United Methodist churches. Her experience in leading music and worship spans more than two decades. She is an ordained deacon in the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference and a three-time delegate to General Conference, serving as head of her delegation in 2012.

Other Participants
More than 2,500 visitors are expected for the duration of General Conference. These will include all members of the General Council on Finance and Administration and the Connectional Table. Chief executive officers of the 12 United Methodist general agencies and the Connectional Table will also attend. Members of the church and secular press will provide coverage. Numerous United Methodist members and other interested individuals will receive credentials to sit in the visitors’ gallery.

Legislation
The primary source of legislation is petitions from church agencies, organizations and individuals. Petitions must be submitted 210 days before the opening of the conference. Any organization, ordained minister or lay member of the church may petition the General Conference. Approximately 1,000 pieces of legislation are expected at the 2016 assembly.

As in the U.S. Congress, the bulk of General Conference business is conducted in legislative committees, which receive petitions, debate them and determine whether to approve, amend, combine or disapprove them for recommendation to the full body of General Conference.

All proposed legislation — from individuals, organizations, church-wide agencies and annual conferences — is printed in the Advance Daily Christian Advocate.

What will General Conference mean to my United Methodist Church?

A UMC.org Feature by Joe Iovino*

As a United Methodist, you are probably aware that General Conference, the once-every-four-years official meeting of the church is happening in Portland, Oregon, May 10-20, 2016. What may be far less clear, however, is what happens there and what it means to your local congregation.

2008 United Methodist General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas

The legislative work accomplished at General Conference that impacts life in the local church. File photo of the 2008 General Conference by Mike DuBose, United Methodist Communications.

Work

The best-known aspect of General Conference is the legislation. General Conference is the body that determines direction and speaks officially for our denomination. 864 delegates elected by their annual conferences will consider 1044 petitions. Half the delegates are clergy and half are laity. Bishops lead the sessions, but have neither voice nor vote.

Amendments to The Book of Discipline that guides the work of local churches, pastors, annual conferences, general agencies, and bishops, are adopted. Delegates also vote on resolutions that give the official positions of The United Methodist Church on social issues which are published in our Book of Resolutions.

The General Conference covers a wide array of issues that affect all levels of our church. A small percentage of them receive a great deal of attention. Others will pass or fail without much fanfare, but will have lasting impacts in the life of our local churches.

At the 2016 General Conference legislation will be presented and debated on human sexuality, the budget of the general church for 2017-2020, a more global church structure, the ordination process for our pastors, formation of a hymnal revision committee, and more.

Whether widely publicized or not, General Conference legislation directs our work globally, regionally, and locally in our congregations.

Read a summary of proposed major legislative issues.

General Conference receives reports, votes on legislation, and passes a budget, but it is more than a business meeting.

The General Conference sessions are the only time The United Methodist Church gathers from across the globe in a single location. In that sense, it is something akin to a family reunion—albeit a ridiculously large one. When we come together every four years, we take the opportunity to worship, remember, and celebrate.

The Cantemos Youth Choir of the North Georgia Annual Conference leads worship at the 2004 United Methodist General Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Worship at General Conference represents many cultures and worship styles. File photo of 2004 General Conference by Paul Jeffrey, United Methodist Communications.

Worship

When the United Methodist family gathers, we come from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. We come together as one in our faith in Jesus Christ and our love for The United Methodist Church. There are, however, a variety of languages and cultures represented.

The worship of General Conference celebrates our unity and diversity.

Eleven worship gatherings and nine opportunities to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion are offered during the 11 days. Additionally, the Rev. Laura Jaquith Bartlett, worship and music director for the 2016 General Conference, told United Methodist Communications that at the end of each day, “We’ll send [the delegates] out into the night resting on the wings of the Spirit.”

The worship reminds us that we are part of something much larger than our local congregation. We are a connectional church, united to do wonderful work across the globe. We will share on billboards, trains, and elsewhere around Portland that united in faith, millions serve God and our neighbors.

Watch General Conference: The Global Church Worships to learn more about worship at pervious General Conferences, and plans for 2016.

Imagine No Malaria booth from the 2012 General Conference in Tampa, Florida.

General Conference is a time to celebrate the ministries of The United Methodist Church. United in faith, we serve God by serving others. Photo by United Methodist Communications.

Celebration

On Wednesday, May 18, at 9:48 a.m. (PDT), The United Methodist Church will celebrate one of those ministries by which we have helped millions. Imagine No Malaria has greatly contributed to a coordinated international effort to eradicate this preventable disease. Through the efforts of this amazing ministry, more than 1 million mosquito bed nets have been distributed and more than 250,000 people have been diagnosed and treated. That is reason to celebrate.

You can watch the Imagine No Malaria celebration, and the rest of the General Conference session live at GC2016.UMC.org.

The 2016 gathering will also take time to celebrate important milestones that have had tremendous impact in our congregations.

This General Conference marks the 60th anniversary of the ordination of female pastors. The 1956 General Conference of The Methodist Church granted full clergy rights to women.

The gathered church will also begin celebrations of the 30th anniversary of Disciple Bible Study in 2017, and the 150th anniversary of United Methodist Women in 2019. Both of these ministries have been instrumental in the spiritual growth of so many members of United Methodist congregations.

Act of Remembrance at the 2012 General Conference in Tampa, Florida.

Some of what we remember at General Conference is difficult and we repent. File photo for the Act of Repentance at the 2012 General Conference by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.

Remembrance

General Conference is also an important time to remember our history.

At General Conference 2016 United Methodists will pause to remember Francis Asbury. Asbury was the first bishop in our Methodist heritage. Born in England, he came to America to form and lead this new church. Under Asbury’s leadership Methodism grew. This year is the 200th anniversary of his death on March 31, 1816.

While we celebrate Asbury, we also remember painful parts of our history, of which we are called to repent.

At General Conference 2012, The United Methodist Church participated in an Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous People. General Conference 2016 will receive a report of one of those specific acts known as the Sand Creek Massacre.

In 1864, a regiment of the US Cavalry, led by Methodist preacher Colonel John Chivington, killed nearly 200 people living in a Peace Camp at Sand Creek in the Colorado territory. Together we condemn these events, pray for forgiveness, and seek to repair relationships with the families of the victims.

General Conference 2016 in Portland, Oregon logo

The theme of General Conference comes from Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” Logo by United Methodist Communications.

Therefore, go…

The activity of General Conference can seem far removed from our home congregations, but that could not be farther from the truth. The work, worship, celebrations, and remembrances at General Conference are the activity of all the people of The United Methodist Church.

“The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Local churches provide the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs.” General Conference meets every four years to facilitate this work happening in each of our churches.

General Conference can seem far removed from our home congregations, but that is not the case.

*Joe Iovino works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact him by email or at 615-312-3733.

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Listen to Your Heart

EncouragementKey Bible Verse: The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain. Proverbs 10:11

Dig Deeper: Proverbs 10:10-14

When we need the nourishment of food, our stomachs get our attention, either with hunger pains or the sounds of gurgling. We tend to respond to these signs of hunger like responding to the call of a dinner bell. We seek snacks and sit down for meals like clockwork. However, we often ignore the longing of our hearts for a serving of life-sustaining encouragement.

When we deprive ourselves of encouragement, our attitudes and self-esteem dwindle. A shortage of inspiration negatively affects our performance and severely stunts our growth. A lack of affirmation shrivels our confidence and hope.

Are your mind and soul starving for encouragement? Listen to your heart. Is it signaling that it is feeding time? If so, take the initiative, and tend to this need.

This is my challenge: find a dependable, encouraging friend or mentor to build you up with affirming words and needed encouragement. Strive to meet with this person at least once a month. Let your mentor’s uplifting spirit feed you with right thinking and positive motivation. Consume that fruitful energy as if you were drinking a high-impact smoothie. Let your friend’s encouraging words satisfy your inner hunger and thirst.

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: A friend who speaks words of encouragement into my soul is … Who needs to hear words of encouragement from me?

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Like a Cool, Refreshing Drink

EncouragementKey Study Passage: Psalm 23

Who Said It … Steve Kubicek

Steve Kubicek has more than 30 years of corporate experience, including 18 years as an executive with Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Company—the world’s largest publicly traded copper company. Retired since 2005, Steve leads a men’s group at his church and is involved in various other ministries. He is the author of Up and In.

What he Said … Like a Cool, Refreshing Drink

Encouragement spurs on the downtrodden and heavy-burdened like a cool, refreshing drink can restore a weary traveler on a sunny day. Imagine packaging liquid encouragement in bottles and offering it to the masses. Just think of the spirit that would prevail throughout the world if we could all reach into our cabinets or refrigerators and pull out a bottle of refreshing encouragement, the lemonade for the soul, which truly would be an uplifting drink.

Medical science has observed that our bodies require a balanced supply of nutrients for good health and long-term sustainability. When the body lacks an essential nutrient, physical symptoms appear that highlight the deficiency. These symptoms serve as warning signals so that we can recognize the issue and take remedial measures. Does the same principle hold true for the essential life ingredient of encouragement? I contend it does. Our bodies signal us when we need to correct our encouragement deficiency. We receive warning messages when we are about to go down like a sinking ship.

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.