In January of this year our Church Council established a new Vision Team to identify where Fishers United Methodist Church should be focusing our ministries for the next 3 – 5 years as we seek to impact the lives of our rapidly changing community for the sake of Jesus Christ. 15 member of our congregation – 12 lay & 3 clergy representing all segments of our congregation – meet twice a month [with assignments between meetings] to do the necessary work of studying demographics of our surrounding community to seek to know the life needs that individuals and families face; and studying our own congregation to know who we are – our character; our strengths; and areas in which we need to grow to carry out such impacting ministries. It is difficult but very important work. And at the core of this process of discovery we are praying; praying for God’s wisdom and guidance; for God’s vision for us rather than our own. We have been doing the work of creating community among the team; learning to trust each other and have confidence in our gifts together so we can fully “hear” each other and listen for God’s voice in each voice around the table as we seek God’s direction.
As we have been working together now for 5 months I have had opportunity to reflect on some of the core values a person or congregation needs in order to be an effective and faithful follower of Christ and discipling community of faith. There are many but, in my mind, there is none more important than integrity. Integrity has been defined in many ways. One of the better definitions I have seen is this: Integrity is “doing the right thing even when you think no one is watching.” Whether we are seeking to find the right ministries to focus on or to find the “right” individuals to lead and serve in those ministries I am aware that each brings a different and unique gift and skill mix. One can do what another cannot and vice versa. But integrity must be at the core of each individual or effort.
In the book, A Father For All Seasons, Bob Welch writes about this most important personal value. His story describes integrity well for me. See what you think:
“Last summer, my son, Jason, was a 7th grader playing in a 7th/8th grade league. A fire-armed pitcher – more than a foot taller than my 4-foot-9 son blazed a fastball right down the pike. Strike One! The 2nd pitch scorched across the plate for a called strike 2. The third pitch, unintentionally, I’m sure, came right at Jason. He turned to avoid being hit and fell to the ground. His bat went flying. His helmet bounced off. The ball seemed to have skimmed his shoulder.
‘Take your base,’ said the umpire. Standing in the 3rd base coach’s box, I was happy just seeing Jason alive, much less getting a free base. ‘It didn’t hit me,’ Jason said to the ump. ‘Take your base, son,’ said the ump.
Our fans were most likely thinking the same thing I was thinking: ‘Take your base, son. You’ve been wounded, soldier, your war’s over. You’re going home…’
‘But honest, it didn’t hit me,’ Jason pleaded. The umpire looked at Jason and out to the infield ump, who just shrugged. ‘Okay,’ said the ump, ‘the count is one-and-two.’
Should I intervene? Make him take his base? Jason was already digging in his cleats in the batter’s box. I mentally shrugged and headed back to the coach’s box. The towering pitcher rocked and fired. A bullet right down the middle – the kind of pitch that would send a kid to the dugout. Instead, Jason ripped the ball into left-center for a stand up double. Our crowd roared. The manager of the team in the field was standing a few feet behind me. He had no idea that the kid on 2nd base was my son. He spit out his sunflower seeds and slowly shook his head.
‘Man,’ he said, ‘You gotta love that!”
There are many ministry opportunities we can consider and many volunteer and professional staff people among who
– clergy and lay - with varying degrees of skill and experience in many areas that bring opportunity for us to impact the people of our community. I am grateful for the gifts, talent, and dedication I see in so many of my sisters and brothers. I thank God for you all and for the gifts you bring. But what we need most – what will allow God to use us most effectively can be summed up by the actions of a 7th grade batter named Jason. And when I see it clergy or laity, experienced or green, young or old, I lean back and smile as I shake my head… “Man, you gotta love that!”
For The Only Cause That Matters,
Pastor Kevin McKinney