Pastor Mark’s Reflections For The July 2019 Newsletter

Virginia Frazier sent me an email with a few prompts for the Newsletter.  The following are my responses:

What is the church’s mission?

We are part of the connected church – The Free Methodist Church USA and The River Conference.  Being a connected church, the overall mission and vision has been articulated this way.

Mission and Vision

Love God. Love People. Make Disciples.

To bring wholeness to the world through healthy biblical communities of holy people multiplying disciples, leaders, groups and churches.

Having said that, the local expression of the church can and does articulate this mission and vision uniquely.  Our community of faith (church) has not embarked on a vision casting process as of yet.  That is due to the fact that I believe the first twelve months of my tenure here is primarily a time of healing and renewing our spiritual lives after the transition from a long-term pastor to a “new guy from Ohio.”

In addition, the FMCUSA is transitioning from one team of Bishops to a new team at the July General Conference.  The Lord may be saying something new to those Bishops and the FMCUSA, so I eagerly await on what the Lord may be doing with our larger body of believers.

After this season of healing we will begin a process of asking the Lord what is next.  In the meantime, I have asked the church to join me in this simple prayer:

Lord, this is your church.  What you desire is our desire.  Open our hearts and eyes to where you are moving, and we will join you.  Remove our biases, like scales falling from our eyes, and let us see as you see.  We are open and will join you.  AMEN

What is the function of the pastor?

The term pastor is really a job function / title, just like the person at the car dealer who you talk with when you need work done on your car.  They are often called service advisors and the people who work on your car are technicians.  When I am no longer the pastor at Pueblo Light and Life Church, I no longer have the function / title pastor.  If appointed to another church as pastor the new title of pastor is affiliated with that appointment.

The pastor is appointed by the conference and is responsible to the Conference and Free Methodist Church USA through the Conference Superintendents.  The Conference and FMCUSA provide the accountability and credentials of all pastors.

Being a connected church, the function of the pastor is laid out in the Book of Discipline.  That is the quick answer.  The pastor is responsible for matters relating to the church.  The role of pastor is first, spiritual leader and second temporal (business) leader of the community of faith.  

Here is my lengthier explanation.  God gifts leaders differently for different seasons.  Looking Biblically, leaders (both clergy and lay) are gifted as Apostle, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers. 

To borrow from Alan Hirsch’s work on the APEST here are his descriptions:

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APOSTLES extend the gospel. As the “sent ones,” they ensure that the faith is transmitted from one context to another and from one generation to the next. They are always thinking about the future, bridging barriers, establishing the church in new contexts, developing leaders, networking trans-locally. Yes, if you focus solely on initiating new ideas and rapid expansion, you can leave people and organizations wounded. The shepherding and teaching functions are needed to ensure people are cared for rather than simply used.

PROPHETS know God’s will. They are particularly attuned to God and his truth for today. They bring correction and challenge the dominant assumptions we inherit from the culture. They insist that the community obey what God has commanded. They question the status quo. Without the other types of leaders in place, prophets can become belligerent activists or, paradoxically, disengage from the imperfection of reality and become other-worldly.

EVANGELISTS recruit. These infectious communicators of the gospel message recruit others to the cause. They call for a personal response to God’s redemption in Christ, and also draw believers to engage the wider mission, growing the church. Evangelists can be so focused on reaching those outside the church that maturing and strengthening those inside is neglected.

SHEPHERDS nurture and protect. Caregivers of the community, they focus on the protection and spiritual maturity of God’s flock, cultivating a loving and spiritually mature network of relationships, making and developing disciples. Shepherds can value stability to the detriment of the mission. They may also foster an unhealthy dependence between the church and themselves.

TEACHERS understand and explain. Communicators of God’s truth and wisdom, they help others remain biblically grounded to better discern God’s will, guiding others toward wisdom, helping the community remain faithful to Christ’s word, and constructing a transferable doctrine. Without the input of the other functions, teachers can fall into dogmatism or dry intellectualism. They may fail to see the personal or missional aspects of the church’s ministry.

Personally, the Spirit has gifted me as Apostle and Teacher with a bit of Prophet thrown in for good measure.  That is why it is important for me to surround myself with people who have primary gifting in the areas of Prophet, Evangelist, and Shepherds.

A person in pastoral leadership recognizes the importance of the Body of Christ.  For far too long, the pastors and people have seen the role of pastor as a “hired gun” who does the work of the church.  I would challenge us to see the pastor as a leader who equips the “saints” for works of service.

I had an Old Testament professor at seminary tell me that if the pastor does not spend 20-30 hours a week listening for God and studying, they are not being equipped to equip the saints.  While that sounds pretty daunting, I would tend to agree with him.  The role of pastor is not to be busy doing the work of the church, they are to be busy listening for God and equipping the saints.  I ask that you pray for me as I listen and share what God is saying to our community of faith.

Who decides any rules or regulations of the particular community?

As mentioned earlier, we are a connected church.  The Book of Discipline outlines many “rules and regulations.”  Those that are not necessarily provided for in the Book of Discipline are dealt with through the pastor and leadership team.

While the structure of the church is outlined in the Book of Discipline, the Discipline allows for structures that work best in specific contexts as long as they further the mission and vision of FMCUSA.

Does the church belong to a conference?

Without sounding redundant, our community of faith is part of The River Conference and The Free Methodist Church USA. Being connected means we agree with and support the River Conference and Free Methodist Church USA.   The appointed pastor, if an Elder, and the elected delegate represents the church at the Annual Conference.  It is at Annual Conference the “business” of the conference is dealt with biblically and temporally.

Join me in praying with and for our conference and wider connected church.