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Construction Zone ahead

A trip on the interstate prompts reflections on the work of making disciples for the transformation of the world.

REV. BENTON HEISLER
Director Connectional Ministries, West Michigan

“If you make my Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  (John 8:13 New Jerusalem Bible)

Each article I write for this column is based in the guidance of a particular Scripture passage. I trust these reflections and information will assist you in your own service as a Disciple of Jesus Christ.

Benton2 - CopyI recently had an opportunity to travel several hundred miles of interstate.  I am always amazed at the complexity of road construction projects.  Thousands of cars continue to move at high rates of speed, all while men and women on the ground and in various types of equipment remove the previous road bed material or bridge, the side of a mountain, or the trees and soil that can no longer exist now that the road will be expanding.

The “construction zone” extends for miles, and the project takes months and sometimes years to complete.  Return to the same region months or years later and, behold, the smooth flow of traffic moves on.  Like the images of I Corinthians 12, the dynamite cannot say to road grader, “I am more important than you,” nor can the person holding the STOP/SLOW flag stick say to the crane operator, “I have no need of you.”  Each has their critical role and responsibility.

The other Scripture image that comes to my mind is in Nehemiah, specifically in chapter three.  All the types of work that needed to be done are described as well as all the various families that each provided their unique trade so that the wall could be completed.  There is even the recording of those who “refused to put their shoulder to the work.” (Nehemiah 3:5)

Our work as an Annual Conference has some parallels to this construction metaphor and the biblical story.  There are many moving pieces and long time frames as we work upon various components of our shared ministries, General Conference, Annual Conference and the designing of a new conference.  All along the way there are varying degrees of “everybody pitching in to do to their part” and the occasional soul, who for one reason or another, “refuses to put their shoulder to the work.”  I have no control over such persons.

My focus is to help best equip and connect those who are working together “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”  No matter what General Conference does or doesn’t decide on any number of items, there will still be this important disciple making work to be done.  We will need to continue to be outwardly focused, with our inner spirits deeply rooted in Scripture, worship, service, witness and exercising generosity.

“No matter what General Conference does or doesn’t decide on any number of items, there will still be this important disciple making work to be done.”

The Annual Conference will be one of a kind; a new venue for us all, to which we will not return next year; a new opportunity to share in common conferencing, worship, learning and inspiration; an intentional experience designed to awaken our sensitivity to injustices of the past and begin to take “first steps “ toward repentance and reconciliation with those who have been harmed by our historical actions.

I encourage you to thoroughly read the materials that area already posted on the web site.

  • Go to 2016.Michiganumc.org
  • Scroll down the menu on the left side of the page to “Programs”.
  • Scroll further down that menu to “First Steps”
  • Read the article and select a location where you can attend the movie “Our Fires Still Burn”.
  • Scroll further down to “Learn More About Our History” and click on the blue box “Read More”
  • Then click on each of the 11 documents there.

Over this past weekend I spent some time in a meeting with the leaders of many of our Native American congregations here in Michigan.  They look forward to this service at Annual Conference and the important relationships that will be formed as a result of our awakening.  Some of the relationships will require more intentional effort and longer periods of time, other actions we can take can provide immediate assistance and support.  Equipment can be purchased for ministry settings and building repairs on Native American facilities can be completed in fairly short order.  Building trust and relationships will require longer sustained effort.  I look forward to the ways we will all follow through on our individual “Acts of Repentance Toward Reconciliation with Native and Indigenous People.”

Other materials that are very important for your orientation to 2016 Annual Conference are also part of this site.  You will want to review all this material thoroughly.  I once heard a very insightful and instructive instruction:  Read all the fine print and receive an education, fail to read it all and receive experience.

How much each of us “puts our shoulder to the work” of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” is all up to us.  I am blessed to be a part of a vast movement of devoted followers of Christ who are indeed making a difference in the world.

See you at the “construction zone”!