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Lessons in a bottle

With a Coke and a smile, Rev. Benton Heisler reflects on the vision of the Michigan Conference.

Earlier this month, I traveled to Atlanta, GA and met with 75 other leaders who are Directors of Connectional Ministries (DCM), staff for the General Board of Global Ministries (BGM), Discipleship Ministries and members of the Connectional Table. It is always an excellent time of renewing friendships, building new ones, discovering “best practices” and hearing of the various challenges that we are all facing.

I sat next to Rev. George Wilson the DCM from Liberia. He is deeply appreciative of our longtime partnership as a Michigan Conference. He spoke to me of the collaborative work they do to have a school, a clinic and a church all in proximity to one another. This linkage of body, mind and Spirit creates a synergy for the community and contributes to vibrancy, leadership and Christ centered ministry. Hmmm… where have I heard that trio mentioned before?

We met in and toured the newly created offices and meeting areas of the Board of Global Ministries. They have purchased a large United Methodist Church in Atlanta. Now the partnership of the GBGM with this congregation allows our global influence and impact to have a very local context as well. A congregation that was struggling now has a new capacity to reach out to the people nearby and “offer them Christ…” in meaningful and life changing ways. (John Wesley… and Jesus would be pleased!)

A highlight of our three days together was a three hour presentation and tour of the corporate headquarters of Coca-Cola. The spouse of the Atlanta North District is a CFO in the Coca-Cola company, responsible for the 65,000 “7-11” partners worldwide. (Only 8,500 of those “7-11” stores are in the USA.) He and three other executive shared about how their faith inspires their work at Coke and how Coke has strengthened their faith. These two women and two men captivated us with their testimonies of servant leadership, humility, their investment in the development of others and the value and importance of being teachable. The company stresses a healthy Work /Life Balance and is known to be one of the five best companies to work for.

The total value of Pepsi, Starbucks, Red Bull and Budwiser combined is $50 billion; Coca-Cola is worth $74 billion! They have an incredible global presence!  Down one hall are flags from every country of the world representing every country in which they are located. Only two flags are missing:  Cuba and North Korea.

Their mission: “Refresh the world; Inspire moments of optimism and happiness; Create Value; Make a difference.”

In 1915 their bottle designers were given an assignment: “Create a bottle so distinct that it could be recognized by touch in the dark or lying broken on the ground.” The contour Coke bottle was created and remains the same to this day.

All of this caused me to begin to ponder the mission the UMC: “Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

We have a presence on nearly every continent. Our cross and flame is a distinctive symbol with a high degree of recognition. Our mission is inspired by three key biblical texts:

  1. “For God so loved the world that he gave His only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  2. “Therefore, go into all the world and make disciples in my name (Matthew 28:19)

The third text is a little less known but I believe it is every bit as essential to our mission: “Everybody do their part!” That is not exactly what it says, but if you read Nehemiah 3 you quickly get that impression. Every worker with a wide variety of skills, from all sorts of places did their part to reconstruct the wall of safety and security around the city of Jerusalem. (And, unfortunately as is human nature, in verse 5 you read of a few folks that would just not put their shoulder to the work.)

I am excited for what is in store for the new Michigan Conference! Each week a particular Director is highlighted in an article in MI Connect. Early next week you will read of the excellent persons who have been selected to fill the variety of remaining ministry positions on the conference staff.  To a person they have indicated their desire to serve and strengthen local congregations.  They have exciting new ideas for equipping and connecting local congregations and a passion to see the Church thrive.

The “refreshment, inspiration, and difference” Coke’s mission statement may strive to provide is admirable. But what we have to offer is eternal! Nobody has a product like that. The best part is that God has entrusted each of us to be the “salesperson” of the year on God’s behalf.

So come on all you “Bold and Effective Leaders”! Let’s get moving all you “Vibrant Congregations” and let’s let our light shine through our “Christ Centered Mission and Ministry”.

Now that would be the “real thing.” And way better than any slogan!

~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 pray that these reflections, stories and information will assist you in your own witness and service as a Disciple of Jesus Christ.

Last Updated on February 13, 2018

The Michigan Conference