Bishop Webb tells the Church, ‘It’s our time’
As the “It’s Our Time” video began to fade, one voice called out, “It’s our time, Church … It’s our time to fully and completely, passionately, and boldly live the purpose for which we have been created and called … it’s our time to partner with Holy Spirit power to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. It’s our time!” said Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb.
Bishop Webb addressed the crowd on Wednesday, May 27, during Opening Worship at the 2015 Upper New York Annual Conference session, reiterating the Church’s call: “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
“That means we exist to help those who are already part of the body of Christ to fall deeper in love with God to become grace-filled followers of Jesus who put faith into action,” he said. “And we exist to do whatever it takes to make certain that at least one more person has a chance to know, trust, and be changed by the amazing, unchanging, unconditional love of God through Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Webb noted that God has equipped United Methodists to accomplish their purpose. Throughout the Scriptures, when God called people to mission and ministry – for example, Abraham, Moses, Esther, Naomi, Ruth, Mary, Peter, and Paul – God always promised a harvest.
“As I travel around our beloved Conference, I am overwhelmed by the signs of God’s people living out the mission,” Bishop Webb said. “We are offering our lives to God, we are sharing the love of Jesus in creative, practical, bold, and risky ways, and we are experiencing the promise of harvest.”
Some people feel the Church is irrelevant, that its future is uncertain, but Bishop Webb believes the Church is alive and well, with the best days for The United Methodist Church ahead.
“I believe the Spirit of God is renewing and reviving the Church,” he said. “God’s promise of harvest is real! Who we are and who we are called to be is greater than how we sometimes act, behave, and live.”
In discussing the promise of the harvest, Bishop Web said there are two important steps to take. The first is to strategically lean into the promise of the harvest.
UNY Conference leadership has been working to identify the primary work of the Conference. The Conference’s role is to equip, resource, and encourage each faith community and local congregation. Conference goals include increasing the vitality of congregations and faith communities; creating a culture of planting, resourcing, and supporting new things; aligning resources to support the purpose of the Conference and the mission of the local church, with a system of expectation and accountability for ministry and mission at all levels; and recapturing the Methodist/Wesleyan ethos.
To accomplish these goals, Bishop Webb said the Conference must increase the leadership capacity of clergy and laity.
“God has called the right people to serve as clergy and lay leaders in Upper New York,” he said. “We may not believe that, but it’s true! God has given all the necessary gifts. We may not trust that, but it’s a promise! We need to journey with one another, teach one another, encourage one another, and challenge one another to allow the Spirit of God to increase our capacity as leaders.”
Through multiple focus groups and listening sessions, the Conference has developed and tested core competencies critical for UNY clergy leaders for ministry in the 21st century. The Conference Board of Laity is developing the same strategy for laity.
Bishop Webb referenced Matthew 9:35-38 to illustrate the second step: to spiritually embrace the promise of the harvest.
“We need to embrace the truth that God is calling us from a state of survival to a state of revival,” he said. “We need to embrace the promise that God is calling us to move from a state of existence to a state of persistence in the living of our purpose and mission. We need to become less concerned with Church work and more concerned with Kingdom work.”
Bishop Webb called for the audience to live the reality of 1 Peter 2:9-10 and to spiritually embrace their identity in Luke 4:18-19.
To embrace the harvest, the UNY Conference must see with the eyes of Jesus, Bishop Webb said.
“If we are to spiritually embrace the promise of harvest, we need to see people as Jesus saw them,” he said. “We must look beyond ourselves, look beyond the walls of our churches, look beyond our understandings, our agendas, our wants.”
To see with Jesus’ eyes, United Methodists must see people of deep significance and value, people looking for connection and meaning, people seeking truth that leads to understanding and purpose, and people searching for hope.
In addition to seeing with Jesus’ eyes, Bishop Webb said United Methodist must feel with the heart of Jesus, who was burdened and broken over the spiritual condition of people.
“If we are going to spiritually embrace the promise of harvest, we need to be broken for those who are broken and lost,” Bishop Webb said. “Our hearts need to break for those who do not know the amazing grace of God.”
Lastly, to spiritually embrace the harvest, Bishop Webb said people must pray. He referenced E.M. Bounds, who says in his book Power through Prayer, “What the Church needs today is not more or better machinery, not new organizations or more novel methods. The Church needs men and women whom the Holy Spirit can use – persons of prayer, persons mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through persons. The Spirit does not come on machinery, but on persons. The Spirit does not anoint plans, but persons – persons of prayer.”
Bishop Webb called for everyone to begin AC ’15 with a time of prayer, after which Opening Worship concluded with these few words, “It’s our time, Church!” Bishop Webb said. “It’s our time.”