By: Christa Meland
Reaching new people isn’t just about getting people to come and join us—it’s about extending the love of Jesus.
Drawing on John 4:1-26, the theme of the 2019 Annual Conference is “Dare to Reach: Love Boldly!” At our June 18-20 gathering in St. Cloud, we will explore ways in which Jesus calls us to step out of our comfort zone and reach those around us with the love of God in ways beyond our imagination. We will tell our collective story of how God’s love quenches our thirst and claims us, and explore ways to invite everyone to drink from the well so that their thirst may be quenched.
“Jesus crossed all sorts of boundaries with the woman at the well—he listened to the story of a Samaritan woman, really saw her for who she was, and then offered her the gift of living water that would transform her life,” said Rev. Cindy Gregorson, Minnesota Conference director of ministries. “The theme this year is about helping us be as bold as Jesus was by going out; seeing who’s hungry, hurting, thirsting, yearning for new life; and then pointing them to living water.”
Annual Conference will not only inspire you but also equip you with skills and practices to help you share your faith story.
“Last year, we focused on claiming our ‘Why Jesus?’ story,” said Gregorson. “This year, we’ll explore how that is a gift worth sharing and become empowered to share it with somebody else. We hope that people see and experience some stories of people who have been making bold moves to reach out and love other people—and that these stories help them either see new possibilities of what that could look like or make it seem not so scary.”
The three-day conference session is a time for Minnesota United Methodists to worship and enjoy fellowship, learn from teaching sessions, seek God’s guidance as we make decisions about ministry direction, determine budgets, ordain and commission clergy, and receive the bishop’s clergy appointments. Again this year, those who can’t attend in person are invited to watch the key sessions—including the bishop’s episcopal address and the teaching sessions—online via live streaming.
Here’s a look at just a few of the exciting things planned for the 2019 Annual Conference:
• Guest speaker, Rev. Dr. Mark Teasdale: Rev. Dr. Teasdale, professor of evangelism at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, will deliver two teaching sessions focused on reaching the next person for Jesus. Church leaders are often bombarded with material that suggests it is only through human effort that the church will be effective. The study of evangelism starts with the assumption that God is active, and we are invited to participate in what God is already doing. “Our job is not to generate a mission but to look to God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, expecting miraculous power to burst forth as God moves to accomplish God’s purpose—the redemption of all creation!” Teasdale said. In his courses, Teasdale is focused on helping students answer questions so they can express their faith in a clear, articulate, and authentic way in word and practice. “My greatest hope is that they will become public witnesses, inviting those who are not Christians to know God through Jesus Christ, and strengthening the church by leading other Christians to articulate their faith,” he said.
• Risk-taking ministry makers: On Wednesday evening, June 19, after an afternoon of informal networking around shared interests, we’ll hear from a few people who are engaged in cutting-edge ways of doing ministry, taking bold risks, and experimenting with new ways, spaces, and places to “do” church and reach the next person for Jesus. They will inspire us to consider how we can be innovative in our own lives and contexts.
• New schedule: This year, the Celebration of Life in Ministry worship service will be Tuesday evening, June 18—the first day of Annual Conference. This service is a time to remember friends and colleagues who have died over the past year, honor retiring clergy, and celebrate newly licensed local pastors and those being commissioned and ordained. We’ll celebrate milestones in ministry to kick off our gathering, and spend the next two days recommitting to our shared mission and vision. Bishop Bruce R. Ough’s Episcopal Address will conclude our gathering on Thursday afternoon, June 20.
• Racial reconciliation: The Minnesota Commission on Religion and Race (CORR) will briefly talk about a racial reconciliation movement that its members are building. As we talk about and work toward reaching new people, this ministry team reminds us that we’re called to love people of all races and ethnicities, and to build a community where all are welcomed, valued, and embraced as beloved children of God.
• Love Offering: This year’s Love Offering for Missions will be collected Wednesday, June 19. The recipients of this year’s offering are: Lao Samphan Methodist Church, through which missionary and Pastor Daniel Yang is overseeing church development, leadership training, and pastoral support in Laos (60 percent), the Volunteer Lawyers Network, which provides free civil legal services to low-income Minnesotans (20 percent), and Volunteers in Mission scholarships (20 percent). In March, materials to promote the Love Offering will be mailed to all churches.
Annual conference registration will open March 1. Fees for the 2019 conference session are the same as last year. The cost is $250 for delegates ($275 after May 15); $75 for retirees, equalization members and those visiting for the entire event ($100 after May 15); and $25 for single-day visitors. Those fees include lunches, and scholarships are available for retirees. All are invited to the Celebration of Life in Ministry on Tuesday, and there is no cost to attend.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
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