God is on the move: 2016-2017 Missional Report

June 20, 2017

By: Christa Meland

God is on the move in the Minnesota Annual Conference.
Drawing on the theme of this year’s Annual Conference—“Encounter the Spirit, Live Expectantly”—attendees were reminded of the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, when people from many lands were filled with the Holy Spirit, heard the wonders of God declared in their own tongues, and were baptized and became believers.  
“We are audacious enough to believe that the Holy Spirit has been breaking through in your life, in our churches, in your communities since we last gathered here,” Rev. Cindy Gregorson, director of ministries, told those gathered in St. Cloud. She urged them to share their God stories—their Pentecost stories—so that we can celebrate where people are encountering the Spirit and living expectantly.
On Tuesday afternoon, Annual Conference attendees learned about and celebrated a variety of Holy Spirit breakthroughs in our midst—places where God is on the move. (Watch video of highlights from the past year.)
God is on the move when we speak the language of the people in our communities and connect them with the gospel story. This is what leaders of Minnesota’s new church starts do every day. Four new church starts in the state launched public worship within the past year—The Apple Valley campus of The Well (formerly Rosemount UMC), the St. Anthony Park campus (in St. Paul) of Centennial UMC, the Beloved in St. Paul, and North Summit Church, which meets inside of Blaine UMC. (Watch video on North Summit Church.)
God is on the move when messengers step up and respond to carry the gospel message into the world, to say “Here I am, send me.” That’s exactly what Carollee Smith did when she ended up in Alden last year. She began attending Alden UMC, which hadn't had a permanent pastor in several years—and she came to realize that God was calling her to be the small church's pastor. She became its leader on March 1 and is working toward the designation of licensed local pastor. (Watch video.)
God is on the move when new people are baptized into the body of Christ. Last September, Northwest Minneapolis United Methodist Ministry, a Hmong congregation in Robbinsdale, baptized 18 new Christians in Long Lake. (Watch video.)
God is on the move when we start new partnerships with schools so that every child has what they need to succeed in life. Thanks be to God for the more than 50 church-school partnerships in the Minnesota Conference.
God is on the move when churches start new worship services to reach new people. That’s what Fridley UMC did earlier this year after realizing that there was a key opportunity to welcome Liberian immigrants living near the church.
Attendees learned about an audacious goal to increase the pace for starting new churches in Minnesota. The conference has been planting about two new churches each year, partly thanks to funds that churches and individuals have given to the Reach · Renew · Rejoice capital campaign. The goal is to increase that to three churches next year, four the following year, five the year after that—until we’re at a pace of starting 10 new ministry projects each year. These projects could involve a new worship service, a new campus, or a new model of ministry—anything that is intentionally seeking to reach new people and welcome them into a faith community.
Those gathered also learned about a new way of counting so that we can pay attention to and celebrate the ways that the Holy Spirit is breaking through our churches. Gregorson reminded conference attendees that in Acts 2, 3,000 people were baptized and became followers of Christ. Numbers matter! This summer, the conference will launch an online tool where churches can record people who made a profession of faith and weekly worship attendance. The tool is also a place to share stories (written or in video form) of lives transformed. Where have you seen healing happen?  Where is justice rolling down like water?  Where are the hungry being fed?  Where is new life breaking out?  Where is faith overcoming fear?  Where are people encountering the Spirit and living expectantly? There will be a page on the conference website where you can read these stories and see what we’re accomplishing together.
“We see how our evangelistic heart is growing!” said Conference Co-Lay Leader Dave Nuckols. “In so many pockets we see the change—people wanting to learn how to be more evangelistic, not afraid to use the “E” word; leaders and churches trying new things, getting out of their doors, engaging their community, experimenting with new ways of being church.”
God is on the move in the Minnesota Annual Conference.

Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

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