By: Christa Meland
Most of us remember playing the childhood game “Simon Says.” The person designated as Simon gives commands, and others try to follow the commands that begin with those two words.
A question that was always really important when playing that game as a child was: Who gets to be Simon? In other words, who gets to be the leader?
In the 2015 laity session, conference co-Lay Leader Janet Beard pointed out that the question changes in adulthood. Nowadays, the question too often is: Who will be willing to be the leader? Or even, who can we convince or coerce to be the leader?
It’s time for each of us to step up and say “yes” to God’s call. That’s the message that Beard and co-Lay Leader Bob Kutter communicated to several hundred laity in a crowded ballroom Wednesday morning. Their message was reinforced with energetic music, skits by improv group Table Salt Productions, and testimonies from several lay people who have discerned God’s call and become equipped to answer that call.
Beard told attendees that there was another Simon many years ago who was called and also hesitated to be a leader. She recounted the biblical story near the end of John in which Jesus asked Simon Peter to feed his sheep. Peter—the one who had denied Jesus, the one who couldn’t stay awake with Jesus, the one who probably felt unworthy to do anything for Jesus.
Beard said Peter could have made all kinds of excuses for why he was not capable of feeding Jesus’ sheep, and he could have said “no” to Jesus. But we’re here today in part because Peter chose to say “yes.” We live lives of grace—filled with God’s love, peace, hope, and joy—in part because Peter answered Jesus’ call.
“How often do our excuses get in the way of our saying ‘yes’ to God’s call?” Beard asked attendees.
She pointed out that before Jesus asked Peter to feed his sheep, Jesus asked: “Do you love me?”
“It seems that the greatest qualification for being a disciple, for being a leader for Christ, is to love him!” Beard continued. “How many people are out in the world, waiting for us to do away with our excuses and answer God’s call? How many sheep is Jesus waiting for us to feed?”
Lay training and certification
Beard said one of the reasons we might not answer a call to ministry is that, like Peter, we feel inadequate or unprepared to do so. There are now a variety of opportunities within the Minnesota Conference for laity to become equipped to answer that call.
A newly formed Lay Ministry Action Team within the conference has designed opportunities for laity to become trained to serve their own church, other churches, or the conference in deeper ways—in other words, to answer God’s call. Through this team, the conference offers certification to become a lay servant, a lay speaker, or a lay minister. (Learn more here.)
“God, the people in our communities, and our conference are counting on all of us to keep learning to be the light so that we can feed God’s sheep with the best effort we can,” Beard said.
In March, 32 lay people gathered at Koronis Ministries for training to become certified lay speakers. Lee Rainey, a member of Park Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis and leader of a Twin Cities lay leader group, was one of them.
Rainey said he appreciated the lecture-discussion-interaction style of the retreat and particularly enjoyed learning from clergy how to effectively prepare a sermon—and then getting to practice delivering a sermon. “The instructors did an excellent job of combining their book knowledge…with their practical experience as pastors,” he said. “We came away with many resources to help us in our ministry for Christ.”
Beard and Kutter told laity that it’s time to fully embrace God’s call.
“Every moment of life is filled with choices,” Kutter said. “And what we do with those choices is what gives meaning to life…If we say ‘yes’ to our personal call to be a disciple over the call of the secular world, and if we choose life over death often enough and long enough, meaning emerges and we are indeed transformed.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
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