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"Don't you have faith yet?" Central Congo Area Bishop David K. Yemba asked delegates the same question Jesus asked his disciples (Mark4:35-41).
Jesus asked the question of his disciples when the winds from the Sea of Galilee threatened them.
"For the disciples, the master was indifferent," said Yemba. "'Master, we are sinking!' Today we would say, 'Master, we are losing members; we are disappearing from the map!'"
Yemba reminded delegates and visitors, at an April 30 evening service that though the winds, waves and darkness threaten our sense of security, God calls us to be faithful and trust that Jesus is guiding us. He will calm the sea.
He said the passage is an invitation for all disciples of Christ, past and present, to embark and travel to "the other side of the sea," where they know no one and are outside their comfort zone.
Yemba asked, "What is your sea? Your church's or annual conference's sea? Have you reached the 'other side of the sea' to reach new people?"
Yemba encouraged the delegates as they consider the structure of the church to make certain it is mission focused.
"All our discussions, debates and deliberations, restructuring of the life of the church shall be mission oriented," said the bishop. "Without mission, there is no transformation of the world that God so loved.
"If God has so loved, the world the followers of Jesus Christ shall love the world more than our structures. Jesus asks us the same question today as we consider the future of our church."
Addressing himself to divisions within the community, the bishop said we must remember that if we have faith and take the uncomfortable next step to reach out to those on the other side, Jesus will be there to be our guide.
Yemba suggested that before this session of General Conference, "some delegates were frightened about the restructuring of the church, the budget, dealing with the union of people of the same sex and the like."
"Do we have faith yet?" Yemba asked.
He encouraged delegates to consider structures, budgets and even ethical issues "in the light of our faith in Jesus Christ."
In a response to Yemba's sermon, Bishop John Schol said, "Today we embark from our safe harbors into the thrill of stiff head winds and troubled water with courage. Together we embark to grow vital congregations, make disciples and transform the hearts and minds of new generations of believers and to transform the poverty, injustice and hopelessness experienced in the world."
Schol outlined that over the last eight months, laity and clergy around the world have committed to move forward with courage to work together on five discipleship goals:
- Make new disciples
- Praise God in worship
- Grow through small groups
- Engage in mission in our communities and around the world
- Give generously to mission
Each goal is on a card shaped like a sailboat, symbolizing our commitment to set sail to the other side of the lake to be disciples to transform hearts and communities.
"Methodism is a movement-we are not a people who stay in the same place at the same side where we become too comfortable forever," said Yemba.
"Like Abraham, our ancestor in faith, embark and go!"
*Yanchury is communications assistant for the Minnesota Annual Conference.
News media contact: Maggie Hillery, Tampa, Fla.,(813) 574-4837 (until May 4); after May 4, (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].
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