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Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Gospel Imperatives

As you or your clergy and lay member go to annual conference on Tuesday, May 29, in St. Cloud, one of the things we'll be focusing on will be the two imperatives for our annual conference--it's clergy, laity, and churches.

The two imperatives are:

Reach new people (based on the Great Commission -- Matthew 28:19)
Cultivate spiritual vitality (based on the Great Commandments -- Matthew 22:35-39)

How are you in your personal life already living out these two imperatives?

What questions do you have about them?

What suggestions would have you as to how we as individual Christians as well as churches could better live them out?

Please pray for us at annual conference and I'll look forward to reading your reflections!

Bishop Sally Dyck


Chad G said...


It's interesting that you ask the question two different ways. First, you ask how I am living out the 'Gospel Imperatives' in my personal life. Then you ask for suggestions on how to live them out as individuals as well as churches.

I say it's interesting because it really raises the bar in terms of expectations. I feel pretty good about the direction we're moving in Willmar as we seek to reach new people, especially those from the Hispanic/Latino community. As a church, we will continue to develop ways to foster that relationship (we recently set a date for our first 'Community Meal' to conicide with the conclusion of the Hispanic service held at the church on Sunday afternoons).

Where I sometimes fall short, though, is in the 'personal life' part of your challenge. I'm far less prone to seek to reach new people when I step out of my role as pastor and step into my community as a dad, a spouse, or 'that guy getting his hair cut.'

Thanks for reminding us that the Gospel Imperatives are both a corporate and a personal challenge!

Chad Gilbertson

David said...

One insight I would offer to this conversation is that spiritual vitality and reaching new people are inextricably linked. What are we inviting people to if not to a more spiritually vital life? And if we are not able to evidence such a life in our own lives, our words of invitation will seem vacuous.

I was thinking recently about Paul's list of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If we think of these in social as well as individual terms, we have a pretty good picture of "spiritual vitality." Then I thought some about reconceptualizing these as flowers of the Spirit (seeds produce fruits as well as flowers - unless, of course I am planting them in my garden!). Flowers attract by their beauty. In our invitations to the Christian faith and life we should be able to point toward beautiful flowers of the Spirit, sown with seeds of the Spirit and blowing gently in the Spirit's breezes. Then our words -come, see, hear, bloom with us, will have real meaning.


David Bard

Michelle said...

I have found developing and participating in Covenant Discipleship groups is an excellent way to cultivate spiritual vitality both personally and through the congregation. Hope UMC in Duluth has two groups right now, and every week its members (which add up to about ten percent of those worshiping Sunday morning) meet together for prayer, support, and to ask one another: what acts of justice, compassion, worship and devotion have you done this week?

As an individual I find the the accountability and support helpful in developing my own spiritual life. As a pastor I have been excited to see how the participant's private spiritual lives have been strengthened and also how they more freely share their gifts with the church and the community. There's a handful of folks in the congregation now who are looking for opportunities to serve, to care for the poor, to work for justice, because they understand deeply this is what it means to follow Jesus.

I'm not sure Covenant Discipleship directly responds to the other directive, to reach new people. But those in my group are sharing their faith more freely in their workplace, are regularly seeking ways to reflect Jesus' love in their everyday lives, and are strengthening the public part of their Christian life.

When we hosted an Igniting Ministry training this winter almost everyone in the Covenant groups participated in the training and understood it to be very directly related to their Christian discipleship.

I seriously believe that we cannot reach new people unless we have something real to offer, something that is unique from the rest of the culture. The balance and breadth of John Wesley's understanding of discipleship is a gift we have to offer the world, and I have found Covenant Discipleship to be a useful way to live that out.

Michelle Hargrave,
Duluth, MN

Walter Lockhart said...

Walking the walk, and talking the talk.

If we are going to be vital churches we not only need to have great groups and worship, we also need to be able to invite people to be a part of our community. But when we have no authentic spark, it is hard to find anything to invite people to join. We need to both walk the walk of faith, and express it to those around us.

The last several weeks we have had new couples arrive on Sunday morning at Walker. How wonderful that they have felt at home and returned. It is not just about inviting, it is about having something to welcome people to join.

I love being in a place where I am welcoming people and offering them a place in the circle each week.
Walter Lockhart
Walker Communtiy UMC, Minneapolis

sam said...

i am homeless... i meet people who need various kinds of help from me. sometimes people donate stuff to me which is not junk, but which i cannot use. ( foodshelf food which requires cooking and storage, etc.) so i pass it on. i leave food at a busy bus stop. its amazing how much families will grab up the food they really need this help. i have seen coffee shop $5 sandwiches left there. for me to find, on days when its all i had for dinner. same with clean clothes i wont wear, i leave them. its very gratifying to see someone smile and the light in their eyes when they have a jacket now. the message of jesus love for us, people who are struggling really want to hear. they need to talk, they need prayer, and hugs and support. while money and a place to live, would be nice, the main thing people need is support. my church family has been very supportive and i dont know if when things were better for me, i had that chip on my shoulder or that barrier to keep people out, but with that gone, now, i can experience gods love through people, as it is also meant to be.
there is a part of every day when you could do something to bring someone else closer to gods love and peace, the big trick, is training yourself to focus on that inner spirit, so when those moments come we act on them and dont lose them. sammi, friend of asbury umc

Praying Paul said...

The two imperatives are awesome! Let's live them out.
Praying Paul

Praying Paul said...

Dear Bishop:

I liked your comments at the opening of conference last night. Here some key comments I heard that I liked:

If you want to see a miracle, be a miracle

Live out the two imperatives: Cultivate Vital Sprituality and Reach New People

Cultive vital sprituality through Wesleyan means of grace.

Vital sprituality isn't about information but formation.

Abundant living = Generous living.

God goes with whoever goes with God.

We have too many busy bees and not enough honey bees. (Honey bees are the ones that produce fruit.)

We need to be concerned about the quantity and quality of the fruit being produced.

You also asked some great questions:

How do we love one another and stay together in the midst of our differences?

When was the last time your shared your faith?

What do you have? Not what don't you have?

Do you want to see a miraclee? Be a miracle.

Thanks for challenging us. Keep it up. We're praying and fasting for you.


Michelle said...

I've been thinking about ministry on the "edge" lately, and then it was the theme of your ordination sermon. I started an emerging worship community about ten years ago (although we didn't know then what to call it then)and it felt like doing ministry on the edge. In my last few appointments I have been learning about spiritual disciplines and the Wesleyan model of discipleship, which feels very much like ministry in the center, coming from the heart of our tradition.

So I have been wondering - ministry on the edge, or ministry in the center?

Then you preached about the picture of Jesus the Good Shepherd hanging on by a scrubby brush, leaning out over the edge to reach the lost lamb. Jesus on the edge, over the edge. You called us to the edge.

So I was thinking about the center again -- where does it fit? Then in my exhaustion last night it came to me. The answer is in the imperatives.

Cultivate spiritual vitality: that is going into the heart of our tradition, into the heart of Christ. That is where the spiritual disciplines come in, anchoring deep into the center.

Reaching out: that is where we go to the edge, to reach out to those whom God loves.

In the painting you showed Thursday night Jesus was hanging over a cliff by a scrubby brush. Perhaps we, instead of hanging on by a bush, are anchored into Christ through our spiritual vitality, attached to the strength of our heritage by a belaying cord. Then we reach out to others with some hope that we will have the strength to do some good.

Michelle said...

I forgot to add:
Michelle Hargrave, Duluth

Duane Lookingbill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Duane Lookingbill said...

Even this posting-place can form us to the Gospel Imperatives. Our theological reflection is circular; yet, in metaphor we open to opportunity in the new possibility, as well as the acknowledgement of danger in pointing up what no longer is heard in our lively speech. I believe, to carry forward the manifest insight in these postings, we learn who we are as we learn who Jesus is; and, vice versa. Imperative, insofar as it predicates Gospel is transforming; Gospel, insofar as it is subject to imperative, must, and will, transform. The truth is nothing unless it is something we do. Perhaps, what matters is not just thinking this through, important as this is, but also our practice, our habit, even when we are reflecting. -Duane Lookingbill

Bishop Sally Dyck said...

Thanks, Michelle, for putting together the spiritual imperatives and the ordination sermon! The center needs to be for each one of us as well as our local churches so that we can reach out to new people.

To you all:
So, I'm curious. How, if at all, are you going to make changes in your own lives or your local church in light of the imperatives?

Ken Ehrman said...

In September, we are starting a Jazz-based worship service at Minnetonka UMC as a means of reaching new people. This is not to entertain (i.e., inform) folks, but to work at forming people's spiritual vitality for the transformation of the world. The Gospel Imperatives will be helpful as this change is interpreted.

David said...

I am inviting the people of First UMC, and whoever would like to join us, to read through the New Testament in the coming year, beginning this week (five chapters a week). I am providing some on-line commentary/questions through a blog site ( I will be preaching in the coming year on our shared readings. I am excited to see how this practice might form those who participate. If we are able to take to heart what we read, not only will our spiritual vitality be increased, but we will be reaching out to others with God's love in new ways.

David Bard
Duluth, MN

David said...

Oops, I typed the address for our New Testament blog incorrectly. It is simply

David Bard

Duane Lookingbill said...

I'm uncertain of any exact equivalence of "thinking" and "doing," but I believe I can both think and do things differently in my life, as well as in my practice of the ordained ministry. As for thinking differently, I am taking up the suggestiveness of "Theology That Matters," a book I picked up at conference. As for doing differently, I have a plan for the first one hundred days in my new appointment, and trust this blog will offer yet more, at present unforseen, ways to display the changes I am making.

Justin said...

So I was asked this question at Annual Conference for the profile section of the last daily newsletter, and my answer was a bit long an edited down to the point that it didn't fully communicate what I was saying. Like David Bard mentioned, I too think that the two imperatives are connected.

My challenge as I start full-time ministry in Chatfield is to have the community of Chatfield UMC try to gather every morning at the church for morning prayer which I believe is one of the best ways to cultivate spiritual vitality (i.e. being in constant communion and communication with God and one another). However, I want to push it even further based on something Dean Samuel Wells (Dean of the Chapel at Duke University) does at Duke. He told us in a class that he sends out letters each week to various parts of the University community telling them that he and other will be praying for them and asking if they have any special prayers they would like lifted up to God. He had both positive and negative reactions, but through this process he has made the Chapel extend into the community outside its physical dominance at the heart of West campus.

Now I think this is a powerful way for Chatfield UMC to reach out to the community. So I am hoping to send out letters in advance to various community etities (businesses, mayor, community groups, etc.) telling them that we will be praying for them at morning prayer during the week and that they are welcome to come join us or let us know if they have any specific prayer joys or concerns they would like us to lift up to God.

I am hoping that some within the church will join me every morning, but even if many do not I will be there leading prayer daily and attemtping to reach new people.

Just one idea of how I plan to, both personally and as a church community, cultivate spiritual vitality and reach new people.

Justin Halbersma
Chatfield UMC (soon to be)

Anonymous said...

I have a question i guess...i have heard rumors of building a new Blaine UMC in another area. Which i guess could be ok. But we at blaine umc have been working our tails off to being in new people and straighten out finances. When our last pastor left, so did a 1/3 or more of the congregation, Pastor Jane has GREAT financial skills, but NO people skills. She is driving away some very GOOD people.

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