Our Converts are Few
To all persons whom I am called to serve in Illinois Great Rivers Conference; I greet you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Beverly and I are in the final throes of moving. Our two daughters have decided to move as well – to another place in Lansing, Mich., versus coming with us. We will arrive in Springfield with a status that has been a long time coming -- “Empty Nesters.”
An article that I penned for the now defunct Michigan Christian Advocate in December 2005 raised to prominence a melody that you will hear from me the entirety of my episcopacy in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference. Namely, our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Below is the script that pervades the length and breadth of my ministry.
Our Converts are Few
Dare I sound the focus of my episcopacy to begin the New Year? Unequivocally, yes. “Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World” will not leave me alone.
You, gentle readers, must be weary of this spotlight. This I know, Christ’s joyful challenge of disciple-making causes my heart to ache. What pains me all too often is a familiar realization in numerous Methodist circles, our converts are few. Surely, I am not bereft of the skills, commitment and/or vision of Mr. Wesley, John the Baptist and Lydia who started a house church in Acts 16.
Or, am I?
Upon my 1996 arrival in East Ohio Conference as Bishop-elect, Bishop Boulton passed on to me a book entitled Sacerdos Et Pontifex. Bishop Kelly, a Roman Catholic Bishop, published it in 1940. A lengthy quote from the author has torn at my spirit ever since. His words have served as a disturbing mirror with regard to my own disciple making.
Bishop Kelly wrote: “…it is your own soul that comes first. Only when that is safe will the overflow of good from it help others. You can do all things, but only in Him that sent you.” Kelly went on to say, “That lesson I did not learn early enough, or rather did not fully understand from the beginning; not indeed until the fever of action had long had a grip on me. Consequently I feel that for me there were many lost years. I did go out on the highways and by the hedges and I was an ardent and zealous servant. I organized, I wrote, I went to conventions. Did I get anything more out of it all than a transient reputation? Almost nothing!! There arose a disturbing fact to face me: my converts were few. I know other priests who apparently had not been one-tenth as zealous as myself, priests who could not be dragged to conventions, who scarcely ever left the confines of their parishes, but who had the spiritual children denied me…
You may be inclined – and in perfect good faith – to say that I am exaggerating, that indirectly I must have made hosts of converts. But if I did, I was denied the joy of meeting and instructing them.”
Far too often, this has been my fate. Still, I press on toward the mark described in Matthew 28:19-20.
What think ye? See you soon.