By Rev. Dr. Thomas Logsdon
IGRC Director of Connectional Ministries
Here in this worn and weary land
Where many a dream has died
Like a tree planted by the water
We never will run dry
So living water flowing through
God we thirst for more of You
Fill our hearts and flood our souls
With one desire
Just to know You and
To make You known
We lift Your name on High
Shine like the sun
Make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more
Than ordinary lives
It's time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive
Thrive by Casting Crowns
By Tom Logsdon
Director of Connectional Ministries
My name is Tom Logsdon and I’m your Director of Connectional Ministries. My job, along with that of the staff with whom I’m privileged to work, is not to help your church survive.
That’s far too low a goal for the Church of God bought by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Our job is not to help you survive.
It’s to help you bear fruit.
It’s to help you thrive!
Your job is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” That’s the fruit you’re expected to bear because:
The local church provides the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs. It is a community of true believers under the Lordship of Christ. It is the redemptive fellowship in which the Word of God is preached by persons divinely called and the sacraments are duly administered according to Christ’s own appointment.
Under the discipline of the Holy Spirit, the church exists for the maintenance of worship, the edification of believers, and the redemption of the world (Book of Discipline, ¶201).
And it’s time for it to thrive!
Jesus told a parable in Luke 13, verses 6-9 about a fig tree in a vineyard. The owner came looking for fruit, but there was none. He called his servant and said, “For three years I’ve come looking for figs on this tree, but there’s not any. Cut it down! Why should it waste space in my garden?”
The servant replied, “Let it alone, sir, one more year, and I will dig around its roots and spread manure. If it bears fruit next year, great! If not, you can cut it down.”
There are times as a DCM when I feel like I do a lot of digging and spreading manure.
I do it for one reason and one reason only.
I do it so your church can thrive.
I don’t care how pretty or gnarled the tree is. That doesn’t matters. What matters is that a thriving tree bears fruit and a fruitless tree wastes space in the garden.
As children of God, as congregations of The United Methodist Church, we were made for so much more than ordinary lives. It's time for us to more than just survive. We were made to thrive.
Call it “disruptive innovation” or “positive deviation” or “the work of the Holy Spirit,” some of you are in churches that are thriving while others in almost identical situations are barely hanging on.
Let me give you an example of some of our churches that are thriving and were honored yesterday by our Conference Committee on Evangelism.
Take Canton South Park UMC in the Illinois River District where Richard Atchley is pastor. They started last year with 48 members and took in 8 adults by Profession of Faith. Or Willow Hill UMC in the Embarras River District where Chuck Cunningham is pastor. They started 2014 with 11 members and took in 8 by Profession of Faith.
Anyone care to calculate their percentage of growth?
Andy Adams is pastor of Quest UMC in the Iroquois River District. This fairly new congregation of mostly young adults started 2013 with 83 members and took in 12 people by Profession of Faith that year and another 16 in 2014 – that’s 28 people by Profession of Faith in 2 years.
In Rossville, also in the Iroquois River District, where Carl Mesiti is pastor, they started 2014 with 158 members and took in 32 by Profession of Faith.
Carlinville, in the LaMoine River District, where Robert Taylor is pastor, started the year with 467 members and took in 21 by Confirmation and another 2 by Profession of Faith.
And then there’s Fairview Heights Christ – Shane Bishop, Lead Pastor. They started 2014 with 1646 members and took in 56 by Confirmation and another 81 by Profession of Faith, for a total of 137. That’s more than 2.6 new members by Confirmation or Profession of Faith every Sunday of the year – even ice storms and Super Bowl Sunday!
It’s tough to compete with Fairview Heights Christ, but Geneseo First in the Spoon River District – Chris Ritter, Lead Pastor – is giving them a run for their money, after having grown right out of their previous category. One of two large United Methodist churches in a town of 7,000, Geneseo First was chosen to receive our denomination’s brand new One Matters award, complete with plaque and $1,000 check to encourage continued growth in the area of discipleship.
Why? Because they started 2013 with 487 members and took in 57 by Profession of Faith in 2013 and another 41 in 2014, for a total of 98 people by Profession of Faith over a two-year period.
The other church in our Conference to receive the brand new One Matters plaque and cash award is Midland UMC in Kincaid, in the Sangamon River District where Linda Vonck is pastor. Kincaid is a blue-collar community of about 1,500 people and Midland UMC averages less than 100 in worship, but they took in 40 people by Profession of Faith in 2013 and another 7 in 2014, for a total of 47 people over a two-year period.
Don’t tell me it can’t be done. There are churches of every size all around our Conference taking in people by Baptism, Confirmation, and Profession of Faith and others with a goose egg year after year after year in their Profession of Faith column.
Some are doing it. Others don’t know how or don’t care and I’m sick and tired of their ignorance and apathy.
Get out your Conference Journal. Find a church near your church or one like your church that’s taking in members by Profession of Faith and let them teach you how to do it.
Preach about a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ until you have one, then preach a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ because you’ve got one, then preach a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ until everyone has one – and don’t leave them amputated from the body of Christ.
Link them together with other believers through Baptism, Confirmation, and Profession of Faith into a church family, a congregation that will help them grow and bear fruit.
In your packet when you arrived this year was a brochure listing our Congregational Development and Connectional Ministries staff who are ready and willing to assist you and the things they can do to help your church thrive.
Some of us plant, others water.
Some dig. Some spread manure.
May God grant us growth and more!
May God make us fruitful!
May God make us thrive!