(Editor’s note: The following is a transcript of the Cabinet Address delivered by Rev. C. Douglas Rorex, LaMoine River District Superintendent and co-Dean of the IGRC Cabinet, June 9, 2016)
By Rev. C. Douglas Rorex
What is it that either captivates us or that holds our attention? This is no idle question for where we direct our time, talents and passion determines to a very large extent the people we become. Do we concentrate on either the light or the darkness?
Year after year we are bombarded with information. We receive each annual conference the statistics regarding the membership in our churches, the strength of financial giving and the current trends. I am neither suggesting that someone shouldn’t be assigned to assemble this data nor that we shouldn’t pay attention to it. I am saying it should not be our primary focus.
Frederich Nietsche said, If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you (Beyond Good and Evil). Listening to only that which tells us what we can’t do, that reminds us of what is wrong and that predicts our inevitable failure is an all but guaranteed way to ensure it.
One of our responsibilities, as the Cabinet, is to continually direct our focus toward the light. The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to humankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out (The Gospel of John 1:-4-5).
There are things which we can do, which lift our hearts and inspire us to embrace the discipleship to which we have been called. The Mississippi River District has a website for their churches to publish good news and promote successes that have been experienced. LaMoine River District is currently in process of producing a DVD sharing what some of our churches are doing for use at our Charge Conferences.
I am most acquainted with what takes place in Western Illinois…or what is referred to by its residents as “Forgottonia.” There are good things happening there as elsewhere around our conference. There are things which may possibly astound, and, ultimately, inspire others to attempt extraordinary ministry. These aren’t the largest churches in our conference, but they are more representative than we may realize. How many of you attend churches that average 50 or less in attendance at your primary worship service?
Browning UMC in a tiny community along the Illinois River has increased it attendance by more than a third and held its first confirmation class is years. They support a number of missions generously including Chaddock, Heifer Project, Making Dreams Possible for Africa University, Red Bird Mission, Schuyler County Help Center, the local schools, and they have a monthly dinner for the community that averages 150 in attendance.
Murrayville UMC has a monthly mission dinner. This dinner not only raises money for missions locally and worldwide, but also does mission. They deliver, each and every month, meals to low income families before the mission meal is served at the church.
Hamilton/Warsaw UMC, on the Northwest Frontier of the LaMoine River District, is doing incredible youth work with over 30 high school age youth and more than 20 Middle School/Junior High meeting weekly. They are in the first stages of establishing a contemporary service to reach those not yet connected with a faith fellowship.
Bluff Springs UMC shares a meal each and every week in fellowship following Sunday worship.
Pleasant Grove UMC, a rural open country church, was averaging 29 in worship in 2013. They are now averaging 40 to 50 each Sunday and took in 20 new members Easter Sunday. They recently began a youth ministry.
Batchtown UMC, on the tip of a peninsula between the Illinois and the Mississippi River was averaging 11 in worship a few years ago and is now averaging 26.
And conference wide we are making dreams possible on an entire continent by creating an endowment to provide scholarships at Africa University. The money we give, whether it is a dollar or a thousand dollars, doesn’t end with our giving it. It is not one and done. The money becomes part of an endowment which is used again and again and again to provide 8 scholarships each and every year. Making Dreams Possible will be preparing students for the future, to serve our Lord and to change the world. What we share will be changing lives and making disciples for Jesus Christ long after we have left this earth.
Either what or to whom do we direct our hearts and souls and life’s blood? If we want to share the light, then we must focus on the light. And that light is the Good News with which we have been entrusted. It is the light which shines in every darkness…and no darkness can ever put it out. The light is our Lord by which everything else pales in comparison.