Friday, May 19, 2006

More Things I Learned ...

Now that I have safely arrived home, I have had time to reflect a little more on my trip. So here’s a few more things I have learned from my spring “vacation”:

8. Never doubt that the Church (capital C, meaning any group of Christians anywhere in the world, never mind the brand-name out front) is an incredibly powerful force in this world. When the Church catches a glimpse of what the Kingdom of God on earth could look like, decides to do something about it, and catches the wind of the Spirit like a sailboat rides a tropical breeze … well, it can accomplish some amazing things!

9. America is a land of grand distractions … There is always something on TV that catches the eye, no matter what time of day. Dozens of movies are being released every month, books are being published, sporting events are being played, church meetings are being held. While at home, I discovered that I wanted to do it all, to see and read and experience everything. And none of those things are “bad” … it’s just that they can get in the way of a lifestyle that simply follows the way of Jesus. I’ll be honest – my prayer time suffered while on my trip. I don’t say this to “blame” the TV, or American culture. Any blame rests squarely on my own shoulders. I mean only to say that America is … a land of grand distractions!

10. The Cameroonian church can learn a few things from the American church. Things about organization, planning, efficiency, and vision-casting. Simeon picked up on this; he often turned to me and said, “Wow, I never knew the church could be like this!”

11. The American church can learn a few things from the Cameroonian church. Things about vital worship, engaged singing and praying, and a heart-based piety. I also wish that our churches in America could learn to relax their sense of time in worship like our Cameroonian congregations. Is sixty minutes really sufficient to do everything that a community of faith needs to do to praise God, encounter Christ in Scripture, and be empowered by the Spirit? As we visited several church services, I was reminded that our sixty-minute worship hour often acts like a straitjacket on the Spirit. I’m not talking about three hour marathon services; but can we not relax about going ten minutes long in church because some people need extra prayer, or because the sermon is particularly interesting? Cameroonian Methodists don’t get into a snit about the length of their service; two hours seems about right to them.

12. Lots of people could be doing what I’m doing. And should be. In my previous post, I admitted that I didn’t like the word “missionary.” Now I would like to go one step further and argue that there ought to be a lot more pastors agreeing to pastor anywhere in the world, a lot more youth leaders and medical doctors and children’s educators who agree to take their life calling anywhere in the world where it is needed. If the United Methodist Church is truly a global church, then perhaps we ought to chuck the idea of “local pastors” and “local appointments,” because the world is our local appointment! Why should we put borders around our conferences and ask our bishops to limit their field of vision to the churches inside those borders? Perhaps it would make a lot of common sense to send our big-steeple, smooth-talking, silver-tongued pastors to serve appointments in Lithuania, or Congo, or New Orleans every now and then. Let’s get rid of the “career-ladder” in the UMC, model a new way of doing things for the rest of our upwardly-mobile world, and become extremely creative in our appointments.

Maybe I’m talking to you now. Hey, the world is SMALL! You can hop on a plane and be anywhere you need to be in a day’s time. You can start your language lessons at any point; find a website and start now.

To be a living human being in the 21st century means to be a global citizen. So why not become a global minister? … (OK, I’ll get down from the soapbox now.)