Every year representatives from each United Methodist Church in downstate Illinois gather for worship, prayer, fellowship, and discernment. Below is a post from Bishop Frank Beard looking forward to sharing stories about God's work in our churches at this year's conference:
It’s a celebration!
“Celebrate good times, come on!”
The speakers were thumping out Kool and the Gang’s super hit, Celebrate, and I was dancing on my roller skates in perfect rhythm with the music. Yes, I was singing and screaming the lyrics too:
“There's a party goin' on right here
A celebration to last throughout the years
So bring your good times, and your laughter too
We gonna celebrate your party with you, celebrate good times, come on!”
One of the blessings of this job is getting to travel around the Annual Conference and to be a part of the many services of celebration. Some services are formal with much liturgy and others are relaxed but reverent. I enjoy taking part in each of these services because they act as a reminder of God’s faithfulness. Each church has its own unique story of God’s intervention and provision at a crucial point in time.
Often folks share a key individual, couple or family that God used to become a major blessing to the growth and development of that congregation. It is amazing to hear stories of how folks sensed the tug of the Holy Spirit upon their hearts and lives. Because of their faithful response and obedience others can now stand on the legacy of faithfulness that they laid.
Celebrations and services of remembrance should not be limited to special days alone. Each Sunday should be a time of festivity and thanksgiving as we remember what Jesus Christ has accomplished. Joy and happiness should be evident as we gather for worship. Our enthusiasm should be contagious. The word that comes to my mind is “fire.”
Our churches should be on fire for Jesus! Fire has many characteristics and traits that are applicable to the church. I’ve never seen a fire that failed to attract a crowd. Perhaps the downturn in some of our churches is a result of our not allowing the Holy Spirit to stoke the fire.
The IGRC is a great place to serve! As I travel throughout our episcopal area I am amazed at what God has done and what God is doing in and through our churches and institutions. I’ve attended anniversary services in churches that regularly worship under thirty and churches that worship over three hundred. Each church has many reasons to celebrate and offer thanksgiving for God’s amazing grace and steadfast love displayed over several years.
Perhaps we should do as the old song advises, “count your blessings name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” As we recount the blessings of God and proclaim the wonderful works of Jesus, a divine spark should kindle a fire within our hearts. As we lift the Lord and exalt his name, I believe, folks will be attracted to the flames.
In just a couple of weeks we will gather for our Annual Conference. I encourage you to come prepared to share your church stories with one another. It’s okay to brag on God and to tell others, even those within the family connection, what the Lord is doing in your church and community. Maybe if we spend more time accentuating the positive, we can stop focusing on the negative.
My heart longs for the fire of revival to be kindled in the IGRC. I have witnessed, first hand, pockets of renewal being fed by celebrations all over our Conference. Instead of returning to “business as usual” the week after the celebration services have concluded perhaps we should find ways to keep the fires burning.
My dancing on roller skate days are most likely over, but I can try and inspire others through sharing my personal testimony and experiences. I can still celebrate, offer thanksgiving, and pray for others to have their own hearts to become warmed by the touch of the Lord Jesus Christ. I could provide funds for roller blades for some young kids so that they can have their own experience and gain a story to tell. I can brag on God’s goodness and faithfulness and hopefully create a hunger within others that will cause them to seek a personal encounter with Jesus. As they seek and find the Lord they will have their own reason to join in the celebration.
The best days of the IGRC and of your church don’t have to be in the rearview mirror. God is still able to light fires and kindle sparks of hope. I celebrate because I know that I serve a God that can start fires anywhere, even on wet wood.
In my head and my heart, I’m still skating, “Celebrate good times, come on!”
Bishop Beard's post first appeared at http://www.igrc.org/blogpostsdetail/8309431