Thursday, April 26, 2012

Change is Coming

This summer will be a time of change in The Wesleyan Church. Our denomination's general conference will be held in June. There will be a vote taken that would change the administrative structure of our organization. In fact, the change that is being voted on has been piloted for the past two years at our headquarters. The General Board of Administration (GBA) has given oversight to this process. The restructuring has been significant and many departments have experienced downsizing and responsibility shifts.

A big change administratively is in the office of General Superintendent. Until recently, we have had three GS's who have given direction to the general church. The new proposal calls for one GS. I recall suggesting years ago that we move in that direction so that we could have a singular voice that proclaims, "This is the direction that God has for us as a church" - a sort of "Thus saith the Lord" of the prophets. The pilot program we have run has had one of the three GS's serve as the lead GS with the other two serving as administrators over other departments. If the vote this summer ratifies the change, then we will have one GS, and fewer other general directors that would be a part of the administrative team. I know I've oversimplified the total picture, but I think you get the idea.

Ok, here is where I am struggling (even though I was championing something like this a few years ago!). The key (I think) to having one GS is for that person to truly possess apostolic gifts. The individual must be able to see the bigger picture of the church and be able to correctly discern the will of the Lord for the church as a whole. The person must be a respected leader who has a proven track record of empowering other leaders and unifying them in the mission of the church. The leader needs to be able to see that the purpose of the general church is to cast overall vision and direction, keeping the general church on task. At the same time the leader must recognize that the real strength of the church is at the local level - the front line of the battle for the souls of men.

Our delegates to the general conference have a major responsibility this summer. It may be our most significant general conference since the merger of The Wesleyan Methodist and Pilgrim Holiness churches in 1968 - the result of which is The Wesleyan Church. While much of our organization is board-run (there are those who would argue that the GBA has more authority than a GS), we desperately need a leader who will help us keep the main thing the main thing: fulfilling the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment. We must have a leader who is accountable to the whole (a role of the GBA) and yet be strong enough to lead and not be a puppet of a board or committee. 

I have friends to say that it doesn't matter who the leader is in Indianapolis - that the real decision-makers and leaders are at the district level.  I agree with that to a point.  The strength of our denomination really is at the district level.  But at the same time, someone will be elected this summer who will be the "face of the franchise" so to speak.  This person will represent us on many levels.  This person will network us with others who are of like persuasion to engage in cooperative efforts.  This individual must be able to speak with authority on behalf of the church and to communicate our mission with clarity and conviction.  Much like the early Church, we need a James or Peter or Paul who leads us boldly where no one has gone before! (Sorry for the obvious Star Trek reference - what do you want?  Engage?)

I will be praying for our delegates to this conference. May politics give way to purpose, and may we gain direction and strength that comes from the work of the Holy Spirit.  As John Wesley himself said, "You have nothing to do but win souls." I pray that will be the real focus of our denomination in the years to come!

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