Times of transition can terrify, particularly if you are the person called to lead people through them. Greatness also can arise from such times, however.
In today’s story we see Solomon as a young king, ascending to the throne following the death of his father, King David. Solomon was far from perfect, and would remain that way throughout his rule, with a particular tendency to make sacrifices in various places and eventually even allow other gods to compete with the one true God.
And yet, he made one brilliant decision early in his kingship, even though he was in the midst of doing what God really did not want him to do, worshiping away from Jerusalem. As he sacrificed at the most prominent “high place,” Gibeon, God came to Solomon in a dream and opened the door for the young king to request anything.
Oh, the possibilities! Military might could always be useful to a king. Or even better, a great treasury would put anything within reach: armies, the best weapons, the finest cities, the most comfortable life imaginable. What to request? What to seek directly from the hand of God?
Instead of relying on external signs of support, however, Solomon sought something internal, a gift to keep him in constant alignment with God’s will. He asked for what we traditionally describe as “wisdom,” the ability to discern good from evil so God’s people would always be led in the right direction.
Discernment of God’s will is the starting point for all of us. Solomon shouldered the burden of leadership mostly alone; we are blessed in that we can function as a community, seeking God’s guidance via the Holy Spirit as we come together as a church.
You may or may not be aware that Luminary has been experimenting with a new leadership structure this year. Twelve members and the church staff work together to replace the traditional Methodist system of multiple scattered committees. The primary role of the Church Leadership Council is discernment, the seeking of God’s guidance for the direction of Luminary UMC.
We have had monthly meetings and a day-long retreat in search of guidance from God about where we go next as a church. Eight months into this experiment, we have a few suggestions. And they are suggestions, not mandates. If the whole church cannot share a common vision for where we are going, then these suggestions will all be pointless.
Suggestion No. 1: We need to simplify our vision and mission statements. One thing we discovered early on was that no one could remember the current vision for the church. Instead, try this:
Our Mission: To draw people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:19-20)
If we can agree on those as biblically inspired, what comes next is a refined understanding of how we execute our mission. We need to focus our energy like a laser, trying to do a few specific activities very well. This understanding leads to two more suggestions:
Suggestion No. 2: Establish a system of small groups. Your CLC wrestled with this because we know it will be hard to do. We’re talking about a specific kind of small group, where about eight people pursue mission or discipleship together while also sharing mutual, loving accountability. Because this involves a change in church culture, we know the risk of failure is fairly high.
If we are successful, however, we would begin to function in a biblical, healthy way. Churches who make this transition successfully begin to reach the unchurched with the message of Christ at an astounding pace, doing great work for the kingdom. The small groups over time would become the basis for all our mission and evangelism efforts.
Suggestion No. 3: Establish an outreach ministry aimed at local children in need, and ultimately, their entire families. We can see from our demographic study of our parish that the need in this area is high. We already have a small team working on a pilot project for this fall, and we hope that pilot will turn into a big program for next summer. If you want to involve yourself in this effort, let me know.
We as a church have to talk about all of this quite a bit more. You’re also going to hear your CLC making suggestions in areas that are more administrative in nature, with subjects like debt reduction and a plan to develop the second floor to support the execution of our mission. Next week, after the 11 a.m. worship service and a brief lunch, we’re going to reconvene in the sanctuary to talk about these suggestions in more detail.
As a church, let’s remember that Solomon’s choice to first and foremost seek God’s will pleased God. Because Solomon first sought discernment, God also granted him the riches and honor most people would tend to seek. May we as Luminary United Methodist Church also be blessed in surprising ways as we first seek God’s will for all we do.