Remember how nothing happened at General Conference? Turns out, they made a change to the process for those seeking ordination. They will need to present, “a project that demonstrates fruitfulness in carrying out the church’s mission.”
We’ve talked fruitfulness before. You will recall that a fruitful program not only has critical mass of people participating but also furthers the mission. A Bible study with one participant or a cha-cha dance class with 50 people may meet one but not the other. Fruitfulness requires both.
So if we require this of our provisional elders (they’re no longer on probation) why don’t we expect this of all of our clergy and all of our churches? What if all nearly 800 churches in our Conference took on the challenge to be fruitful? What if each one found a need in the community that wasn’t being met and did something about it?
What if our District Superintendents held their congregations accountable and set a very real expectation that this be done?
Because really, what is there to do in the church that is more important that fruitful ministry?
I think part of this will be what churches say kept them from doing it. Because I don’t think there is a single church in a community without a need. Ask a middle school guidance counselor, they’ll give you a whole laundry list.
You’ll hear that there isn’t enough money, volunteer time, young people or any other asset in the church. I respond that the reason you don’t have these things may very well be because you’re not fruitful.
I’m not saying changes may not be necessary. The Ladies Tea that ties up Fellowship Hall all day for two ladies to have tea may need to moved. You may have to have a real conversation with your members about financial support to give you some breathing room. The Trustee who insists the building must never get dirty may need to be thanked for his years of service and “promoted” to another position.
I think it’s only fair that if we tell our potential new clergy that they don’t meet our standards unless they can be fruitful that we have at least the same expectation for ourselves and current clergy.
More information about Fruitfulness can be found in the book by Lovett Weems and Tom Berlin.
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