Pastor's Report for Pinehurst UMC (2003)

dorean elabote, dorean dote. Given Gifts – Give Gifts. (Matthew 10:8b).

I offer this phrase, the motto of the Theological School of Drew University, as my mission statement. As a person called by God and ordained an elder in The United Methodist Church, I am privileged to employ my gifts among the Methodists – both saints and sinners – of Pinehurst, North Carolina.

As a newcomer to this community of faith, I can only limited observations about our life together. I celebrate the spirit of God that is evident in the body of Christ here in Pinehurst and pray that we will continue to lean into God’s future for this church. I find myself learning a new style of working among the God’s people. Scripturally I find myself challenged by Paul to live into his call for the pastor “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (see Ephesians 4:11). I am committed to setting each of us free for ministry in this place. To this end I am trying to spend more time with God and others in prayer and discernment about what God is already doing in the Sandhills and how we can respond to that call. As I seek to know Jesus more and the details of the church’s life less I sometimes like I am just muddling through. In those moments I find strength in the apostle Paul’s willingness “to become all things to all people so that by all means some might be saved” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

I recently reviewed Albert Outler’s in (1996). Albert Outler noted that our task in ministry is always three-fold (see pp. 65-66): (1) announcing the coming of Christ (see Mark 16:15), (2) witnessing by our actions and words to God’s love (see Acts 1:8), and (3) living as servants together (see John 13). The problem for Outler’s day and our own is that often settle for living together in community and struggle with our announcing and witnessing ministries with the least, the last, and the lost of Jesus’ sisters and brothers. Rich Mullins reminds me that “faith without works is a song you can’t sing … it’s about as useless as a screen door on a submarine.” As we seek to enhance our fellowship together, let us never lose our resolve to reach out to the “Lost in America” beginning with the 20,000 persons who reside within 5 miles of this place (see Tom Clegg, Lost in America, 2001).

Our lay leadership development team comes to you offering a simpler slate of officers – a chance
for God to breathe fresh air into our predictability. In the coming year we will invite more folks to live into a model of ministry where calling, equipping, and sending sets the tempo for our life together. This will be a struggle as we move beyond our comfort zone to a passion driven and gift-based model for discerning and equipping each of us for the work of ministry. Expanding our current ministries has already brought other issues to light. Fifteen months after moving into this space we find ourselves expanding beyond the walls of existing classroom space and needing to invent and reinvent church school for young and old alike.

I cannot finish without a word of gratitude to Glenda Clendenin, Lucy Achuff, and Merry Glass who have helped me learn how to shuffle the paperwork and ride the unpredictable carousel of this church. They possess grace in uncertain moments, wisdom in the face of confusion, and confidence to tame my not so humble nature. To their names, I add the great blessing I receive from working with my colleagues Lovell and Barbara Aills, Jean Arthur, Bob and Inez Bundy, Bruce and Jean Carlson, Betsy Kugel, and Ronda and Eric Torres. Their wisdom goes with me to the broader Methodist connection where I serve as the chairperson of our conference’s Commission on Congregational Development and share in our conference’s visioning by sitting at the Conference Connectional Table. I especially give thanks for Cindy, Ann and William – my God-given family – they are God’s breath of fresh air every day. Finally, I am blessed to live and work among the saints and sinners of Pinehurst United Methodist Church.

Congregational Development Report to the 2003 NC Annual Conference

The commission supports our annual conference as we respond to Jesus’ challenge to be “my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Our response reflects the diversity of the people called United Methodists and the geography we are called to serve. Many of our congregations are deployed to serve rural communities and small towns that are being transformed before our eyes into urban and suburban centers. This is why about half of the people called Methodist in our annual conference now worship in just 120 of our 800+ churches that typically average 175 or more in worship each weekend.

In the next year we will challenge our conference to substantially increase our membership in the “Ten Dollar Club.” This 50 year old venture in our conference provides grants to start new ministries across the state and launch missions in other nations as well. We hold before the annual conference an ongoing goal of starting 5 new churches annually utilizing the resources made available from Ten Dollar Club moneys and other investments held by the commission. In the coming years this will require a greater commitment from the commission as we move to start new churches in areas where start-up costs are pushing beyond the reach of our current funding processes. To this end we are supporting the emerging work of the Congregational
Development Foundation, Inc. as it engages in a capital campaign that we hope will provide a ten-fold increase in the support to new faith communities.

As we ponder the changes in North Carolina’s cultural climate we are reminded of the challenge to reach people for Jesus Christ. Jesus’ commission to be witnesses “to the ends of the earth” remains, even as persons from “the ends of the earth” have moved into our neighborhood. We celebrate the growth in membership, and worship and Sunday school attendance in many of our churches. The Office of Congregational Development continues to consult with nearly 100 churches each year. The assistance provided includes demographic research, local consultations, training and planning services for existing congregations. We are excited about the Hispanic Circles of Ministry in Wake County and the launching of community ministry centers in the Rocky Mount District. These initiatives are in response to our bishop’s challenge to open 20 new faith communities in places affected poverty by the year 2004.

Again, the work of the Office and Commission on Congregational Development is varied as we seek to serve rural, small town, suburban and urban churches in various socio-economic situations and cultural traditions, offering to each one the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank you for your prayers and your support.

Wm. Allen Bingham, Chairperson