Pastor's Report for Queen Street UMC (2007)

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

I offer the above phrase, the motto of the Theological School of Drew University, as my personal mission statement. I am privileged to employ my gifts and talents among the United Methodists on Queen Street in Kinston, North Carolina. As a relative newcomer to the almost century old ministry of this church I am a period of continuous learning about our mission. Currently it is stated as: Being and Making Disciples of Christ in the Heart of Kinston. As I ponder our future together, I am piecing together the original dream for our church – a dream that placed our sanctuary on the outer edge of Kinston in 1911. The strong statement of building the largest sanctuary of any kind east of Raleigh conveys a tremendous vision, a vision that has over the intervening decades faded from view.

In the coming year we will be putting a team together to help us pray through a process of uncovering God’s dream for the people called Methodist on Queen Street. As we do this we will be paying attention to the leading of our Bishop, Al Gwinn, who is inviting every church in our conference to consider becoming an “ACTS 2 Church.” This involves paying special attention to the following: Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Spiritual Formation, and Risk-Taking Mission and Ministry to the World. Below is his challenge:
  • … by the Annual Conference of 2008 I want us to be able to identify, by name, 200 Acts 2 Churches in this conference! Churches that have all four of these qualities functioning well in the life of the Body. Churches that have decided to reach the lost, the unchurched, the de-churched – to reach children, youth, Hispanics and Latinos – not counting the cost or sacrifice involved.
  • Churches that have prayer-based, Spirit-filled, quality worship services. By the way, our 2005 statistics also show that our average Sunday morning worship attendance is down 2,796 persons! That fact should cause us to ask ourselves several serious questions about how we do worship, what we are or are not teaching about commitment and if real relationships actually exist.
  • By 2008 we will name 200 churches that are teaching their members to go deeper and not just wider. Churches that are serious about every member being in small groups where they are supported, encouraged and challenged to grow in Christ. Churches that are helping their members understand the gifts of the Spirit and the role of those gifts in building up the Body of Christ. Churches that forge strong, full partnerships between the clergy and laity. Churches that want a leader to equip and empower them and not do their ministry for them. Churches that want to be challenged and not coddled.
  • In 2008 we want to name 200 churches that are risk-takers in attacking poverty, seeking justice, caring for the needy – eager to give a hand-up and not just a hand-out.
– Bishop Al Gwinn, The State of the Church Address, Annual Conference 2006

As part of that work I offer the following as areas of emphasis for my ministry:
  • Creating a welcoming space and a caring team to work with children and youth;
  • Lead us in a disciplined approach to adult spiritual formation that challenges every baptized and professing member to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
  • Create a systematic model for reaching out into the community to invite persons into our community of faith and helping them become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
  • Continue refining our systems of congregational care to include the formation and training of a new congregational care team.
I challenge our church to remember with Paul that the work of a pastor is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (see Ephesians 4:11). I remain committed to setting each of us free for ministry in this place. I thank God for the way Jacob Mewborn invites God’s Spirit into our worship life together. I give thanks for Teresa Smith and Sandra Thompson for providing valuable assistance to the administrative life of our church. There are numerous saints who offer themselves in powerful ways as we seek “to become all things to all people so that by all means some might be saved” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

Pastor's Column in the September Newsletter

Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Greetings in the Name of Jesus Christ – the One Who Is, the One Who Was, and the One Who Is to Come!

As Labor Day begins to call summer to a close, I invite us to refocus our divergent energies in the coming weeks on three things: worship, fellowship, and service. Many of you already know that one of my measures for our spiritual maturity is our regular participation in worship, involvement in a fellowship group, and commitment to show the love of God to others in service. I hope the rest of this newsletter provides you with activities that will help you deepen your love of God and neighbor.

I will be leading our Wednesday night Bible study on how scripture describes a healthy congregation. This will be a time for fellowship as we pay attention to what God has done for the his children and what God is dreaming for our life together.

I invite you to join me in helping unload the truck from the Food Bank of Eastern North Carolina on Thursday, September __. Last month I enjoyed handing folks a case of bottled water while saying “God loves you and so do I.” I anticipate another time of service with our “Hand in Hand” project at Southeast Elementary on Thursday, September 28. Meet me at 9:45 AM at the church and we will drive over together and read to the preschoolers and kindergarteners of Southeast. Can you imagine the smiles that will come across your face as you help someone develop an appreciation for the written word?

Worship, fellowship, service is a formula for spiritual maturity. I hope you find that “worship plus two” helps you learn to love God and your neighbor in a special way.

Grace and Peace, Allen Bingham

P.S. I dearly love the opportunities to meet you in your home or at a favorite eating spot to learn about each other. Contact Sandra Thompson at the church office or email me at to make an appointment.

Expectations of Leaders for Queen Street Church

Our work is providing spiritual leadership to our congregation. We treat our work and each other with respect.

Our leadership is lived out individually by our regular participation in a life of worship, fellowship, and service (worship plus two) and by making a financial pledge (a forward looking commitment) to the church.

In our conversations together we will ...
  • Focus on issues and behaviors, not personalities.
  • Seek to focus our attention on describing the situation rather than evaluating the situation.
  • State an opinion and "own it" by saying "this is my opinion." In my experience the number of people described by phrase "some people are saying" is usually about 3.
  • Share all the information we need to make a decision and not withhold our opinion or information to share with the "parking lot committee" at another time.
  • In our church council meetings we will ...
  • Understand that, as a rule, there are no emergencies in church life. Decisions are best made in a prayerful and deliberate manner. In my experience this has usually meant praying over a decision for at least several days.
  • Understand that disagreements will emerge.
  • State our disagreements openly in private and stand together in public.
  • Support the decisions of the church council whether it reflects our personal views or not
I will lead by ...
  • Engaging us with the world by reading books and articles that are not overtly Christian.
  • Engaging us in the Word by reading the Bible together in a disciplined way (to be determined in the coming weeks).
  • "Hunching" when I have not done the homework and showing you the data when I have.
  • Challenge us to live out Matthew 18 when inevitable conflicts emerge.

Healthy Congregations Task Force Report to the 2007 NC Annual Confernce

Below are the pieces of the Healthy Congregations Task Force to the 2007 session of the North Carolina Annual Conference. Since I was not able to join this task force's preliminary work I hesitate to criticize the report. It was a valiant effort by some key leaders to get us focused on the congregational systems and not just clergy leadership. Ideally local congregations will take the healthy church assessment, be challenged by the accompanying bible study, and develop a Ministry Action Plan to implement what is learned by the congregations. The piece that is missing is how the broader church and the congregational leadership (clergy and lay) hold each other accountable to the plan's implementation.

Find the appropriate resource below:
  1. Healthy Congregations Report
  2. Healthy Congregations Assessment
  3. Healthy Congregations Bible Study
  4. Healthy Congregations Ministry Action Plan

Congregational Development Report to the 2007 NC Annual Conference

The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2004 states that the
“mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ,” and that “local churches provide the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs.” The North Carolina Conference has taken seriously this charge, as we continue to lead most conferences in professions of faith, new membership, and worship attendance growth.

It is the function of the Commission on Congregational Development, and the associated Office of Congregational Development, to aid congregations and their lay and clergy leaders in creating strong and effective churches. Annually, new churches, and older churches of all sizes, are assisted with vision and mission planning, staff development, lay and clergy leadership development, building committee organization, and evangelism and outreach instruction. Each year about 100 churches are assisted, most of them small membership in size, and this was again the case in 2006. The Office of Congregational Development continues to provide through its annual contract with Percept Group, Inc., up-to-date community demographic data, accessible on-line and without cost, to all local churches (

In a little more than a decade, about 40 new churches have been started within the bounds of the North Carolina Conference. These churches have been started in city settings, growing suburban communities, and rural communities. Membership in these new churches includes persons who are affluent, middle class, and poor, Anglo, Hispanic, African-American, Korean, Native American, and Asian. Although not all of the new church projects initiated have been successful, the newest churches in the North Carolina Conference continue to lead the way in membership growth.

After a season of prayerful reflection we are moving again with new church launches as we celebrate the formation of Shepherd’s House in Durham and Greater Heights in East Clayton. In the coming conference year we anticipate launching new churches in the Raleigh, Fayetteville, and Wilmington districts.

We celebrate with the A Time to Grow funding initiative and the Congregational Development Fund, Inc. the creation of the Academy for Leadership Excellence with the hiring of Dr. Irene Brownlee as the executive director. The quiet efforts of laity and clergy to the A Time to Grow campaign continues to identify laity whose generosity with their wealth, combined with their belief in the value of strong churches and effective church leaders, will advance and strengthen local church ministry and new church planting ministry in the North Carolina Conference. To date, about $1.6 million has been committed by North Carolina Conference laity.

The Ten Dollar Club is administered by the Office of Congregational Development. The Club’s loyal members continue to provide funding to underwrite grants to new churches for land purchase and first building construction. Each year, one grant is made to assist in the establishment of a new church outside of the U.S. In 2006 and 2007, grants were made to build a new church and to put roofs on others new churches in Zimbabwe, in cooperation with ZOE Ministry.

Allen Bingham, Chairperson
Stephen C. Compton, Executive Director, Office of Congregational Development

Pastor's Column in the June Newsletter

Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Cindy, Ann, William, and I thank you all for the season of mission and ministry we have shared together in over the past four years. Along the way we have learned many valuable lessons, made a few mistakes, and developed lasting friendships in the body of Christ. On June 24, my last Sunday as your pastor, we will have communion together. The breaking of the bread and sharing in the cup is for me one of the best ways that the church marks its unity. In sharing in the same loaf and same juice we are made one with each other and one with a great company of witnesses throughout all time and space.

As I am leaving this place I commend one last activity for your spiritual growth. Twenty years ago I read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline for the first time. Foster’s book on the inward, outward, and corporate disciplines of the followers of Jesus grabbed my attention. Since then I have devoured every book that Foster has written and learned more of God with each bite! Out of this reading comes a passion for Renovare, the organization he leads. On July 28 we will be hosting a Renovare conference featuring two presenters, James Bryan Smith and Glandion Carney – these guys dwell deeply in the spirit life with our God. During this daylong retreat you will be introduced to the six spiritual streams of living water from which Christians drink. They are:
  • Holiness – The Virtuous Life
  • Social Justice – The Compassionate Life
  • Evangelical – The Word-Centered Life
  • Incarnational – The Sacramental Life
  • Charismatic – The Spirit-Empowered Life
  • Contemplative – The Prayer-Filled Life
You will probably find a spiritual home in one of these movements, but all are commendable in your walk with Christ. Perhaps the greatest part of this day will be the invitation to join a small group in pursuing each of these spiritual disciplines for several weeks following our retreat. I cannot wait to hear what great things God will unleash among the people called Methodist in Pinehurst after this event.

I look forward to breaking bread together in the coming weeks … bless be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.

Grace & Peace, Allen

Pastor's Column in the May Newsletter

Greetings in the Name of Jesus Christ --
The One Who Is, the One Who Was, and the One Who Is to Come!

Recently our church members received the news that in consultation with our Bishop Al Gwinn and our District Superintendent Jerry Lowry, I accepted an appointment to Queen Street United Methodist Church in Kinston, North Carolina. As I shared with the congregation at that time it was through prayer and a clear sense of God's calling that Cindy and I were able to consider and ultimately accept this appointment.

I want to add that Cindy and I continued throughout this process to dream God's dreams for Pinehurst UMC. I remain excited about what God is continuing to do in this place:
  • We celebrated with three Duke interns their ministry among us and wished them Godspeed on their journeys.
  • We celebrate the addition of Rev. Emil Johnson as our Minister of Membership to assist in welcoming newcomers to our church and help them find a home in the body of Christ at Pinehurst UMC.
  • We celebrate the addition of Shirley Baldwin, RN as our Congregational Nurse. Shirley is already working with members of the church to provide wellness programming as well as visiting those who desire her assistance in paying attention to their individual needs.
  • We anticipate the arrival of Rachel Doboney on May 20 as a Duke intern for this summer. We also celebrate that a family has already offered a portion of their home for Rachel to live in for the summer.
  • We anticipate the Renovare Spiritual Renewal Conference coming to our church on Saturday July 28. The planning team has set a goal of over 200 persons in attendance from among our membership and from other churches in the area. James Bryan Smith and Glandion Carney will bring their winsome personalities here and invite to take a deeper walk with Jesus Christ on daily basis.
  • We anticipate training Peg Walsh as a Stephen Leader to join a team committed to training Stephen Ministers for our congregation later this fall. We also anticipate the unknown persons who will respond to a call from God to become Stephen Ministers.
  • We anticipate a new addition to our building which will allow us to expand our programming for children, youth, and adults. The building committee, chaired by Ed Geoghegan with Mary Sayers as vice-chair and Holly McDow as secretary, is already making good progress.
Over the coming weeks we will have moments to laugh and cry together as our family departs from the role of pastor of this church. When I arrived here I invited you all to call me by my baptized name of "Allen" as a reminder that as baptized Christian we had a new relationship to each other. Over the years, often in the midst of moments of tension, I reminded us that this baptismal relationship means that "water is thicker than blood." And so I remind you again that in Christ we always remain sisters and brothers together in ministry to a broken world.

Cindy, Ann, William, and I will miss being part of Pinehurst UMC, but know that our friendship in Jesus Christ never ends. We thank you for allowing us to joyfully pursue the connecting and transforming power of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as we have worshipped, fellowshipped, and served together.

Grace and Peace, Allen

Pastor's Column in the April Newsletter

Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
Greetings in the Name of the One Who Is, the One Who Was, and the One Who Is to Come!

Bill Bryson wrote a fascinating book called The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America. One chapter in the book describes his visit to the home of Mark Twain in Hannibal, Missouri. Bryson paid his two dollars to walk around the “trim, white-washed house with green shutters… set incongruously in the middle of downtown.” Bryson found himself disappointed and expressed his disillusionment like this:
“It purported to be a faithful reproduction of the original interiors, but there were wires and water sprinklers clumsily evident in every room. I also very much doubt that young Samuel Clemens’ bedroom had Armstrong vinyl on the floor or that his sister’s bedroom had a plywood partition in it.”
He said that the house, which is owned by the city of Hannibal, attracts some 135,000 visitors each year. But Bryson was disappointed that he was not able to actually go inside the house. “You look through the windows,” he says. “At each window there is a recorded message telling about each room.”

As he proceeded from window to window, he met another tourist who seemed to know a lot about the house. Bryson asked him: “What do you think of it?” The friendly stranger replied:
“Oh, I think it’s great. I always come here when I’m in Hannibal… two or three times a year. Sometimes I go out of my way to come here."

Bill Bryson was fascinated, “Really?” he replied. “O yes,” the man said. “I must have been here twenty or thirty times by now. This is a real shrine you know.”
As the two of them continued walking and touring together, Bill Bryson said to the man:
“You must be a real fan and follower of Mark Twain. Would you say the house is just like Mark Twain described it in his books?”

“O, I don’t know,” said the tourist… “wouldn’t have the foggiest notion. I’ve never read any of his books!”
Visiting the shrine, but ignoring the books. Unfortunately, this is often a metaphor for what happens for many Christians ... we visit the shrine of the open tomb, but do not allow ourselves to experience the new life it affords.

We have spent the spring of this year reacquainting ourselves with God's story in scripture and noting how we find ourselves in that story. Earlier we paid attention to developing God's momentum for each of our lives. In the coming months I pray that you will find yourself living in a fresh way within God's great unfolding story, a story that turned in our favor forever when God raised Jesus from the grave on third day!

Grace and Peace, Allen

Pastor's Column in the March Newsletter

Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Greetings in the Name of the Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior!

Maxie Dunnam, dean of Asbury Seminary, once suggested we respond to these two questions. One, if you get to where you're going, will you be where you want to be? Two, if you find what you're looking for, what else will you need to make you happy? Let those questions tumble around in your mind for a moment. If you get to where you're going, will you be where you want to be? If you find what you're looking for, what else will you need to make you happy? These are life questions. They force us to examine the direction of our life, our priorities, what we think will make us happy.

As I seek to answer these two questions I turn to Scripture for answers. Recently I worked at these questions and found myself wrestling with Brian McLaren’s novel The Story We Find Ourselves In: Further Adventures of a New Kind of Christian (J-B Leadership Network Series) (Book 2). The hero of the novel, Neo, lays out in several settings and changing audiences the broad narrative of scripture and our place in that story. This Lent we will be walking through Scripture to discover how God’s story is lived out in our midst. It seems to me that the ultimate answers to Maxie Dunnam’s questions lie in knowing what God’s answers are for where we are going and what will make us happy. Come join us for an extended conversation about the story we find ourselves in.

Grace & Peace, Allen