Life is often surprising and unpredictable. In the midst of all the chaos, there are still some things we can prepare for. There are some questions we can anticipate.
“Should the toilet paper roll over the top or from under the bottom?” (Over the top, no question.)
“Does it really matter if you squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom up or from the middle?” (Yes and for the love of all that’s decent, squeeze from the bottom up.)
“How much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” (Clearly as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood.)
“What can we, the congregation, do to support you as a pastor?” (insert rambling response here)
Inserting a rambling response is exactly what I did, when recently asked this very question. After rattling off a few generic thoughts directed toward helping me be more effective, my brain finally caught up with my mouth and I came to our United Methodist membership covenant. I shared my belief if we all (pastors and laity) lived out these promises, we’d be doing well.
So let me pretend I skipped the ramble and just started with the covenant stuff. I might have said something along these lines…
Those seeking to become members of the United Methodist Church do so in part by entering into a covenant with the local church. Prospective members promise to support the church with their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. Since covenant commitments are two-way streets, the church also pledges to support the prospective member with their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. Mutual. Accountable. Supportive. Challenging. Nurturing. Encouraging.
But what do I mean when I’m making and asking folks to make these commitments? What follows are a few of the ways I might articulate each part of the covenant.
- Prayers – Pray for the Church. For our church. For members and visitors and ministry. Pray for our mission. Pray for God’s will to be done. Pray for vision and leaders and followers. Pray for our neighborhood, our community, our cities, our world. Pray for yourself. Pray as the Spirit leads.
- Presence – Show up. At church. In the world. Be present with people. Share your life by simply being with others. Gather. Be. Listen.
- Gifts – Yes, your money. But more. Everything you are. Recognize your gifts and share them. Your time. Your talents. Your experiences. Your treasures, earthly and spiritual. Understand what you have has been given to be shared.
- Service – Discover and meet the needs of others. Volunteer. Lead. Follow. Work. Play. Share. Sacrifice. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
- Witness – Live a life that points people to Jesus. Use words that proclaim God’s goodness. Share the Good News in any and all ways you can.
“What can we, the congregation, do to support you as a pastor?”
“What can I do to be a better pastor?”
“What does it look like to live as a Christian?”
Prayers. Presence. Gifts. Service. Witness.
A good starting point for the way we might answer these questions and the way we might live together. How might you expand/revise/challenge the ways I’ve “defined” the pieces of this covenant?
Life is better together,