May the peace of the Lord be with you all as we come to the end of a particularly unusual year and begin a new one filled with hope and promise. Together, we have felt the increased demand of leading and caring for others through crisis, loss, grief, and uncertainty. Together, we have shared our stories, prayed and cried together, and found innovative ways to continue to hold firm to the Rock of our Salvation, Jesus.
Innovating Through Pastor Care
Even before the pandemic, the North American church was experiencing an overwhelming and growing number of pastors who chose to leave ministry, citing internal and external pressures for their decisions to abandon what they once perceived as their divine calling. The pandemic has only caused this trend to accelerate.
We believe a sustainable future for the Free Methodist Church must include pastoral care that addresses the whole person and provides opportunities for professional and interpersonal growth. We continue to prioritize investing in and caring for our pastors so that they may, with healthy lives and whole families, continue to lead healthy and whole churches that produce God honoring fruit.
Innovating Through Growth
No matter what circumstances the church is facing, making disciples is our mission. Preparing spiritual disciples and disciple-makers who have embraced the values of the Free Methodist Church and who demonstrate a personal transformation in keeping with the expectations of an Elder of the church as outlined in scripture is essential work for all seasons in ministry. Therefore, in cooperation with our Ministerial Education and Guidance Chairs, our partnership with our seminary, and the wisdom of godly competent leaders among us, we will continue to explore and implement innovative ways to provide the most holistic ministerial development pathway we can for our ordinands while keeping in step with the denominational priorities identified for us.
The Superintendent Team is committed to preparing our pastors and Conference for multiplication. Multiplication is a value that we have been working to live into for decades and now is the time to make another strategic investment in its progress. We recognize God has called each of our pastors with a specific vision and mission in their setting and we want each to learn how to be effective in both living that mission out and advancing and expanding it by making it transferable to others.
To this end, we are excited to announce a partnership with Pastor Mike Chong Perkinson, the new lead pastor at Lamb’s Fellowship Lake Elsinore, and the Praxis Center for Church Development. Through a series of webinars, seminars, and mentoring sessions, we will develop and coach church leaders and planters to fruitful ministry and the formation of a “farm system” that feeds this multiplication process for years to come.
We are excited about the coming year and the work before us. The calling to lead people into a life-changing experience with Christ never stops, no matter the circumstances. Together we will continue to minister to those in our care and work to reach the lost and disciple them well. In all of this, we will find rest for our souls in Christ, celebrate and grieve with one another, and encourage each other to love and good work in Christ, for the sake of the world.
Innovating Through Community Partnerships
Throughout this global pandemic, many of our current global partners, including Empowering Lives International, Eden Reforestation, and Heavenly Treasures, have found ways to continue to thrive and see the Kingdom of God grow. They are stellar examples of Kingdom building with remarkable, adaptive leadership making the most of every opportunity, and churches who continue, through God’s grace, to support and give to these ministries.
We also celebrate our local ministries—notably the Dream Center in Lake Elsinore and Black Sheep Harley Davidson—who continue to lead us in the example of what the Church must do at such a time as this. They remind us that we must constantly be in our communities, building networks that are not dependent on our facilities to do ministry. As we continue to invest in and learn from these ministries, we also want to encourage our local churches to consider how they can develop practical social ministries that can play a vital role in their communities both during and post-COVID.
Innovating Through Responsive Leadership
We have been greatly encouraged by the work of our Board of Bishops during this season as well. They have recognized the need for the church to be more responsive and better able to meet real needs of those we serve around the world. The Bishops are leading conversations about how they intend to respond to the challenges within our conferences across the country by making essential shifts in structure to further our mission to Love God, Love People, and Make Disciples. Potential changes include evaluating a reorganization of the national Annual Conference system and the clarification and implementation of our core values within our leadership structures at all levels. We will keep you posted on this development as it unfolds, but we are expecting that within the next 12-18 months we will have a need to pivot in the Free Methodist Church in Southern California.
With this in mind and based on our experience and history within our conference, the Superintendent Team, in cooperation with our Bishop, recently proposed that our conference begin preparing for a move to return to a single leader model for our Conference. The Board of Administration was also supportive and we will be working through evaluations and plans to that end to correspond to the completion of our terms in 2022.
We will share more about this at Annual Conference 2021 (AC21), but in the meantime, one immediate step toward this objective is transitioning Superintendent Glen Prior to a stationed role equivalent to Superintendents Charles and Fraser. Together, the three of us will continue to prioritize the work of pastoral care and wholeness, leadership development and multiplication as we lead our conference mission to love God, love people, and make disciples ever forward. At Annual Conference the Bishop will call a Superintendent Search committee together which will identify the next leader for the Free Methodist Church in Southern California. We will be talking more fully about this in the coming months.
We continue to be excited for the work of our conference knowing that together we will make a kingdom difference by listening and caring for one another and the people God has called us to serve. Beloved of God, we are so grateful for all of you and honored to serve among you.
May the Lord bless you and keep you in all you do.