"The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love." (Ephesians 4:11-16)
It may well be that we have no more important task than to discern the gifts of women and men for Christian service in the world. Raising future leaders is what The United Methodist Church is all about. Laity and clergy alike – deacons, elders, licensed local pastors, certified lay ministers, lay servants and lay speakers, and well-equipped laity volunteers – the whole people of God, gifted for Christian service.
The Wisconsin Conference needs to cultivate a culture of call. Not all calls are to ordained ministry, but ordained ministry is critically important. I issue a challenge to every clergy and laity member of our Annual Conference: LOOK for the gifts for ordained ministry in your young people (and your not so young people). Prayerfully discern, “Could this person become a pastor?” It is part of our history and heritage that clergy and laity identify and affirm those who are gifted to the sacred functions of Word, Order, Sacrament, and Service. We need more gifted leaders to take us into the future.
Prayerfully discern: “What gifts for ministry do I see in the women and men who worship in this congregation?” Lay leadership is central to the life of United Methodism. The ministry of the Church is not limited to what happens in our buildings, but what happens in our buildings should equip everyone to use their God-given gifts in Christian service in our everyday living.
Prayerfully discern: “Am I using what God has given me in the very best possible way?” Christian vocation is not a career or occupation. Christian vocation is an ongoing and outward expression of WHO WE ARE. All of us are gifted. All of us are called. All of us have opportunities to discern and do the will of God. There is no such thing as a “passive disciple.” The more fully that we embrace and live into our discipleship, the more of ourselves we give to God. And trust me, God will use everything that we choose to give. There is no end to God’s abundant grace, and no end to God’s desire for us to serve.
To reach new people, to spread the gospel, to strengthen and revitalize existing ministries, and to serve the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed requires effective leadership. It is a sacred task to raise up a new generation of spiritually grounded, well-equipped, God-gifted leadership for the Church today and tomorrow. This is not a suggestion, not an option. To become the Church God wants us to be, we need to discover, develop, and deploy the best possible leaders that we have. This job belongs to us all, everyone’s responsibility.
Look around. Pray. Seek the gifts you and others possess. And wherever you find the fingerprints of God’s Holy Spirit, offer affirmation and invitation. We are not simply believers. We are not simply followers. We are ministers “one in Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.” Thanks be to God.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).