“Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” (John 14:11-14)
What will it take for the laity and clergy, congregations, and conference leadership of the Wisconsin Annual Conference to do “greater works” than Jesus? It seems preposterous on one level, but on another? It is what Jesus calls us to do — and by the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is our new reality.
There is some concern in our conference that we might not be in a good place financially. To be completely honest, we have spent down our reserves and we are experiencing a “cash flow” shortage in the immediate future. But that is only part of the story. Our Conference Council on Finance and Administration, with the support of the cabinet and Connectional Table, has developed a plan to reestablish a solid financial base upon which we will continue to do our ministry. We will move through this time of budgetary correction quickly and well. Our Conference Boards and Agencies hold more than $12 million dollars in funds invested with our Wisconsin Conference Foundation for the ongoing, long-term ministries. This is our current reality. The Wisconsin Conference is in excellent financial condition beyond the current day-to-day challenges.
This is why we are so confident that it is time to Launch Out! in faith, in new directions, to do “greater things” than we have ever done before. Launch Out! is not a way to “pay our bills,” but a way to take a giant leap of faith forward to fulfill our mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world.
Wisconsin — both the state and the Conference — is experiencing a massive paradigm shift. Our population is changing. We are moving from a predominantly “white” culture to a gloriously diverse multi-cultural reality. New opportunities for new faith contexts with new people are all around us. We need to invest — today — in the communities that will lead us into our future.
We have existing congregations that are poised for high-potential, community-changing/world-changing ministries across the conference. The revisioning, revitalization, and resourcing of existing ministries to “turn around” our decline and struggle is essential. We need to invest — today — in empowering our existing churches to do transformational ministry.
The needs to serve, support, and engage individuals, families, communities, cities, and towns are greater than ever, and as social structures are able to do less and less, it is imperative that the church do more and more. Mercy and justice ministries have never been more challenging, but there has never been a greater opportunity to make a difference. We need to invest — today — in Christian service and mission that gives hope, light, and life to the most needy and vulnerable in our world.
Launch Out! is about faith-raising, not just fund-raising. Money is not the point; ministry is. We have a beautiful opportunity to make a commitment to say, collectively, that we walk by faith, not by sight. Our future will be determined by what we have, not by what we lack. What can we do together to do “greater things”? We are envisioning bigger and better things than we have ever been able to do before.
We are a Conference of many gifts, many assets, many resources, and many opportunities. We are a Conference of life-giving, world-transforming faith. We are a Conference that worships God, that serves a risen Savior, and that is empowered by an incredible, awesome, and miraculous Holy Spirit. Let us rejoice in the great blessings we have been given, and let us Launch Out! together in faith. Thanks be to God!
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).