By Jessica Connor
FLORENCE – Bringing a message from St. Mark United Methodist Church in Sumter “to the saints, the sinners, the whiners and the winners,” the Rev. Telley Gadson preached on what she called the audacity of faith during the Thursday night worship service at Annual Conference.
Playing off the title of President Barack Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope,” Gadson broke down what she thinks audacious faith means. After all, faith means being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not seek, and audacity means intrepid boldness and disregard for normal restraints. Therefore, she said, audacity of faith is intrepid boldness of what is hopeful and disregard of what we do not seek.
Faith is at the heart of all we need to do and be, Gadson told the crowd.
“We are empowered to step out on nothing believing we will land on something,” she said.
Gadson lifted up her church, which went from a two-point charge with 35 in worship to a station church with 175 in worship last Sunday, where as Gadson put it, “we do our best to serve nervous breakdowns to the devil and all of Hell Industries.”
There, she said, she has learned some powerful lessons.
“Church leadership is about the art of influence, not manipulation, in our church and communities so ultimately God gets the glory, hearts are touched, lives are changed and the devil has a bad day,” Gadson said to a roar of clapping and “Amens.”
Gadson praised Methodism founder John Wesley’s three simple rules – do no harm, do good and stay in love with God – taking to task those who have lost sight of that wisdom.
“Could it be we need to be reminded of the Wesyleyan way … because there are clergy who have leadership titles but don’t have leadership testimonies?” she asked to thunderous of applause. “Could it be we have ignored opportunities to become better leaders in places we are serving because we are too busy playing with kitchen cabinets and dreaming about the big church where the bishop will send us? Could it be some laity have ignored opportunities to become better leaders because they’re spending too much time policing the pastor than finding an opportunity to partner with the pastor?”
Gadson said she is convinced that if we all truly put tenacity to the task and lead in the Wesleyan way, we will be effective Christian leaders who do what we must: make disciples for the kingdom of God.
“Faith gives the believer the audacity to please God despite personal limitations,” she said. “Faith has the audacity to speak life in situations that look like death. Faith has the audacity to believe God’s word to not only create the world, but sustain everything in it. Faith has the audacity to speak in the present about the future because faith lives in the now.”
But, Gadson asked, what must we do to have the kind of audacity to make demons trip, to be an effective leader for Christ?
Just have faith, she answered, and make sure to let that faith undergird all of our leadership principles, passions and practices.
“An effective church leader has a passionate faith that is so audacious they become contagious to others of the same mindset and become allergic to those who don’t want to go to church,” she said.
And let’s be sure that same passionate, principled faith transcends our practices, because at the end of the day, she said, “Faith without works is dead, and anything that’s dead ought to be buried.”
The Thursday worship offering went to Imagine No Malaria efforts, totaling $12,869.
St. Mark UMC Mass Choir rounded out the service along with the Rev. Joel McMakin as liturgist, Carol Wyndham as organist and the Rev. Paul Frey as song leader.