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Accepting the challenge

Accepting the challenge
Photo illustration by Kathleen Barry

By Bishop Jonathan Holston

“On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us.”—Acts 16:11-15

As I was looking through some notes, I found these thoughts as I was watching a football game. Of course, these words were written in frustration as I watched my team play on a Saturday afternoon. I share them with you below:

  • Lord, why? Why can’t my team win the must-win games? I guess I’m resigned to supporting a team that is destined to not be good enough.
  • I guess that’s my choice and misfortune. I’m concerned for the coach because he wants to do it the right way, but always stumbles. I know he wants to win games, Conference and National championships, but he is “snake-bit.”
  • Maybe we’ll come back, but everyone needs an easy win and I guess it is my team.
  • Oh, that was a great play. Can the defense get a “stop” and go back ahead?
  • I hope they can do it. We need some breaks!
  • It is the fourth quarter with only 10 minutes to play. We have to stop this team now.
  • Great, we did. Now, can we go down the field for a score? I hope we can do it.
  • Well, no we did not score and we need another stop, a break of some sort—fumble, interception or something to happen.
  • I guess there are no breaks for us today.
  • Is it my bane to support a team that cannot win the big game? Lord.
  • It does not seem fair! But there’s nothing I can do.
  • Oh, no, a dropped touchdown pass!
  • Lord, it just is not our day … again!
  • Can we score? No, we lost and the game is over. This hurts! I mean it really hurts.
  • I don’t believe our coach will be able to survive the “storm of criticism” he will receive from alumni, fans and media.
  • It seems everyone will finally get what they want, which is to fire the coach. Is that fair?
  • I don’t think so. It will be a very long week for my team. Another week of no media.
  • Well, on next week, it will be another game where we are hoping to win … again.

As I reflected on my thoughts, I realized I felt this way because I had “skin in the game” and was a part of the team effort. There is a quote that says, “Every year we are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”

As we continue into the latter quarter of the year, I am excited to be a part of a team that has God-sized dreams. When traveling to Greece with our team from South Carolina, one of our visits was to Philippi, which is where Paul baptized Lydia.

While reflecting on the significance of that place, one of our group members led a devotion and said, “We have nearly 230,000 members in the South Carolina Conference. Just think if those persons became 230,000 disciples.”

What an excellent challenge for all us.

It reminded me of a quote from an anonymous writer that says these words: “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; we must not only plan, but also believe.”

As the district Forward Focus meetings begin, it will require a team effort from laity and clergy to believe and trust in the work we will do together. It will require more than being compliant or doing what is asked.

It will invite us to a commitment of doing whatever it takes to seek a more excellent way in mission and ministry. This is a challenge that will take us to places we do not know, places God will reveal to us as we walk in joyful obedience. I draw great confidence from these words: “Only as high I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be.”

Together, let us accept this challenge of being the hands and feet of Jesus, making disciples, training leaders and developing congregations for mission and ministry.

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