BE A YES! CHURCH
Dear Beloved in Christ,
I invite us to reflect on the words that we hear over and over again when we gather as the Body of Christ and partake of Holy Communion:
“By your Spirit make us one with Christ
One with each other
And one in ministry to all the world
Until Christ comes in final victory and
we all feast at his heavenly banquet.”
These words of blessing bear witness to who we are called to be as the Body of Christ and speak to our need for an outpouring of God’s spirit. It is a recognition that we can do all things that God has called us to do through Christ who strengthens and empowers us to fulfill God’s purpose. (Philippians 4:13)
Every time we accept the invitation to come to the Lord’s Table, we are essentially saying YES! We’re saying YES to being open to the movement of the Holy Spirit. We’re saying YES to remembering that we are loved unconditionally by God. We’re saying YES to following in the footsteps of Jesus. We’re saying YES to being like-minded, having the same love and being one in spirit with each other. We’re saying YES to our mission of extending God’s love, grace, compassion and hope to our neighbors and to all the world. And we’re saying YES to remaining faithful until Christ comes in final victory and the Kingdom of God is fulfilled.
Let us keep saying YES to Christ! God is able to do far more abundantly than what any of us can ever think of or even imagine with our collective YES. I can imagine lives being changed, communities being transformed, hope being reborn, and people being reconciled to one another through our collective YES! I can imagine a Church with a radical discipleship that is grounded in the love, teachings and example of Jesus Christ, a Church where everyone has a seat at the table and can belong and be regarded as God’s beloved. I can imagine a Church that transcends geography, borders, barriers and differences. I can imagine a Church that is diverse, and integrally connected—to each other, to our neighbors, to our communities and around the world. This vision can become a reality when we collectively say YES to Christ!
I invite every local church and faith community in the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church to be a YES church! To be a church that is committed to worshipping, praying, loving, growing, serving, listening, and connecting.
The Bible tells us to not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but we are to encourage one another, to spur one another on to doing good and to have hope. (Hebrews 10:25)
Worship is our form of highest praise. When we surrender our hearts to God in worship, our spirit is uplifted and our joy is renewed. We extend the gift of fellowship when we invite others to worship with us.
Prayer is essential to our faith and our walk with Christ. The hymn writer wrote, “prayer is the soul’s sincere desire.” There are many times people feel powerless in their lives, especially when they experience loss, suffering and hardship. We pray for ourselves, pray for others and pray on behalf of others to petition God for healing, deliverance, peace, mercy, forgiveness and hope.
“For in Christ Jesus … the only thing that counts is faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6)
People will know that we are Christians by how we love. There is so much hurt, pain, hate, violence and division in the world and that people experience in their lives. The greatest gift and power that we can offer and embody is the love of Jesus Christ … a love that can bring about healing, transformation and restoration … a love that welcomes … a love that extends community. “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may.” (John Wesley)
Discipleship is a lifelong journey. As we study the Word of God and take time to pray, we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18) and grow in love and compassion for others. We have to ask the Lord to increase our faith (Luke 17:5). As we grow in Christ, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our lives and is manifested through how we demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
The Bible tells us that whatever we do for one of the least of these our sisters, brothers and siblings, we did for him. (Matthew 25:40)
We must keep our eyes on Christ … focused on our mission of disciple-making, healing, hope and transformation. Let us not grow weary in doing good, loving our neighbors … welcoming the stranger, serving the poor, dismantling racism, building beloved community, addressing violence and creating better and safer communities. People need Christ … and the world needs The United Methodist Church.
Taking time to listen to another person’s story, perspective and experience is an act of faith and an act of grace. As the Body of Christ we are to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. (James 1:19)
We are called to exercise humility, not looking only to our own interests but to the interests of others.
Together, we say YES!
I encourage you – laity and clergy of the East Ohio Conference – to gather in your local church or faith community to work together through the YES! Church study guide so that you can build a welcoming community for others.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Tracy S. Malone
The East Ohio Conference Office:
located in North Canton, OH,
near Akron-Canton Airport.
8800 Cleveland Ave. NW
North Canton, OH 44720
Monday through Friday
8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
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