By Rev. Dale Cockrum | Inland District Superintendent

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n the last several Inland Steeples (part 1part 2, part 3, part 4), I’ve been sharing a conversation I had with new pastors at a Clergy Transition Workshop, identifying how I measure pastoral ministry, my own and those of the colleagues with whom I serve the churches of the district. Mary Huycke, the leader of the event, challenged me to name my deepest convictions about ministry. Here is number five:

5. Ministry has a primary purpose-it’s about making disciples and engaging our mission field.

Again, there are a lot of things you can choose to do in ministry, but measure your choices on how well they fulfill the Great Commission. That’s Jesus’ job description for people in ministry. Does what we do make disciples for the transformation of the world?

The United Methodist Church and this conference especially have tried to focus our congregations on these two major purposes. I don’t know how well we’ve done, but I have noticed that over the last few years, when I ask congregations about their purpose, I hear a lot more than I did at first, “Our purpose is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!” There’s even a certain amount of pride in the purpose, and I see churches thinking about their purpose when they make decisions. It’s by no means universal, but at least if you remind them, or ask them how a particular thing they want to do will help fulfill our purpose, they’ll know what you’re talking about.

Five years ago, we asked all our churches to evaluate themselves on these two purposes; many of them did. If you ask to see the DPAS results for your new church, they might know where they are stored. If not, I have them and I’d be glad to provide their self-evaluations to you…


Doug Anderson, in a workshop he led here, said, “The key to congregational development is the development of the spiritual life of the leaders in the church, to the point where the mission of God becomes more important than their own comfort or preferences when it comes to making decisions and planning new ministry initiatives.” I like that; after you get to know people, that’s where I’d like to see you put great emphasis-on developing the spiritual lives of your leaders.

One very helpful resource is a book by the bishop of our Missouri Conference, Robert Schnase. The book is called Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. It’s one of the best resources I’ve found for local churches that really want to improve their ministry. Schnase studied the especially vital churches in his conference, regardless of size, and found that all of them were working hard and seeing fruit in these five areas:

  • Radical Hospitality
  • Passionate Worship
  • Intentional Faith Development
  • Risk-Taking Mission and Ministry
  • Extravagant Generosity

What do I expect of you? That you will help your churches grow in each of those five areas, and thereby make disciples and reach into your community, your mission field, in life-changing ministry.

Next: The most important hour of ministry is Sunday morning worship.


  1. “The mission of God becomes more important than their own comfort.” In may be true that I remember some of the tough experiences of ministry more than the easy experiences, but in reading these words, I remember the conflict when one of my churches in Alaska opened its doors to the community and a group started using the church rooms so heavily that the Sunday School space was compromised. Teachers who had become used to their “sacred” space, that was used for one hour per week for Sunday School, being disturbed and suddenly not in the pristine condition they were used to having, complained loudly because. another group was utilizing that space as much as 40 hours per week. It took some time and effort to reclaim the space for Sunday morning.

    Getting people to have a vision of mission in that setting was a real challenge. I was probably not as tactful as I should have been, but when I suggested putting up a sign and expressing one teacher’s viewpoint in writing and placing it on a bulletin board, she backed away from her very selfish viewpoint.

    How to help people see how hurtful some attitudes are in the “light of day” is again challenging. In current times I hear individuals say hurtful things about human sexuality in front of individuals who have been silent about their own family journey. Would they still speak those words if they knew how hurtful it was? When the words are spoken, it is too late.

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