Thank God for Colleagues


Early in my ministry I learned that serving Christ was not a solo performance. In my first appointment at Prosper United Methodist Church, I found out there were laity who knew much more about the mission opportunities and how best to approach them than I did. I spent five years as the pastor there, and some of the best ideas I had were stolen from other clergy in the Sherman-McKinney District. Jim Pledger taught me how to stage an evangelism event. Bob Robertson at the North Texas Conference office taught me about communications strategies. Gary Mueller showed me the power of asking the right question. While I have the spiritual gift of teaching, I learned that my colleagues have much to teach me!

As I got involved in leadership on the annual conference level, laity like John Croft, Richard Hearne, Jay Brim and Mary Brooke Casad gave me crucial insights. As a bishop, lay leaders like Oliver Green, Jill Foss, and Dixie Brewster have made significant contributions to our work at making Kansas East and West more vital conferences.

More recently, I have been making appointments for the churches of the Kansas Area. When I was a pastor, I committed to United Methodist itinerancy because I believed God worked through the bishop and cabinet. All of my appointments were good ones—and two of them were ones I would never have applied for in a call system. My faith in the appointment process was justified. Do you know how scary it is for me now that I am a bishop? That is why the cabinet and I pray a lot and why, once again, I am depending on my colleagues. The District Superintendents who serve on the Kansas Area Cabinet are faithful, wise people who usually know more than I about the pastors and churches we are discussing. They truly care about the missional effectiveness of every church in Kansas, and seek to match each clergy person with the place where their gifts can best be used. It is a privilege to work with this group of servants!

But what really prompted this blog was reading a blog by Bishop Robert Schnase this morning. He has written 30 meditations in preparation for General Conference. I have now read the first two, and they are powerful. (You can sign up for email reminders at This reminded my of other episcopal colleagues who have shaped my ministry and helped our church move forward: Janice Huie and her call for United Methodism to become a movement again, Greg Palmer and his stewardship of the Call to Action, Sally Dyck and her tireless efforts to enhance the unity of the UMC, Ntambo Nkulu and his witness for peace, justice and reconciliation in Africa, Bruce Ough and his passion for world mission.

But then I remember the Scriptures and how we are baptized into the body of Christ. Mr. Wesley often stated that the New Testament knows nothing of solitary Christianity. Serving the Lord involves many people. As Paul made clear in several places, but most notably in 1 Corinthians 12, we all offer our gifts and each one is necessary to the whole body. Today I am thankful for my colleagues.

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