Developing new wineskins

We had an excellent General Conference and I decided to write out what I see and sense God is doing amongst us. We were able to see and celebrate the fruit of the efforts of the NLT and the various boards and committees to help consolidate and expand the impact of the changes that have been developing over the past 10 years. While respecting the past, we have been shedding an old wineskin and developing a new one that is giving the Spirit of God new freedom to work. This is what the new wine skin looks like to me.

1. A new emphasis on holiness theology and its practice, but with fewer prescriptions of what that looks like in matters of conscience as opposed to matters of clear scriptural injunctions.

2. A new flexibility in who can be recruited to be ministers among us, but at the same time a greater effort to evaluate their suitability for ministry and to help them develop in theology, character and practice.

3. A new, more efficient, mission — focused and nationally synergized organizational structure that seeks to partner with and serve local churches rather than to command and control them to fit the agenda of the denomination or make them co-dependent upon it.

4. A new strategy for evangelism through church planting that focuses on helping churches become healthy enough to reproduce, while at the same time, being sensitive to the Spirit raising up church planters for pioneer works.

5. A new openness, welcoming and accommodation to youthful, contemporary, unconventional, ethnic and multi-lingual segments of the population and intentionally positioning them to give leadership in our denomination.

6. A new partnership with other General Conferences by supporting changes to the organizational structure for world Free Methodism to give each General Conference an equal place of influence to shape our movement in the 21st century as we seek to extend God’s Kingdom on earth.

7. A new vision for world evangelism as we encourage every church to assume the responsibility to reach various parts of the world through sending missionaries from their own congregation, by partnering with nationals in other countries and/or by supporting denominational missionaries and initiatives.

These changes were made not because our forefathers / mothers had it all wrong and we are the newly enlightened ones. Rather, it has been a response to the changes of our culture, the progressive understanding of how God wants to advance His Kingdom in this world and a rediscovery of what the Spirit-filled life looks like in our generation. Our leaders have sought to keep us conservative in our theology and liberal in our methodology. They have respected the accomplishments of our predecessors and have had the courage to help lead us into the new future that we have been sensing God has wanted for us.

As a result of the new wine skins, we are starting to reap some of the benefits of those changes. When I was asked what I considered the highlight of the General Conference was for me, I said that it was seeing the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders establishing new churches and churches partnering with nationals to plant new churches in other countries.

I know that steering the church through these changes has not been easy. I say thank you to our leaders for all they have done for The Free Methodist Church in Canada and the Kingdom of God (Hebrews 6:10 ). May God give you increased strength, discernment, wisdom and courage as you lead us in this new phase of development over the next three years.

Ken Roth/Senior Pastor
Chapel Ridge FMC, Stittsville, ON