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Bishop Holston to S.C. churches: “Are you up for the challenge?”

Bishop Holston, speaking during the 2018 Summit on the Black Church

Oct. 26, 2018

Bishop L. Jonathan Holston had a question for some 140 pastors and laypersons attending the 2018 Summit on the Black Church in North Charleston Oct. 25-27.

“Culturally, economically, theologically, these are challenging times,” the resident bishop of the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church said. “We have to ask ourselves, ‘Are we on a pleasure cruise, or are we prepared and able and structured and built to give purpose to God’s word, so God’s people will be able to hold themselves accountable?’

“So the question for you, as we think about the black church in South Carolina, is: Are you up for the challenge?”

Part of that challenge, he said, is “moving our churches from preservation to transformation,” and to do that, “you’ve got to be in the life of the people of the church.”

Bishop Holston

Bishop Holston drew on 2 Corinthians 4:5-12, in which “Paul is reminding us that we are God’s possession, that there is precious treasure in each and every one of us.”

“We may have been pressed, but we are not crushed, ” he said. “We may be perplexed, but we are not in despair. We may be persecuted, but we are not abandoned. We may be struck down, but we are not destroyed.

“We have been in the service business, but not the engagement business. If we are going to reach those people we haven’t reached in the past, we have to talk to them. We have to show up at a school. We have to show up at an event. We have to show up somewhere.”

One way for churches to prepare for the challenge and to move from preservation to transformation, Bishop Holston said, is by taking part in Forward Focus, a process designed to help local United Methodist churches and charges study their past, present and future potential for ministry.

“Every now and then, our congregations ought to take a look at themselves to see if we are prepared to go into the places God wants us to go,” he said. “Your future is better than your past, but you won’t be prepared for your future until you take a good look at yourself.

“When you go to the doctor, you don’t just go when you have something wrong with you. You need to go regularly to see what you need to do to stay healthy, to stay alive. That’s what Forward Focus can do for your church.”

Bishop Holston also asked all South Carolina United Methodists, both clergy and laity, to make a promise to look for the best in each other.

“The first thing I need you to do, if we’re going to be the church in South Carolina that we need to be, we need to lift each other up and not tear each other down,” he said. “We need to be able to pull each and every person up. The second thing is, do not think so highly of yourself. We all have some flaws. We don’t have to think lowly of ourselves, because you have greatness in you.

“Finally, what we need to say to each other, let’s say it directly to each other, not by going out into the parking lot, or into the hallway, to the telephone and to Twitter. Don’t text and email your thoughts, share them in person, share them in love.”

Bishop Holston borrowed from one of his favorite hymns, “Blessed Assurance,” to wrap up his appeal:

“My story, my song is simply this: to do God’s will and to let God’s will be known,” he said. “To allow God’s grace to be seen and God’s will to be felt. To allow his love to encompass us all. If we do these things, the Lord will bless us.

“The gift of the black church is God’s worship, but the power of the black church is God’s presence. Let the presence and the power be seen and felt in the places that you serve, in the places where you worship, in the places you live. If you do that, I believe you will be up for the challenge.”

Learn more about Forward Focus




Permanent link to this article: http://www.umcsc.org/home/bishop-holston-to-black-s-c-churches-are-you-up-for-the-challenge/


  1. Paige R

    Accountability begins at the top. If we are really going to be able to reach others in ministry, both clergy and laity must strive to live as Christ lived and love as Christ loves. We can’t simply preach the Gospel, but we must be willing to live the Gospel. I long for a day when there is no longer a “black” church or a “white” church, but simply, “the” church. A day when those things such as race, gender, and socioeconomic status and those factors which bring division no longer have the power to do so because of the extraordinary love and unity of all God’s children. I long for a day when EVERY minister of the Gospel will endeavor to practice what they preach. When we are authentic, others will come to believe in Christ as we bear His light, love, and truth in the world. Come Holy Spirit! Come! The world and the church needs you! I know that I do!

  2. W. Conard "Bud" Search

    I was going to do a regular reply. Thanks for putting this on your “Are You Up For The Challenge” word. Yes, I am praying har for the leaders ofChrist United Methodist Church and for the leadership of the South Carolina Conference. Here is some more about me.

    Mary and I celebrated 44 years of knowing each other yesterday. We met at MSU in the “Big Ten” room at a banquet and both of us were seated as near to the door as possible. I asked Mary, a newly hired home economist from Berrien County, “Do you have any advice? I just found out (Labor Day 1974) that I was going through a divorce.” She said, “Find out how much your lawyer will charge.” I told Mary, “That was my first question”. We had a walk through Pine Eatum (from Kellogg Center along the Red Cedar river to the east side of the campus). I bought her a $.26 coke in East Lansing near Kellogg Center before we retired.

    I received an email yesterday that said, “A large group of men in our community are planning to fast and pray for a community, state wide, national and international revival on July 14, 2019”.

    I sent out an email to special friends in my Wednesday morning Bible Study/Discipleship/Prayer Group. It said, “I need your help. You are my mentor and great friend”. Below is my message.

    Next Tuesday morning at 11:00 I will be presenting (leading) a discussion with my 12 men friends who live at Wesley Commons. We start and end our 45 minute meeting at a round table with prayer and most members of the group take their turn being leader. Our average age is probably about 85. We have a high percentage of members who look to Donald Trump for political leadership. One member is a retired Presbyterian minister who says he is liberal. One member is a member of St. Mark UMC.

    I will open by telling them I just created a new folder on my computer Desk Top. It is “Life begins at 84”.

    Last week I offered to lead our discussion, Tuesday, Nov. 6. I will use the following outline:

    A. Opening prayer – “Holy Spirit strengthen us to fight the wiles of the evil one by making us pliable to your firm but gentle leading”.

    B. Introduce idea of “What does the best version of me look like..?

    1. Teddy Roosevelt – It is April 23, 1910 (the year my dad was born), he served 2 terms as President, made speech in the Sorbonne in Paris. Although we now think of it as “The Man in the Arena” speech, it is actually called “Citizenship in a Republic”. I will read it from an email by Brian Johnson who sends me “Optimizing.me” every morning on my iPhone. I pay a subscription to his organization. The speech follows and I agree with Brian, it is worth tattooing on our consciousness.

    “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.”

    2. Win…Win…Win… – “Set your Goal high, then reach higher”, my wife Mary made certain this quote was in our Reaching for Results” workshop I ran in twelve Michigan counties in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I have a goal of kayaking ASAP.

    3. Champ…Champ…Champ – Robin Roberts, MSU pitcher in the 40’s and pitcher with the Athletics, Earl Morral, classmate at MSU and great quarterback who won the “Super Bowl” for Green Bay and Magic Johnson who come to my mind as champions I highly respect. The front cover of “Money” magazine has a picture of Track Champion Orville Rogers – 100 years old. I talked with a lady here at Wesley Commons, Barbara Iesle who is 88 and swimming in meets across the country. These people are champions.

    What does the best version of me look like when I think of my energy, my relationship to God? Matthew 37-39 Jesus said to him. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

    What does the best version of me look like in retirement (keep myself physical fit, mentally awake and morally straight).

    What does the best version of me look like in the area of love? I want to learn to love as I love myself. I need to get to know people, their names and their story and honestly care about them.

    How will I bring these commitments to life today?

    4. “God Loves You” pass out pocket crosses. They will be placed in “Samaritan’s Purse” boxes. My first gift to Mary was one of these crosses. The crosses were passed out on “Lay Witness Missions” I coordinated in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Illinois.

    5. Max Lacado (40 years of ministry) resource DVD we are studying in Charles Moore SS class at St. Mark UMC Greenwood, SC. I will read and give each man the pocket card from Max Lacardo we were given by our teacher Wanda Hill. (see below)

    C. Close with prayer. O Holy one, you who set us free, there is no love greater than you. We come into your presence with thanksgiving and into your courts praise. Help us to realize that it is important to have goals that are realistic and have measurable results. Help each of us to see the possibilities of being champions, having the best version of ourselves brought to life. Help us to realize that Wesley Commons can train us to appreciate and love each other and prepare us for life in heaven. We pray this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    Max Lacado’s advice:

    “You’ll get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God will use this means for good. In the meantime, don’t be foolish or naïve. But don’t despair either. With God’s help you will get through this.”

    I am praying that I will improve my ability to love my neighbors as I love myself. This has caused me to put a current picture of me up in my bedroom and look at the same way I look at the pictures of my wife, children (3) and grandchildren (7) and great grandchildren (17). I have created a new folder on my Desk Top “Life Begins at 84”.

    I am praying for the Greenwood, SC UMC churches participation, SC UMC Conference, National UMC Conference day of fasting and prayer for church renewal set for July 14, 2019.


    W. Conard “Bud” Search

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