Charge Conference Christians


Everyone wants to put on a good face for Charge Conference. They are in full swing right now. I actually went to bed last night counting how many Charge Conferences I have had instead of counting sheep. Charge Conferences are in full-swing, along with consultations with pastors about their ministry. I have heard some great reports which underscore the very reason we have these annual meetings. The most distinctive Wesleyan doctrine is sanctification. We are “Methodists” because we believe in a methodical way to live our faith, making sure that we are held accountable. All those forms are our empirical way to gauge how we’re doing spiritually. At least that’s how I rationalize it. The bottom-line is that we believe Jesus didn’t save us to leave us the way we were found, but to transform us and the world. We need transformation, not just at Charge Conference reporting time but year round.

I wish there were a pill that would really cure all that ails us. Some might say that our national malaise is the product of a poor economy, the war on terror, midterm-election year mudslinging, the disintegration of the family, and sorry football teams. It’s tough when sports, your source of distraction from life’s difficulties, only adds to the problem. What I’ve found when life is on the slippery slope is to do something worthwhile. It doesn’t matter so much what the task, just so it takes commitment.

Psychologists, for years, have said that one of the best ways to get out of the doldrums is to make yourself do something for somebody else. They’re right! If we give in to the pits we’re never going to get out. Commitment is the ability to push through the pain, the angst, the pessimistic cynical mindset in which we find ourselves and keep at the projects that we’re supposed to complete. George Miller gave an interesting analogy, “The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you’re hungry again.” What he’s saying about Italian food is true for me. It sticks with me for a long time.

When we’re a little down, we shouldn’t give in to it. We should stick to the things that we know that we’re supposed to do. Sure, I know very well that I don’t feel like going to walk, but I also know the endorphins that are released when I exercise will make me feel better. Unfortunately, many of us easily avoid the things we should do. Jerome K. Jerome, who lived from 1859-1927, said it for all sad-sacks and procrastinators, “I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”

So maybe we shouldn’t vegetate and let our burdens build up. Doing something good and worthwhile is a better answer. It’s all about commitment. Lewis Smedes puts the matter quite plainly, “I want to say to you that if you have a ship you will not desert, if you have people you will not forsake, if you have causes you will not abandon, then you are like God… When a person makes a promise, she reaches out into an unpredictable future and makes one thing predictable: she will be there even when being there costs her more than she wants to pay. When a person makes a promise, he stretches himself out into circumstances that no one can control and control at least one thing: he will be there no matter what the circumstances turn out to be. With one simple word of promise, a person creates an island of certainty in a sea of uncertainty.”

Many years ago a pastor preached on three different kinds of believers: “if,” “because,” and “regardless.” An “if” believer follows God IF he or she receives blessings and rewards in return. This person waits to see what God will do first, then decides whether or not to respond in obedience. A “because” believer follows God BECAUSE God blesses the person. This person has seen the connection between personal obedience and God’s blessing and wants to keep it going. A “regardless” believer follows God REGARDLESS of the person’s circumstances, cynicism, and hardships. A “regardless” believer honors commitment and knows that God is faithful to the faithful. Which am I today when it comes to the seemingly mundane paperwork and meeting schedule that exhibits a long obedience in God’s direction?