The Methodist Church has this wonderful device; its full of information; it is revered by most Methodists; it is studied intently; it is used and quoted in arguments. What is it ? The Bible ?
No I refer to that precious document known as……………… THE PLAN !
For the unenlightened amongst my readers the Methodist plan is a document published every three months detailing every preacher in every Methodist Church within the Methodist Circuit on any given Sunday within a quarterly period. Lovingly crafted, worked at and sweated over it is indeed a work of art. Within this Circuit (Trent and Dove) there are 16 churches some with two services on a Sunday, some with one. Some Churches have 10.00 am services whilst others are at 10.30 or 11.00 am On top of that there are mid-afternoon services and evening services at 6.00 pm, 6.30 pm or 8.00 pm That makes 248 appointments (acts of Worship) between June and August for which each requires an accredited Local Preacher or Ordained Minister. In addition I have at my disposal 28 Local Preachers and 9 active members of staff (37 in all) but for a variety of reasons they are not always available (holidays, illness, age, need to be at their own Church etc).
All of this combined creates a wonderful jigsaw of combinations, permutations and desperation. The one thing guaranteed in all of this is that I`ll get it wrong !!
I left the civil service 25 years ago thinking that it would be the last I would see of paper pushing and form filling. I find myself, because of the above and because of Government legislation and the worlds desire for statistical collection, doing as much paperwork now as I did then; at least that’s how it feels.
I fear that in the midst of all this fun and excitement I run the risk of losing my first love and my first calling, “To know Christ and to make Christ known” I came into the Ministry in the belief that I was called to share the Gospel news and make Christ known. Where does my paperwork come into this calling ?
It can be, and often is, argued that the plan making is simply an organised way of ensuring the Gospel is shared amongst a variety of locations, but is it ? I think that the plan making simply ensures the continuity of that which some of the Methodist folk have always loved. It ensures that there is a preacher for an act of worship and little else. However important this is the plan making rarely addresses the issue of outreach which is what I feel called to.
Today I give thanks for Pastor Phil Crathorne of the Kings Church here in Burton who is encouraging me to keep Kingdom orientated and mission focussed. Please pray for me that I will always seek to love Jesus and bring others to love him also.
Alison and I at Gwennap Pit, near Redruth in Cornwall where John Wesley used to preach
Oh, and by the way I`m down to my last 10 gaps on the preaching plan !!