Methodists across borders – is a part where we will introduce friends who are actively involved in the service of Methodists church in different countries of the world.
In my first interview with Methodists across borders, I would like to introduce you to Chris Greene, who is my mentor and with whom I have had the opportunity to run teen camps. Chris has been to Latvia several times and is also a representative on the board of Wesley Camp.
Tell us a little about yourself:
I grew up in the United States in Alabama, and I’m 51 years old, serving since I was 21, and still do. I was 15 years old when I received a call to serve and have been working toward that goal ever since. I knew my calling was music, and also God developed a passion for teenagers so these services have overlapped. I have worked in the ministry of teenagers for 25 years and in the ministry of music for 20 years, in the last three years I have focused only on music, and in any case, I have been engaged in active ministry for a long time. I am married and have 4 beautiful daughters and I just keep following the Lord.
You started talking about your calling, but who were the people around you who inspired you?
From the very beginning, my youth pastor had a huge impact on my life. He was a volunteer in my congregation who was not paid for his work and did not have much experience working with teens. He simply responded to call to serve teens, and for many years, even today, I look back at situations and wonder what my youth pastor would do in that situation. I received a call to serve at a Christian concert featuring Dallas Holm who was very popular in the United States and began writing Christian songs to the beat of Rock & Roll when it was not yet popular. One of his most recognizable songs was “Rise Again“, which we often sing during Easter. In 1985, I was at the singer’s concert, and this concert has remained special in my heart because I received a call from God to serve, so Dallas Holm has had a huge impact on my life, and there have been countless people in my life.
How did you find your church?
I found my congregation nine months before I was born because my family was already in this congregation, so I can say that I grew up in the Methodist Church.
Have you encountered a situation in your ministry when you are planning an event but no one is coming to it?
Of course, when you have planned something and no one comes to it, yes, it happens from time to time. All you have to do is keep going and learn because it’s not really a mistake, but a practice where you understand who is working in a particular group, but at the same time working with one group may not work with another. There are many attempts and mistakes, and you just learn and keep learning. Culture changes very often, so you can’t just go for one thing and think that’s what I’m going to do, you have to accept the changes that are going on because we now have to think about how to preach the gospel in a way that best suits the current situation.
What helps you strengthen your faith daily?
You already know that nothing can strengthen our faith unless we are with God. For daily spiritual discipline, spending time with Him through word and through prayer. There is an old word for “Daily Opus“, which means office in Greek, and it is basically almost like your job, and it should be part of your work plan. And especially if you are engaged in service, it is important that you have time with God in your work plan. Personally, the word of God in the morning is not enough for me, so I try to meet with God three times a day, in the morning, in the afternoon, and before going to bed. You don’t have to miss these meetings, just stop, spend time and focus, because the world and busyness take time away from God even faster than we notice.
What does it mean to you to be a part of the United Methodist Church in the world?
My main contacts in the world have mostly been with Latvia and this experience has been very good. It has been interesting to see how the Methodist Church works in other countries. Seeing these differences and similarities, at the same time we come together to share the same rituals. Learning from each other’s diversity, and at the same time being united, can be a powerful weapon in evangelizing and building disciples around the world – I am really glad to see that. I was in Latvia for the first time in 2007, the next time was in 2012, there could be about 6 or 7 times in total. I like to have been there every year and I really hope to see all of you this year.
What should the church of the future look like?
This is an interesting question, I think these times have hopefully helped us see some of the things we did in the church are dead, and maybe we shouldn’t have been doing. Many times, in this case, I found myself putting energy and resources into places and things that didn’t really matter.
We should do things that build the church and strengthen the core, but we often do things that are outside the core, but we need to remember why we do it and what is important to us!
During this time, we had to stop and work in the church differently. Hopefully, we realized that some of the things we did weren’t really important, and hopefully, we’ll get back to the core and stay, but first, we need to find out what is our core. I know I’m speaking in theory, I’m not giving specific scenarios, but I think that’s really important, and we need to look at what the scriptures say about it.
For example: What would you do and what would the church look like – if someone went into your church, city, or country and said you could no longer have a church, the church was illegal. Do you now have to go underground or in a secret church and meet in secret places, teach the gospel in secret? I’m not saying we shouldn’t meet in our church buildings, I’m just saying whatever the message is, and we’re removing smoke, lights, and fluff elements of the show – no matter what we do in this church, perhaps that is what our church should look like today.
And Jesus has already given us an answer in Matthew 28.
We know this message is especially important because it was the last thing Jesus told us before he left the earth, and so if you go away or if a loved one dies on the deathbed and he has one more thing to say, then you know it’s important. This is the last thing Jesus said, so we know it’s important, this is the great commandment we all know from Matthew 28:18-20
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.”
This is about making disciples and what it looks like in your context in your culture and how you make disciples. The New Testament shows us how to make disciples, and it is not up to the church to make disciples. The task of the church is to equip people in the church so that they can form disciples, not church leaders who only form disciples.