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Please Keep the Upcoming General Conference in Your Prayers

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A special session of General Conference will convene in St. Louis February 23 - 26. This called session is gathering solely to address issues related to human sexuality. 864 delegates from all over the world will decide whether to retain our current position or make possible changes to the Book of Discipline. As the only legislative body that can change the Book of Discipline, the General Conference and delegates will need our constant prayers.

Delegates will especially need our prayers for their deliberations and possible actions. I am so grateful for Jim Brantley who is organizing a prayer vigil at Shalimar UMC for the entire three day period. Please sign up for one of the allocated thirty minute slots.

No one knows what will happen during General Conference, but I am confident Shalimar UMC will continue to make disciples before, during, and after. One of the silver linings of controversy is that we tend to galvanize in purpose. Our purpose as a church is to be disciples, grow as disciples, and make disciples. Let us use worry and anxiety as a call to prayer and strengthen our resolve to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

During the information session last Sunday, I again shared the general rules of the church. These rules are especially important to remember during and after General Conference whether or not we agree with what transpires.

These general rules are:
 Do no harm
 Do good
 Stay in love with God

If we can live these rules and follow God’s teachings, we will better for it! Let us pray, fast, and seek the Lord’s will during this upcoming season of the called General Conference.


Posted by Philip McVay with

An Invitation to a Brand New 40-Day Bible Study

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We are offering something totally brand new for Lent this year. In fact, I am not aware of any church that has ever done what we are about to do! Forty Days of Bible Study together for the season of Lent! The sessions will be at 6:00 am at first light! We will cover the entire gospel of Mark which will also be our church focus during the sermon series. Our entire Lenten Journey will be Through the Eyes of Mark.

This new offering will build for our congregation something tangible to help us grow closer to Christ during Lent. The experience of daily gatherings will offer us a chance to share this journey with others. There will also be a printed 40-day guidebook that will help us to stay on track with daily readings and personal reflection.

Daily sessions will last 40 minutes so that you may leave for work by 6:45. If you are unable to attend in person, they will also be available via livestream. Because the 6:00 am start time may not appeal to everyone, sessions will be archived each day so you can watch them when it is convenient for you.

Lent begins March 6th with Ash Wednesday services at 6:00 am, 12:00 pm, and 6:00 pm. The following morning at 6:00 am, Bible Study will begin in the Sanctuary. This journey will offer a special time to go deeper into the Scripture. I am planning a few surprises along the way to keep your anticipation building as we move toward Easter. Most of all, opening the Gospel of Mark each day for 40 days will transform our lives.

I’ve been lifting up the vision of 1,000 disciples meeting every week at Shalimar by 2022. This new 40-Days of Bible Study offers one new way to start moving toward this vision. Shalimar UMC is here to help us grow as disciples and make disciples. Plan now to be a part of this brand new Lenten Bible Study! Let’s invite others to come along for these 40-Days of Bible Study!


Posted by Philip McVay with

Devotional & Lead Pastor Report to Church Council

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“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.”
1 Corinthians 14:33

I want to focus on this passage of order from 1 Corinthians chapter 14. Paul talks about speaking in tongues in the church. This is referring to people not understanding each other. So there is an interpreter. If there is not one, then it is in disorder and not of Christ. I think there can be disorder in many ways, not just speaking in tongues. “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace” - as in all meetings of Gods holy people.

I have three basic duties as the presiding elder of the congregation:

1. Preach the word
2. Offer sacraments of Holy Communion and baptisms
3. Ensure order in the church for the sake of all God’s holy people

We live in a world of chaos, confusion and disruption. We come here to gather in spirit different from the way of the world. We have a team that prays each week with the pastors for good communication, Godly order, unity, and cooperation.

It’s fair to say that in meetings this large, it’s not possible to agree on everything. The body of Christ works as each one does their part and it seems to work best when we stay in our lanes…where God has gifted us and where we were elected to represent the church body.

We must work as a team every time we come together and gather in the spirit of humility. We strive for perfection but know there are no perfect people. And so we must leave our egos at the door and work with a sense of order.

We are to abide by the leadership our church has elected in lay roles, staff, and clergy. We respect all those elected and appointed. We gather together and must allow those who come to share their reports to do so. I am proud of our leadership and lay leaders and we have a wonderful staff. This is the most complete staff we have ever had as the gaps we’ve seen have been filled. We are seeking to be complete.

As we gather tonight, I call for us to hear the word of Paul. God is not of disorder but of Peace. We seek to hear from everyone who has something to say. Let us respect those who have labored for both the present and the future of our church. This is God’s church and we are privileged to serve in it. Jesus Christ is the head of this body of Christ.

I have assembled this report with several ingredients.

1. Things people are talking about
2. End of year 2018 reports
3. Where I see SUMC heading

People have been talking about attendance. You can just look around and see we do not have as many people as we had three years ago. This is nothing new, and our lay leadership realized the need for swift action 10 months ago. We are blessed with strong and incredible lay leadership and many steps have been taken to move into action.

What are the steps that have been taken to secure the long term growth of our church?

1. Last March, a team was convened and steps were taken to address improvements to the 11:07 worship experience. Good findings came from this team and good things have emerged from this work.

2. In May, Jeff Spiller was brought in as a consultant to analyze how to grow the church. He identified that a growing a church depends on the number of 1st time visitors each Sunday. A church will not experience significant growth without those newcomers. We challenged the congregation in Deeds of Shalom to all be evangelists. Offering deeds of shalom is for all to do. I signed 5 first time visitor letters just from this past Sunday, so I think our congregation is making deeds of shalom known.

3. In September, this Church Council hosted an Alive at Shalimar event led by consultant Claire Bowen. This resulted in six crucial action teams formed specifically to focus on the growth of Shalimar UMC. These teams will continue this work into 2019. As a result, new ministries such as the Respite Care and Faith in Action are already emerging.

4. The MPC completed two years of work in late 2018. I have not seen anyone as determined as Lloyd Moon. He has worked so hard to move along the way and bring things to a conclusion. I want to thank Lloyd as he has gone the extra mile coming back to this council at least eight times over the past two years. Now, two years later, if this isn’t the plan the church wants, then we are arguing with ourselves. This is the plan we have given input to and formed.

Our architect, Carter Quinta, is here, and we appreciate him working with and listening to rooms full of people while refining our ideas.

Our staff was briefed by Lloyd last week so I asked them this morning what they thought. Every single one agreed they were on board and their only objection was that it wasn’t enough.

5. We added Alan Wildes to the Will You Grow (WYG) and Capital Campaigns. The WYG moved us into a growing congregation in our giving. We went from 166 commitments to 293 and from $760,000 in pledges to $1,361,000. Our church administrator, Steve Larson, identified a $160,000 growth among those who pledged both in 2018 and 2019.

Alan is also working with us on the Capital Campaign. So, how do we pay for all we are proposing to do? Alan’s estimate is that we should be able to meet a minimum of 1 ½ times our budget. 1 ½ times our budget is three million dollars. He thinks this number is conservative.

6. We concluded 2019 with 21 days of worship. Last year we had 2,131 attend weekdays and Saturday mornings and this year saw an increase to 2,364. Isn’t that amazing! We have a lot to be thankful for. We have had some deaths, some members move, and some change membership. Our membership trends are as follows.

7.  Members:                                                             Deaths:
     2017: 2,894 members                                     2017: 24 deaths
     2018: 2,904 members                                     2018: 11 deaths

    Transfers (34):                                                    Baptisms:
    19 moved out of state                                      41 baptisms in 2018
    10 moved out of area                                       32 reaffirmations in 2018
    5 moved to local area churches

We have a significant event in February, a called General Conference. This event will be held in St. Louis, Missouri February 23rd - 26th. In the January 6th Beacon, I included the names of those delegates who will be attending. Please feel free to email them. We do not know what will happen at the conference but I know we are methodical and ordered in the midst of chaos.

On February 10th, at 1:30 pm in the Sanctuary, we will have a pre-information session regarding the upcoming General Conference where we will provide information, allow people to share, and assemble together for prayer. Following the General Conference, on March 17th, in the Sanctuary, we will have another meeting that will give everyone a chance to meet and review the actual results of the General Conference. Bishop Graves will also be available on March 7th in Montgomery, March 9th in Dothan, and March 11th at Christ UMC in Mobile. I would encourage you to go and hear the Bishop’s words and thoughts.

We do not need to be afraid of the General Conference. I have attended and it can actually get boring with the many reports. However, there will be significant considerations. Any changes made at General Conference will not take effect until January 2020. We will have plenty of time to convene and respond to any changes and actions of the General Conference.

I do not expect changes to anything we do at SUMC. None of the proposed plans I have heard would make me perform unions against my theological convictions or the Shalimar UMC’s Biblical convictions.

In 2018, we reported the number of disciples as 758 persons meeting for the year through Shalimar UMC. Let’s not let General Conference distract us from our main reason for being in Shalimar, Florida…to make disciples for Jesus Christ! Let us develop this discipleship culture in the heart of our life throughout SUMC!

The vision was lifted up during our 21 Days of Stirrings for there to be 1,000 disciples meeting weekly at Shalimar United Methodist Church by 2022. These can be in Sunday School classes, Small Groups, Disciple Bible Studies, Bible Studies, 12x12 teams, prayer groups, mission groups, Emmaus reunion groups, and many more. Let us plan for 1,000 disciples meeting weekly by 2022!


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