Lessons I’ve learned



What lessons are you learning as we navigate through the global pandemic? I want to share three lessons I have learned from the witness of our laity and clergy. I do so with gratitude as I join you in celebrating Pastor Appreciation Month in October and Laity Sunday on October 18.

First, we place a high value on “the connectional system.” Our members take seriously the New Testament pictures of the early church: sharing their resources (Acts 2:42-47), laying on hands to send out missionaries (Acts 13:2-2), and appointing elders in every town (Titus 1:5). While there are great differences between their time and our time, nevertheless we sense that John Wesley got it right when he envisioned local churches connected to each other for support, encouragement, and multiplication of our impact for Christ. It is this very connectional system that has held us securely in place over the past six months and continues to do so today. Many have said to me, “I feel that we are more connected than ever.” What a blessing!

Second, we take seriously Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:21, “…where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I am referring here to the encouraging financial support that we are seeing in many of our churches and in our annual conference. I do not minimize the serious economic impact that the pandemic has had on our businesses, communities, and our personal incomes. But in spite of that, our members are supporting their local church and the South Georgia Conference. Because you have a heart for ministry, you are using your financial resources to keep South Georgia strong. Thank you!

Third, we are more “boat church” than “land church.” In Matthew 14:22-33 we see Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee toward the boat that’s carrying his disciples. Peter gets out of the boat and walks on the water. But then Peter begins to sink. Jesus plucks him out of the water and puts him in the boat – the place of safety. No wonder the image of a boat became an early symbol of the Christian Church. You see it today in stained glass windows, needlepoint kneelers, and in Christian art. The largest part of a church building – the part where the congregation gathers – is called the “nave,” from the Latin word for boat or navy. Boat people have to be nimble and creative in order to sail safely, adjust for the wind and other conditions, and reach the goal. This reminds me of the adaptive spirit I have seen in our local churches these past six months. Something in us knows that Jesus has put us into the boat of the Christian faith. This is a good time to remind ourselves that this boat is built to sail in all kinds of weather. 

I hope you will have a lively celebration of the ministry of the laity on Laity Sunday, October 18. And I thank you for observing Pastor Appreciation Month during October. 

October is also an ideal time to recognize J. Knapp, our newly elected conference lay leader.

J. is a native of Thomasville, Ga. where he and his family are members of Thomasville First UMC. He was in management with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. before joining a Thomasville start-up, Scentco, LLC., which develops and distributes innovative air freshener products. His wife, Lisa, is a Patient Advocate with the Lawson Neel Med Bank, where she helps those with chronic health conditions who have limited or no prescription coverage get the medications they need. J. and Lisa have two children. Lexi, 18, is a sophomore at Valdosta State University where she is a nursing major and a member of Kappa Delta sorority. Jace, 16, is a sophomore and a varsity football player at Thomas County Central High School. J. and Lisa ask for your prayers as they try to survive the “teenage years.” J. Knapp has already distinguished himself for the outstanding leadership he has provided as lay leader of the Southwest District. We are grateful for his service as the Lay Leader of the South Georgia Conference.

Alive Together at the Table,
R. Lawson Bryan