Bishop’s Greeting: WVAC18 Celebrates Innovative Ministries

By Sandra Steiner Ball

Innovative: “Having new ideas about how something can be done.”

—Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball

As we gather together for this annual conference session under the theme of Innovative, I invite you to ponder what this theme might invite in our lives as individuals and as congregations.  As I consider the lay and clergy membership of the West Virginia Conference, I want leaders who are innovative as Christ was innovative.

Christ came into a world and into a religious system that was pretty set in its ways.  God’s chosen people, the Jews, had forgotten or maybe never fully understood the work and mission for which they had been chosen.

Into this situation steps Jesus – God’s innovative strategy and mission for reaching people with the Good News of life, – the good news of forgiveness, redemption, and salvation.

Jesus was innovative from the beginning.

His life began as his parents transformed a feeding trough into a cradle and a star announced his birth.  As a young boy, Jesus was not only innovative but courageous as he left the side of his parents during a pilgrimage and dared to teach and share ideas with religious leaders in a Temple who had far more credentialing, authority, and life experience than he had.

As Jesus called his disciples, he innovatively called those to follow him who were – how shall I say it – not up to the standards of what other rabbi’s, other teachers, or even the rest of society would have wanted or expected.

Jesus was innovative as he walked among the people instead of lodging himself in a Temple; and not only was he innovative in going out to the people instead of expecting the people to come to him, he innovatively shared God’s word using parables or stories to make God’s word relevant and understandable to the lives of the people among whom he walked.

Jesus was innovative.

  • He ate with sinners instead of condemning them.
  • He touched people and spent time with people who were mentally and physically ill.
  • He recognized the beauty and the value of forgiveness – even among those whom society would want to condemn to death.
  • He told a group of people, “You, you who are without sin, cast the first stone.”
  • He offered to one who had to go to the well alone because she was an outcast, “living water.”
  • He told others, your faith has made you well.

Jesus was innovative in that he not only gave life, but literally gave his life as a ransom for others, for us!  As followers of Christ, we are called to be innovative leaders as Christ was and is innovative.

How are we being innovative in reaching others with God’s Good News in ways that are relevant and understandable?  How are we reaching out beyond our walls, our Temples, and walking among the people who need Christ’s touch and hope in their lives?  How are we, how can we innovatively give life and give our lives so that others will find and accept God’s life-giving love, forgiveness and transformation for themselves?