By Ken Rosenauer
He started by inviting the 16th Missouri Annual Conference to put their hands together in praise. He finished by inviting each district to stand up because the Holy Spirit has freed them to lead.
In between, the Rev. Dr. Antonio Settles enlivened and engaged the 1,300 Methodist laity and clergy present, noting the many ways they are being freed to lead – emphasizing and re-emphasizing the theme of this year’s Annual Conference.
The Rev. Settles, pastor of St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Kansas City, led opening worship on Friday morning at the Springfield Expo Center.
His message, “When the old clothes don’t fit,” was built on 1 Samuel 17:38-39, a passage in which young David is trying on Saul’s armor. However, David says, “I can’t walk in this” and removes the armor.
The Rev. Settles recalled playing dress up as a child, putting on his father’s clothes, shoes and hat. All were much too big, of course, and he couldn’t walk in them without falling. Likewise, David could not be freed to lead wearing Saul’s armor.
David saw the need to lead, he said, but like Frank Sinatra, he did it his way. All he needed was to know that God was on his side.
Though David was small in stature and limited in experience, “he had a slingshot and a big God.”
The pastor of “the New Drew” called on everyone to step up to the mission and the vision, to step into the community. David prepared in the wilderness as a shepherd. So, too, all leaders go through a preparation process.
“Everything in life has prepared you to lead today,” the Rev. Settles said.
He noted that God will use the ordinary to do the extraordinary. Critical to that is the need for laity and clergy to work together.
“If the pastor is the only one evangelizing, then, Houston, we have a problem,” he cautioned. “We’ve all been freed to lead.”
“We need to be freed to stand against the ‘-isms’ of the world,” he said. “When we allow Jesus to free us, then we will be able to free the broken.”
The Rev. Settles described getting dressed for work one morning and hearing a bird chirping wildly. He went downstairs and found the bird trapped in a bush near the house. It chirped and chirped and turned this way and that, finally working its way free.
Like that bird, he said, “we get stuck in stuff that’s been around 20 years.”
At one of his first churches, the Rev. Settles said a member of the congregation told him, “I want to see you in a robe every Sunday.”
“Why?” he asked.
“I don’t know why. It just looks good,” came the reply.
He said neither a robe nor a license is required to lead today. Voices tell pastors seeking change that “we’ve never done it that way.”
“Lead anyway,” the Rev. Settles said.
He said it’s necessary for everyone to move into prophecy, prayer and praise. New places are needed for new people, whether it’s a bowling alley or a second service designed for the homeless.
“It’s time to get up,” he said. “Get up, Bishop Farr.” Sitting on the front row, the bishop stood.
Then, the pastor invited district after district to stand, and they all stood.
“You are now freed to lead!” he told them.