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Mark Conforti: Building connections

Life is different now. But you already knew that.

At any time, a person can say with undeniable accuracy, “Life is different now.” It’s like, as the comedian Mitch Hedberg pointed out, how people show a photograph of themselves saying, “here’s a picture of me when I was younger.” Every picture of you is when you were younger. That statement is always true.

Life is different now. That statement is always true. How we respond to life’s differences, however, may not always reflect God’s truth.

The mission of the Church, according to my tradition, is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. While that mission will continue, the particular vision – how we embody the mission in our unique setting – will shift. How do we sense the movement of the Holy Spirit, so that we can shift with faithful agility? If we seek faithfulness to the Gospel, then we hold fast to God’s truth while confessing honestly our brokenness.

As I talk with fellow clergy and dedicated lay leaders both within the church I serve and throughout Rowan County, I sense more and more the need for building connections, especially across our differences. Talking lovingly and civilly, as one pastor friend puts it, is needed now more than ever. This requires patient listening, an eagerness to learn, and relinquishing the need to prove ourselves. Too often, a fear of other people brings this effort to a sudden halt.

How we talk matters, especially how we talk with each other across our differences. If you claim to follow Jesus Christ, then you likely want to be known for the way you love other Christians, as Jesus tells us (John 13:35). Our love for God and our neighbor is not quite enough, however; being a Christian means that you are dedicated to loving your enemies, too (Matthew 5:43-48).

We can make strides together, building connections within Rowan County, not just despite our differences, but in light of our differences.

First United Methodist Church (217 South Church Street) is hosting “What’s the Difference,” a panel discussion, tomorrow, March 19 at 4 p.m. The aim is to provide the biblical, theological, and intellectual tools needed for people to communicate lovingly and civilly. All are invited, and admission is free.

Life is different now. By God’s grace, are you?

The Rev. Dr. Mark Conforti is Senior Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Salisbury. You can reach him at mark@fumcsalisbury.org

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