Jesus ministry begins with the words, “Change your hearts and lives!” (Matthew 4) The theme of “hearts” has infused my recent reading and preaching. While reviewing my 2017 sermon for the Bishop’s Advisory Committee on uniting the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences, I discovered my insight about hearts did not come from me: “As we wrestled with our two conference histories and our common task, Dr. Johnny Jeffords spoke of God not being able to work with hard hearts. I think that is right.”
I am a better preacher, person, and pastor for serving in Winchester, Springfield, Antioch, Tullahoma, Nashville and making connections in Memphis. I find the Memphis Conference leadership deeply communal, missional, and familial. Our vows, mission, and connections flow beyond the banks of the Tennessee River.
I have worked the past two years on a team to unite the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences. I plan to vote for unity. There are things to work out but many potential blessings. God’s fields are ripe for harvest from Benton Kentucky to Bell Buckle, Tennessee. The Memphis and Tennessee fields are pretty similar. Murray and Cookeville share college settings. Winchester and Millington share farming, military, and waterfront connections. Nashville and Memphis both hold more than 600,000 residents! In these uncertain times inside our denomination and nation, perhaps God is calling us to draw together in unity – combining resources, learning new ways, finding economies of scale, and welcoming fresh connections. Let’s work together to share the love of God with a world desperate for community, unity and hope.