A view from the balcony of COR’s Leadership Institute

COR_LI2013I have to confess, there is no balcony at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection (COR) (located in Leawood, KS), for COR wisely planned their present sanctuary to become a future fellowship hall one day and realized a balcony would need a higher roof. But I’ve read a lot of Ron Heifetz’s writings on adaptive leadership lately, and as I think about my time at this year’s Leadership Institute, I’m wanting to offer a big picture view.  That only seems fitting because COR’s decision to not have a balcony is reflective of their willingness to not only think of the present but to think about a future beyond themselves.

This was my 4th trip to COR’s Leadership Institute, and I came this year as a district superintendent bringing church leaders for take-away experiences and resources. While it was good to introduce some of our leaders to COR’s work, it was also a time to view COR and LI2013 through the eyes of a district superintendent and chief missional strategist, taking in the big picture to see the strategies, practices, and values embraced by this community of faith.

I know that COR and Adam Hamilton are often placed on a pedestal, which creates both fans and foes alike, with their admiration and criticism. They weather this well, and from what I experienced of their volunteer and paid staff, and their pastors,  is that these folks are the real deal — they truly live out and embrace their purpose/mission — to build a Christian community where non-religious and nominally religious people are becoming deeply committed Christians.

Now I could certainly write a list of things that COR does well, and you wouldn’t have to search the Net very long to find an equally long list of criticisms of both COR and Adam. At the very essence though I find a church that is not only living out its mission, but also sharing its best practices – even inviting churches to “steal” those practices and call them their own. These are practices that work in a United Methodist church of any size, things like balancing the evangelical gospel and the social gospel (how Wesleyan!), emphasizing personal piety and works service (how Christian!), and embracing very hard and painful realities without being incapacitated by them, and then adopting an attitude of “whatever it takes” to make disciples and bring healing to a broken world. They also emphasize how important excellent follow up is to making disciples – again, that’s great advice to a church of any size.

But here is COR’s real gift to the UMC. In a season when we need to be experimenting with “whatever it takes” to make disciples (as opposed to members), they are bold in not being afraid to fail, and learning from those failures. Naming tough realities, embracing deep change, and making the tough call to act upon change is the hump that most churches find the hardest to get over. Adam calls it “discernment by nausea” – in other words, the hardest choice is usually the right choice.

As a D.S., I have seen seasons of charge conferences where some churches dress up their reports, tell me that things are great, and revisit stories about the past – all of which avoids the gut-wrenching admission of the present reality of a very hard struggle to try and to be faithful in the 21st century, and reinforcing our own insular nature to minister to ourselves instead of the least, the last, and the lost. This year the charge conferences in my conference are being asked to address questions that deal with self-awareness and critique – and it is proving to be a challenge, because no one likes to say that they’re not doing well and need to change!

Leadership Institute, Adam, and COR have unselfishly given themselves and their experiences to us, sharing their best practices – as well as their failures – so that the Kingdom might be served and disciples might be made. My prayer is that other pastors, lay leaders, and churches might be as willing to share their own best practices and failures with others; it could be our Connexion’s greatest asset in this season of witnessing to a changed mission field.

I can’t say enough good things about Leadership Institute. What they do they do well, and challenge us to do the same, whether we’re a church of 20 or a church of 2000.

*Rev. Sky McCracken is the district superintendent in the Paducah District of the Memphis Annual Conference. Rev. McCracken blogs at http://revdsky.blogspot.com/

Sky McCracken

The Rev. Sky McCracken is the District Superintendent of the Paducah District of the Memphis Annual Conference.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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Marianne Hussey
Marianne Hussey

I attended my second Leadership conference this year—already saving to go next year! COR is making a difference in our local struggling churches! Adam Hamilton and his team are partnering with us, cheering us on! Thank you COR, and to Debi Nixon–Catalyst director!

Marianne Hussey Del Rosa UMC. San Bernardino, CA


Amen – Hooked On Christ! I couldn't say it better. Thank you for your faithfulness COR and Adam Hamilton.


Sky reminds us that the "Leadership Institute, Adam, and COR have unselfishly given themselves and their experiences to us, sharing their best practices – as well as their failures – so that the Kingdom might be served and disciples might be made."

We are a denomination in need of deep change. What an amazing gift we have in our efforts for deep change, from the cutting-edge work being done by Adam and COR.

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