Guiding Life – The Soap Opera Life of Steve Bullmer, New Methodist Minister in Crystal Lake

Steve Bullmer, the new Methodist minister in Crystal Lake, introduced himself through a series of sermons comparing his life to a soap opera.

The Young and the Restless

One Life to Live

General Hospital

The Bold and the Beautiful

The final show is entitled, “Guiding Light.”

You get one guess as to who that is.

Central to the story is a decision Lee Martin, Director of the Conference’s Office of Congregational Development.

He wanted Bullmer to take part in something he headed called the Institute of Congregational Development. It would take a two-year commitment.

The first speaker, Western Michigan Conference Director of Congregational Development (including new church starts) Denny Buwalda,

The take-away:

  • “Where there is no vision … the people fuss at each other.
  • “It’s tough to resurrect a dead horse.
  • “It’s even tougher to get United Methodists off of them.
  • “You cannot motivate anyone, but you can create an environment that motivates people.
  • “A church on a plateau is a healthy church looking for a vision.“

Here was his biggie:

“If you have been given a vision, and you are sure it is a vision from God (as opposed to your own agenda), then God has already given you all the resources to fulfill that vision.”

“Do you hear how revolutionary that is?” Bullmer asked. “Most churches operate out of an attitude of scarcity.”

“This insight from Denny Buwalda turns all of that upside down…We’re downsizing God’s plans and underestimating God’s power!”

“That’s what I wanted to do! But to do it, I had to take a next step in my spiritual development; I had to become a leader.

“You see, seminary—and all those books I read, lectures I heard, and seminars I attended—trained me to be a manager. Pastors are managers.

“I would re-evaluate everything I had been taught and I would change everything that was keeping me from being the leader God wanted me to be.

“And when I made that promise the impasse finally began to break up. My holy discontent was being satisfied. I was learning how to make my momma well again.

“It was an amazing two years! I unlearned everything I was taught about worship and preaching.

“I went back to the basics of the truth of Christianity and made sure that every sermon applied faith solutions that worked in real life.

“I started thinking first of all: How would this sound, look, feel like to the outsider who just took a huge risk and came to church for the first time?

“…most of all I realized that worship is not about us at all; it’s about praising God, giving a gift to God; MAGNIFYING God.”

“I unlearned everything I knew about small groups…

  • “John Wesley realized that 10 people taking care of each other was a thousand times more effective pastoral care than one or two ‘professionals’ taking care of an entire congregation…
  • “you share your struggles, share your victories, and share your testimony to what Jesus Christ is doing in your life with people who love you, support you, encourage you …
  • “and call you to accountability when you backslide…
  • “I realized that unless you experience the celebration of worshiping in a large group on a weekly basis … and the intimacy and caring of a small group on a weekly basis …

“you have not experienced church as Jesus meant it to be experienced.

Bullmer praised Rick Warren’s advice that

“the church should be driven by Jesus’ purpose for it.”

And what was that purpose?

“How do we know what Jesus’ purpose for the church is? Well, he told us! In the Great Commandment and the Great Commission Jesus laid out the five purposes of the church. And then Warren said something that caused me to have a Homer Simpson ‘Duh!’ moment. He said, ‘

You know, they call them ‘great’ for a reason. Maybe we ought to pay attention to them. Duh!

“The Great Commandment:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…. Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’ (Matthew 22:37-40)

“The Great Commission:

‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ (Matthew 28:19-20)

Using Warren’s advice, Bullmer redesigned the Marengo Methodist Church.

“Marengo UMC became a different church,” he said, but “for all God becoming purpose driven was doing for us, for all the internal spiritual growth occurring, we were still a small membership church.“

“…as long as we were a small church and I was the only pastor, I couldn’t concentrate my energies on my gifts of preaching and teaching and my passion for reaching the unchurched and the dechurched.“

And, Bullmer gives a life lesson:

“If you want to be fulfilled and fruitful in your life, find your gifts, embrace your passion, and spend 80% of your time in your ‘zone.’ Spend 80% of your time hitting your ‘sweet spot.’

“God put you on this planet for a reason.

“God brought you to this church for a reason.

“There is something God wants you to do.

“Find it, and just do it 80% of the time.

“Do the things you have to do as an employee, as an employer, as a husband a wife, a parent 20% of the time. And the rest of the time maximize the gifts God gave you.”

It sounds like the old advice,

“If you don’t like your job, you have the wrong job.”

So, while Bullmer is talking to God again (I’m sure he does it all the time,) but this time he shared this:

“Would it be so bad for me to be in a big church where I could spend all of my time doing what I’m gifted to do, and other people do all the stuff I’m not gifted to do?”

“And a voice spoke to me. The same voice that said,

‘Why don’t you be a minister?’

“The same voice that said,

‘Are you ready to play the game by my rules?’

“The voice I hadn’t heard while stuck in my spiritual wilderness spoke again. And God said,

‘I grant you your request.’”

So, last January, District Superintendent Oscar Carrasco called Bullmer and said,

“Steve, we want you to go to Crystal Lake. Crystal Lake is a strong church, but the Bishop thinks it could become even stronger under your leadership…we dream of Crystal Lake becoming a regional teaching church where others pastors and church leaders will come to learn from you and the leaders of Crystal Lake Church.”

“I knew this was where I was supposed to go.”

Bullmer invites his parishioners to join him in his vision.

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Services at the First United Methodist Church (at the corner of West Crystal Lake Avenue and Dole, both of which intersect with Route 14 at a stop light) are 5 PM on Saturday and 8 AM, 9:30 AM and 11 AM. The 9:30 service is the most traditional. The 11 o’clock one is the most contemporary.

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