2023 fmcusa general conference

July 25-28, 2023

GC23 News

Listen Up!

September 26, 2022

Bishop Matt Whitehead

Bishop Matt Whitehead

Bishop Matt Whitehead, D.Min., oversees Free Methodist ministries in the Western United States and also in Africa and Asia. He was elected the lead bishop of the Free Methodist Church USA at General Conference 2019. He previously served more than 20 years as the superintendent of the Pacific Northwest Conference after 17 years as a local church pastor.

By Bishop Matt Whitehead

Mr. Dillard — my gym teacher at Nelson Middle School in Renton, Washington — had a standard way of getting us to pay attention in gym class, which was not an easy task. “Listen up!” he would yell at the top of his lungs. He was a large, imposing figure and did not have any trouble getting a group of junior high boys to pay attention.

We are in the middle of a pandemic! I am not talking about COVID although it remains a significant issue for many of us. The pandemic I am referencing is our inability to listen.

Many of us would rather talk than listen. We see this repeatedly; don’t we? People talk over one another because they are thinking about what they want to say next versus listening to what the other person is saying.

We are bombarded by the media with video of people screaming over the top of one another. It seems so commonplace that we almost take for granted that this is the way to get your point across if you are serious.

Like most extroverts, I love to talk. Over the years, I hope I have learned to be a good listener. However, I know it is critical for me to be in the right position to hear. Because I have a significant hearing loss in my left ear, I try to stand so people are speaking into my right ear. One of the most challenging environments for me is when someone seated to my left is talking to me.

The ability to listen and respond in obedience is a repeated theme in the scriptures:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22)

He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:28)

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:24)

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9)

In Revelation 2 and 3, the Lord writes to the seven churches in Asia Minor. The critiques of each of the seven churches are different, but one statement is repeated in each of the seven messages: “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

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“God deeply desires that we would be able to hear and respond in obedience.”

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God wanted these believers to listen up and hear the message God had for them. God’s perspective has not changed. God deeply desires that we would be able to hear and respond in obedience.

We believe that fasting and prayer are the best ways we can prepare for General Conference 2023 (GC23). We are calling the Free Methodist Church to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church. As we prepare for GC23 this coming July in Orlando, Florida, the Board of Bishops is inviting you to join us on a journey, a journey of listening up.

The theme for GC23, “Igniting a Spirit-Fueled Movement,” is taken from our denominational vision about the role of the denomination in the life of the local church. We believe that God has called the Free Methodist Church to “ignite a Spirit-fueled movement that catalyzes the multiplication of churches and leaders.”

Bishop Linda Adams, Bishop Keith Cowart, and I feel so strongly that God is birthing a new day for our denomination. We say that with great humility, but we also know that this will not happen unless Free Methodists signal our complete and total dependency on God.

We’ve committed to a season of intentional fasting in preparation for GC23. Your bishops and Executive Leadership Team have each committed to a specific fasting routine between now and General Conference.

When we fast, we become more aware of our need. Whatever we are depriving ourselves of creates a sense of desire and longing. To listen is to become aware — aware of God, aware of the “other” around us, aware of creation and our charge to be stewards of it, aware of our need for confession and repentance.

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“To listen is to become aware — aware of God.”

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I am not an expert on fasting, but I have learned over the years that when I fast, I am humbled to the place where I can listen upward to what God is saying. Hearing God’s voice then reshapes my own heart to hold the brokenness that lives in me and in the world in ways that can bring about the transformation that only God can give. Prayer and fasting, then, become that humble place in me where I can hear what is being spoken and respond to the invitation being given.

As we prepare for GC23, Free Methodist family, we invite you to join us in our commitment to listen up and hear what God is saying to us.+

Bishop Matt Whitehead

Bishop Matt Whitehead

Bishop Matt Whitehead, D.Min., oversees Free Methodist ministries in the Western United States and also in Africa and Asia. He was elected the lead bishop of the Free Methodist Church USA at General Conference 2019. He previously served more than 20 years as the superintendent of the Pacific Northwest Conference after 17 years as a local church pastor.