A recent call to make bishops out of United Methodist mega-church pastors got me thinking about the role of bishops and superintendents in leading the ministry of local congregations. My writing here focuses on connecting online churches and physical locations. Both bishops and mega-church pastors could do this.
Already we are seeing many mega-church pastors broadcasting their sermons to multiple locations. Local congregational staff then take care of pastoral needs and other parts of the worship service and local programming. Central mega-church staff provide support in the manner of technology, start-up budget, staff support structure, larger programming and mission and other resources.
Imagine if the annual conference, district or other connectional church structure played this role. Instead of perpetuating the institution of the conference, the connectional church would focus on the disciple-formation happening in the local congregations. Indeed, this is what John Wesley and the early Methodists instituted. They created the connectional structure for the support of local ministry and not the other way around.
Therefore, the bishop or superintendent could become the leader of a regional connectional church where congregations come together for leadership and mission. The ideas, volunteers and resources come out of the membership, but are then shared with the wider connection. What an amazing sense of mission and ministry this could all bring.