Recently, I was traveling and the person seated next to me asked me what I do for a living. What should I say at such times? If I say that I am a bishop that usually leads to odd questions about the Roman Catholic Church until I explain that we, United Methodists, also have bishops. If I say I am a minister that often leads to an awkward silence. Either way there is no short answer to explain what I do for a living.
What do you say when asked about your faith, or your church or your Christian beliefs? Do you know what to say?
The media does not help us, because the various media seem often to portray Christians as either religious zealots or as irrelevant fools who are out of touch with the real world. Really, when was the last time you saw a Christian portrayed on any TV show or movie in a positive light? No wonder people ask us awkward questions about our faith, our church and our beliefs.
What do you say?
I am convinced that most of us United Methodists say far too little. We seem embarrassed to talk about our faith. We seem unsure of what The United Methodist Church believes, and we seem afraid of getting into discussions about the Bible.
Fortunately, we can learn how to share our faith in ways that are helpful and not condemning. We can practice expressing our own faith journey in a way that is genuine and not offensive. The laity of our conferences are planning a special retreat during LEAP Day weekend, February 29 to March 1, that will include helpful input about sharing our own stories.
Likewise, the clergy of our two Indiana conferences are invited to join in the "Our Life Together" retreat on April 14-15 where we will focus upon strengthening our understanding of "Living the Wesleyan Way in a New Day."
All of us need to remember the Palm Sunday story, when the disciples of Jesus were shouting for joy and the religious people of that day told Jesus to keep them quiet. Jesus replied (in Eugene Peterson's The Message paraphrase of Luke 19:40), with these words: "If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise."
These are not days to keep quiet about our faith. These are days to share our story, to invite our friends and neighbors to church and to let the world know that we are followers of Christ. We have answers to offer, and we have a faith to share.
Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Area of The United Methodist Church
"Making a Difference in Indiana and around the world"