I am attending a gathering of most of our active United Methodist bishops in the US (32 are present) and most of the senior pastors of the 100 largest UM congregations in the UMC (89 are present). It is quite a group and quite a gathering, initiated by Adam Hamilton who is senior pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection – our largest membership United Methodist church in America.
Our agenda: we are talking about how we can work together to help the UMC focus on the future in a way that increases our vitality, our capacity to make disciples, and our effectiveness in the world. This is not a “political” meeting, it is more like a revival, with a lot of personal sharing, offering “best practices” to one another, and praying together.
One theme I have heard over and over again from bishops and pastors alike could be summarized by this statement: “Whatever it takes, I want to see our United Methodist Church be more vital and alive and effective in our ministry.” One of the bishops said it this way, “Other than giving up my family and my faith, I would give up anything to help our church find renewal. I would give up being a bishop for life, I would give up the appointment power I have, I would give up … anything if that sacrifice would make a difference.”
Such statements are being uttered in ways that convince me we are all sincere in our desire to see our beloved UMC find new life.
What about you? Are you willing to do anything it takes for your congregation to be more faithful and effective? Are you willing to change from a “preference” mentality (what’s in it for me?) to a “purpose” mentality of measuring everything in terms of accomplishing our purpose of making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world? Are you willing for your church to spend more time, effort, and resources beyond your church walls rather than inside? Are you willing to welcome newcomers even when the look and speak differently? Are you willing to change your favorite style of music or preaching or worship if it will better reach those outside your church? Are you willing to tithe and give generously to missions and outreach for others?
Or to put it even more simply, and in ways we have been talking together at this event, does it matter to you that people are “lost” and need the Lord in their life? That is really the basic passion and motivation question, isn’t it? Do we care about those outside and beyond our own Christian fellowship? Does it matter to us that people and our society are living in destructive patterns? Do we care? Do we want our United Methodist Church to make a difference in people’s lives? Are we willing to do “whatever it takes” to transform the world into the likeness of Christ?
Don’t answer those questions too quickly. Answer them prayerfully, because our answers will determine our future as United Methodists.