Hey UMC, Are We Desperate Enough?
I’m a United Methodist Pastor. If you listen to all the pundits on social media then that might mean I’m an endangered species. In fact, you’d be tempted to believe the whole of the United Methodist Church is endangered, dying, on the verge of not existing at all. And you might be right. We sure appear to be moving that direction in a hurry. We are divided theologically, culturally, regionally, and politically. We seem to be anything but united. The denominational debates around homosexuality, accountability, institutional structure, and so many more threaten to distract and derail our methodist movement. Then we throw in the numbers reports about membership decline, worship attendance decline, almost non-existent professions of faith and we really get ecclesiastically depressed.
I’m reminded of the conversations so many of us have had with local churches. Conversations about how to keep the lights on and the doors open. I once had a colleague mention that an older woman in the church had recently voiced the desire to ‘do what is necessary to keep the church open so there’s somewhere to have my funeral!’ We may not speak it that way but how many pastors have adopted that attitude toward the denomination? ‘Let’s just do what is necessary so I can receive my pension.”Let’s just do what is necessary so I don’t have to change careers in mid life.’ There is a place past this attitude. And it’s a place of desperation. And desperation can be good.
Desperation can get us to change when the status quo wouldn’t let us budge. Desperation can open us to possibilities our personal preferences would never have indulged before. Desperation can lead us to risk boldly when our previous ‘success’ just led us to safety and comfort. Desperation can be good when it compels us to rely upon God’s providence, ’cause we certainly can’t do it on our own.’ Yes, desperation can be good.
The question for our United Methodist Church is ‘are we desperate enough?’ Are we desperate enough to find a way to continue together in the midst of our theological differences? Are we desperate enough to allow our denomination to birth new denominations amicably and with a blessing? Are we desperate enough to set aside the business of General Conference 2016 and instead focus on prayer, fasting, and discernment of God’s direction for the church? Are we desperate enough to change, to risk, to rely on God?
Are we desperate enough?
What do you think?