Limited Appeal May 29, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Church Leadership, Identity & Purpose, The United Methodist Church, Theological Reflection.
Tags: Church Leadership, Mission & Purpose, The United Methodist Church, Values
You do realize, don’t you, that you have a very limited appeal? The majority of United Methodists are extremely happy with the way things are.
Really? We are happy with losing credibility? We are happy that more people are leaving than are coming? We are happy that younger educated people find us irrelevant and ridiculous? We are happy that the only people who care about our survival is us? Really? Then why are we so obsessed with doing anything and everything to ensure our continued survival — whether we deserve to survive or not? Can the church of Jesus Christ fulfill its mission without a United Methodist Church? You betcha’, which means we better clean up our act really fast.
United Methodism is so “last year.” No one much cares if we are “UM,” what they care about is whether we are making the world a better place. If a church is actually helping people relate to God, grow in their faith, and make a difference in the world, people care. If a church spends tons of money on ads and holds an annual “Change the World” campaign? Not so much.
My appeal is irrelevant. I don’t care who reads me — I blog for me. If others read it and are challenged, all the better. I know that “the powers that be” could care less what I say. Here is a quote from one of our denominational power-brokers:
You’re a flea, a nuisance. You criticize the work of people who are smarter, more Christian, and more committed than you, but you don’t make a bit of difference. If what you say made a difference, we would invite you into the important work of envisioning a future for the church.
I am okay with this. I have a different opinion and vision, that’s all. I want to see our church make the world a bit more like the kin_dom of God. I don’t think we have used very good critical thinking skills in looking at our short- or long-term future. I believe we are focused on the wrong things and that no matter how hard we work, we will not see the kinds of results we want. Lots of people disagree with me. They look at the results we have been getting for the past 40 years and say, “we’re good with this. Decline and decay, losing millions of members, this is what we were hoping for. We need to keep doing what is killing us.” That’s fine, but it will never make me happy.
We have so much opportunity, and so many options. The only one not truly viable is to continue pandering to the lowest common denominator. As long as we exist to coddle and comfort those least interested in living the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are on the path to extinction. Nothing can exist if its highest value is compromise and irrelevancy. We must actually support Christian discipleship or we will disappear.
And, yes, I know discipleship is a joy-killer; we only want a faith that makes us happy and comfortable, but that isn’t what Jesus called us to. For those who think Christianity is showing up occasionally for a worship service, we may disappoint. The active Christian life calls us to service, sacrifice and standards. Being Christian actually means something. Our church could commit to this. Now, of course, 70% of the tag-a-longs we now have would bolt, but oh how glorious is could be to have a church filled with bona-fide disciples-in-formation.
No, to dedicate ourselves to our disciplinary mandate to reach our and receive new people,to relate people to God, to nurture and strengthen them in an authentic Christian faith, and to equip them to live transformed and transforming live in the world? That’s hard work. It is what we say we are all about, but still…
We won’t do this. We like money too much. We have bills to pay. We have big buildings to support… and build more of. We like US way to much to like Jesus more.
Christianity, true discipleship, will always have limited appeal. The costs outweigh the benefits, and the sacrifice outweighs the material rewards. We don’t like this. We want a faith that is all about us, and we want a church that helps us feel comfortable, safe, and accepted.