What's right with our United Methodist Churches today?
Across the past several months I have heard multiple speakers, denominational leaders and workshop leaders spend much of their talk times on articulating all the problems of American mainline churches.
Being a realist who has worked closely with hundreds of mainline churches across America for twenty years, I fully recognize that many of our churches are in decline and having struggles greater than at any time in their past. I am also aware of many of the reasons why things became this way and know that we are in major need of spiritual revitalization and renewal.
I’ve heard George Barna quoted multiple times. According to those sharing his research, not one county in America ended 2012 with more Christians than it started with in that same year. Less than 10 percent of churches added anyone on profession of faith in Christ. And on it goes. One could become pessimistic or depressed at the barrage of negativity.
However, I’m also an optimist who believes that when we return to trusting God again with greater spiritual unity and joyful obedience to go and reach others with the unconditional love of Christ – there can be new victories and transformations. It begins with the lives of Christ-followers, like you and me.
Are we ready and willing to step up and follow a path of spiritual renewal and revitalization of lives and congregations?
With many answers being, “Yes!” I would passionately submit that some incredible core realities and values of mainline American churches are the right ones. What’s clearly right with many mainline American churches and Christians today?
1. We have the right foundation – Jesus Christ, risen and alive today
2. We have the right book for living our lives – the Holy Bible
3. We have the right opportunities for ministry all around us today
4. We have the right power available to us as Christ-followers – Divine Power of the Holy Spirit
5. We will see a few right people who love Christ step up and seek coaching in ministry excellence
Are there major changes that we need to make in these churches? Certainly this is the case. We want to start reaching more people with the Divine Love and Grace of Jesus Christ. We want to see persons come into a personal relationship with God. We want to see persons who have never experienced being part of the body of Christ, the church – discover the joy of becoming a vital part of Christian Community.
So, will we rise the challenge and opportunities before us? We will have the experience of seeing the Glory of God fall fresh on the mainline American churches? It is definitely not a question of, “Can we do it?” but rather, a question of, “Will we live our lives in such a way as to do it?”
Business as usual will not bring these blessings to reality. An overemphasis on metrics will not solve this. It will require a major increase in prayer ministry with feet to accompany increased prayers. This will give us “boots on the ground” in our communities to reach out, initiate and build new relationships, powered by the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. We can! Will we? This takes place one Christian life at a time. Will we be one of the Christians who catches the vision of the mainline American church seeing her best days ahead rather than in the past? We can become one who makes a difference now.
Though a large percentage of our active Leaders and Members are older adults in our churches, they can still rise up, step up and venture through faith beyond the walls to touch lives. This new movement can become a legacy that we can give not only to those in our community but to our children and grandchildren. It can come to pass that in our grand children’s lives they will never forget the shift from decline to increase we brought about with the help of God in these days.
Are you ready for change? Let’s pull together to truly reach others for Christ in the churches of today, with the members we have, and in the communities in which we live. I’d love to talk with you about possibilities for your church.
Rev. Jim W. Hollis is a General Evangelist of the UMC, the founder and Executive Director of Proactive Ministries. Jim and his Staff have led ministry strategy training with more than 900 congregations across 40 states in the USA, since 1993. Reach Jim by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook. You may also subscribe and listen to Jim on the Ministry Encouragement Podcast at: ministryencouragementpodcast.com