I just finished reading the Call to Action by the Bishops of the United Methodist Church. It’s good stuff. In fact, it’s great stuff – to a point. The five aspects of a vital church it proposes are right on target. Look at what it says.
“Vital congregations are Spirit-filled, forward-leaning communities of believers that welcome all people, make disciples of Jesus Christ, and serve like Christ through justice and mercy ministries.”
“A vital congregation has:
- Inviting and inspiring worship,
- Engaged disciples in mission and outreach,
- Gifted, equipped, and empowered lay leadership,
- Effective, equipped, and inspired clergy leadership,
- Small groups and strong children’s programs and youth ministries”
Will it make a difference? Time will tell.
Is there anything in the report that will get in the way of its success? I think so. Here’s three things that could hamper its success:
- The distinction between laity and clergy. The world has already moved beyond these terms, including most mega-churches, and the Scriptures never knew them so why do we insist on keeping them? All the distinction does is make it harder to develop the priesthood of the believer because it always results in them saying “I’m just a lay person.”
- Neither description of the vital congregation mentions the development of a culture that allows all of the above to take place. For example: People aren’t looking for a contemporary worship service; they are looking for a contemporary church. Often we put programs in place that rub against the underlying culture of the congregation. For example: It’s one thing to talk about making disciples but if that is never the focus of preaching or membership then it won’t ever happen. We need to develop a culture that says people really need God for the here and now and for eternity. We don’t have that at the moment.
Those of you who know me know I’m a United Methodist by choice. You also know I’ve been a major critic of what the UMC has become. We have drifted so far from John Wesley that he wouldn’t know us. I do pray this Call to Action has fruit.
There will be three things that will ultimately determine whether the Call to Action results in major fruit.
- The Call to Action must be based on a love of Jesus Christ and not another attempt to resurrect a dying denomination. God will honor the first desire, but not the latter.
- We must not make this just another program, instead allowing it to create a new culture, or should I say, restoring the old heritage of Methodism.
- We must quit focusing on raising apportionments and focus on the creating the culture the Call to Action requires us to have first.
Let’s all pray that those who are to implement this Call to Action are pray for a double portion of God’s spirit.
Question: In your experience, what are the pros and cons of denominational Christianity? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.