Finding OR Losing Our Way
On April 24th of this month, The United Methodist Church will gather for its quadrennial General conference. I have either observed or participated in five of these gatherings, but this year I am neither a delegate nor an observer. I have been less involved in denominational matters than at any time in my ministry, and because of that, this last year has been a startlingly revealing year to me. My greatest revelation is a personal one—“I don’t care.” I don’t care about most of the issues that we will spend ten days arguing about. I don’t care about many of the things we will spend ten days celebrating. I don’t care what decisions are made because the Church will survive, even if the denomination doesn’t. Picture with me a worse case scenario and I can point to at least ten positive scenarios that are created out of it.
Another revelation for me during this year that parallels my indifference is that I have found that, like me, most of the people in the pews don’t care either. Our culture has moved to the place that it looks upon behemoth, out of touch, organizations as organizations not to be trusted—and I am not sure that this wariness is undeserved. Most of us sign on for the “best” parts of the organization content to live with the “worst” parts of the organization—but at what point is the trade off just too great?
Now lest you think I am only ranting about what I don’t care about, let me clarify that there are things that I do care about. What I DO care about is being part of an Organism that has as its core motivation the advancement of the Kingdom of Christ. I want to be a part of a community of faith and a network of local churches that want to win people for Christ, raise them up to be like Christ by discipling them, and send them out into the world to serve Christ’s purposes by serving others. What I am not sure of is whether am I a part of that kind of community or not. We talk about it, think about it, publish resources that claim to be aimed at it—but this central work that Jesus gave us to do (Matthew 28:19-20) is not a priority for the General Church and that distraction hampers the work of the local church—where lives are actually changed.
I hope that we can find our way back to what we were called to be but I have little hope that re-orientation will happen when our delegates gather in Tampa. We have lost our way, and finding it again means that we make difficult decisions about the denomination, how it works structurally, how it works functionally AND what our priorities will be. You can always tell someone’s priorities by what they celebrate; watch what we celebrate at General Conference and draw your own conclusions.
My conclusion is that we have lost our way, and finding it again will determine whether or not we CAN or SHOULD expect to be useful to God in fulfilling his purpose for humanity.
Written by Bryan Collier