United Methodists worried about declining church membership may be overlooking a more subtle renewal that’s underway, writes the Rev. Dwight H. Judy in his new book, A Quiet Pentecost: Inviting [...]
I despised this term in college and seminary – it was one of those phrases that people couldn’t wait to use, similar to words and phrases used today like “fleshing out,” “dichotomy,” “postmodern,” and “contextual theology.” But I can’t think of a better term for this season of the Church. A paradigm shift is needed if we are going to be faithful to the mission of the Church. And like most shifts, they are painful and require sacrifice. As Chris Holmes, former DS and now coach-trainer for pastors across several denominations, says in his newsletter: “Shift happens.”
I posted the above from Gil Rendle’s book Back to Zero a few blogs ago – and I think it still has much to teach us about being the church. It would be very easy to be dismissive of this and say, “Eh, it’s the latest fad, I’ll wait it out until this wears off and dies down.” The problem with this is that this is far from a new fad; this is Ecclesiology and Missiology 101. We usurped that and replaced it with our new-and-improved way of doing things which ran tangent to the Great Commission. Membership is important, and I don’t think we quit monitoring it. But discipleship is even more important; indeed, the true definition of membership – defined by our baptismal and membership vows – is to not just BE a disciple, but to make/generate/model disciples and discipleship. Any other definition of membership makes it akin to a club that has privileges. Church membership and discipleship has responsibilities.
For United Methodist clergy, the paradigm shift affects how we develop and deploy leadership. Already there is a lot of pushback from changes we are seeing – and pushback is usually a sign that a new reality is present. Changes in clergy deployment are being witnessed for a simple reason: our churches are no longer the churches they once were (economically- or attendance-wise), and the contextual realities where those churches are located are shifting. It’s not ageism, sexism, or any other discriminism – it’s “shift happening.” As a D.S., I realize more than ever how much I have to learn, study, and be present in the district and conference to be in touch with reality. The shift for the superintendency (General and District) is less and less about being a bureaucrat and administrative manager and more and more about coaching, missional strategizing, and relating to people and churches.
I was taught in seminary about having “professional distance” from parishioners; yet intimacy and fostering relationships with people is more critical than ever in a discipleship and mission model of ministry. My style of preaching is having to change. We clergy have got to love people like we’ve never been hurt and be willing to take the risks for the sake of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom. There is no other way to teach and lead passion for the Gospel to transform a hurting world.
We clergy are going to have to do this knowing that (a) our congregations are shrinking, (b) our denomination is hurting in everyday imaginable (did you know that the United Methodist Reporter is out of business June 1?) and that un-sustainability is a real possibility, and (c) the role of clergy is shifting. Yet, at the same time, (a) our God is an awesome God, (b) there are more opportunities than ever to do ministry and make disciples, and (c) Jesus promises to be with us, to the very end!
There is much to be done – but there is joy in doing it! I remember in the minutes before I was ordained a deacon (back in the “old” days), I was so scared that I wanted to throw up and say, “I can’t do it.” But I also remember when the hands were laid upon my head that there was nothing else in this world that my heart burned for than to serve the Lord.
My friend Ed Kilbourne sings the most wonderful song, based on some traditional words. I wish I had the musical track to go with it, but here are the lyrics:
You’ve got to sing when the spirit says sing And obey the spirit of the Lord You’ve got to sing like you don’t need the money Love like you’ll never get hurt You’ve got to dance, dance, dance, like nobody’s watching It’s got to come from the heart if you want it to work And if you hold back the word that might heal somebody’s pain You’re holding back yourself from the light And if you make your decisions based only upon gain You will see the world with only partial sight And if you need some assistance but don’t let your buddies know You’re keeping them from being all that they could And if your heart starts a talkin’, better let those feelings show You don’t want to stop the flow of something good
I believe this is the paradigm shift we need to adapt to and adopt. Or, more accurately, re-adapt to and re-adopt.
Hacking Christianity :: Rev. Jeremy Smith: UMReporter & Cokesbury: The Splintering of Methodism? #UMC
The United Methodist Church has no Pope. Our last individual in charge of everything was John Wesley, our founder. When he died, his authority was delegated to some Bishops. And then some regional entities. And eventually, some national entities that became global entities. But all the while, the primary characterization of the UMC is that [...]View full post
Suggestions that global warming has stalled are a “diversionary tactic” from “deniers” who want the public to be confused over climate change, according to the world’s best-known climate scientist. Prof James Hansen, who first alerted the world to climate change in 1988, said on Friday: “It is not true that the temperature has not [...]
Don’t fall into the error of modalism–that at different points of history, God appeared in different forms. That is, God was Father during the Old Testament times, then became the visible Son, then at Pentecost became manifest as the Spirit.The lectio…View full post
“I am still mourning Jesus’ death, even though I believe the Resurrection wipes away that pain. But as one of the women who follow Jesus, my heart is sore from his loss. I still wish to see him in the flesh and hear his marvelous words, which healed my wounds instantaneously. I am here in the house with all of my comrades, waiting for something. I know not what. I am fearful, though I wish I were not. I had hoped for comfort, being together, but so many bodies pressed close to me chafe, as if I were wearing a hot, rough garment.
A sudden noise outside makes me look up. “Is it the wind?” I ask a woman next to me. She shakes her head, eyes wide. The noise continues like a storm, but the kind of storm that brings rain after heavy heat and drought. It rushes into our room, and suddenly each person there stands straighter, as if courage were being poured into them. I see flickers of fire about the room — now on that one’s head, now on Mary the mother of Jesus’ head, and suddenly, that fire is on me. It burns and refreshes. How can something be hot and cool as water at the same time?
In that moment, all my doubts are washed away. My fearful heart collapses like an empty wineskin and instead is filled with certainty, love and belief. I want to run outside and tell the whole world what we know to be true, so I join the others pouring out into the streets, speaking in different languages. Words rise within and flow out of my mouth, words I didn’t know I had. It is some other language but I understand it. The language of my heart says, “Everything I told you is true. I was dead yet now am alive. The works of power I did, now you can do. Do not be afraid. Go out into the world and preach my words.”
I fall to my knees when the words stop, but my strong heart remains. I am ready to rush off into the streets, proclaiming the truth, but some older members of our community caution us saying, “It is still dangerous for the disciples. Be careful.”
Some of the women and I look at one another. We know how to be careful, but we also know how to raise a child, one word at a time, one lesson at a time, one thread of discipline at a time. We are uniquely prepared to preach the Word, and no one would think us dangerous because we are only women.”View full post
Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2013/05/qa-the-quiet-pentecost-of-spiritual-formation/
May 17 2013
By Sally Hicks, Faith & Leadership… Last October, Margot Porterfield and her husband, the Rev. Mark Porterfield, faced big changes in their life together. He was starting a new appointment as pastor at First United Methodist Church in Port Lavaca, Texas. She was going back to full-time work after five years. And with their two [...]
Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2013/05/gift-of-renewal-donors-provide-retreat-time-for-um-clergy/
May 17 2013
Florida pastor sees congregation grow by 25 percent in one Sunday as he does ‘what a pastor is called to do.’
Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2013/05/church-vitality-what-is-the-secret-to-growing/
May 17 2013
UMR Communications, publisher of the Reporter and 45 other editions, traces history to pre-Civil War Methodist newspapers in Texas.
Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2013/05/united-methodist-reporter-closing/
May 16 2013
By Don Lattin, Religion News Service… Bob Gersztyn owned 300 rock ’n’ roll albums in 1971, the year he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Among them were some choice 1960s vinyl from Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Mothers of Invention. But all of a sudden, this was the devil’s [...]
Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2013/05/former-jesus-freak-traces-evolution-of-christian-rock/
May 16 2013
Finding no viable plan for reversing financial losses of recent months, UMR Communications will cease operations on May 31. UMR Communications (UMRC) publishes the United Methodist Reporter in print and digital formats and online, and provides printing and communication services to churches and other nonprofits. The final print Reporter will carry the date June 7, [...]
Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2013/05/umr-communications-including-united-methodist-reporter-to-close/