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social activism killing the UMC?

I cannot get enough of this United Methodist stuff. I just got sent an article by my friend Kel who knows my affinity for the UMC and figured I would think this article is interesting. If this article is true, I am certainly sad, but I must remember that correlation does not equal causation. Thank you to the worst ethics teacher ever for pounding that one in my head.


So yeah, I do think there is a hint truth to this article because it forces me to look at extremes. I grew up considerably more conservative than I am now in regards to theology and politics. What I’m learning is that there has to be a balance of thoughts concerning salvation and thoughts concerning social activism. When you have one without the other you risk losing meaning behind anything that you do. I need spiritual nourishment, but I cannot just be fed and go home happy. There is an unsettling feeling when I am only doing for myself. I guess it is because that spiritual nourishment that I receive pours out of me like flowing water and I can’t get enough of giving it away.

So what’s the deal with the decline then? I see it as a lack of connection. This is odd for a connectional church, but we are doing a horrible job of interpreting that connection to others. We are doing a horrible job of identifying with the culture. I grew up in the church, so I actually like singing hymns with the organ, but most of my friends wouldn’t. (And contrary to popular belief we really don't like contemp Christian music either) Though the decline in members I think has little to do with worship style and more to do with how we approach the concept of Christianity. If there is a generation that is giving, it is certainly mine. Counteracting the yuppie culture seems to be our thing. Did you catch wind of the Global Night Commute back in April? A grassroots movement by people who care. People my age who aren’t involved in the larger connectional community of the UMC don’t really connect with the cool things that are being done and that can be done through the connectional system. We don’t do a good job at campus ministry for the most part either. We have kids graduate from high school and say “See you when you have kids.” What is that? Why do we give up?

I can’t say I’ve always felt welcome at my UM church home here. As a young adult who is heading towards ministry, one would assume that I would be lifted up and encouraged, but often I come home from the days working at the church more discouraged than I thought possible. I’m learning, I’m growing, but I cannot do it on my own. I need people I trust to encourage me. I’ve always said that I see my calling manifest in conversations with others. The first time I ever thought about ministry was at Mtn TOP when one of my adult leaders asked me if I had ever thought about it. I had gone on and on about being a computer engineer to her, and suddenly it clicked that it was totally wrong (ok so it took me a bit longer to figure that out). Through that conviction, I started searching out my calling, but it hasn’t always been easy. I am discouraged often when I see the voice of my age group asking “Why don’t you hear us?” and we are silenced again and again. So leadership is starting to make baby steps to draw us in. Check out the article on page 5 of my home conference newspaper. I was talking to my dad about it, and though it is there and printed, it seems that we can talk lots about attracting younger people, but until there is implementation of this I feel really skeptical. (And no, implementation is not having Nicole Mullen sing as an official part of Annual Conference)


I know I’m like a broken record right now, but I’m really passionate about this. I think that no matter how much I try to be heard, and try to help others be heard, we will not be heard unless the deconstruction that I talked about previously happens. Here’s the deal; ultimately, I want to enable others to be passionate about ministry, and to be passionate disciples of Jesus Christ. I am only one person, but I have many leaders that I trust. This is fortunate for me, but it isn’t generally the case for those in my age group. Instead we are confused. Highly spiritual, but confused. We don’t want the answers, we want to be enabled to ask the questions. We want to live out the gospel, but if we aren't even given an opportunity to hear the gospel, we're out of luck.

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3 Comments:

what i have to say about this is .... AMEN

By Anonymous Dad, at 6:35 AM  

and that is why I love you. I am more excited by your voice than anything else I am hearing out of the Methodist Church. I was blessed to attend John Ed Mathison's mega methodist church in Alabama for a couple years. It is a good church, but despite its popularity it still fails to connect with the next generation in a way that is vibrant and meaningful. You have a great gift to see the need and sense the plan of God within lack. You will be a fine minister. Bless you.

By Blogger Kel aka Daddyo, at 10:36 AM  

My friend Craig Sweet turned me on to this blog and I'm delighted he did. I only have one comment to make to your fine reflection on the article from the Minnesota paper that was that in a recent small group conversation at our church, with our resident (fairly conservative) Bishop -- Michael Coyner he said "I visit many churches where people tell me that the church has been losing members because we've become too liberal." He went on to say, "But since the 1970's we've become a lot more conservative" culiminating with what he pointed out was a "very mean general conference in 2000." The more I reflected on that the more I thought "you know he's right -- the church has lost members because we've gotten so conservative." Anyway...it just goes to show me that these arguments are hard to sustain in sound bites (that's why I like what you are writing so much -- it's very thoughtful and not little bite sized nuggets -- Thanks!). Mike Mather

By Blogger Mike Mather, at 7:25 PM  

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