The United Methodist Church has been in at least numerical decline for a generation. Here in the South we look at Baptist churches with envy, since they’re usually bigger, richer, and more powerful than ours. When we hear about denominational statistics, we hear “UMC, down; SBS, up.” Well, not any more: the SBC has now plateaued. Finally some company in our misery!
Ed Stetzer has a commentary on the plateau event and has generated many interesting comments. Much of what he – and they – say sound pretty familiar to me. Change the “SBC” to “UMC,” and adjust a couple of terms here or there, and it sounds like what I’ve seen in the UMC.
Stetzer attributes much of the problem to a lack of a “Great Commission Resurgence.” I’m not an SBC, so I’m not fit to comment on the state of the Great Commission in their midst. I can say that we UM’s are still working on it. We know enough to know that the Great Commission is a good thing. We’ve started talking more about doing outreach ministry. But we haven’t – for the most part – developed any momentum in disciple making, in actually helping people cross the line of commitment to Jesus. Why is this?
I’ll offer a few reasons. Let me know what you think.
- It’s easier to focus on our own needs, wants and comfort than to go out and reach the lost. Reaching will make us change our schedules. It might even cost us something. We just don’t have any money left after taking care of our buildings. Why don’t we let the Annual Conference take care of it? Hey – maybe we could do something – if they’d send us some money to do it. Oh yeah, they need to cut our apportionments, too.
- Lost? What do you mean, lost? Thinking that someone is lost is way too judgmental. They just have alternate truths/lifestyles/etc. It’s unAmerican to think we have the truth and they don’t. So we’ll just mind our own business. Sure, we’ll make disciples. Our church will teach the children and make them into disciples. We’ll do it for both of the children who are on our roll. If the parents would only bring them, that it.
- Those people out there aren’t like us. They aren’t from our socio-economic-racial group. They don’t like our music. Let’s just let the Baptist have them. What? The Baptists are growing either? Surely someone will come along and reach them. We’re working on fellowship in our friendly church.