A Hopeful Skeptic

January 20th, 2012
This article is featured in the Call to Action (Feb/Mar/Apr 2012) issue of Circuit Rider

I love the vision of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world! I love the vision of a vital congregation that is growing, engaging the world, and investing in the ways of Jesus. I went into ministry to change the world through the church by the power and presence of the risen Christ. I did not go into ministry to serve a church that is declining in attendance, disinterested in serving the hopeless, and too busy to nurture their spiritual lives. If only it were as easy as implementing a vital congregations plan.

I suppose my skepticism affirms what the report observed: “United Methodists have an adverse reaction and fear of metrics as a means of accountability.” Although I would offer that my skepticism reflects not a fear of accountability, but a fear of simplifying the movement of the Holy Spirit.

I love the structure of institutions, and so did the Pharisees. The rules, the law, the determined path toward faithfulness. I will turn in our weekly numbers and our yearly goals. I hope that will turn around our church. But I wonder if that’s enough.

I love the call to action that says we cannot keep going the way we are going. It is the call of the prophets. There are many who are able to read the signs of the times and declare we are headed for doom.

As much as I love the institution and have benefitted from it, I do not serve the institution. As much as I try to heed prophetic warnings, I do not find hope in returning to the way things were. I follow Jesus. The one who called people away from the security of structure into the wild movement of the Spirit, away from dire predictions alone and toward the in-breaking of amazing possibilities, while saying “take nothing with you, don’t look back, and get used to having no place to lay your head.”

I hope we redirect our attention, energy, and resources toward those who risk to serve in ways that may not fit the form of the institution. I hope our institution finds ways to allow, encourage, support and celebrate those among us who follow Jesus into the wild possibilities we haven’t even imagined and never could imagine regardless of the report, the metrics, or the goals. I hope I can be one of those people.

Most of all, I hope for the transformation of the world through disciples of Jesus Christ. If we happen to get vital congregations and turn around the decline of the United Methodist Church, great!

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