The Ministry Matters Top 10: Our most popular articles of the year

January 14th, 2020

I’ve never been much of a fan of those year-end retrospective articles that some publications release around the end of December. Frankly, I’m usually so ready to move on into the new year that looking back over the previous one can seem like a real chore. And isn’t there a famous quote about yesterday’s news being about the deadest thing there is?

But my own preferences notwithstanding, I do concede that there’s value in analyzing which stories were the most popular ones from a given year, especially for a website like Ministry Matters that deals with themes and practical issues much more than breaking news. Like other parts of our culture, churches and their leaders create and follow trends that change from year to year, and, at the very least, a list of the most-read articles shows the topics and ideas we were thinking about the most over the previous 12 months.

So even though we’re already a couple of weeks into 2020, let’s take a brief look back at 2019.

10. Orthodoxy by any means necessary: Sky McCracken, senior pastor at First UMC in Jackson, Tenn. examined the increasing use in churches of the partisan political methods from the secular world. In particular, he criticized the political maneuvering of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in mainline churches and lamented the shortage of grace and love in current discourse.

9. Meeting dementia with pastoral care: Retired United Methodist bishop Ken Carder shared thoughts on theological challenges and opportunities of ministering to those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Bishop Carder has been his wife Linda’s primary caregiver for many years. This article was an excerpt from his recent book Ministry with the Forgotten.

8. Not going home: Beth Moore and female preachers: Back in October, when conservative pastor and radio host John MacArthur said that popular Baptist Bible teacher Beth Moore should “go home,” Ministry Matters columnist and Episcopal priest Kira Austin-Young wasn’t having it: “Once again, small men who are threatened by a powerful and popular woman act out using their institutional privilege. Once again, those of us who are in denominations that ordain women are reminded that there are men out there, even some in our own pews, who wish we would ‘go home’ rather than preach the Gospel.”

7. Ordination in a fractured church: Allen Stanton took a look at the process of ordination through the eyes of a soon-to-be (when the article was written) elder and what that means in a denomination on the verge of schism. Ultimately, Stanton sees the moment the United Methodist Church is facing now ushering in a freedom to start over in new and creative ways.

6. The church leader who doesn’t go to church: Kira made the list again with a critique of a Christian Century essay by Adam Copeland titled “I’m a ‘church leader’ who doesn’t really go to church.” Spoiler alert: she wasn’t buying his excuses. Says Kira, “It’s much easier to make pronouncements about hypothetical Christians in a hypothetical community than it is to do the hard work of being in relationship with those whom I disagree or dislike.”

5. Holy incubation: Sue Haupert-Johnson penned a thoughtful piece on the United Methodist Church’s road ahead after the contentious General Conference last year in St. Louis. One major priority for her was recommitting to “the method” of Methodism, especially the five means of grace.

4. Christians and gender neutral pronouns: Who knew that a subject as dull as pronouns could be such a hot topic in the church? Jill Johnson explored gender, pronouns and the evolution of language in October for FaithLink. And judging by the number of people who read the article, this conversation is far from over.

3. What can the church do for the burned out generation? United Methodist pastor Laura Patterson proved last year that many of you haven’t yet burned out on articles about millennials. Millennials, however, are burning out on life, and, per Patterson, the church has contributed to the problem by going along with our culture’s “pressure to optimize.”

2. What will happen to our rural congregations? Allen Stanton, who specializes in rural church ministry in his position as Executive Director of the Turner Center at Martin Methodist College, wrote an essay on the future of rural United Methodist churches in light of the massive organizational changes looming for the denomination. Allen asked, “How is it that rural congregations are both foundational for our formation as a movement and as a denomination, and yet are largely forgotten in deciding its contemporary policies?”

1. A plea to the United Methodist Church: The number one article of the year at Ministry Matters wasn’t really an article at all. It was a video by retired United Methodist Bishop Richard Wilke, author of the popular Disciple Bible Study series. Bishop Wilke recorded a video examining scriptural arguments that have been used to defend longstanding church laws and policies on marriage and sexuality, and urged the UMC “to heal and not divide” over the issue of homosexuality.

With an American presidential election and a United Methodist General Conference coming up, 2020 looks to be even more eventful than 2019. At Ministry Matters, we’re grateful that so many of you look to us each week for analysis and ideas from our columnists and contributors. Thanks for all your support!

About the Author

Shane Raynor

Shane Raynor is an editor at Ministry Matters. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee and really read more…
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