By Mike Childs
The problem is worse than you thought. If we continue doing what we are doing for another 80 years, the
Just look at the facts. In 1968, when the
We have lost members every year since the
How bad is it? Consider this: In 1950, the
The system is broken. If the
If the bishops want to know what’s wrong with our church, they should first look in the mirror. The fact is that our church hierarchy is out of touch with the grassroots of the church.
Much evidence shows the disconnect between our church hierarchy and local congregations. For example, 30 years ago our church spoke clearly on the issue of homosexuality at the 1972 General Conference, declaring that the practice is incompatible with a Christian lifestyle. Thirty years later, some of our leaders still are pushing a pro-gay agenda.
Last September, a number of bishops thumbed their noses at the wishes of the grassroots of the church to endorse and approve the “Hearts on Fire” pro-gay rally at
It is dereliction of duty for our bishops to continue to allow the issue of homosexuality to divide us. Every General Conference for the last 30 years has spoken on this issue, and it is time to move on. Any bishop or church bureaucrat who continues to push the pro-gay agenda needs to be removed.
Our bishops have not defended Biblical doctrine. Bishop Joe Sprague, now retired, even denied the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, and only a handful of his colleagues objected. Not one bishop dared call him a heretic.
The accountability of bishops is an issue whose time has come. There is a growing consensus that there needs to be term limits for bishops. Lifetime tenure has led to an arrogant, unresponsive and unaccountable Council of Bishops. Lifetime tenure has produced an isolated ecclesiastical hierarchy that refuses to hold one another accountable. Collegiality has become the idol of the episcopacy. Term limits are needed to draw the bishops back into the reality of the grassroots church.
Pastors also need to take a good look in the mirror. One of the major problems that we face is a lack of sound Biblical preaching. Our people are leaving because they are not being fed. Is it possible that the preaching of the gospel would result in a decrease of more than 3 million members? Absolutely not!
Too many of our pastors are actually hostile to spiritual renewal movements such as the Emmaus Walk and Disciple Bible Study. They are threatened by vital spirituality.
Some of our pastors do not shepherd their flocks. They are not a part of their peoples’ lives. They do not visit, and some do not even make hospital calls. They are not there to weep with the hurting.
Our churches also need to look in the mirror. The average age of a United Methodist is now about 60. That’s the average. We are losing our young people. Churches that will not change will die. The truth is that many churches would rather die than change.
Churches must become intentional about growing. We must teach our people to share their faith. We must welcome and include visitors. We must be willing to share leadership.
Our worship style must change. One of the largest United Methodist congregations in
I realize that there are still good bishops, effective pastors and vital congregations in our
I do not believe the
But we must face the truth. We must be willing to change.
Childs is pastor of