Time to repent, refocus, rejoice

9/7/2006

The Methodist Movement 
By Glenn Martin

My series of articles began by giving some facts on Methodist decline and projections indicated. Additional figures are now available. In 2004 and 2005 membership declined another 186,275, or 93,137 per year. That is 1,790 persons a week. Attendance in 2005 averaged 3.34 million, the lowest level in reported history, and had dropped 1.63 percent from 2004 to 2005. 

You can see where the projection of 1.3 million Methodists in 35 years is a natural curve, with many factors considered, including the increasing rate of decline. If our financial investments showed such figures, we would bail out quickly to avoid bankruptcy. If the United Methodist Church is to survive, grow and become a power for God and good in America and the world, we must ...(you finish that line or paragraph or book). 

Repent…

I believe we must start by recognizing and admitting our failure.  Again I confess — this happened during my 40 years of ministry. The last four decades are a record of statistical and spiritual failure.  We have lost millions more that we have gained — both by outreach and children of our own families. Many, if not most, of our children have not stayed in the United Methodist Church. 

The age levels showing that we have more members in their 70s than in their teens, 20s and 30s combined not only verifies the above but also assures a more rapid decline than we have yet seen. When what has happened is compared to what God must have wanted, we can but fall on our knees in repentance and pray for a recovery of His mission for us. Defending ourselves will accomplish nothing. 

We must confess that whatever we have been doing has produced a diminishing church and a failure to expand God’s kingdom in His world. 

Refocus…

We must decide to be honest with God and each other. We must abandon emphasis on issues that have become distractions to our “seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteous-ness.” Why don’t we put together the scriptural mandates for the church or risk an application of all Jesus said we should do? 

We must be willing to relinquish the priority of our own emphases as we acknowledge their failure, and seek the Lord in forgiveness and refocus. 

This could happen in small groups and in small churches willing to pray until God recognizes our sincerity and reveals His will for our full attention. Any movement with deep spiritual roots in Jesus the Christ will be blessed and productive and empowered by His Holy Spirit. 

What if a local church, a district or even an annual conference were committed to such a covenant with God? Is it not possible to reverse this decline, at least in our neighborhoods? 

Rejoice…

The Bible tells us there is rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents. How long since you and your church have given the residents of heaven reason to rejoice? If we can help one soul find the way to God and forgiveness and assurance of salvation, we and heaven could rejoice together. That could be the spark that starts the fire burning.

Christian friends who have gone from earth to heaven could join us in celebrating new birth. It could also connect us to the purpose for which Jesus came, lived, suffered and died and was raised from death to life. 

If the powers of evil can produce thousands of new child predators every year, why cannot God use His church to produce tens of thousands of new believers every year? Now, that would be good news! 

Methodists, arise and claim your Savior, your heritage, your mission and the promises of God! It is now or never! 

Martin is a retired elder in the Mississippi Conference.