Turn clubs into churches

1/2/2008

By Fitzgerald Lovett
Conference Staff

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  — Matthew 28:19

The Book of Discipline in paragraph 120 states, “The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Local churches provide the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs.”  

How many disciples did your congregation produce last year? How many sinners became saints because of the witness of your local church? The report at Annual Conference year after year shows that more than half of the local congregations did not have a single new member by profession of faith. If the church is not producing disciples, who is?

The Book of Discipline in paragraph 202 states, “The function of the local church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is to help people to accept and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and to live their daily lives in light of their relationship with God. “

If we continue to fail at this mission, are we truly a church? Just because the word “church” is on the sign, that does not make it a church. 

Are you a member of a club, chapel, charity or church?

There are many clubs that meet on Sunday mornings. The members gather for fellowship and business. Only members are invited and welcomed to enter. The agenda items are all about them and their community. There is no interest in other communities or non-members. Clubs generally exist for their membership. New members are sought only after losing several old members. Walk-ins are not accepted; new member must be recommended by present membership and approved. Members only; this is a private club.

Many chapels are open on Sunday mornings as well. Webster defines chapel as “a subordinate or private place of worship.” Las Vegas has a large number of chapels. Many people go there for their wedding services. These chapels are not there to “… help people to accept and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.” People go there to receive a service, and then they leave to never return. They do not have a mission team or a community concern committee. The chapels in Las Vegas provide a service, charge a fee and keep the profits. 

Are you a member of a church, club, chapel or charity?  Webster defines charity as “an institution engaged in relief of the poor.” Charities usually solicit funds from the public. Many of them participate in an activity called roadblocks. This is when they stand at intersections or traffic signals and collect money from the public. Charities usually perform two major purposes: they collect and distribute funds to those in need. There is no Bible study or Sunday school class. The church should never become a charity. Begging is not one of the characteristics of the church of Jesus Christ.

This year we must transform all of our clubs, chapels and charities back into United Methodist churches. Every church must reaffirm its commitment to make disciples. We can touch at least one life during the 366 days of 2008. As United Methodists, we must also challenge ourselves not to be a “zero” church when it comes to apportionments. It is important for each church to be a part of kingdom building. Pastors and lay leadership, it only takes one person to prevent a church from being a “zero” church on apportionments. 

Is there such a one among your membership?

Lovett is pastor of Middlebrook UMC in Jackson and serves on the conference staff working with Strengthening the Black Church and racial reconciliation.