The United Methodist Church is dying. I have heard the numbers, and they don’t lie. I’m not going to quote them here, but trust me. The numbers aren’t pretty. And it’s not just the United Methodist Church. In the United States, churches of all brands, denominations, theology, and politics are seeing decline. There are some that celebrate the death of religion.
But I’m here to tell you that the reports of the death of the United Methodist Church have been greatly exaggerated. Is it the same Church it was 50 years ago? No – Thank God. The numbers tell one story, and it is an important story that we need to pay attention to. There are many reasons why churches have been in decline for the last forty years. I was reminded this week that the United Methodist Church is about more than numbers.
Today I celebrated the wonderful and holy meal of Communion. I enjoyed this meal in a conference room of the United Methodist Building in Washington DC. It is a building that sits at a corner. Across one street is the Supreme Court building. Across the other street is the US Capitol. I’ve spent the last few days amongst leaders in the United Methodist Church with the General Board of Church and Society. It has been a full week.
It has been full of information, meetings, inspiration, prayer, walking, fellowship, and friendship. I have met two Congressmen, and a General Secretary. I have stood in awe of the great monuments dedicated to the history of this nation. My greatest thrill however, has been the chance to meet the amazing young leaders that have dedicated their lives to serving Christ in the United Methodist Church. I’ve met real people with hopes, passion, talent, and skill. I’ve shared stories, ideas, and laughs.
This whole experience has been incredibly uplifting. Today as I walked toward the bread and the cup, I was filled with hope. I felt an amazing rush of power – Holy Spirit power. I looked around at the faces of people that were once colleagues, and are now friends. I saw Jordan, Becky, Chris, Beth, Chris, Bethany, Jessica, Ann, Andrew, and so many others. I looked at the faces of these servant leaders, and I felt the power of hope.
I still know all the numbers. I’m not hiding my head in the sand as the church is in decline. Even while I’ve been here I have heard the stories of church decline, and of the struggles that we face across the United States connection. This week though has been a great reminder that our church – the imperfect, troubled, struggling church I love – is about more than numbers.
My hope rests above all in the Jesus’ love and righteousness. My hope resides also in the leaders that are working to open hearts, minds, and doors in the name of Jesus Christ.