Friday, July 24, 2009

How old (and how big) are we really?

Well, it's time to reflect on another year of Annual Conferences within the UMC. If many of them were like the Virginia Conference you looked at the "numbers" and realized that you don't have as many folks as last year, and those that remain in the local churches are getting grayer each day. Also, I need to ask the question, "Did your Bishop do what ours did in 2008? Not have any churches remove folks from the roles?"

The latest information I've been able to find suggests that the average age of our congregants is somewhere between 57 and 60. This would mean, based on the average life expectancy, that within the next 15-20 years many of our local churches will cease to exist. And for some it will happen even sooner than that as the average age is, in reality, much older.

Why is it that we, a denomination that was once the largest Protestant denomination in the country, have a hard time evangelizing. Why a group of people who were known to have an evangelistic fervor, to be called the "shouting, singing Methodists" because of their being on fire for God, is now regarded as a milquetoast, quiet, sedate, "private club" who no longer steps outside the four walls of their sanctuary because the modern world is too scary. And don't get me started on resistance to using technology.

I will grant you that there are exceptions to this crowd, but truth be told it's actually more the norm that we'd like to admit. On any given Sunday more than 50% of our churches average LESS than 50 people in worship. And if we were to not include within that average places like Ginghamsburg Church and Church of the Resurrection then the number would be much lower. Within the last 6 years the church where I serve has seen the average worship attendance drop by what would be equal to 5 congregations nationwide. And while we still have more than 500 people in 3 services on Sunday morning, if we were to consolidate the 2 traditional services we could easily fit them in the sanctuary with plenty of room left over.

Evangelism. Something we can't seem to do anymore. Another example if I may. Our United Methodist Men are having a breakfast meeting tomorrow (Saturday), and the Sr. Pastor was asked to speak to them on being a "spiritual father" to the younger male members of the church. A group of (much) older guys make up this crowd, and they usually meet the 4th Monday of the month for dinner and a program of some kind. They have 30 or more guys who show up for this. How many are coming tomorrow? Ten. That's right, only 10 of the men are coming to hear what they can do to be real leaders for the next generation(s) of men. I hate to say it, but it's typical.

And still the youth and young adults continue to walk out of the doors of our local churches never to return.

May God forgive us for not answering the Great Commission.


Thursday, July 2, 2009


On July 2, 1776, the 2nd Continental Congress meeting in the city of Philadelphia voted on a resolution that had been brought from the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg, Virginia. Within that resolution was the sentiment that the "United Colonies" were in actuality "free and independent states." Presented to Congress on June 7, there was debate of the resolution and also the writing of a document which would state the causes for the separation from Great Britain.

That vote created the country of the United States of America and, on July 4th, the Congress adopted what had been written by a committee consisting of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and Thomas Jefferson- the Declaration of Independence. And while the American Revolution was not yet accomplished (Washington lost New York not long after this time) the statements made clear to the rest of the world the rightness of the American cause.

233 years later we still struggle to achieve many of the the goals stated in that document; "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." In this time of economic downturn we often wonder how we can even consider pursuing happiness. Yet as followers of Jesus Christ we don't need to worry about such things, for we are promised in Scripture that once we accept Him and follow all these things will come to us in God's time.

True freedom is found with those who have nothing left to lose. If we are honest with ourselves we withhold something from God in Christ, something that we are unwilling to part with. And because of this we can never truly be free. It isn't until we have given all, sacrificed everything to Him, that we can be free people.

So this Independence Day let me challenge you- give it all, everything, to God.

And be set free...