After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”
–Acts 4:31 (NIV)
I sense God creating an opportunity for an Aldersgate moment here at the 2012 United Methodist General Conference.
It’s taken nearly a year, but after reading, chewing on (with lots of heartburn) and praying over proposals from the IOT, Connectional Table, MFSA, Plan B, and the reactions to them, I’m sensing God telling us now is the time to be bold. Not for a re-arranging of the chairs, but real, meaningful change.
For 30-plus years, The United Methodist Church has been sliding, slowly, steadily, down a long hill. Yes, lives are still being transformed. We’re doing great things to help eradicate malaria. Record numbers of people are responding as Volunteers in Mission. Yet we all know we’re in trouble. The vast majority of our churches in the United States are stagnant when it comes to making new disciples of Jesus Christ. Our general agencies and structure, a reflection of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, are out-of-step today.
I could go on and on, reciting statistics, recounting anecdotes, but face it, we all know the truth: The United Methodist Church we love as an institution is in trouble. It’s been happening for a long time, and now we need bold, prayerful change.
We are in a position like the early Christians in the fourth chapter of the Book of Acts. In a sense, we’ve been on trial, and the verdict has come in. We need to pay attention. This General Conference can be a Pentecost moment for all of us who call ourselves United Methodist.
Follow Christ. Don’t be afraid. Be bold. Change.
In 1738, John Wesley found himself in a somewhat similar position. He had returned from a frustrating time in America. He felt his calling had not worked out. Yet it was a Moravian prayer service on London’s Aldersgate Street he felt his heart stir: “strangely warmed.” He changed, and the unique connectional United Methodist Church we know and church we love is the result.
God is calling. This may be that moment. We must set aside our fears. We must stop worrying about money. We must return our focus to Jesus’s primary calling – to make disciples for the transformation of the world. We will strengthen our connection. We will reach out to the poor. We will respond to those touched by disasters. We will stand for justice for the oppressed.
Let our love and unity in Christ bring us together now, to carry out Wesley’s vision for justice, service, and the redeeming of souls.