Had a really enjoyable morning today as I gathered with the town leaders of Burton for their bi-monthly meeting. We meet for prayers on the first Wed of the month, then for prayers (with lay folk) on the first Saturday of the month and every second month we meet for a longer period with business in mind as well as prayer and worship. Often afterwards we go out for lunch together at Frankie and Bennys for a fellowship time. Today was the latter.
What’s remarkable about that you may well say ! Well, quite simply its remarkable for the number of different denominations involved and for the single motive which holds us together. Today there were at least 9 different churches involved with approximately 25 people in attendance. We discussed, disagreed but truly remained in love. Plenty of laughter and fun, but alongside some honest and open hearts.
The common view was held that none of us want to be sitting discussing the same things in five years time; we want to see something of the town coming to know Jesus in that time, rather than simply talking about it endlessly.
Then this afternoon I was studying some statistics on the Fresh Expressions website and came across a blog by David Flavell which spoke about how the current Methodist statistics show our denomination in decline (http://bit.ly/1gW3I2v) and they don’t make for good reading. David predicts that at the current rate of decline we could hit zero by 2033.
Try and read the article for yourself. Davids blog is at DavidFlavell.wordpress.com
Now I`m not saying I agree with everything David has written but it is certainly (or should be) a wake-up call for all of us.
On Sunday I received a letter from a Church member with a list of complaints about the new Circuit, about the preaching plan, about Ministers spending time on Facebook as that wasn`t part of Ministry, about Ministers not visiting the church folk etc. In short it was a letter saying we need to go back to the Methodism of that particular persons youth as “we were doing well then”. No recognition that there has been a constant decline over the years, a reduction in finances and a raft of legislation all of which have played their part in moving the Church towards its reshaping programme.
Now don`t get me wrong I`m the guy who stood up at Synod a few years ago to throw my weight behind the reshaping movement because I felt that it got mission onto the agenda; how wrong I`ve been proven for it hasn’t got mission onto the agenda any more than before because I still think peoples hearts are still not into Kingdom values, but in many cases are for maintaining all that’s gone before in their lives !
I reflect on the passion with which Wesley and the early preachers preached and the sacrifices the early Methodists were prepared to make and yet nowadays preachers are accused of `going on too long` or being too excitable; Ministers are expected to do more and more committee work or house visiting, whereby at one time that was the domain of the lay folk; people pick and choose what gatherings or meetings they come to sometimes not coming out `because there’s a television programme on`(said to me this weekend).
In short we`ve lost the sacrificial heart and the passion to (using old-fashioned phraseology) save souls. Tomorrow night at KAN church in Burton there’s a gathering to hear Wes and Stacey Campbell speaking, and I intend to be there. Wes and Stacey of RevivalNow! Ministries were a part of the Toronto Blessing movement which so influenced me in the early 1990`s. I`m going to be there because I still have a heart to see Jesus glorified, to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to see His Kingdom come. There’s a lot about their theology and emphase`s that I don’t necessarily agree with but I do love their heart to meet with Jesus.
There are times that it feels as though Methodism (and other denominations often) are standing in the doorway looking out at a beautiful view and saying how lovely it looks, and yet not daring to step out and enjoy Gods gifts, to take that risk. its easier and less dangerous to remain in the shadow of the doorway of our past than to move forward into the future of Gods creation.
I still have a passion to see Christ lifted high but I have to pray “Oh, to claim that again within the Methodist Church………………………………..”