I have to confess something. I have a love-hate relationship with the Church. It probably goes back to childhood, around the Sunday dinner table, when we had roast preacher each week, along with mashed Sunday school teacher, and tossed board chairman. I love Jesus a lot more than any denomination.
I know, I know. I’ve heard the “Company Men” say you can’t love the Lord without loving His Church. But I’m not an outsider here. I won’t recount my resume, but I’ve been fully steeped in the boiling waters of ecclesiastical structures. You can go to my blog’s “About Me” page or “About My Credentials” if you care to know the details. I may know too much to love it without reservations.
It’s like the moth attracted to the flame. It’s beautiful, warm, comforting, and mysterious. But when the moth flies too closely, she gets her wings scorched.
Organized structures are necessary to carry on the administrative business, but we tend to institutionalize and idolize them. Perpetuating the institution becomes more important than the missional purpose of making disciples, no matter what the tag lines say.
But the outward, visible, very human, institutional church is not the same thing as the vibrant, Spirit-filled, blood-bought, Bride of Christ. It is evidenced by members of the Universal Church Triumphant participating in different denominations in every nation across the globe.
I’ve heard people lament the many denominations across Christendom as evidence of our fractured faith. I heard a minister say, “The Body of Christ should never be vivisected,” as he anticipated our own denominational rupture. It is seen as contrary to Jesus’ prayer in John 17. However, the Body is not, and can never be vivisected, no matter how many denominations there are.
As ecclesiastical institutions continue to break apart over deeply held, but conflicting convictions, we are experiencing soul-shaking times in the church. Membership in many denominations is taking a nose-dive. According to Lifeway research, Thom Rainer said 8,000 – 10,000 churches are closing their doors every year. Staggering, isn’t it?
My own tribe, the United Methodist Church faces major changes next year. I’ve come through my own grief process about this, not only to “acceptance,” but to great anticipation. Methodism has lasted over 250 years, compared to the 50 years of the United Methodist branch of it. I see the re-gathering and separation of the outer, organizing shells as a God-ordained process. Unless we muddle it up worse.
Many good souls are struggling to create the proposals for its future and are experimenting with ideas about the details. I’m jokingly saying I’m a member of the Meth Lab.
But God bless those who are seriously and prayerfully trying to write the vision for who and what we will be. You are in my prayers.
Let it be the Untied Methodist Church. Please make sure you read that last sentence correctly.
As the Spirit of God hovers over the waters of chaos, that is the United Methodist Church, may the Creator shed light upon those who are responsible for designing the new expressions of Wesleyan faith. God’s next acts frequently involved separation throughout the Creation story. May our result be a peaceful resolution. May it bring forth resurrected new life. Let there be renewal in places for Methodist Christians to worship and serve You joyfully and faithfully. Your will be done in Jesus’ name. Amen.