Thursday, March 04, 2010

Time for Change in the United Methodist Church?

I'm currently employed by the United Methodist Church. I did not grow up in this specific denomination (I'm happy serving in any holiness denomination such as Church of the Nazarene, Wesleyan Church, and the Missionary Church which I grew up in. I strongly believe denominations should work together, because in the end, we're all on the same team with (hopefully) the same goal of bringing people to Jesus and living that transformational life as a result).

There are a lot of great things about the UMC.

But one pastor, Craig Groeschel, of LifeChurch.TV was asked by a leader in the UMC to make some suggestions for improvement in the UMC.

He had six suggestions.
Suggestion #1 - Reprioritizing of Financial Resources (citing more funds for church planting).

Suggestion #2 - Removal of itinerant system that locates and relocates pastors by the decision of the district (as opposed to the local church) which can create uncertainty and doubt about the future, etc.

Suggestion #3 - The long ordination process and mandatory seminary (M.Div program) which stunts leaders. The process means well, but Craig claims it is out of date (leaders want to get in the game, we now have multiple ways to develop outside of the seminary, and there is a growing scrutiny of many (not all) seminaries and their practicality).

Suggestion #4 - Fixing the apportionment/tithing issue that churches pay to the UMC. Facts were a little vague on this one. In Indiana, I think we tithe 10-15%.

Suggestion #5 - Merging UMC's to create multi-sites and thus working together and combining resources. Merging churches is something I'm not an expert on, but I think it has potential. The link has info on what Craig means by "merging churches."

Suggestion #6 - Splitting the UMC. I know, I know...we have enough denominations out there.
But let's face it - There are two types of UMC's
1. Conservative/Evangelical UMC's that follow the UMC church doctrine (And keeping the doctrine conservative at conference votes)
2. Liberal UMC's who have a differing opinion on a variety of issues (Authority of Scripture, homosexuality, etc).
I don't know if this will ever happen. I am fairly confident that if the UMC doctrine ever adopted liberal changes then there would be a mass exodus of pastors and congregations.

#2 and #3 definitely affect me as a pastor, though not quite as much since I feel called to youth ministry until otherwise told by God and do not have to go through the ordained process (most youth pastors in the UMC are hired by the local church and are not ordained).

The other four suggestions are big picture ideas and I think they are worth discussing.


Anonymous said...

6 ways to improve the UMC? 2 were about money, 2 were about bureaucracy, and the last 2 were totally bizarre....merge and split simultaneously. 6 changes ...and none had directly to do with ministry. Jesus made it simple for us. The Great Commission is to be our task. The church's focus should be outward....not inward. The church should be less concerned with religion and business....and more about Jesus's Love, Biblical Truth, and sharing that Love and Truth with unsaved People. That's my comment :) -Brother Dan

Phil Strahm said...

Thanks for your thoughts. I think these suggestions are brought up so that we are more effective in the Great Commission. Some of these do add simplicity. Part of the point of some of these posts was that the UMC does have too much bureaucracy.

#1. Church planting would certainly apply to ministry.

#2. Removal of itinerant systems could improve local churches and their respective mission.

#3. Leadership is crucial. If one leader can't build other leaders or even lead then ministry fails.

#4. Refers to money that is spent in ministry (local vs global)

#5. Unifying the church is always a good idea.

#6. Generally speaking, most liberal UMC churches are not in the same geographical area as conservative UMC churches. In a perfect world we wouldn't need denominations, but people have to draw the lines on what Truth is so that we don't become heretics or turn into a cult.

I think we live in a time where the church is becoming more aware of the need for social justice and living outside the walls. Church is a movement and mission of people, not a building. Our generation has to make sure this happens.

For the record the UMC is focusing on the "5 practices of a fruitful congregation":
1. Radical Hospitality
2. Extravagant Generosity
3. Risk Taking Mission and Service
4. Passionate Worship
5. Intentional Faith Development

Brandon said...

These points are valid when kept in perspective of the big picture.

Making it all about Jesus is simple when everybody gets that. When people don't that's when we get off task.

The church should focus on that and if there are selfish, unengaged people who are unwillingly to take on this call then I'm sure they can find a place where they can be comfortable and unproductive:)

Churches/Denominations should work together in their given communities!

Mike said...

How to Improve the UMC
1. More Stain Glass
2. Less old people
3. Fireworks
4. Mascots

Okay I'm kidding. But I generally like Craig's thoughts.

We must connect with God and catch on to His vision for our specific community and culture.

Anonymous said...

Point understood. I know I was being critical with my first post...but it does frustrate me when church is operated too much like a business....and when too much importance is placed on human decision-making (as if "it" were all about "us"). I do like the 5 practices of a fruitful congregation. That's good. That's scriptural ! That is in obediance to the to the will of God. Very good. ...and I think mascots would help too. -Brother Dan