By Bishop Gary Mueller
A massive change is occurring that already is dramatically affecting your congregation. But you’re not alone, because it’s also touching every other United Methodist across the connection. And while you may not fully understand it, you must come to grips with what’s going on because it is the “new normal” that will shape how your congregation makes disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped to transform lives, communities and the world.
This new reality is the result of an American culture that previously favored a Christian orientation now becoming decidedly post-Christendom, and caring less and less about what the church has to say. Indeed, this new reality shares much more in common with the Apostle Paul as he evangelized in the formative years of the church than it does with the world of my childhood in the 1950s and 1960s.
Here’s what this means. You cannot expect the people you encounter – and this is especially true for the young – to believe they have any need for God, the Christian faith or being part of a church. You cannot expect cultural values automatically to reflect the basic tenets of the Christian faith. You cannot expect the church of the future to be like the church of the past.
But, there’s more. You can expect that upwards of one third of our United Methodist congregations will close in the next 15 years or so. You can expect your church to decline unless you begin praying for spiritual revival and are willing to adapt how you do things in your church. You can expect to continue to hear about the necessity of walking out of your church doors into the mission field that surrounds you.
All of this may seem to paint a bleak picture. But don’t be disheartened. This is an incredibly exciting time to be a United Methodist Christian! That is all the more so for United Methodist Men, who can be at the forefront of leading the church into becoming a mission station for Jesus. God is at work stirring up people of all ages in all kinds of churches empowering them to be vitalizers who are growing as Jesus’ disciples, making disciples and being involved in God’s transforming work of lives, communities and the world. And here’s what excites me so much. People will not just become Christians because they are expected to become Christians. They will become Christians because they really want to be Christians!
So here’s the Great News! People still need Jesus. The people called United Methodists offer an understanding of Jesus’ Gospel built on God’s unconditional, transformational and invitational love that people are longing for – even if they don’t know it yet. And God is inviting you to help lead this exciting work. Are you ready to get on board with God?
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
Bishop Gary Mueller, vice president
General Commission on UM Men