· Church Renewal

A paper-mache church

By Bishop Gary Mueller

Art classes were still an important part of the elementary school curriculum when I was in the first grade. I remember venturing into the world of paper mache and discovering what fun it was to put treated wet newspaper strips on a wire frame to bring to life an animal or globe or cowboy. When dried and painted, it was a masterpiece I could take home to my mother, who would ‘ooh and ahh’ over my talent.

When you paper mache, you need to add enough strips to cover the wire form and give the piece its shape, but be careful not to add so many that you end up with an unrecognizable blob. Yet I wonder if this is exactly what we are doing to Jesus’ Church. We’ve been so busy adding strips that it has become a blob that fails to resemble the Gospel frame we have been given in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. No wonder we are fracturing, treating brothers and sisters in Christ like enemies, and failing to reach people with the Gospel.

So what strips are we adding to the Gospel frame that have turned Jesus’ Church into a blob? Here are a few:

  • Our own political perspectives.
  • Our desire to make the church in our image.
  • Our excitement about embracing the latest cultural fad.
  • Our haste in making God small enough to fit in our pockets.
  • Our racism.
  • Our desire to be comfortable.

It’s time to get serious about peeling off some of the strips we have added.

While I’m not sure what the Church will be like when we finish, I’m incredibly hopeful we will become a Church that more closely resembles the Body of Christ.

Come Holy Spirit, come!

Bishop Gary Mueller, vice president

General Commission on UM Men



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