August 2011 - Bishop: Focus on Vitality, Renewal
Friday, July 15, 2011
As United Methodist churches struggle with declining memberships, dwindling resources, and older constituencies, Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton says it’s time to move out of a survival mentality fraught with fear and focus on giving God glory and demonstrating God’s love.
“Large and small membership churches are facing increased competition -- and not necessarily from other churches," he said. "The competition is with a world and a culture that, on its best day, actually embodies some of the theology we preach about, and, on its worst day, tempts people to embrace ideas and movements that are more appealing than attending an 11 a.m. worship service full of tradition and liturgy, but empty of spirit and meaning.“
There is apathy within the church, he explains. We need to renew our passion for God—God’s goodness and God’s blessing in our lives.
“Do we want the church to look different than it does now – nimble, and fresh, vibrant and alive – filled with all ages and races – a true glimpse of heaven?’ the Bishop asks. “If we do, we can’t just sit around and hope that it will happen.”
As District Superintendent William B. Meekins, Jr. pointed out during the Western PA Annual Conference, “Vital ministry demands that we, as a people of faith, move away from a mentality that says, ‘as long as the church is here for my needs, then I am satisfied.’” We must eliminate the complacency that limits the potential of making disciples.
Meekins quoted John Wesley, Methodism’s founder: I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.
Saying that much of what we do, and the way we do it, just isn’t working, Bishop Bickerton pointed to some significant things that are working. Among them:
· Our theology of grace that brings hope in the midst of despair and brokenness because we believe that God will see us through.
· Our outreach whenever there is need; and
· Our people –good people with a deep faith in God who do good things.
It’s time to invest our resources, conversations and energies into local church vitality, renewal and revitalization, the Bishop says. “This is not a time to re-trench, but a time to push forward with hope and possibility. We can do it!”
Click here to download a grayscale PDF of the Cross and Flame.