Wednesday, October 13, 2010

what we've got here is failure to communicate...

Strother Martin "Captain"
Cool Hand Luke 
Warning:  this is a rant - and the views I am expressing are my own...(I may not be the most articulate person to go blah about this stuff - but I believe its time for some of the folks in the trenches speak out...)

I am part of a denomination that has been going through turmoil for decades - I would even say its been going on since before we merged the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren Churches in 1968.  While I was never really aware of the messiness until the past 10 years or so (mainly out of my own lack of interest and ignorance) it seems to be getting messier every year.  Ask an old EUB (like my dad) and you'll get an earful about how we have lost our focus on missions and evangelism...and yet, the EUB was in sharp decline and unable to sustain their structures 40 some years ago, thus the reason for the merger...sigh.

Not only do our battles between factions seem more like whats going on in politics today (shame on us for mirroring our political structure in the first place) all of this infighting makes us look more like avowed enemies  than brothers and sisters in Christ working out our salvation in fear and trembling.  We get so bogged down in our power struggles (exhibited in our fights about sex and money among other things) that we miss out on opportunities to be salt and light to the world.

I have disagreed with a number of clergy friends as of late who say that the denomination is dying (if not already dead) until, until the 10-Fold campaign was launched this week.  If you want to check it out go to

I may not have a whole lot of experience serving a church, and I am definitely not a person with any authority at all at the conference or even district level...I am a fairly 'young' pastor and I have lots to learn.  BUT, I know marketing - I did it almost all of my adult life...and boy, talk about a bomb.  And this makes me sad, sad, sad...

It is a great idea - for 10 days in October (starting 10-10-10) promote 10 different mission areas of  focus...get 10 churches or UM Agencies who are passionate about these ministries to pledge $10,000 each - and invite folks via social media (I assume this is the main distribution method because I don't recall any emails about the initiative) - to click a couple of links and sign in to show support for this area of ministry.  Each click means $1 toward the project, and I (the person sitting at home) don't have to pay a dime.  I am invited to watch a video and learn more about the ministry and if I am interested, and able, I have an opportunity to donate more money to the campaign/project.  Sounds simple - right?

WRONG - somewhere along the line the message has failed to gain a foothold, let alone capture the imaginations and inspire the passion of the members of the United Methodist Church, let alone the general public.  What is happening?  Well, the marketing person in me begins to wonder, how are people even supposed to know about the campaign?   I first heard about it on Facebook - my younger clergy friends were 'talking' about it a few weeks ago.  I did see it on my Annual Conference website - a week or so ago...being inquisitive I decided to check out the websites of the other annual conferences in the surrounding states.

Of the annual conferences in the North Central jurisdiction, only 4 (out of 11) feature the 10-Fold project prominently on their home page (main article above the fold).  It is no where to be found on the home pages of two of our annual conferences (mine is one of those).  AND, our own denomination website ( doesn't have anything about 10-Fold on the homepage - whatsup with this???  While I saw an initial push on Facebook on Sunday, this has died down (and we are only on day 4 of the 10 day campaign!)

Speaking of Facebook, when you look at the numbers - the United Methodist Church has over 11,000 friends, UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) has over 36,000 friends, and the General Board of Global Ministries, the sponsor of this initiative, has close to 5,000 friends.  I have tons of friends who are church members, lay leaders and pastors and between us we have thousands of friends - and yet...The daily average for 'pledges' for 10-Fold is hovering around 3,400.  ugh...this is so sad!

It makes me wonder about the conversations at the GBGM this week.  Are they surprised?  Frustrated?  Angry?  Cynical?  Saddened?

Like I said, it's a great idea - it should have worked...but something is missing.  The former broadcast marketing/promotions gal in me would say that perhaps it's a problem with the distribution of the message...are we getting enough coverage via web, email, radio, tv, etc...?  Are there perhaps too many messages out there for folks to sort through?  Open Doors, ReThink Church, Christmas displays are already up at the stores, the election cycle is in full swing, there's lots of drama on Dancing with the Stars...who knows?

But, the United Methodist pastor in me says that this reflects a deeper a denomination we are in trouble.  We seem to be unable to deliver a clear message.  We use a scatter gun approach to try to equip our churches with the tools to bring in more folk, but what do we do with them once we get them into the pews?  And what about the ones who aren't interested in sitting in a pew, but who are 'spiritual' and hungry to learn more about God?

As a member of the United Methodist church I am - well - frankly I am embarrassed.

As a Christian I am sad.

I am sad that we have wasted so much precious time... time that could be used to glorify God as opposed to tearing down others.  Time that could be used making friends, building relationships, engaging in authentic Christian community.  Time that could be used to 
"preach Good News to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners,
 recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed 
and proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
This was part of Jesus' discourse at his home synagogue in Nazareth.  (see Luke 4:14-30)  Of course, his own people ran him out of town and tried to kill him after that message.  hmmm...

I am not writing this to try to brow beat anyone into signing up for 10-Fold.  The process is a bit clunky, it takes more than 30 seconds to sign in - and if it doesn't resonate with you then don't feel like you have to 'just do it'.  I think this is just another sign that we are not only in trouble - we have some important work to do and my friends my be right, we may be too late to fix this...and quite honestly I think we will still be ok.

Christ is still my Lord and Savior, the Church is still his bride.  It doesn't have to be a certain flavor of denomination to do the work that we have been called to preach Good News to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, to provide recover of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed and proclaim the year of the Lord's favor!  To do these things does not require a Masters degree in anything - all that is required is faithfulness and trust that God's grace is indeed sufficient to heal the hurts and set things right.  We, as the Body of Christ are to be His hands and feet in the world - empowered and equipped by the Holy Spirit   it doesn't take superhuman effort to visit a shut-in, pick up trash along the roadways, or pray, pray, pray.

Maybe its time we tried the spiritual discipline of fasting - won't you join me in fasting from politics as usual and shameless manipulation of others, no more condemnation or negativity about any of God's precious children, let's take a break from all of this mess that is distracting us from being who God created us to be...and let us instead turn our energy toward building up the Kingdom of God.

peace, love in Christ


  1. With you church as mine, I feel we have gotten away from the true commission. My church recently left their denomination (Assembly of God) and now are independent, complete with name change, Springhouse Worship and Arts Center. Springhouse as a place of storing and a place for reflection (Holy Spirit prompted our Associate Minister this portion) and Worship and Arts center (Holy Spirit prompted our Mission Pastor this portion...It said to call it what it is...If anyone else had been charged with this name, I would not have be accepting)because we do worship, and the pastor is deeply into the "arts" drama primarily...enough on that for right now. We seems to feel we have to compete with Sunday afternoon NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA..As a person on the precipice of leaving everything because my faith is failing, I do not see the church being the sanctuary it once was. Granted I am not involved with my church as I was prior to missionary field. I returned to see and feel a superficial facade in place. I have stepped away from most people, but I have maintained a brotherhood "one man sharpens another" with specific few, and not necessarily with ones that share the same POV. Of all the niches in my church, I do not find any one that I would thrive in..I tried to re-enter into my place in the theatre upon returning, but is was sand in my mouth..I knew I did not belong anymore. A local Baptist church eliminated all drama and began concentration on the "simple church" and they exploded...Church planting in five or six countries..baboomm in attendence and members...Maybe a simple church is the answer. I heard a Bishop at the GBOD conference, I was contracted to work for AV support, state: How do we get more people into the church?

  2. It's not just Methodists with this struggle. It does seem like the church USA is reflecting the national picture. Same people involved!
    But God is still active, and there will be newness! Some of the old may be torn down, to make way for new.
    It is frustraiting when things (like the 10 Fold Campaign) don't work. Maybe it was too easy, and not connected enough? But somethings we try will work. To quote Ms. Frizzle (Magic School Bus) "time to get messy, make mistakes, learn something!"

  3. Edwin,

    I am so sorry that you are facing so many challenges re-immersing into a faith community. I fear it may be due to the varied life experiences that you have had by virtue of your time in the missionary field.

    You may need to get out of the box a bit to find fellow sojourners but they are out there - just not in the usual places...and thats ok too. (and as for simple church - it all depends...for some simple and straightforward is what they need...I don't think there is a onesize fits all way to experience the Holy One)

    Praying for your journey!


  4. Karol - Amen!

    thanks for the reminder..."time to get messy, make mistakes, learn something" I like it - may just borrow it for youth group tonight!