"What is going to happen to our church?”
That question has finally overtaken the previous number one question that I am asked. The previous one was, “Cubs or Cardinals?”
I do not worry about the future of “the Church” even though I have concerns about our denominational direction and the way forward. I am not worried about “the Church” because I understand that the worldwide Church is under God’s authority and protection and will be preserved until the end of time.
Samuel J. Stone penned some beautiful words when he wrote the hymn, The Church’s One Foundation.
“The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is His new creation
By water and the Word:
From heav’n He came and sought her
To be His holy Bride;
With His own blood He bought her,
And for her life He died.”
Like many of you, I have been a lifelong Methodist. In fact, I was a part of Methodism prior to the 1968 merger that formed the United Methodist Church. Sometimes, those of us who have been around for a while forget that the CHURCH is much more than our little section.
Let me remind us that “the Church” is okay because of the following:
The Church is universal. The church is composed of folks from every people group, every language, every tribe, and every station in life. It is easy to sometimes think and act like we are the only ones, but the truth is that we are just a small part of something much greater. I was reminded of that while reciting the litany on World-wide communion Sunday. God’s church is bigger than my ecclesiastical corner.
The Church is Unique. We are God’s new creation formed in Jesus Christ and created as a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. We are “called out” in order to be called upon for mission and ministry to a needy world. We are commissioned to be salt and light; agents of transformation and change within our communities. God created us that we might show forth the praises of God as we serve as conduits of God’s grace and love to all.
The Church is United. Our unity is in Jesus Christ, the head of the body. Our unity is in submission to Christ’s authority as Lord of the Church. Our unity is anchored by the Word of God, our standard for faith and practice. Our unity is an ever-developing goal for which Jesus prayed in John 15. The church belongs to Christ and we are being built and will one day achieve complete unity through his spirit.
The Church is Unparalleled. There is nothing anywhere like the church and nothing works like the church when the church is working. We are appointed to be the visible hands and feet of Jesus at work in our respective fields of mission and ministry. We are empowered and gifted by the Holy Spirit to be effective in carrying out the great commission. We are promised that nothing will ever stop, stifle, or stymie the saints of God. Our only harmful hinderance is US!
Members of the Church, including our various denominations, are not given spiritual armor to protect our backsides. There are two reasons for this lack of provision: First, we are not supposed to run from the enemy, so our backs are never exposed and vulnerable. Second, we are NOT supposed to stab or shoot each other in the back. We are called to guard each other’s backs. My brothers’ and sisters’ protection depend upon my taking seriously my role to watch out for them and not to be consumed with my own interest.
“What is going to happen to our church?” We are in a time of transition and change within our denomination. Hopefully, we will have more clarity after the special session of General Conference in February 2019. My hope and prayers are that we will act like Christians, and that we will love others more than we love ourselves. Many folks are praying for renewal and revitalization. Perhaps this will be the time. I do believe that if we keep Jesus at the center I am convinced that we will be okay.