“Our system [the United Methodist Church] produces what it’s created to produce. We get the results we’re set up to get.”
This line was spoken by a pastor during a “whiteboard conversation” on spiritual renewal in the UMC at the Rejuvenate Conference I attended earlier this year. As someone who likes to think about systems, the pastor’s line resonated with me and I wrote it at the top of the page in my notebook. Ever since, I’ve been thinking about it and the conversation that took place among approximately fifty United Methodists from around the country.
During the conversation, Dr. Robin Scott–Superintendent of the Mountain Lakes District in the Northern Alabama Conference and former pastor of Clearbranch UMC–gave a prescription of where he thought the church should head as it seeks renewed vitality and faithfulness. He started by saying that “we need something old, not something new” and then outlined the following prescription. He argued that in order to see spiritual renewal the United Methodist Church must:
1. Have a Kingdom Vision. Our vision must go beyond our churches and denomination.
2. Be faithful to scripture. We must be faithful to scripture since “you can trace the majority of our problems to the temptation to forsake the Word of God.”
3. Make fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Discipleship–not membership–must be our goal. And Christian discipleship must be patterned after the servanthood of Jesus.
4. Be devoted to reaching ALL persons. We can’t be satisfied with being a middle-class white church. In the past we went where the people were and reflected the diversity of the nation.
5. Be committed to raising up the next generation of leaders.
6. Train & equip the next generation of leaders.
7. Support emerging congregations & ministries. New congregations reach more, and new, people as compared to existing congregations and we must make their work a priority.
8. Promote lay ministry at all levels of the Church.
9. Give faithfully. We pride ourselves on not talking about giving, but “we’re robbing our people of the blessings of giving” by not calling people to tithe.
10. Pray. Revival doesn’t come because we pray. But it won’t come unless we pray.
After Dr. Scott’s presentation, each of the tables filled with pastors and laity discussed two main questions. First, we discussed things that the Church must cease for future renewal. Answers from various tables included the ceasing of:
- Professionalization of clergy
- Disunity & selfishness
- Comfort & complacency
- Theological pluralism
- Being consumed by culture
- Lack of commitment
Then, we brainstormed a list of actions that could be taken to move the conversation forward into the systems and structures of local churches and the denomination. Some of these included:
- Leadership development among clergy
- Doctrinal clarity
- Focusing on the lost
- Thoughtful, humble, dependence on God
- Discipleship formation & accountability
- Being in community with the least of these
- Review our definition of success
- Cut ties with buildings
- Review ordination process
- Slash bureaucracy
- Be intentional about going to people
- Focus on literal neighbors–our zip code
- Start new churches
- Emphasize intentional discipleship
- Have covenant relationships
- Form a more wholistic approach to ministry
- Develop leaders who develop leaders
- Begin prayer ministries
Almost six months later I’m still processing the conversation. I’d love for you to process it alongside of me.
What are your thoughts on the ideas generated from the whiteboard conversation?
What would you say the Church needs to cease and start in order to foster spiritual renewal?
Which of these things should be top-priorities?