Sunday, January 27, 2013

What Won't Save the United Methodist Church- And What Will

United Methodists of all ages throughout the Methoblogosphere are conversing about what is happening to our church and what we should do about it.
And some people think the church is merely changing.
  • Taylor thinks the rhetoric of dying is merely a function of how we feel about the church, and that we need leadership to help us adapt to change. 
  • Jeremy thinks that we are a church pregnant with possibilities and what we need is a midwife
Meanwhile, the Christian blogosphere in general is trying to process the most recent Pew Forum American Religious Identification study that shows that people in the US who claim no religious affiliation is rising. People whose religious affiliation is Agnostic, Atheist, and "None" (No Affiliation) now number 1 in 5 people in the US, which is a dramatic increase. People everywhere (Christian and non-Christian alike) are trying to figure out what this means for the future of the Church.
  • PBS did a video miniseries on it.
  • The New York Times covered it.
  • Newsweek wondered if this is The End of Christian America.
  • NPR also did a series on it called Losing Our Religion.
  • Sojourners has covered it extensively, including their profile of a None, and this article on skepticism. 
  • Some wondered if it has anything to do with the polarizing social issues debates the Church continues.
  • Matthew Myer Bolton analyzed the study and showed that perhaps it's not as alarming as we might think, and that we are still a very religious nation in Much Ado About Nones.
Where do we go from here? Is this survey simply announcing the most recent nail in the coffin for the UMC? Are we in trouble? Or are we facing a painful but important opportunity? I can tell you right now that I believe it's the latter. If you want to read another blog proclaiming gloom and doom for the UMC, you'd better come back halfway through Lent, because we are about to embark on a series on this topic here at the God Talk blog.
The main idea for our series, which has to do with food (hey, I'm Methodist, what did you expect?). We have choices to make in the coming years, and they're somewhat like nutritional choices. We can choose healthful, real food, which sometimes means we eat things we don't care for or think are boring. Or we can choose foods like low-calorie snacks, which are often marketed as delicious, diet-friendly ways to satisfy our cravings, but they have almost no nutritional value and they actually make us crave more food!

These "diet foods" are insidious because they trick us into thinking we are doing the right thing, but we are actually hurting ourselves in the long run. Likewise, certain ideas are circulating in the UMC today that sound good and healthy, but they are not. They are actually false proxies (more about that later) that take up our time and energy, and prevent us from having the conversation we really need to be having about the future of our church.

In the series that follows, we will look at things that are false proxies (low-cal snacks that take the place of real food) versus actual solutions (real food). I hope you'll come along with us as we take a look at:

Christian Fads [Low-Cal Snacks 01]
Worship Wars [Low-Cal Snacks 02]
Ideology Wars [Low-Cal Snacks 03]

Mission [Real Food 01]
Spiritual Formation [Real Food 02]
Worship [Real Food 03]

Each week, I'll examine what will not "save the church" (if we must call it that- also more on that later) and what has the potential to help us become the Church that God dreams we can be. I'll try to get my posts up on Thursday evenings, so you can enjoy them with your Friday morning coffee. See you next week!

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