Faithfulness and fruitfulness
The decline of United Methodism must be turned around for the sake of the gospel and the larger Church of Jesus Christ. I am trying my best to figure out what a bishop can do to help make that turn, both in Kansas and throughout the United States. Every now and then, I run across some "stinking thinking" that affects our behavior.
Part of our problem as United Methodists is that some distinguish faithfulness from fruitfulness, thinking that they can choose one without the other. Our position in the extreme center once again says both are necessary.
Faithfulness is sometimes cited to justify a declining church. Sometimes I have heard clergy and lay leaders who preside over stagnant and dying communities say, "But we are being faithful and that is more important." I disagree. Faithfulness to the Lord means loving those for whom he died, which means offering them salvation and the opportunities for community, meaning and service which are inherent in the Christian life. Faithfulness will lead to growing congregations in most situations. There are exceptions to this, but very few. Growth will be measured by worship attendance, financial giving, membership trends and missional service. Christ expects fruit.
On the other hand, fruitfulness cannot come at the expense of faithfulness. We must indeed proclaim Christ crucified and risen, and acknowledge that grace is not cheap. Discipleship is not easy. We must insist on social justice as evangelism. We must include people without regard for race, ethnicity, gender, age or other factor. Everyone is invited to repent and believe the gospel. Everyone is included in God's plan for peace and justice in creation.
To respond to the Bishop's Blog send a message to:
email@example.com with Bishop's Blog in the subject line