This is a post from the UCMPage BBS, a Methodist internet discussion forum. I thought this post was very informative and thoughtful. It was written by a person who calls himself CogitoVeritas.
Old School wrote:
I bought and read Miller’s book. I think he is right on some points but wrong on others. I take issue with one of his points; that it is a myth that people in our congregations don’t want change. I’ve served enough congregations to have learned this: yes, there are people in our congregations who want radical change, particularly the pastor and the members below a certain age who are transfering their membership out of frustration. But in many congregations there are people who control the purse strings who will fight just about any change other than changing the fonts on the bulletin. They are particularly threatened by the notion that discipleship is the primary way of evaluating whether or not someone ought to be a church leader, not how long someone has been on a particular committee. Many of these leaders are past the age of 75 and have not been in a Bible study or other class since confirmation.
I believe that one of the primary causes of mainline decline is what I call, “Committee Christianity.” Committee Christianity has dominated our congregational culture since the end of WWII. Committee Christians like trite sermons with cute illustrations about children. Committee Christians believe that the Christian faith should be manifest in serving on a committee where the agenda is read the minutes from last meeting, approve the minutes, receive reports from committee chairs, go over old business, go over new business, go home. Committee Christians believe that Bible study is not that important and that the church’s mission is to raise money for the upkeep of the building and the salary for the pastor who preaches on Sunday, visits sick people, prays and ministers on the congregation’s behalf. Committee Christians don’t really care about membership decline so long as the congregation can pay its bills. When a congregation can no longer pay its bills a Committee Christian will say the reason is because the pastor did not visit shut-ins often enough and that if he had visited more they might have left more money to the church when they died.
Committee Christians really don’t like the idea of discipleship because they are afraid of being exposed as people whose faith lacks substance. Committee Christians believe that the Cokesbury Sunday School curriculum from grades one through six is all a person needs to know about the Christian faith to live the rest of their lives as a Christian.
BING! BING! BING! We have a winner.
I don’t know about you, but by the grace of God working through me as an empty vessel, this ministry can have a greater impact day by day here in the local church – in the hearts of the people – than at GC. Should we abandon the “good fight” at GC and the like, absolutely not. However, as much as we might try to do our part in bettering the sytem, structures, leaders, etc., it is quite secular and liberal to think that problems within the church will actually be solved by firstly dealing with systems issues.
Let’s keep working on leading our people closer and closer to God, to become Christ-centered and Biblical BECAUSE we really, really need to do so! In too many of our UMCs for far too many years we’ve had “churches” that are described like the committee Christians. Over time, as one of the more well known preachers in American has said, “the chickens have been coming home to roost.” We may see the chicken droppings most noticeably in the news where liberals squawk at conferences, councils, and press events, but the real horror can be found within the souls of so many of our congregants.
We’ll probably need to be wise to do this over time in the UMC and some of us will be pushed or called out, but while we do this faithfully we are picking up our crosses and walking with them.
To those who don’t see the systemic problems in the UMC: open your eyes because they are there, almost everywhere, but they start in the hearts of the people who eventually become those who create, support, and work within the structures.
If you would like to read more from these fine folks, you can find the UCMPage BBS forum at http://www.ucmpage.org/discuss_bb/index.php