Donald Haynes, in an article at the United Methodist Portal, talks about how we United Methodists need to refocus on evangelism. And I believe he is so right! What is a church that doesn’t evangelize? The people lose their vision, and the church degenerates into a religious social club. How many UM churches do you know of that are nothing more than social clubs?
Mr. Haynes made a statement in his article that perked up my ears. He wrote:
“At the urging of the Council of Bishops, a phrase was added to the 2008 United Methodist Book of Discipline that is important to the mission of a local church: to make disciples for the transformation of the world. Unfortunately, many pastors are imprisoned by parish expectations: By the time the demands of the flock are met—hospitals, nursing homes, maintenance-mode committee meetings, funerals, counseling and Sunday service preparation—there is no time or energy left for “radical outreach.”
Every local church must ask, “If our church closed, who outside our membership would miss us?”…”
Hospitals, nursing homes, maintenance-mode committee meetings, funerals, counseling and Sunday service preparation? Yeah, it might sound a little dull. It might sound very “maintenance-mode”, to use his phrase. But stop and think about it. Aren’t these things very visible works that the local church needs to be doing on the local level? Isn’t this the first and foremost part of “being Christ” to our local community? It’s all fine and good to go out into the world and make disciples of Jesus Christ in far-off countries across the sea; indeed, that is one of the things we are called to do. But we cannot – we must not – do that and ignore the needs of our people here in our own hometown and in our home church.
I would submit that “radical outreach” consists not only in our overseas missionary work, but it must also be what we do right here, in Anytown USA! I believe this is something that is in danger of being lost as the other mainlines lurch towards their liberal social justice agendas. We in the United Methodist Church need to fill the vacuum they are leaving, by being Jesus to those people inside and outside our church membership, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and meeting people’s needs, right here in our own home towns. Our own townspeople need to be aware that if they need help, or just a place where somebody cares, they can find it right here in their local United Methodist Church.