May 16, 2006
A pastor again recounts how efforts at change are met with strong resistance, despite the fact that few if any people have been saved through his church’s ministry in the past decade. A lay leader expresses frustration at the lack of purposeful leadership by his pastor. A minor church split is reported. Annual reports reveal losses on various fronts. The pastor of a dying church claims that he is a victim. Emails of blame and outrage arrive in the Bishop’s inbox.
This has been the United Brethren Church.
A story of decisive change that leads to new converts is communicated to us. A pastor shares a story of confronting sin in the life of a congregant that was destroying unity. There is repentance and strengthening of the bond. A fresh vision is birthed for a cluster to provide full support for a new missionary. Brothers separated in the past by deep rifts extend forgiveness and work together. The restart of an older, established, dying congregation leads to a hundred new people coming to check out the Gospel. It all happens so quickly that the church isn’t sure what to do and it seeks further training.
This is the new United Brethren Church.
We tend to focus on the negative and the positive gets overshadowed.
One observation I have made in this first yearis that this is a systemic issue. It is about us. It still permeates the church. And changing it will change the church for the better.
Observation: There has been little “God-focus” and a lot of “me-focus” in our church. The shorter catechism says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. In our home, glorify God. In our relationships, glorify God. In our worship, glorify God. In our giving, glorify God. In our programming, glorify God.
It seems that we have become so need-oriented, so “my preference” oriented, so satisfaction-oriented that we have forgotten that our chief end is to glorify God. Church has not been about God, but about us. And it certainly reflects it.
When people humble themselves, get on their faces before God, and ask His agenda for their church, amazing things happen. Look at Acts. Such a church saw powerful answers to prayer. Such a church received grace and strength in the face of persecution. Such a church had lay people who were preaching Jesus to the culture while the Apostles were stuck back in Jerusalem. Such a church dealt with problems in a God-honoring way, kept the church on track and yet met the needs of people.
The new United Brethren Church must shift its focus back to glorifying God and not continue a culture of selfishness and self-centeredness. God calls that carnality.
More stories of God’s grace are yet to be experienced and written. Let’s allow them to be increasingly heard while carnality falls by the wayside and is no longer tolerated.