The news feed on my phone had a story this week that caught my eye. It was about a United Methodist congregation in Minnesota. The congregation had dwindled to about 30 people. It was decided to discontinue the congregation at the end of June. Later in the year a new congregation will start in the same building with a new pastor who has been trained in new church planting. The pastor who is shepherding this change told the congregation that they should stay away for 12 to 18 months to allow the new congregation to form. The local paper ran a headline indicating that a UMC was “ushering out gray-haired members in an effort to attract more young parishioners.” It showed up on my phone with the headline “UMC asks older members to leave.”
After reading the whole story it seems to me that the communication left much to be desired. There is no question that continuing was not an option. I think the rub was that the conference was putting up $250,000 to effect this change. The quotes from the existing members seem to question spending the money on a new start and not to keep the existing congregation going.
Both our church and the United Methodist church need a new thing. The things we’ve been doing are not working. Our membership and the denomination have been in decline for years while those who profess no religious affiliation is increasing. I’m not suggesting that Main Street tell all the older members to leave. (I would have to go with them.) But clearly, something new is needed.
God is always doing something new. In Isaiah 42:9 God tells us to “See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.” God is not only doing new things; he tells us of them. The problem is that we don’t always want to hear what he has to say. The reason is that God’s new things disturb our comfort. I don’t know what new thing God has for us. I do know, however, that I want to be a part of whatever it is. Years ago, I found myself saying to another man: “I don’t want to be part of the problem, I want to be part of the answer.” I still want to be part of the answer. How about you?
Holy God, give us eyes to see the new things you want to do with us. Amen.
Always, to God be the glory!