By Keith Boyette
March 29, 2019
Perspective is hard for humans, but not so hard for God. When you are the Alpha and Omega, the first and last, the beginning and end, you know the complete story. How God must long for us to grasp and live into His story! Recent events have me realizing we can become so myopic. All of our energy was focused rightly on the recently concluded special General Conference. We are grateful the United Methodist Church’s historic teachings on marriage, ordination and human sexuality were once again reaffirmed. Others will continue to challenge those teachings. The good order of the church has not been restored and there are those who will continue to be defiant and rebellious. But we are moving on!
We are grateful for our partners whose primary focus is on fighting the political battle – Good News, the Confessing Movement, and UMAction. The calling of the Wesleyan Covenant Association is to contend for the faith delivered to us as heirs of John and Charles Wesley. We are committed to renewal and revival of Christ’s church. The battle which continues to suck much of the oxygen out of the room will continue for a season, so we are faced with a choice: we can become paralyzed by the political struggle played out at the General Conference or we can put that struggle in its right place and get on with the work Jesus has entrusted to us.
Our marching orders could not be clearer. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you” (Mt. 28:19-20). To be blunt, as a church, in the United States, we are failing to fulfill the Great Commission. One hundred thousand fewer people worshiped on average in UM churches during 2017 in the U.S. than in 2016, a 3.8 percent decline in average worship attendance. More than 935,000 fewer people worshiped on average in UM churches in the U.S. in 2017 than worshiped in 2002. See “Plunge in Worship Attendance” and “The Bad News and the Good News.”
The time for lamenting our circumstances is past. In 2 Chronicles 16:9, the prophet Hanani declared the word of the Lord, “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” As it was in that day so it is among us today. The eyes of the Lord are on you and me. God wants to know if we are sold out for Jesus – prepared to pay any price, take any risk, overcome any obstacle to be God’s people on his mission. God is strengthening us as we fully surrender to his will and purposes.
In the weeks preceding the 2019 General Conference, the WCA was clear about the two-fold nature of our mission. We contended mightily for the UM Church to remain biblically grounded in its doctrine, ethics, and practice. We prepared earnestly for what might be necessary – the launch of a new Methodist movement which would be singularly focused on sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with everyone, and yes that includes persons who self-identify as LGBTQI+, calling all to confession, repentance and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Leaders from across our connection worked long hours as members of our Next Steps working group to envision a revitalized Methodist movement. We remain ready to launch a new Methodist movement when and if the Lord directs.
Now it is time to turn our attention to realizing that revitalized Methodist movement. We each must act in the venues where God has called us to serve. All of us are called – laity and clergy, those who attend small, medium and large membership churches. We will each be required to give an account of how we respond to the call.
The time for hand-wringing over the disobedience and rebellion of others is past. We continue to lament their disobedience and rebellion, but we will not allow it to distract us from the great work God has placed before us. In the spirit of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 6), we will not stop working in the Lord’s vineyard to usher in the fullness of his Kingdom.
God has placed you and the church you attend in a particular community. Your primary mission is to reach those who are far from God in your community with the love of Jesus Christ. Jesus is counting on you. Each of us has neighbors who have not experienced the salvation and transformation offered in Jesus Christ. Let’s not be distracted from the primary work before us. Let us do whatever is necessary to ensure that no one misses out on the great things God has planned for them.
We have been entrusted with a message of hope and we have been given the tools needed to share the love of God with everyone we encounter. I challenge you to join me in being earnest in prayer, immersed in God’s word, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and bold in our witness. The psalmist urges us, “Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does (Psalm 96:2-3).” Let us impact our communities for Christ. May the fire of God fall upon us, unleashing a new spirit of revival and renewal. Let us make the name of Jesus known through our words and deeds.
I am praying for you. I long to hear the stories of what God is doing in and through you. Please share your victories with me. Let’s shine for Jesus!
Rev. Keith Boyette is president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and an ordained elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.