By Keith Boyette
August 13, 2021
One of the most frequent and urgent questions posed by United Methodist laity and clergy today is “What should our church be doing right now?”
The question is asked in anticipation of The United Methodist Church’s General Conference that will meet from August 29 to September 6, 2022. It is anticipated that the General Conference will approve a restructuring of the UM Church, permitting the formation of new Methodist denominations under the widely known Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation.
Congregations want to be ready for important decisions they will make as they decide where to align. To prepare for the alignment decision clergy and lay leaders can read the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s critical articles, regularly visit its website, and the website of the Global Methodist Church. In the coming months both sites will continue to add additional resources to assist laity and clergy.
More importantly, Jesus provides us with sound counsel on what we can be doing now. He urges us to love God and our neighbors (the Great Commandment) and make disciples (the Great Commission). Yes, we are to be prepared for the future – ultimately His return and the consummation of God’s purposes, but Jesus has significant work for us to do in the meantime. We dare not be consumed by that over which we have no control.
Daily, local churches are surrounded by people who have not been awakened to their great need for a Savior. They are asleep to the reality that God desires a personal relationship with them through His Son, Jesus Christ. They have not been enlivened by the Holy Spirit. They have been lulled into lethargy and ambivalence by a culture filled with false gods and false security. They need each of us and our churches to introduce them to Jesus and invite them into a life of being His fully devoted followers. We must embody God’s love for them, regardless of how far from God their lives might be, and demonstrate in our lifestyles the difference God’s transformation can make in their lives.
As you wrestle with the answer to the question of what you and your church can be doing now, I urge you to start with the absolute essentials. God desires our passionate worship. Don’t rush past that sentence. Worship makes all the difference in how we live our lives and our witness. In worship, our perspective is focused on God and God’s purposes. In worship, God’s possibilities and our limitations become apparent. In worship, we are awakened and filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirt, so we can be the living sacrifices God seeks to deploy in the world. In worship, we are invited and empowered to become more like Jesus in our character. And worship is not a once-a-week experience that occurs on Sunday morning; it should be a daily practice. Spend these days enhancing the passionate worship of God in your community. Worship God in spirit and truth.
Next, love extravagantly. That is not as easy as it might sound. To love like Jesus – sacrificially, without self-interest, extended even to our enemies – is only possible because of God’s work in our lives. But genuine love always gets the attention of even those far from God. Such love requires intentionality. And a Jesus-caliber love is best expressed in community. What is your church doing to love so extravagantly that others in your community are taking notice? How can your church reach out to share the kind of love that softens even the hardest of hearts?
Then, witness boldly. Let your witness be clear and point to Jesus. Ensure your actions match your rhetoric. Be prepared to share the night and day difference Jesus has made in your life. Invite people into a relationship with you, others in your church, and Jesus. Celebrate the victories that Jesus wins in peoples’ lives. Pray fervently and then celebrate God’s answer to those prayers. Be sure to share your witness with those who others might overlook, those who are outside the circles in which you normally move. Take genuine interest in them and their circumstances.
And make disciples of Jesus Christ. Be sure you gather regularly with a small group of others earnestly seeking the face of God and desperate for God’s transforming power to be poured into your life. Ask one another how God is at work in each of your lives, what God is asking you to do, how others can pray for you, and share what transpires when you are obedient to God. Organize class meetings and bands in your church or community. Invite those who have not begun a journey with Jesus to join you in a transformational small group and celebrate the work of God that begins in each of your lives.
What can your church be doing in this season? Be the church God is calling you to be in your community and beyond right now. There is nothing stopping your church from living out the mission, vision, and values of the Global Methodist Church today. Grow in your trust of God! Keep your focus on God and the great mission He has given us. As the author of Hebrews declares, “Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping Him with holy fear and awe” Hebrews 12:28 (NLT).
Keith Boyette is president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and chair of the Transitional Leadership Council of the Global Methodist Church. He is an elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.