| Welcome to 2024. We, the people of the United Methodist Church live in a new reality today. For the last few years, we have seen some hard times. A division occurred that found many of our former collogues and friends on the other side. Our friends left for different reasons; I have discovered that many local pastors left to obtain ordination, even when they didn’t agree with everything the new church would represent. Some left for how they understand scripture, some churches wanted to avoid the custody clause for real estate the congregation had paid for, and the reasons go on and on. But if you’re reading this you have probably stayed to help the United Methodist Church do all it can to live into our calling of making new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
I hear reports of a declining church and feel the reality of that every week in the church I serve. People have left for many reasons, and this pandemic of decline is sobering. It takes the life out of the congregation. But, when I see Facebook postings or hear from our friends who left the UMC to begin something new, I see an energy and joy on their faces. They haven’t been bogged down with the nitty-gritty of business that sometimes grinds us down. It doesn’t look like they have all of their processes and procedures for ministry ironed out yet, but they are having fun. And laughter is contagious.
It makes me think of King David, after the loss of his son (2Nd Samuel 12). While his son was sick, David cried out in pain and fear. But after a while his time for mourning was finished, he washed his face, put on clean clothes, and began to live again. That’s what I think we need to do. We need to get out there and breathe new life into our congregations. We might need to clean up a bit and wash the face of the church: a fresh coat of paint or a small remodeling project can work wonders in restoring life into the congregation. Make sure every sermon has places to laugh and you might need to remind people it’s okay to have fun in worship. Have fun with your children’s message, even if you don’t have any children that week. Celebrate the victories, even the small ones, and be sure to thank all of the people who made it happen. I think Jesus must have had a great sense of humor, and we should too. People like to go where they can have fun, and that includes the church.
We have a serious message, but we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously. And who knows, when church is fun maybe your people will invite someone to join them and pretty soon, you have started a new trend. A growing trend where new people start to show up on Sunday mornings. I’m through mourning, it’s time to move on.
Dave Owsley, NFAMLP President