I have been in Savannah, Georgia the past few days at the United Methodist Congress on Evangelism. It has been a good time. I’ve spent my time talking about young people and the church, or more accurately young people not in church.
Overall the reactions have been very positive. I’ve started each seminar focusing on the incarnation: the vital part of our faith where we believe that God sent His Son to be “with us”. I also spent some time talking through our Christian sub-culture and the way it views the world like a trip to a public bathroom (get in, do your business, touch as little as possible and get out as fast as you can). Then I spend time talking about the beauty in the world and the redeemable things that are everywhere. I also spend some time talking through some emerging church questions and issues (although I’m thinking that my “Emerging Church in a Box” idea [candles, incense, fold out guitar, glue-on goatee, thick rimmed glasses, and flip-flops and then the box becomes a recycle bin] could really be a big seller).
The difficult part of this whole thing for traditional churches like the United Methodists (and Nazarenes) is that we have to admit that we’ve stepped out of the incarnational work of being the church and that we’ve settled into a theology that is mostly self-centered. If we can get to the place where we are honest with ourselves on these issues, then the hard work can begin. But many are struggling to find the place for this shift in their programs, meetings and budgets. “We’ve always done it this way,” reigns supreme.
My prayer for the church is that God would give us the vision to see the world as it is changing, the wisdom to interpret what we see and realize, the courage to act in generative and hospitable ways and the love to persevere with one another.
BTW… everytime I come to Georgia the cold comes too. Savannah is normally 70 and sunny this time of year. It was in the 30’s and 40’s while I was there. I’m not saying I’m bitter at Georgia as a whole, I just want to know what it has against me.