“There is one looming adaptive challenge that we can address only through major learning, innovation, and the wisdom of everyone through Christian conferencing. The United Methodist Church in the United States has a future only to the extent that it can find ways to reach more people, younger people, and more diverse people” (Dr. Lovettt Weems, Jr. Focus: The Real Challenges that Face the United Methodist Church, pp. 74-75).
In a provocative chapter under the above title, Lovett Weems focuses our attention as a church and a missional movement of the Lord back to the future. There was a time when Methodism’s reach was breathtakingly evangelistic, young and diverse. To a large degree, the current strength of Methodism with older adults is a reflection and a testimony to this fruitfulness and faithfulness. Our future will be a both/and: that is to say, it will involve continued ministry excellence with and for older adults. It will also engage us with a younger and more diverse population of faith seekers.
Dr. Weems is right when he asserts that reaching more people involves reaching younger people, which necessitates reaching more diverse people. The three are inextricably linked!
There are many elements to such a forward claiming missional movement for Christ. A few (but only a few) are:
1. New places for new people – the development of new churches and faith communities
2. Recovery of an ability and willingness to engage in evangelistic witness – sharing the good news that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior
3. The growth and development of large congregations
4. Strengthening of ministry that directly impacts a new generation – children, youth, camping and campus ministry
5. An emphasis of professions of faith especially among younger people of color
6. Development of a new generation of leadership
The list could go on. Tomorrow (Leap Year Day – February 29th) I will be in Nashville with the Four Focus Area Bishops (New Places for New People, Leadership Development, Ministry with the Poor, and Imagine No Malaria) preparing for General Conference. No Christian group in the 2,000 years of the faith has grown without a determined emphasis on new church development (“New Places for New People”). None!
It is my joy and calling to help us engage more deeply in Reaching More People, Younger People, and More Diverse People.