As I think about all the uncertainty before us, in our culture, and in our Church, there is significant angst among many. As I was thinking about this, especially in the church context, I was reminded of the story of Jeremiah in the 32nd chapter of the book with his name. It was not a high moment in Israel’s history. They were about to go into a new reality. They were about to be taken from their homes into Babylon. Everyone was fearful. Everyone was looking toward loss. I’m certain there was great concern and blame flying in lots of directions. In the face of this situation, Jeremiah starts purchasing land. He makes sure that all the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted. He purchases land that will soon be taken over by others. It makes no sense…except as a statement of faith. It is a profound statement of faith. God, Jeremiah believes, will bring them through the difficult days in Babylon. God, Jeremiah believes, will faithfully lead them through to the other side.
The other day in a meeting I attended, Dirk Elliott (New Church Director for the Michigan Area) shared with us the goals set by the General Conference regarding growth in the United States UMC in the next quadrennium.
These goals are:
- 1,000,000 New Disciples
- 50,000 New Places (Small Groups)
- 5,000 New Faith Communities (Additional New Worship Services)
- 500 New Churches (New Chartered Congregations)
In a day when we are struggling to stay together, the General Conference is inviting us to focus our energies and our faith is the direction of hope. The General Conference is calling us to examine our efforts as an Annual Conference, District, Local Church, and individual around reaching the next and the next with the love of Christ. They are calling us to do so in new ways, to engage with new energy this core component of who we are as Christ followers and as children of John Wesley.
These are uncertain days. In our culture and in our church, but I wonder what would happen if we focused on this call put out to us from the General Conference. I wonder what would happen if we put our stakes down, in the midst of the ambiguity around us, and said with Jeremiah, we are people of faith! We serve a God who does amazing things. I wonder what would happen if we decided these goals are very reachable and that we were going to be a part of seeing them accomplished? I wonder what would happen if we changed our focus from fear and division, to hope and faith? I wonder what would happen.