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We Need Revival … Not Another Task Force

According to a Feb. 27 article in the United Methodist Reporter, UMC membership and average worship attendance in the U.S. continues to plummet. Membership dipped 1.4% in 2010, having declined 1.2% in 2009. Average worship attendance was down by 2.3% in 2010, compared to a drop of 1.9% the year before.

In 2010, only 54% of churches reported receiving any members by profession of faith or faith restored.

There are bright spots in the gloomy report. Vacation Bible School participation has jumped by almost 6%. Giving has gone up, and participation in Christian formation groups has increased. Based on these findings, what do you think the UM church should do to reverse the membership declines of the past decades? Here’s what I humbly think:

REVIVAL. We desperately need true biblical revival, not another initiative or task force, We should get brutally honest and admit that our human-powered efforts are failing. We must have “open hearts, open minds, open doors” to the Holy Spirit and not just to new members.

What would happen if we suspended committee meetings for a season and held prayer rallies where we cried out to God in brokenness and repentance? In the Bible, God always honors such demonstrations of dependence, responding with a fresh wind from heaven.

CHILDREN’S MINISTRY. Study after study reveals that most Christians profess faith before the age of 14. Our outreach to kids must take center stage in our churches. We must teach children how to receive Christ, worship God and serve others.
SMALL GROUPS. Small group ministry is nothing new. John Wesley advocated the class and band model before it was “hip.” Small groups foster discipleship, deepen Bible knowledge and bind believers to each other and God. They are the cells of the larger Body of Christ.
In my travels as a General Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, I have met many dedicated pastors and godly laypeople. Most churches have competent programs and service projects. What I see missing is divine fire, power from the Holy Spirit. We tend to do our “religious work” as work instead of allowing God to channel through empty vessels. Something to think about as we journey through Lent toward the Cross and Tomb.

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