Ask questions as we explore “Wonder, Love and Praise”


Todd Seifert

7/31/2017

IN LAYMAN'S TERMS

I present to you today a series of questions.

Let’s start off with this: What does it mean to “be the church”?

Some people have what they think is an easy answer. Others find an answer to be elusive. We likely agree that we want the church to be relevant in the 21st century. But we may disagree on how to achieve that goal.
Download the videos, student and teacher guides.

Some faithful Christians see the church in the actions of believers to eradicate social injustice from the world. Others view Christianity as a race to save as many souls as possible before Christ returns. Each denomination has its own points of emphasis.

Personally, I see the church as a mixture – probably a reflection of my Baptist upbringing and my United Methodist adulthood. It leads to my next question: Why not feed a person in today’s life while we feed his or her soul for the next?

I recognize others don’t see the role of the church as a balance between those two actions as clearly as I do. I can agree to disagree and sleep well at night.

Of course, that isn’t the case with all people. And it’s not particularly true of the United Methodist Church. The heated debate over same-gender marriage and whether to allow gay men and women to serve as pastors is tearing at the fabric of our denomination.

Two more questions: What is the role of the church today amid such turmoil? And why would we want to preserve what we know as the United Methodist Church anyway?

A new Bible study published by the Committee on Faith and Order aims to answer at least those two questions. But it needs your help to do so. The study, “Wonder, Love and Praise: Sharing a Vision of the Church,” is designed as a four-session small-group study or Sunday school class. In those four sessions, participants will explore for themselves the distinct convictions of the United Methodist Church, our Wesleyan heritage, our identity as a denomination and how we can preserve unity amid diversity.

“United Methodists are in need of a renewed vision today: not just a new view but a renewed capacity to see and apprehend what “church” is all about,” the study begins. “With our fellow Christians everywhere, we witness a rapidly changing church, both within our denomination and within the larger Christian movement around the world. Migration, immigration, and the push and pull of globalizing forces are reconfiguring the face of Christianity, as well as the larger religious make-up of the human family. Old customs and certainties are being challenged, and a yet-unclear future beckons.”

In short, this study aims to help United Methodists better understand the theology of the church and, with it, a clearer vision of the reality of the church in today's world.

The goal is for 10 percent or more of the denomination to take part in the four-session study by Dec. 31. Then, the hope is that each small group will assign someone to fill out and send in a feedback form so a report can be drafted and presented at the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis.

Each session includes a leader’s guide and a one- to two-page sheet on the topic to be discussed. A short video helps explain issues surrounding each session’s topic, and a larger, 60-page booklet can enhance the experience, with some portions being read between each session to reduce the demands on time week to week.

All of the materials are available for you to download at www.greatplainsumc.org/biblestudies. This new page has been launched to accommodate this study, but our hope is to be able to offer more curriculum designed and written by Great Plains clergy and laity to support churches that can’t afford to purchase new education and discussion materials. If you have ideas for inclusion on this page, please send me an email.

I look forward to the discussion that I think will come from each session’s topics for discussion. During October, I’ll be inviting conference staff members to take part in a Facebook chat each week focused on one of the topics from the study. Stay tuned for more details on that in late August or early September so you can be part of the discussion. Maybe I’ll even be able to talk Bishop Saenz into taking part in one or two of these discussions.

I hear fairly often about churches in need of quality curriculum for group discussions and study. One final question: Why not take advantage of this opportunity?

The price is right (it’s free). The subject is stimulating (it’s our church). And you can make a difference (by participating and turning in the feedback form).

Let’s learn more about the church. Let’s explore the United Methodist Church’s place in today’s world.

Let’s help shape a vision that will allow us to better answer questions from people don’t know the love, hope and joy found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Todd Seifert is communications director for the Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church. He can be reached via phone at 402-464-5994, ext. 113, or via email at tseifert@greatplainsumc.org. Opinions expressed are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Great Plains Annual Conference or the United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter, @ToddSeifert.



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