I was in a meeting at a local church with the district superintendent when a lady burst into tears and proclaimed: “This is MY church!” The DS replied hotly “this is GOD’s church!” Who was right? Who was wrong? They both were! Say what? How can they both be wrong AND right?
The woman was right in that each local congregation is a unique entity that the members are responsible to maintain. We are to encourage, teach, reach out and keep our local church vital and strong. Too often we rely on professional clergy to do those things. She was also wrong because, ultimately, the church belongs to God. When we forget we are participants in God’s plan, instead of the other way around, we run into problems and our churches fail to thrive. We have disconnected from the vine.
The DS was wrong because he failed to recognize the emotion behind the woman’s outburst and returned her comment with anger. She had grown up in that church, gotten married in that church, raised her children in that church and she was afraid of the changes that were coming. He was right that it is indeed God’s church.
I keep thinking of this encounter as I read of all the possible changes that may come as a result of the Special Session of General Conference this month. I , too, have grown up in this denomination, gotten married in this denomination (twice), raised my children in this denomination. There is fear of the future of the denomination that I love. Yet, ultimately I know that it is God’s church and He is active in it. Whatever the future holds for the United Methodist Church, God is still God and we are still going to be invited to be participants in His plan.
Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
As we go through the coming weeks, let us keep in mind that God will take whatever happens and make something good come out of it.
Five Rivers District Director of Lay Servant Ministries