Do we act like “making disciples” is our priority?

February 28, 2014

In my sermon last Sunday, I complained about the general lack of evangelistic fervor in United Methodist Church. I did so in response to one theologian’s saying that evangelism would be easier if you remove sin, Satan, and hell.

After all—generally speaking—Methodists have spent 50 years or so mostly preaching a “feel-good Christianity” of love, forgiveness, and self-affirmation, with little talk of Satan, sin, and hell.

And where has it gotten us? Has evangelism been easier for us during that time?

Probably not, since we mostly haven’t done evangelism during that time. Our denomination’s declining numbers tell the story of a church that is failing to reach people with the gospel—at least in the U.S. And this shouldn’t surprise us. Once you remove the main reason that God became flesh in the first place—to save us from sin, and final judgment, and hell—why bother with evangelism? What sense of urgency should we have to share such a “feel-good” kind of gospel? People can stay home and watch Oprah, or whomever, instead.

Was I coming on too strong? Was I exaggerating? A professor at the UMC-affiliated United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, wouldn’t think so. He wrote a great blog post about the same problem:

The mission of The United Methodist Church is to make disciplines of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Ok. So far, so good.

One would expect, then, the public website of the UMC to serve this end of making disciples. As I look at the website, though, I see the following:

A headline called, “What can a horse teach a pastor?”

There is a picture of Bishop Carcano being arrested.

There is a story on firewood ministry…

There is a story on Black History Month…

Perhaps the public website should take a more evangelistic approach. How about, right up front, a link to the testimonies of people who have accepted Christ and known his transforming power? How about a link to a video called something like, “Why Should I Choose Jesus?” Or perhaps a video, or at least a page, called something like, “Why Does Christ Make A Difference?” Perhaps one could have the option to chat or have a video call with a pastor. Maybe it would be helpful to have something on the basics of Christian belief.

I’m certainly no marketing expert, but it does seem to me that if we wish our public internet presence to be consistent with our mission, these types of changes would be in order.

Indeed. But one shouldn’t hold one’s breath.

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