I don’t know how many people called Methodist read the Methodist Recorder these days or if you are like me, you might just look at the pictures! But even if you haven’t read it – you may have noticed some figures published recently about falling church membership and attendance in the Methodist Church and the various responses to the effect that we must do something about mission/evangelism because of this.
Our motivation for sharing the Good News with others must spring from a natural and overwhelming desire to tell others about Jesus and God’s undying love for every person rather than out of fear for what might happen to the Methodist Church if we don’t.
To quote Martyn Atkins (General Secretary of the Methodist Church in a report to conference this year):
“There is increasing awareness that however understandable it is, the main thing is not (merely) the survival of an institution, even a wonderful institution like our beloved Church. Rather we are realising afresh that the best thing that anyone can do, whoever they are, wherever they live, at whatever time and in whatever circumstances is to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. And consequently seeking and finding apt, relevant, sensitive and effective ways of presenting Jesus Christ to the world in which we live with so many and so different others, is the critical task of the Church today.”
Jesus great commission to his followers was:
“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
It is important to notice that Jesus’ commission was not to an institutional church or an established organisation but to a group of individuals who were chosen by God and (according to 1 Corinthians 1:18-31) were “vulnerable, foolish, inarticulate and those who struggled to present his message.
If that sounds like a very familiar group of people to you, you would be right in identifying each one of us with all our frailties and uncertainties and yet we too are being called to speak to people about the love of Jesus. Believe it or not there is once again a whole new generation of people who do not know the story of how God revealed himself to the world through Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection.
We have a tendency to look back at how things used to be in the days when our Sunday Schools were full; when each church had a thriving youth club; when house groups were many; when our church services were well attended; and so on but we should not let the past cloud God’s vision for the future because each one of us has a part to play, not so that we can get back to the way things were but so that more people will become disciples of Jesus Christ.
Blessings and Peace.
Deacon Richard Beckett – Sept 2014