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Decline? Are we sure? Part Two PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Newton   
Friday, 29 June 2007
"Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon Earth".  John Wesley

 The decline in membership and attendance in the United Methodist Church and in most other denominations have leaders reeling, almost putting them in a panic mode. I wonder, however, if it is better to have a large number of people in our churches for worship or a large  number of people going out of the walls of the church into the community?   In the midst of decline United Methodist mission volunteers climbed from just under 20,000 in 1992 to more than 110,912 in 2006(read article here).

I pastor two churches and am the Executive Director of Kokomo Urban Outreach (KUO). Briefly, KUO is a network of churches, individuals and organizations that have a heart for hometown missions.  In the 19 months that KUO has been in existence we have had nearly 700 volunteers come and work hands on with mostly impoverished families in Kokomo.  Almost all volunteers are from "declining" churches.   It is incredible what these local missionaries have accomplished.   People have helped others get GED's, schools have received tutors, there have been health checks, free legal advice, sewing classes, art classes, dance lessons, guitar lessons, scores of bikes have been given to those who have  no transportation, hunger is being addressed, about 17,000 meals have been served, and tons of groceries given away.  Volunteers have had clothing give-aways, taught manners to children, provided Vacation Bible School and weekly Sidewalk Sunday School.   About 150 children are visited each week in their homes by volunteers.  Every week, every child, that we work with receives a bag of groceries.  A Crisis Child Care Center is about to open with volunteers from local churches.   We provide rides, prayers and hope.  Neighborhoods throughout the city are being transformed by God  through the people of God.  To me this doesn't not seem like decline, it feels like renewal. 

What if every church everywhere thought of itself as a mission center and every Christian a missionary?  Would our churches be stronger?   Would we see the Kingdom of God unfold before our very eyes?  I am blessed to see the Kingdom unfold before me everyday.   By the way I serve two small churches that are in the process of joining God in redeeming all of creation.  I am wondering what you think?  

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Last Updated ( Monday, 09 July 2007 )
Decline? Are we sure? Part One PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Newton   
Wednesday, 20 June 2007

    Is the United Methodist Church really in decline?   It depends on who you talk to.  Most say we are in decline because of the loss of  membership and worship attendance.    If the goal is to get people in our church  then we have failed.  It is not because  we haven’t tried to attract people to our churches.   Over the past twenty years I have seen church programs come and go, all promising to strengthen or grow the church. There is no doubt that these programs have impacted the lives of many,  including my own. However, I wonder,  if we didn’t do a good job implementing the programs or if it was the programs themselves.  I do know that most are  not lasting and our overall  statistics indicate that programs can't grow a church.   

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 01 July 2007 )
UMC Comment Item PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Friday, 01 June 2007
Here is a comment about the UMC. This is what is happening. This is an observation.
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Missional Preaching PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 29 April 2007

Preaching is an interesting act. Once a week I take my place up front and I talk. What I talk about is up to me. Sometimes I choose the text and other times the text is chosen for me. What I’ve realized is how I can use that time to help cultivate various atmospheres in the church I serve.

Over the past ten years I have become increasingly convinced that a missional atmosphere in a church is not only important but essential in the 21st century. Others are leaning the same way. Church planters have an advantage here because they do not have to fight the history of a church that tends to delude any missional focus. Those of us in traditional churches have history that we have to battle.

To believe that one can take an already organized traditional church and transition it to a missional mindset quickly is naive. Perhaps we can add programs that look missional, or have missional components, but that is not the same as cultivating a missional mindset or atmosphere in the church’s “DNA.”
Preaching is an important aspect (although some missional church planters contest this point) of ministry because it can serve to gradually change the atmosphere in a church. Therefore, it should not be entered into lightly. The weekly sermon can be used to help cultivate a transition to missional.

When I preach, there are foundational assumptions that affect how I preach and even how I read the text for the day. These assumptions guide me. I also understand that they color (some might say cloud) how I read the passage, but we all have assumptions when we read any text. At least I know what some of mine are.

I believe the following assumptions are missional in nature. Because of that, I also believe, they are important for those in a traditional church who yearn to help a congregation transition to a missional mindset. I’m sure I have other assumptions. I’m also sure that I have some that are not reflected in this list. But, to start the conversation, here they are:

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What will it Take? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dave   
Friday, 26 January 2007

I often wonder what it would take to get the UMC back on track. We have a marvelous tradition. Reading the stories of John and Charles Wesley and the early Circuit Riders can send shivers up your spine and cause you to find the nearest grave to use as a pulpit while putting words of worship to the music of Justin Timberlake. Perhaps the Timberlake comment was a bit over the top, but you get the idea.

Now we hear stories of increased costs and decreased numbers in membership and worship. Instead of being in the business of planting healthy churches (versus planting worship services), we have become experts in merging congregations that can no longer survive on their own. Today the stories are depressing and causes pastors and laity alike to look at each other and wonder what it will take to turn things around.

I’ve seen many approaches to these problems. One of the things we have tried in my own conference is rallies. Rallies are when we get together, sing loud praises and go home encouraged that we were all able to get together and nobody left mad. The result? About the same that we had before.

We’ve had seminars, conferences, think tanks, and a lot of classes. After twenty years of this, I have to stand back and wonder if our approach isn’t wrong. We keep believing that if we try the same things, only with more energy and perhaps a slightly different focus, we can achieve what we dream.

I wonder if even trying to figure out how to survive is the wrong approach. If I remember correctly, Jesus didn’t really talk about how to survive. He did talk about how to die. In fact, he told us to take up our cross, die to ourselves and follow him. Maybe…just maybe…we need to get together and find better ways to die. Perhaps we are so busy trying to ’save’ our lives (The Methodist Church) and instead, we should be finding ways to give ourselves away. After all, isn’t that what the Wesley brothers and Circuit riders were so good at?

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