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Bishop Column: Can you imagine?

Posted: October 25 2021 at 09:58 AM
Author: Bishop John L. Hopkins


Hopkins John L

Bishop John L. Hopkins

Over this past year, I have discussed some crucial, bedrock issues that will determine the future of our church at every level.  Each question has more history than I can tell and more nuances than I can explore.  I simply want to engage you in understanding the importance of these questions and let you make your own decisions.  

Question 1: “Is the Church a Movement or an Institution?”

Question 2: “Is the Church a Covenant Community or a Voluntary Association?”

Question 3: “Is our mission focus Geographical or Generational?”

Question 4:  Question 4 “Is our emphasis on Clergy or Lay Ministry?”

Question 5: “Do we have a Private Faith or a Public Witness?”

Question 6: “Do we want a large Church or a Small Church?

Let me be clear, the questions I propose require more than a mental choice.  You will need to answer each question with your daily decisions as a follower of Jesus Christ.   They are your choices to make considering what you understand about Jesus and his Church. How you live out your choices will determine the future of The United Methodist Church.

Question 7: Can you Imagine?

"The Church exists by mission as a fire exists by burning. Where there is no mission, there is no Church; and where there is neither Church nor mission, there is no faith." Emil Brunner

What kind of church do you want? What kind of church do you need? Do you even need a church for your spiritual growth? As you look at the future of your local church and The United Methodist Church, how can you live to make the church strong? How you individually take responsibility for the church will determine its future.

I end this series of questions about the future of The United Methodist Church thinking about what Jesus had in mind when he said, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18)  Here is the Church I imagine:

A Church that is a movement so strong it can build institutions to put God's love in action. A church that builds hospitals, children's homes, universities, places of worship, ministry centers, and institutions we cannot even imagine.

A Church that is a covenant community that is so compelling that people voluntarily commit their lives to one another. A church that doesn't judge people but invites them and loves them even when they are unlovable. A covenant community that centers around Jesus and his church above all else.

A Church that reaches each new generation with the good news of Jesus Christ and sees their neighborhood as a mission field. A church that honors God's work around the world and connects local people across their differences.

A Church that baptizes and equips people to claim their ministry and serve others. A Church with pastors who guide congregations with vision and spiritual leadership. A church that serves as a basecamp where everyone shares what they have done for Jesus throughout the week. 

A Church that has a public witness so focused on relief and justice for those in need that people ask, "What inner strength enables these people to love others so much?" A church that is truly for others and welcomes everyone to the throne of God's grace.

A Church that is large enough to encompass the love of God for the world and small enough to enable everyone to grow as a child of God. A church that follows Jesus who lived, suffered, and died so that we may all repent of our sins and glorify God.

In the baptismal vows of The United Methodist Church,

1) we renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of our sin.

2) We accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

3) We confess Jesus Christ as our Savior, put our whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as our Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races.

4) We agree to remain faithful members of Christ's holy church and serve as Christ's representatives in the world. 5) We profess the Christian faith using the Apostle's Creed.

Of course, we can only do this by the grace of God. In affirming our faith, we rejoice in the faithfulness of our covenant God and say:

We give thanks for all that God has already given us.

As members of the body of Christ and in this congregation of The United Methodist Church, we will faithfully participate in the church's ministries by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. 

Now, that is the kind of Church I imagine! Sign me up!

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