I was researching a sequel for the book mentioned in one of the previous installments of this series until very recently when my life took a decidedly different turn. It was to be titled “What Ever Happened To The Methodist Excitement In Texas?” and would examine the decline of our denomination in a once great bastion of Methodism, Washington County, in hopes of reigniting the fervor we were once known for.
My inquiries into how and why a centerpiece of Methodist activity could diminish to the degree that we have were met with experts answers like, “demographic shift” or “change in population density.” My retort is that the population in Washington County has multiplied several times over during our denomination’s decline here – we have just lost our willingness, and apparently our ability, to evangelize.
When I point out to the experts that a denomination that is experiencing an even greater rate of decline than our own (Lutheran) still has two dozen churches thriving in rural Washington County their response is that they are of traditional German heritage indigenous to the area. Yet, we Methodists established a university here (Blinn) dedicated to training German-speaking preachers for the German Methodist Conference churches here and elsewhere, so that excuse doesn’t really hold water either.
It is quite easy to sit behind a computer and postulate reasons for the position that we’re in. But by buying into this cultural norm, we as a church have evolved into “Those who believe that evangelism is all about slick website, mass mailings, and posh facilities…” as our D.S. points out. Those who ascribe to such values “can continue in their fantasies that such strategies will actually usher in the kingdom” but in reality it will only serve to speed the church’s decline.
Clearly our history demonstrates that we are more than capable as an evangelistic church but that we have drifted from our roots. It long past time that we embrace our Wesleyan heritage and put it into practice rather than merely taunting it for advertising purposes. We will become effective in kingdom building only when we move out of our comfort zones and begin authentically living out our faith as the evangelists we were once where.
As for me, I’m moving out from behind my computer to embrace the good work that the Lord has given us. I may never get that book written but I now realize that there is a far more important One that I need to share with the world.
What are some of the ways that you believe the church could authentically live out its Wesleyan heritage?