So I recently met with another Youth Pastor friend for lunch to look at planning some cooperative events and thought about something that kind of stopped me in my tracks. Now I have been a Methodist for a long time, most of my formative experiences of faith came through the church or its ministries.
The name of our church is interesting because we have the word “United” in the title of our churches. We are local and unique expressions of a national and international church, yet how do most United Methodists participate in ministry. With very few exceptions we do not actively participate as a “United” church, we all fly the flag and seem to combine under one umbrella, but we often are as divided as churches on different ends of the spectrum.
I do not think that this is truly on purpose, but we do not make as concerted an effort at unification. It is interesting to me to see the over arching de-unification of our society over politics, religion, and any number of other million issues. Now each church (read local congregation) has significant differences from any other congregation, but how do we truly state our similarities. Our culture has become obsessed with dividing ourselves, just look at the hyper-partisan tone of politics and the political “dialogue” (of which I believe there is none.)
I was recently reading a book on vegetable gardening on my e-reader and there was a discussion about the “Victory Gardens” planted during World War II, and it struck as how unifying just something that small would be for a community. How much more do we have something to rally around in the church, in the cause of Christ than any political party or vegetable garden.
Now I realize that unification takes much more than empty words on some website, it takes the gritty, difficulty, and often trying times in cooperative ministry with others. I know that our ways of measuring health and growth in the church do not really cooperate with this vision and idea of ministry with our accounting focused on numbers both in money and attendance. But I would much rather measure my ministry not by strict numbers, but in the lives that truly become transformed by God’s presence in their lives.
How can we truly live united lives not just with our denomination, or with fellow Christians, but in learning to truly giving ourselves to our neighbors and partners in Christ’s work. How do we practice the truly “dying to oneself” that Paul talks about. How do we not just live or live well, but truly live sacrificially with our neighbors (read other humans.) It is time that our unification as followers in Christ can speak not just to each other, but to the world. As the old song says, “They will know we are Christians by our love…”